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Stone Houses in Ontario - beautiful, functional and durable

Stone Houses in Ontario

A pretty stone house stands out especially to the romantic buyer.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, when Upper Canada was just opening up for settlement, stone was frequently chosen for building new transportation and defense systems. Britain sent numbers of skilled stonemasons to the colony to work on such substantial projects as the British Naval Yards in Kingston (1820), the Rideau Canal (1832), and Kingston's Fort Henry (1833). Stonemason were also in demand for building the Erie Canal (1825), the second Welland Canal (1845). The next demand came during the building of the railroads in the early 1850s as stonemasons were sent out across the province to erect massive masonry viaducts and retaining walls.

Nina Perkins Chapple, A Heritage of Stone: Buildings of the Niagara Peninsula, Fergus and Elora, Guelph, Region of Waterloo, Cambridge, Paris, Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough, Hamilton and St. Marys (Toronto: James Lorimer & Co., 2007), pp 9-10.

Why are stone houses so popular in Ontario?

The stone houses dot the Ontario countryside were the result of clearing the fields, as were the pine trees used for the flooring. The stone itself as a building material was an added bonus, especially if it was attractive! (The attractiveness of the stone was dependant on both the mason and the raw material.)  In some areas, especially the Erin, Caledon, and Orangeville regions, stone was so "plentiful" that rock walls were built after selecting the best stone for the house.  The original pine floors are a much sought after benefit and some boards are upwards of 2 feet wide. 

Almost all stone houses were built close to the road, and very often, maple trees were planted on both sides of the driveway to attract snow drifts for the sleighs in winter. This cut down on the time spent snow ploughing, and since a snow plough in those days was a work horse pulling a triangular wooden plough 3 feet high and 10 feet wide, any time saved was a real bonus.

The type of stone used depended on where you lived. The difference in stone is very visible county to county with most using some form of rubblestone or sandstone.

Stone as an insulator

These houses were heated with a wood burning stone fireplace in the kitchen with a grate in the ceiling for the heat to reach the second floor bedrooms. The biggest drawback to using stone is the fact that it is a bad insulator. It's a myth that stone is a good insulator!

Another drawback to stone is that once every 30 to 40 years the house needs "rechinking". If the rechinking is not done properly it will devalue the house considerably, and in winter the house will be drafty. Internal stone walls are considered a big bonus as they have to be finished on both sides of the wall and look attractive.

Invariably the rubble left over from chiselling the stone was used to make the basement walls. Old houses in the 1870s had a dirt cellar about 4 feet high. Dirt cellars were usually dug deeper by hand and the walls were sometimes reinforced with concrete plus a concrete floor. 


Gairdner and Associates often has beautiful stone houses in its listings. One example is the house shown above. This house is in Erin, and was built in 1872. Give Jamie a call or send an email if you're interested in this interesting style of living.