Griggs House Gets Some TLC
Asha Tomlinson & Elaine Weeks
and Lydia Morrill cherished the sweet melodies that floated from
their baby grand piano in the music room of their new home. The
year was 1919, WWI was over and the future looked bright. Listening
to their daughters play the piano helped buoy the Morrill's optimism.
a falling out with his business partner Lorne Wilkie, Adolphe had
sold his half of Windsor Machine and Tool. The family had been living
in a house on the business property, located just west of downtown
Windsor near Riverside Drive. The sale of his business shares provided
Adolphe with enough money to buy the stately Stephen A. Griggs home
in the prestigious town of Walkerville and start over.
Rowley, grandson of the Morrill's, heard many stories about the
house from his mother, Grace Morrill, who was raised in the home
was full of ideas" says Rowley. "One time, he decided to breed canaries
as a hobby in the attic. He begged and burrowed canaries until he
had 300 of them; but one day, the birds flew against the screen
window and they all got away. Grandpa had to pay back all the people
who had lost their birds. Grandma wasn't too happy- needless to
also remembers his mother telling him that his grandfather was able
to rekindle his machine tooling business in the garage on the property.
"He was doing work for the Heinz Co. back there and even Henry Ford!"
in the Grigg's house was not always melodic for the Morrills. Tragedy
struck when daughter Lydia died at age 15 of rheumatic fever; years
later, the Morrill's ended up divorcing and the house went back
on the market.
1952, it was purchased by Dr. Walter Percival; the family lived
in the house for 45 years. Aware of the historical significance
of the home, Dr. Percival succeeded in having the house designated;
his efforts are marked by a small plaque attached to the front gate.
present owners, Sharon and Berkley Curtis transferred back to Windsor
from Germany in 1997. "The company gave me a week-long house hunting
trip," recalls Berkley. "I was visiting friends on Chilver, who
said a house on Kildare was for sale. When I went through the place,
I knew that this was the house for me."
by the gates of Willistead Manor on the corner of Niagara and Kildare,
the house was designed in 1905 by the talented American architect,
house is named after its first owner, Stephen Griggs, vice-president
of the Walkerville Brewery Company. Nine years later he would purchase
the brewery from the Walker family.
in the Arts & Crafts style, the home has a very English country
look. The main floor plyout includes a sunroom, living room, formal
dining room, half bath, butler's pantry, kitchen and cloak room.
bedrooms, the main bathroom plus an ensuite bathroom occupy the
second floor and two more bedrooms are located on the third.
of the homes most unique features is the Dutch front door. The three
to four inch think door splits so you can open just the bottom of
the door or the top, supposedly to keep out squirrels on those hot
days before there were screen doors.
we bought the house, we didn't know how much work it would require.
It was intimidating!" Sharon admits. "Every single room in the house
needed work. It was something we weren't prepared for but it has
been kind of fun too."
Curtis' feel fortunate that the house came with so much property.
"It's really rare to find this much space in the middle of this
old neighbourhood. The inground pool is very private thanks to the
stone fence around it- and the large garden is certainly a bonus,"
historical designation meant the Curtis' were prohibited from changing
the original architecture on the outside the house. Berkeley said
restoring this aspect of the home was quite an effort.
took two to three months of solid work to restore the garden brick
wall. We took it down brick by brick, cleaned each one by hand and
then re-layered them. That's been our longest restoration project
restoring the interior of the home, the Curtis' discovered a few
surprises, such as solid maple and oak countertops, oak floors and
oak ceilings hiding under either Formica, linoleum or paint; the
paint on the fireplace was stripped to reveal the original mahogany.
intriguing find was a secret safe in the basement. A room much like
a large-sized bank vault was found within the panel walls. It
has no handles or doorknobs so the room is never completely shut
because the Curtis' fear their children might get trapped inside.
Berkeley believes the room was used during the prohibition to store
couple is keenly aware of the house's historical significance, considering
the many people in the neighbourhood who have lived long enough
to know stories attached to the Griggs house."After we moved in,
folks would stop to tell us stories about the house- we began to
appreciate that it is a very significant part of Windsor's history,"
said Sharon. "We want to do everything we can to preserve the history
of the house - and to make it comfortable enough to be a family