Every once in a while, the layers of Lowertown are peeled back and reveal the past. These are rare opportunities to see how things once were in the neighbourhood. Sometimes, with proper restoration, they can become a part of the heritage district’s experience once again.
Take the example of 59 Cathcart Street, pictured above. The house is currently undergoing renovations. A layer of vinyl clapboard was removed a while to reveal old wood clapboard.
A few of years ago, when the vinyl clapboard was added, two other layers had been removed. One was a faux-brick asphalt shingling, which had probably been added in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Underneath that, there was some faux-brick tin siding, which probably dates from around 1910. Likely to save on construction costs on some Lowertown homes, owners would put brick on the front or sides, and add a cheaper material that imitated brick on the sides or back. I don’t recall ever seeing a house with tin on the front, except the famous Foisy tin house.
You might have noticed that the old wood clapboard is shaped in a gable. That’s the pointy tip of the wall of the original house. Some people confuse it for a building that might have stood next to it, but this is in fact part of the same building that still stands today. According to the old fire insurance maps, 59 Cathcart Street was a one storey building with a pointed roof prior to around 1902. The house itself dates from before 1878.
At some point after 1900 and before 1925, the roof was removed and extended to create a full second floor. The brick veneer on the front of the house would have been added at the same time. The second layer – the faux-brick tin – would probably have been added at the time of that first major renovation.
It appears the owner added a new layer of siding and painted it, which has preserved the original layer underneath. Perhaps, some day, the original natural wood layer will reappear or be recreated. Alternatively, perhaps the faux-tin brick will make a comeback…