Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 12/7/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
MORDEN -- In 1902, this is how the rich lived -- and died.
Harry Black was a lawyer and the son of the famous Rev. John Black, the first Presbyterian pastor of the Red River Settlement in 1851. (The settlers were promised a Presbyterian minister for their new settlement in 1812 but ended up having to wait four decades.)
Black moved out to Morden, which held great potential as the next metropolis, in 1895, following his lawyer brother, William. In 1902, Harry built a 4,000-square-foot stone mansion, or at least what passed for a mansion at the time. Its three storeys are built in the Victorian style with a castle-like turret on the west side. It is one of the twin turrets of Morden's Stephen Street. A similar stone home with a Victorian turret is directly across the street.
Over the years, Black became more investment wizard than lawyer, handling investments for himself and people in the community. Then he lost everything in the 1929 stock market crash.
He didn't just lose all the servants and other accoutrements of wealth. He and his wife, Jane, ended up spending one winter in the gardener's shack in the backyard just to save on heating bills. The shack is not much bigger than a tool shed. Black died in 1936 at about the age of 70.
"He apparently died penniless. He lost nearly everything," said Alain Kolt, current owner of the home along with wife, Camille Watkins.
The house is now up for sale.
It's as elegant inside as you might expect, judging from the spectacular granite exterior constructed by itinerant stonemasons from Ontario. (The era for construction for stone buildings on the Prairies was 1888-1908.) The granite fieldstones were taken from the Lake Agassiz escarpment that borders Morden to the west -- the incline you drive up to get to the Stardust Drive-In or the Super 8 Hotel.
Stepping inside, the entranceways are almost the size of elevator doors -- eight feet high and wider than normal -- and the 10-feet-high ceilings could accommodate people on stilts. The room on the immediate left was originally Mr. Black's reading room and includes a built-in granite fireplace. The Blacks were childless and "were known as intellectuals," said Watkins. His "smoking room," where he liked to puff on cigars, was on the second floor.
The room immediately to the right is oval-shaped -- the ground floor of the turret. That was Mrs. Black's parlour for receiving lady friends. The walls inside are all curved. There are also rounded windows in the dining room at the back, looking onto a one-third-hectare yard.
Minnesota oak was used for the woodwork, including hardwood floors, panelling and staircases. Neither does the place suffer that scourge of many older homes: subsequent owners who felt the need to overpaint the woodwork. All the woodwork is in its original condition with the original stain.
The walls are about two feet thick. There's the outside fieldstones, which are up to a foot thick, then an air space to serve as insulation, then another layer of wall made of rubble, then the interior plaster walls. "For its day, it was a well-insulated house," said Kolt.
On the second floor, a balcony was later added, creating an interior wall out of the exterior igneous stone. It makes a remarkable facade: Canadian Shield rock, with all its pinks and blues and blacks, sparkling with quartz and mica. The masonry style is called "roughly squared." The face of the rocks isn't cleaved but the natural surface. Lines of masonry make them look square, as if on a grid.
There is also a full, unfinished basement. For example, the original kitchen cabinets are now the basement workbench. Another display of wealth: The house had forced air in 1902, not radiated heat. That was quite extraordinary for the time, especially outside Winnipeg. There is also a wraparound veranda with white, rounded pillars, and a low spindle fence.
Watkins has researched old newspaper clippings and other archives about the house. But the greatest source of information came from a visit from Black's niece, then 92, in 1996. She told them everything about the house and the original owners.
Morden has perhaps the best collection of fieldstone architecture in Manitoba. The former Black house is one of 14 stone houses still intact in Morden.
Asking price: $449,000.
Kolt and Watkins are only the fifth family to own it in its 111-year history. The house stood vacant for six years after the death of John Harry Black (his full name). Then it was owned by a Judge George, then by a Judge Ken Hansen, then by a veterinarian Eric Radke, before Kolt and Watkins, both chiropractors in Morden, took possession. The couple's four children have grown up and they are looking to downsize, after living here for 22 years. (That's almost exactly the average stay.)
"People who have lived here don't want to move," said real estate agent Sandra Wiebe of Gables Realty in Morden.
Only serious inquiries are welcome. "You've got to get the right person, someone who loves this kind of house," said Wiebe.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 7, 2013 0
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
An emotional journey
Scots reject independence in historic vote
US Sheriff: Man kills 6 grandchildren, daughter
A Tribe Called Red pulls out of CMHR opening weekend
About 300 participate in Take Back the Night march
Fire destroys Grand Beach bakery
Body pulled from Red River near Lockport
Cost for Bipole III jumps to at least $1 billion more
Never-ending construction season
Suspected drunk driver, subdued by bystanders, still in hospital but facing charges
Home Depot says malware affected 56M payment cards
More details emerge on downtown stabbing
Witness: 21 killed by Mexico army had surrendered
Tenors to drop by News Café on Friday
Woman charged with aggravated assault after man stabbed, cop kicked
Dauphin hotel fire deemed suspicious
New infrastructure policies scarce at mayoral forum, tourism ideas abound
Fires near CMHR draw attention to aboriginal issues
Manitoba ER wait times higher than national average: CIHI report
Maurice promises 'an exciting, very aggressive brand of hockey'
Pallister pushes for spring election
Winnipeggers ready to Take Back the Night
Canadian Art Foundation honouring Wanda Koop with new fund
Pair facing more charges after fabricating a complaint against police
Final chapter in City Beautiful debuts Friday
Sanders takes aim at BIZ, Bowman
Two outlet channels for lakes could cost $450 M: Ashton
Harper will not attend opening of CMHR
Bones found on riverbank not human, police confirm
Tory MLAs challenge province on emergency Lake St. Martin channel
Owner of poisoned bees convinced it was "targeted attack"
Looking to the Red for answers, peace
Records: Man urged victim to kill self via webcam
British hostage appears in new video
Cost of satellite ministerial offices soar
Plenty of good weather for golf, yard work ahead
Arrests in Chile bomb attack focus on anarchists
Is a playoff berth realistic or do the Jets have too many unsolved questions?
Cougar killed in Calgary, no second cat
Air Canada joins WestJet in charging bag fee