Ontario House Styles: The distinctive architecture of the province’s 18th and 19th century homes by Robert Mikel. James Lorimer & Co. Ltd. 2004.
Although this part of Eastern Ontario is no longer as well-to-do as it once was, historically the region enjoyed periods when considerable wealth was centred here. A legacy of impressive houses are reminders of the 18th and 19th century past. I have long been interested in the architectural styles and fads they represent, and was pleased to come across Mikel’s book.
Ontario House Styles provides a good introduction. At 126 pages, it is just long enough to cover its topic without being either too superficial or very demanding. The colour photographs on every page illustrate the styles and points under discussion and the houses Mikel has chosen cover a representative range of locations across Ontario. Mikel provides a useful summary of the background and key features of each of the styles. For the most part, I found the text informative and helpful, although there were a few points that made me raise my eyebrows. For instance, I didn’t find his discussion of the Romantic transition from a more formal form to a more natural one very convincing. Still, on the whole, the book serves its purpose well. A helpful bibliography is included. A glossary of commonly used architectural terms is lacking.
The book covers 12 styles. In a few cases, rather different styles are lumped together. Octagonal houses are included under the Regency Style, as is Bellevue, which might better have been considered separately in an Italian Villa section. Still, I enjoyed Ontario House Styles, and have found it very helpful in allowing me to better understand and appreciate the houses in the local built environment.
The twelve styles includes are: Georgian architecture, Neo-Classical Style, Greek Revival, Regency Style, Gothic Revival, Italianate Style, Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne Style, Arts and Crafts Movement, Edwardian Classicism, and later Revival Styles. Below are photographs of houses that illustrate a few of these styles.