By Henk Wevers
Marjorie and Cliff Allen came to Glenburnie, then Kingston Township, in January 1954. They moved into the larger one of two red brick houses opposite Colonel Fair’s house at the east side of Battersea Road. Fair’s house is now part of the Fairmount Home retirement complex and nursing home, owned by the County of Frontenac.
Before the Allens occupied the red brick house, the Orr family resided their; they had most likely rented it from Colonel Fair, or it came as part of Mr. Orr being employed by Colonel Fair. Mrs. Winnie Orr ran a boarding house for men who worked on Fair’s farm.
Permanent farm workers, most likely with children, lived in the five duplexes on the east side of Battersea Road adjacent to the two red brick houses. These duplexes are now remodeled to single dwellings, but one can still see the duplex structure of the five frame houses each with two front doors, side by side opening onto a small common porch. Marjorie remembers that these houses had no running water, no bathroom, an outhouse in the backyard would do. They had electricity but only one light bulb in each room, hanging from the ceiling in two downstairs rooms and two bedrooms upstairs. Two families, each with their own front entrance would live in a space of 800 square foot, side by side, sharing the 1600 square feet of the duplex. Imagine how close together mother, father and children were living in these small spaces. Water was pumped from the main barn to nearer the duplexes. At the barn large quantities of water, drawn from a well, would be needed for the animals.
Fair was a rich man with roots going back to the early settler farmers in the Glenburnie area. He had made much money in insurance and international business which took him frequently to Singapore and the Far East. While he was able to accumulate money in the years between 1920-30, leading up to the great economic depression, the local farmers, affected by the hard economic times, might have needed to sell all, or part, of their properties. Fair was thus able to assemble large tracts of farmland, about 3800 acres. For comparison this is the equivalent of nineteen original 200 acre farm lots, or several more than that, since some of the farmers who received a government grant in the late 1700-s and early 1800-s might have been granted as little as forty acres per farm.[i] Another comparison would be that a neighbourhood soccer field is between one and two acres; 3800 acres was indeed an unusual large farm in our area.
The Fair farm was called Hemlock Park Farm. The large iconic white barns on the east side of Battersea Road at the top of the hill dominate the landscape with their green steel roofs and characteristic cupolas to vent the barn. They were built by Fair and housed a very large herd of Holstein cows, called “milkers”. The milk was sold wholesale as well as retail through the Hemlock Dairy in Kingston.[ii] Delivery boys would bring the milk to the households in the city that were regular customers; and it would be likely that one could also buy small quantities for daily consumption at the dairy.
Fair built his stately country home in Spanish-Mediterranean stucco style, unusual in rural Eastern Ontario. The house has many grand rooms, a large entrance hall and several bedrooms and servant quarters. Fair was a well-informed person and he had a large library in one of the main rooms in his villa on Battersea Road. He remained active all his life until his death in May, 1954. Shortly after his death there was a huge public auction of the contents of the house, it went on for three full days. Marjorie regrets that they did not bid on some of the items. “It would have been nice to have some as a commemorative item of that time,” she said. Marjorie did not know what happened with the library.
Colonel Fair had a daughter who lived in the house after Fair’s death.
On the grounds of Fair’s house are two rectangular structures in stucco, clearly complementing the architectural style of Fair’s large house. One building was the garage housing Fair’s limousine, and the other was for the resident driver.
Cliff and Marjorie Allen, with five partners, bought 900 acres of Fair’s farm in 1953, and rented more adjacent land. The partners had formed a co-operative business and called it Hemlock Park Co-operative Farm which included the large complex of barns that Fair had built.
In the 1960-s, part of the co-operative’s agricultural business was a retail outlet for eggs and basic food items like bread and milk and other items a household might need on a daily basis. It fronted the Battersea Road and was part of the complex of barns. A large parking space in front made it easy to pull in from Battersea Road and make a purchase. The retail business was closed in the 1970-s. It still houses a shop selling tack for horseback riding. The large barn now has stables for boarding horses and a large indoor arena was added in the early 2000-s.
The co-operative farm owners severed off ten building lots on the north side of Aragon Road at Battersea Road, and the Allens, with nine other families, built ten houses in a co-operative arrangement. The Allen family lived for fifteen years in one of them. The materials for the houses were bought in bulk by the contractor and the cost was born by each family. The partnering families were required to contribute several hundred hours in labour as “sweat equity”. There were three basic models of bungalows and most of these houses still have retained the outside appearance and profile, since they were built in about 1958.
