House Page 12

Great Canadian Houses

Charles Ermatinger House, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario - 1812-14

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous example of a Georgian style house, constructed in the French-Canadian fieldstone style.

The house was built in 1812-1814 by an independent fur trader who had worked for the North West Company.

It is considered Canada's oldest stone house west of Toronto, Ontario, and the oldest surviving house in North Western Ontario.

Charles Oakes Ermatinger House, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario - 1812-14
Orig. Quebec style, "colombage pierrote" stone house
Found - Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Commonly called a "field stone" house, the Ermatinger example was constructed, in the Quebec (colombage pierrote) style, on a timber foundation, with timber uprights, and local red fieldstones then mortared into place. The stones are of all shapes, colours, and sizes, and are not oriented in any particular way. Rather than with the highly regular and careful setting of bricks in brick house construction, these stones are treated more like "rubble" or "fill."

The 12 over 12 windows were strongly cased in timber frames.

According to accounts the house was begun in 1812, extended in 1814, and altered and improved almost constantly after that.

Charles Ermatinger, of Swiss origin, built the house for his Ojibway wife, Mananowe, and their 13 children. He had worked in the Mississippi region for the North West Company after 1798, leaving its employ in 1812. When Americans attacked and burned all the British houses in Sault Ste. Marie, in 1814, his home above, alone, was spared.

After Charles and his family returned to Montreal, in 1828, the house went through a succession of owners and uses including: missionary home, hotel, Algoma District's first courthouse, sheriff's house, YWCA, a social club, an apartment building. The City of Sault Ste. Marie acquired the property in 1964 and restored it to its original glory.


It is classic Georgian in style, with its highly symmetrical five bay front, featuring 9 windows, each with 12 over 12 panes of glass, around a centre hall doorway. Like similar Georgian houses it has the fireplaces on the end walls, and the whole thing topped off with a hipped roof.

The walls, like one usually finds with field stone houses, are 76 to 92 cms thick, giving large window wells inside. The floors indoors are the original 2x6 inch white pine planks once walked on by Charles.

Among famous visitors to this house were: painters Paul Kane and George Catlin, writer Anna Jameson, and Lord Selkirk.

See Macpherson House.



For architectural purists, the house does feature neoclassical - this is all Greek to me - accretions, in the Doric columns supporting a triangular pediment over the door. Pericles and Euripides would have recognized this part of the house, instantly - nothing else.

The porch does protect the entrance way from snow and rain but defeats the purpose of another common Georgian feature: the sidelights and transom light that were designed to bring light into the otherwise windowless central hall of the lower floor. The porch darkens the hall considerably, especially in winter.

The glory of the entrance way in a Georgian house is lost here. No elliptical shapes and artistic tracery in these doorway lights. These are basically meat and potatoes windows, good enough for a remote and distant part of Canada.

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