I love mysteries, and I love challenges especially history ones. This week I was contacted by Richard Finlayson (his Aunt was Lucinda May Finlayson Raeburn who owned my home for a long time) and the whole world about the history of my home opened up again. As a child, Richard had been to my house several times. May Raeburn was his grandfather’s sister. He remembers many details of the remarkable house, Springside Hall, ( Hi Diddle Day home) on Lake Avenue East in Carleton Place.
As some of you know there are few photos of my home or info except what the McCann family sent me and thanks to Jennifer Fenwick Irwin from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum. We could not figure out why there were few photos of this home until the flea market find in Smiths Falls two years ago. So it is with great excitement when I find out something.
When we moved here in1981 the Summer Kitchen was torn down and we had a big hole on the Cambell Street side to deal with. The carriage house was also in the same rotten condition and that had to come down too. This is what happens to old homes if they are not taken care of and there is little you can do to save them without having money pockets deep enough to go to the ocean.
There was a back staircase, but it was a simple wood staircase painted white with a basement style window at the top. I never thought anything of it but when I was pregnant with Schuyleur 35 years ago Angelo decided to change it and took out three feet of stone wall beside the back stairs to build a new one. Again, nothing was found, so life moved on. Until— Friday when Richard Finlayson contacted me who remembered them as a child. He remembers there being a secret stairway off the dining room that was almost like a tunnel. The last time he was in my home was 1967 and he was 11 years old. His memory remembers a small (almost cupboard size) door off the dining room. It had a small narrow staircase that went to the second floor. As children it was like something from a childhood book. It may have been removed before we acquired it Richard said as I would guess it was an original servant stairway? For a child Richard said, Springside Hall was an amazing place.
So I began to wonder where the secret stairway was. I have two little doors off the dining room. One is now the bathroom under the front stairs which I found out were changed when the Crams moved in during the early 1900s. Suddenly the light bulb went off.
For years I had wondered about the weird little cupboard almost directly under the back staircase. It is a closet now, but it has a small perplexing extra space heading nowhere, and “L” shape and I could never figure out what it was. Now I know. It was the beginning of the “tiny tunnel” back staircase. Why was it so small and hidden?
In older homes, a large household staff was often required to stay out of sight. The solution was a separate staircase in the back just for the servants to use. Obviously the Crams were not happy seeing the servants if it was that small.
One Mystery Solved– More to come– thanks to Richard Finlayson