Topics in Material Culture

 Studying  the Architecture of Hillary House

Another area of investigation that I am particularly interested in is an analysis of the stylistic features of the house.  After reading Clifford Clark's essay entitled "Domestic Architecture as an Index to Social History: The Romantic Revival and the Cult of Domesticity in America,1840-1870, " I began to consider the appearance and design features of the building.   John McIntyre, as he explains in his essay "The Manor:  Essay in Gothic Revival", looks to popular architects of the mid-nineteenth century to determine the influences that may have informed the builder who designed and constructed the house.  "A design by [Andrew Jackson] Downing's contemporary, A.J. Davis, included in The Architecture of Country Houses and entitled `A Cottage Villa in the Rural Gothic Style' shares many features with The Manor [Hillary House] can be said with some certainty that the architect of The Manor had seen designs like it and had adapted them according to his own talents and the needs of his client, Dr. Walter Baine Geikie" (McIntyre, 1975: 9).

Of style and ornamentation, Clifford Clark suggested that "[t]he rural revival style not only harmonized well with natural surroundings, but because of its origin in a more religious age, it was also thought to symbolize an eminently Christian form of private dwelling" (Clark, 1976: 36-37).  Further investigation may reveal that Dr. Geikie may have chosen Gothic Revival as the style for his home in order to convey piety and stability to existing and potential patients.

A trend within the medical community that perhaps influenced the design of the house was the struggle among nineteenth century Canadian medical practitioners to professionalize. The plight was, in fact, an international plight shared also by American and British physicians.  The physical manifestation of this struggle may be evidenced by a dependence on the appearance of prestige and stability of a doctor to his patients as observable in the ornate design of the doctor's house. As discussed in her analysis of the professionalization movement in Britain, Anne Digby writes that "...[t]he physical attributes necessary to sustain a successful practice were emphasized by the possession of a corner or double-fronted house together with a separate surgery entrance.  Preferably, this would be situated in a growing residential area of a town practice" (Digby, 1994: 38).  Geikie's later career as the Dean of Trinity Medical Colleges suggests that he was a doctor with a taste for success and social status.  Most of the houses from the Horwood collection, such as the one shown here, confirm that the physical appearance of the doctor's residence .  Even the example of Peterborough's Hutchison House, a locally designed vernacular structure that looks more like a rural farmhouse than the doctor's house, was considered to be a significantly impressive structure within the community as the first stone house in the town.  Sanford Fleming notes in his diary that the small "two storie" house had a distinctive position on the streetscape:

Arrived in Peterborough about sundown  it looked rather a poor little place where we entered.  The stumps of trees still in the middle of the streets   a wood house here and there with a few good villas with verandas around   in the suburbs drove up to dr. Hutchisons a two storie little house...

                                                                                                Diaries of Sir Sanford Fleming, June 17th, 1845


Exterior design:  "Proposed House on Cochrane Street for Dr. Machell",

Architect, David B. Dick, 1886.  Ontario Archives: ref. C11-251-0-1 (261) 4 [K-64].                                     


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