The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
31 May 2003, Sat • Page 77
Wylie House, 1882, 81 Queen Street
Although built for James Dowdall, a local lawyer, it is known as the Wylie House, after its second owner, John Wylie, a wealthy mill owner, and it remained in the Wylie family for 63 years. In 1950, it became the Almonte Armouries, and during the Cold War, it became the Emergency Measures Organization Target Area Headquarters for Lanark County, complete with bomb shelter. Built of rectangular limestone blocks, it features carved quoins, a polychromatic slate roof with intricate moulding at perimeter base.
One of Almonte’s star attractions is an imposing limestone house by the Mississippi River that once housed a bomb shelter. It’s the home of Jim and Mary Hugessen, who were fresh from a morning’s horseback ride the day I arrived for a visit. The Hugessen house is one of six homes on an historic house tour in the Almonte area tomorrow. On first approach, the two- storey house is austere with its grey stone, brown shutters, sub- stantial chimneys and an obvious emphasis on vertical lines. It’s not until I sit on a sunny deck with Mr. Hugessen that we discuss the most delightful aspects of the house: its southern exposure and tie with the river.
With tall ground-floor windows, the house breathes light on a sunny day. “When I first saw this house (from Almonte’s Maclan Bridge), I took one look at it and said I want it,” recalls Mr. Hugessen, a Federal Court of Canada judge. “The house is good looking and located as it’s right on the river, it’s a very nice place to live.”
Despite the building’s good bones and elegant patterned slate roof, the couple carried out major changes during the five months before moving into the home in October 1990. “I wanted a house that was workable,” explains Mrs. Hugessen, chair of the Almonte General Hospital. “For example, there were two entries into the living room, and we blocked up one and widened the one opposite a bay window.” Architect Julian Smith offered advice on keeping alterations in line with the building’s character. Ash floors on the first floor and painted softwood floors on the second were uncovered when green linoleum was lifted. Old photos were key guides when the couple had new decks built. The kitchen was renovated, a garage added and two small bedrooms were combined to create a good-sized master bedroom. Hot water radiators were ripped out and a forced-air gas heating system was installed. ( Author’s note– wish we had done that to ours LOL)
Gerry Wheatley, a former owner of the house during the 1970s and ’80s, says the house was built in 1882 by James Dowdall, an Almonte lawyer. After a few years, John Wylie bought it. The house stayed in the Wylie family for 63 years, and after the Second World War the building was a Department of Defence militia head- quarters known as the Almonte Armouries.
Then, during the Cold War of the 1950s, the house was an emergency post in the event of a nuclear attack, he says. The basement became a bomb shelter. The back yard held a 30-metre microwave tower, and a standby diesel-electric unit was on hand should the power go out, says Mr. Wheatley. Then, it was thought “you could survive a nuclear attack by going and sitting in a bunker,” explains Mr. Hugessen. “After it was over, you’d come out and go home, pick up the mail and go down to the grocery store.”
After the Diefenbunker was built in Carp in the early 1960s, the federal government deemed an historical cachet, but a pervasive feeling of a life well lived. The home has a remarkable grand staircase rising from the front hallway, high ceilings and relaxing river views. Today, the old bunker is a storage area lined with cedar boards, and visitors linger in a casual kitchen or on a generous deck above the Mississippi. The goveernment sold the Almonte house, says Mr. Wheatley. He and his wife Anne bought it in the late ’60s.
Following the end of the Cold War, most of the Diefenbunkers were decommissioned, including CFS Carp and the Richardson Detachment in 1994. Communications functions were taken over by CFS Leitrim outside of Ottawa. The detachments at Richardson, Dunrobin and Almonte were all abandoned.https://militarybruce.com/abandoned-canadian-military-bases/abandoned-bases/ontario/
November 7, 2011 · The Wylie House was certainly an early favourite. The problem is there are 2 Wylie houses already popularized including one that is a bed and breakfast designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Wylie hasn’t been ruled out but there is much to consider. Also, the Menzies House across the street has a room named after the Wylie family
James Dowdall Clippings