By Kathy Flaxman
Cabbagetown has the one of the largest collection of Victorian homes in North America and that means a vast amount of Victorian trim work, often called gingerbread.
Talk about art! A walk down any street means viewing intricate designs in wood, sometimes intricately painted as well to highlight the details. Rollo Myers, the manager at the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, says that the exterior trim on the Witches’ House on Sumach Street, just south of Winchester, is notable, reflecting a time when timber was plentiful and labour was abundant. As the former owners of this Cabbagetown landmark, Rollo and his wife Linda know full well what’s involved in this woodwork.
A lot of the verge board, as it is properly named, has been replaced over the years, a process that can be time consuming and costly. “I did a lot of the work myself” Rollo states. “One finial about three feet long, would be expensive, maybe $150, and time consuming to replace. The entire exterior woodwork was painted by a local craftsman in 16 different colours. You can’t discern them from the street, but they make the subtle details look even more beautiful.”
Paul Revesz, a carpenter who does many projects in Cabbagetown, often working with Weenen General Contracting Limited, notes that the lavishly beautiful trim work was a mark of status in the 1800s. “Carpenters weren’t making a lot of money back then, so a person building a home could afford to have a project go on for months and months. They used many of the same tools that we use now, table saws, jig saws, routers and so on, but today, computers play a large part in the process. For instance, you can give a computer a blueprint and it will feed the input directly to a router which will then do the work. Faster? Yes, but now it’s even more important than ever to get the measurements right. One mistake and everything has to be redone. Wood is very, very expensive today.” Paul adds, “this Victorian trim is something I enjoy, from the stage of reproducing something a client would like to putting the final pieces in place.”