While living at the beginning of the Aragon Road, the Allen family would spend time on their property at the end of the road and have picnics there; Cliff would dream about building a “cottage”. That cottage plan became a reality in the early 1970-s when they built a comfortable bungalow on a two acre lot overlooking Colonel By Lake and the canal to the River Styx. From this vantage point, Marjorie would often admire the many pleasure boats that passed slowly by. These were what we now call classic or antique motorboats, some of them beautiful and luxurious. She would confirm with the lock-master that on many occasions during the summer season more than hundred boats per day would pass through the locks and through the canal in front of their property.[iii]
The Hemlock Park Co-operative Farm was eventually dissolved with Cliff and Marjory becoming the owners. They changed the name to Hemco Farm which survives to this day.
Barbara Stather lived with her uncle, Harry, in the old limestone farm-house, the “end of the road house”, on Aragon Road. This house was built by John Hogan in the late 1800-s. Barbara and her uncle would buy once or twice a week eggs from the store at the Hemco Farm, and sell them in Kingston at the market.
One of the co-operative partners, who owned a parcel of land adjacent to the canal, sold 100 acres to Jim Keirstead who built a modern house and studio at the end of the Aragon Road. The Keirstead’s property borders the canal between Colonel By Lake and the River Styx. Keirstead owns the milk house and a large timber-framed wooden barn on a limestone base that originally was part the limestone farm house that John Hogan built. The gate in front of the old milk house gives access to a right of way that leads north across the fields to the Glenburnie Road which is now called Unity Road and extents east of Battersea Road into a valley and partly abandoned fields.[iv]
Young and old from around the neighbourhood are enjoying the rural character of our road and use it for horseback riding and other recreational activities. Marjorie feels that people should find it more convenient to use the conservation area adjacent to Esther March Bay and including Caseys Island, where in the early days cows would graze all summer. In 1994, Cecil and Wilma Graham established a park that, combined with the Esther March Bay peninsula, which is overseen by the Ministry of Natural Resources, has become a large environmental protection area open for hiking, bird watching and other recreational uses.
[i] Wilma Graham refers in her story on this website to her in-laws who were among the early immigrants from Ireland who received land grants from 25 to 40 acres in the area from about halfway along the Aragon Road to the the canal linking Colonel By Lake with the River Styx.
[ii] According to Marjorie Allen the dairy was located on the corner of Princess and Barrie Streets, where now the Metro grocery store is.
[iii] In the last couple of years the number of boats passing through the canal has dwindled to not more than ten to twenty boats per day. These numbers are from personal observation by the author.
[iv] See also the subject on Maps and Deeds.
Colonel Fair’s Hemlock Park Farm built in the 1920-30, during the great depression. This is a wonderful agricultural landmark with magnificent architectural lines, and many special features. The large cupolas that ventilate the barns are meticulous built and shaped like bell towers. Later additions such as the arena for horseback riding have the same basic green and white colour scheme and fit in well.. Photo by Henk Wevers, taken from the Maple Lawn Drive south of the farm and just a little west of Battersea Road.
Detail of the main barn taken from Battersea Road on the north side of the building and from the west with the setting sun illuminating the building.
Colonel Fair’s house. Imagine the limousine parked in front of the entrance, his chauffeur patiently waiting on the circular driveway.
The east side of the house with the library to the left.
Inside we see some of the former glory of an expensive interior.
Elaborately crafted staircase from the second floor looking down in the central area of the house. Furnishings and decorations are contemporary.
One of the upstairs bedrooms, now an office. Note the fireplace, the house had fireplaces in every room that Colonel Fair and his family occupied.
A major side entrance from the rear of the house to the main hall, the transom and other features are typical of the era, early 1900-s, traces of Art Deco, popular in Europe and in NA, are represented in this arrangement,
One of the duplexes that housed the farm workers and their families. Total living space is 800 square feet per unit. One can see the front door of the left unit closed in with new brick. At the time there was no running water, no bathroom and rudimentary electricity with one light bulb per room. Note ,almost hundred years later there is a satellite dish on the side of the house.
Colonel Fair’s chauffeur might have lived here. Note the large brick house to the right across Battersea Road. That is the house the Allens occupied in when they came to Glenburnie in 1953.
Colonel Fair’s garage, room for two cars, and bays for their maintenance and repair?
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