Monday, April 4, 2011

Ermatinger Old Stone House

I recently made a visit to the The Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. The site includes the original Ermatinger stone house and the Clergue Blockhouse. The Ermatinger house is locally known as the Old Stone House and was built between 1812-1814. The house is the oldest stone house north of Toronto. The first resident of the House was Charles Oakes Ermatinger (1776-1833), who was a prominent figure in Lake Superior trading.

The initiative to make preserve the Ermatinger house began in the last 1960s and currently operates as a house museum which reflects the domestic and professional life of Charles Oakes Ermatinger and other prominent residents the House between 1808 and 1870. The physical structure of the house has been remodeled to look like it did in the era of Ermatinger.

In 1996 the Clergue Blockhouse was to be demolished for the expansion of the St. Mary's Paper Mill. As a result of community and heritage efforts the building was moved to the Ermatinger House site in 1996. The lower portion of the Blockhouse was constructed in 1819 as was part of a powder magazine belonging to the Northwest Company. In 1894, Francis Hector Clergue bought the property surrounding the old powder magazine. Clergue converted powder magazine into a space suitable for his home and office. It is this stage of the Blockhouse that has been restored in the historic site.

I will admit that prior to my visit to the site I had little background knowledge of either buildings or residents of buildings. It was interesting to learn about the place of these buildings in local history. Additionally, the combination of the two buildings on the same site also allows for the emphasis of Sault Ste Marie as a trading hub and allows the site to provide educational programming on the fur trade and local industry. However, overall I think I was most interested in the local efforts undertaken to return both buildings to their former states. The site highlights the potential of local history sites and the ongoing efforts which are required to preserve heritage buildings.

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