Friday, 5 December 2014

Dr. McKay's home, 242 Third Street .......

As a young boy growing up in Collingwood , I was blessed to have Dr. Donald McKay both as a doctor and a dear family friend.  It was he who was responsible for bringing me into this world (yes folks, blame him), and he would always refer to me as "his boy."  He was the last of a breed of family physicians who cared enough about their patients to make house calls, doing this this often with his "black bag" at his side. It was he along with my grandparents who fostered in me my lasting love and passion for the heritage and history of our wonderful town.

In addition to loving history, I was also obsessed with the McKay's beautiful home.  To the younger me, it represented a "Gone With the Wind" fantasy brought to Collingwood.  I was ever so fortunate enough to have a personal tour of this wonderful house so long ago, and the McKay's kindness left a lasting impression on me.  Although the family have called this beautiful structure home since 1952, theirs was not the first "physician family" to reside there.

242 Third Street came into being as the ornate excesses of the Victorian era were fading away.  The early 20th century saw a renewed interest in the solid respectability of architecture in the Classical tradition.  Thus, this beautiful 2 and a half storey home in brick is a remarkable example of the style  known as "Colonial Revival." Built in 1907-08, the 6 bedroom home was designed by Collingwood architect John Wilson for retired lumber mill manager Charles Pitt.  Mr. Pitt was an avid hunter, and his primary specification was that there be a space sufficient enough on the second floor landing to display a moosehead with a sixty-six inch antler span.  Not only did this request produce a magnificent central staircase that splits into two at the central landing, Mr. Wilson also included a ram's head motif in the design which is repeated throughout the house - in the capitals of the ionic columns on the portico, the interior front door surround, and the oak octagonal columns surrounding the staircase.  

On the exterior, the monumental portico is supported by two impressive ionic columns and shades a semi-circular second storey balcony with vase shaped pickets.  There are also a liberal scattering of Palladian windows decorating the side and rear facades which was also a detail quite popular at the time.  One particular detail of note is the side "porte cochere" where  buggies and coaches could be safely parked for easy entrance. Capping off the structure is an original slate roof which is also indicative of the style of the era. 

Construction of the home commenced in October of 1907, and according to "The Enterprise-Messenger",  the handsome home would be completed at a cost of $20,000 and include 5 fireplaces, leaded glass, French doors, and a bell system for summoning the servants.  The home is surrounded by an original cast iron fence, and there is even a very rare and unique cast iron "horsehead" hitching post still standing watch at the bottom of the walkway.

After serving on town council for several years, Charles Pitt passed away from typhoid fever in 1927. The following year his widow Ella sold the home to Dr. Alexander McFaul for $6,250.  Not only was Dr.McFaul a gifted surgeon, he also served as Mayor of Collingwood and Chairman of the Board of Education. He passed away in 1951 at the age of 89.

The McKay's - Donald and Frances and their four children moved in a year later, and the home has remained in the family ever since.  One lasting memory I have is of the annual Christmas tree that Dr. McKay would put out festively lit on the upper portico.   Sadly, the elder McKay's are no longer with us, and their son Ian who inherited it passed away in October of 2015.  The house has now passed on down the family tree to Ian's children Jenn and Andrew who are committed to breathing new life into this very special family home.


A 1960's image of the McKay family at the bottom of the central staircase. From left to right, Dr. Donald McKay, daughter Nora, son Don, wife Frances, and sons Ian & Stuart.

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