Description of Historic Place
The building at 4077 Highway 522, known as the Commanda General Store, is situated at the intersection of Old Nipissing Road and Highway 522 in the Township of Nipissing. The two-storey, wood-frame building was designed in a vernacular interpretation of the High Victorian style and was constructed in c.1885.
The exterior, select areas of the interior and the scenic character of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement (1980). The property now functions as the Commanda Heritage Centre.
In its current situation, at the intersection of Highway 522 and Old Nipissing Road, the Commanda General Store marks the community's shift to the crossroads location that occurred in the early half of the 20th century. Though moved from its original location, to the crossroads, the store also recalls the nearby location of the once flourishing village of Commanda and the settlement that arose due to the Rosseau-Nipissing Road (now Old Nipissing Road). Reflecting the lessened importance of the Rosseau-Nipissing Road, and the increased importance of Highway 522 and east to west travel, the store was moved a few lots north, in 1933, to take better advantage of the highway trade.
The Commanda General Store is historically significant for its association with the development of Commanda and the surrounding area. Built in c.1885 by James and Elizabeth Arthurs, the store is strategically located on the Rosseau-Nipissing Road. This road was a colonization route constructed between 1866 and 1873 to promote settlement in the last section of the province to be opened and deemed suitable for agriculture. During the boom years of settlement in the southern Canadian Shield, the Commanda General Store served as an important supply centre for the pioneer lumbermen and farmers of the region. Sold in 1907 by James Arthurs, who went on to become the area's Member of Parliament from 1908-35, the structure continued to function as a general store until 1977, and the community Post Office from 1911 to 1977. An important component of the flourishing community that once boasted a flour mill, sawmill, hotel and a variety of merchants as well as churches and a school, the Commanda General Store survives as the village's only commercial structure from the pioneer era.
The Commanda General Store is architecturally significant for its vernacular, High Victorian design. Embellished by a boldly detailed false front, characteristic of period boomtowns, the façade boasts an ornamented cornice with scroll-cut brackets and gable screens with spindle work and cut-out detailing. The two-storey veranda is similarly enhanced with turned and chamfered supports, scroll-cut braces and a spindle frieze. The substantial nature and elaborate detailing of the store suggest the builder's confidence in Commanda's future. Indicative of commercial use, the structure retains its large display windows, built-in shelving and long wooden counters. Finishes within the commercial space include wide-board pine floors and walls, while the additions display uniquely patterned tongue-and-groove wall and ceiling finishes. In addition to its commercial function, the structure also served as a residence for the proprietor, with a finished second storey and a two-storey, residential, western extension. Other extensions contribute to the highly irregular plan.
Source: OHT Easement Files
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Commanda General Store include its:
- location on the Rosseau-Nipissing Road (now Old Nipissing Road) in close proximity to the former village of Commanda
- location in relationship to the crossroads of Highway 522 and Old Nipissing Road, in close proximity to the former centre of the village of Commanda
- immediate proximity and orientation to the highway
- irregular, plan with central two storey-massing and one and two-storey extensions
- cedar-shingled, cross gable roof with gable roof dormers on the two-storey portions and shed roofs on the one-storey extensions
- wood-frame construction with wooden shiplap siding
- false façade of the two-storey section with dentil trimmed cornice and incorporating scroll-cut brackets, gable and gable screen with cut-outs and spindle work
- false façade on the one-storey addition with scroll-cut brackets, dentil trimmed cornice, and elaborate window and door hood mouldings
- open, two-storey, front veranda comprised of turned and panelled, chamfered supports with scroll-cut braces, turned balusters and spindle work, frieze, bowed roof with gable peak, gable screen with spindle work and cut-outs and second storey access with half-glass door
- storefront with twelve pane display windows, panelled base and outer piers
- recessed storefront doorway with transom light and glazed and panelled double doors
- variety of windows including double-hung, 2 over 2 sashes and the distinctive triple assembly window in the front elevation addition with a multi-pane border in the upper sash
- second storey balcony with turned balusters and scroll-cut braces and its doorway with half-glass door, multi-pane sidelights and transom lights
- commercial space with built-in shelving, long wooden counters, wide-board pine floors, wide-board wall cladding and tongue-and groove ceiling
- hardwood floors, tongue-and-groove wall treatments and window and door casing with round corner blocks in other interior areas