Description of Historic Place
This red brick building with its buff brick trim occupies a prominent position on the Main Street of North Gower. It represents the early commercial development of the village. Built around 1885, the Thomas Craig House is a pleasant example of the two-storey brick, L-shaped design popular throughout the Eastern Ontario countryside in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Thomas Craig House is recognized for its heritage value by the Township of Rideau (now the City of Ottawa), By-law 82/86.
In 1879, according to Belden's Atlas, the quarter-acre parcel of land the building stands on was owned by John Wright. In February 1881, Alonson Barrows bought one eighth of an acre and in April of that year sold the land to William Bruce for $150. It is suspected that shortly thereafter Bruce constructed this building as a general store, which he operated until his death in 1907.
This building is associated with its next owner, Thomas Craig, who bought the property in 1920 and for the next 25 years operated a men's clothing and tailoring store. During the 1920's, a dentist by the name of Dr. Kemp had an office and a waiting room, upstairs, before moving his practice to Richmond. The store closed on Mr. Craig's death in 1947.
In February 1948, a major fire destroyed five buildings at the intersection of Main Street and Roger Stevens Drive including the old Royal Bank building. The clothing store, having survived the fire became the 'new' bank. The bank's front door faced Main Street and has since been replaced with windows, although the cement walk and doorstep remain. In 1950 there was a robbery involving Ernie Hollands, a subsequently reformed criminal, who in 1986 was a well-known television evangelist. It is reported that the Hollands Gang was stationed in a cottage near Kars and drove to North Gower late one afternoon to rob the bank. All the tellers were ordered to lie on the floor while the money was collected and the get-away car waited. The gang was quickly apprehended and the bank remained a tenant until 1960. The building subsequently housed a nursery school, and later an antique shop, and has been recently converted into apartments.
During its long history the building has retained its 19th century character, a steeply sloping roof, long narrow windows, gingerbread trim and turned finials on the gables and dormer, that are typical of the Gothic Revival style. The buff brick trim on the corners and over the windows and the brackets above the large front windows of this L-shaped structure were also very popular in the 1800's.
At the centre of North Gower life for many years, the Thomas Craig House occupies a prominent position at the corner of Main Street and Roger Stevens Drive in North Gower.
Sources: Rideau Township Archives LACAC files, City of Ottawa (3433); The Township of Rideau (now the City of Ottawa), By-law 82/86.
Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of the Thomas Craig House includes the:
- L-shape design, with cross gable roof
- red brick exterior
- buff brick quoins and hood moulds
- brackets above the large front windows
- steeply sloping roof
- long narrow windows
- gingerbread trim and turned finials on the gables and dormer
- prominent position on Main Street providing tangible evidence of the early commercial development in North Gower