Philomene Terrace: A little bit of Sandy Hill history

Photo Lynda Cox

Lynda Cox

Recently 371 Daly Ave. began the search for a new family. The Wilson family has owned this property for more than 70 years. Anne and David Wilson, young returning WWII veterans, saw the inner beauty in the run-down rooming house and employed master craftsmen to return it to its original use as a single family home, always mindful of its history. The grey limestone rows from 363 to 383 Daly are now designated as heritage properties and have an interesting history.

The builder, Honoré Robillard, was the son of a master stone mason, Antoine Robillard who built Notre Dame Basilica on Sussex Drive and the first Grey Nuns’ residence, which became part of what is now Elizabeth Bruyère Hospital. Honoré followed in his father’s footsteps as stone mason, builder and quarry owner. The Robillards built in the popular 17th century architectural styles of Normandy, France brought to this land by settlers to New France. While most residents of Bytown lived in wooden houses this style of building used two-foot stone walls. Each stone was individually hand-cut. The limestone came from their own Gloucester quarry opened in the 1830s and run by four generations of Robillards for more than 100 years.

In the years 1873 to 1874 Honoré built the eight original homes of Philomene Terrace for his family of seven hoping to give one to each child. His dream was to live there and watch his grandchildren grow up alongside. He dedicated the terrace to his wife Philomène (nee Barrette) engraving her name into the stone. (David Wilson had it darkened so that her name was clear and easily seen by passersby). Sadly Philomène died four years after the homes were built and their dream was never realized.

The home features many details most desired by Victorians of the day: room call bells, staff quarters with their own back staircase, a scullery, ornate radiators to supplement the fireplaces and parlour stoves, British-length cast-iron bathtub (original still there), two grand living rooms, large entrance and foyer, high 11-foot ceilings, wide 12-inch baseboards, and a lady’s dressing room to name a few.

Honoré was a well-respected man in the community and was elected reeve and provincial and federal M.P. With the Daly location he could walk to work on Parliament Hill yet be a bit away from the boisterous downtown tavern/market area of the city. He lived out his years in the Terrace.

Today, we look back with nostalgia on all century-old homes as they were built to last, with natural materials and with the craftsmanship of traditional building skills where quality mattered. Philomène Terrace was built by craftsmen for the children and grandchildren of craftsmen.

It takes more than builders for homes to last centuries. It takes a community of homeowners who value that heritage and have the desire to preserve it. Sandy Hill is one of those communities.

With notes from Deborah Wilson