Houses of the Gatineau Hills

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the February 24, 2010 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Pioneer family cottage still a mystery to owners

by Trevor Greenway

When Meg Weber of Cantley saw a little red cottage go up for sale beside the Alonzo Wright Bridge in 1964, she just had to have it. Not knowing the history behind the cottage, Weber and her late husband Hans purchased the building for $1,000. Only later would she discover its significance.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
The exterior of the cottage is still in its original form. Trevor Greenway photo.

The cottage was originally built by Tiberius Wright, son of Philemon Wright, who founded Wrightville, the first settlement in the National Capital Region, which later became Hull.

It is thought that the cottage was constructed in 1824, although the Webers aren't entirely certain.

"I saw it for sale and rushed to the phone and called Hans," she said, sipping coffee from her farmhouse in Cantley, where the cottage sits nearby on her land.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
The living room of the cottage boasts a woodstove and original flooming. Trevor Greenway photo.

"I didn't know the history."

Buying the cottage was not a straightforward affair, considering they didn't buy the land underneath it. They needed to move the cottage from beside the bridge to their farm in Cantley about six kilometers away. In those days, there were no real specialists in moving houses and the Webers had to wait two years before finding someone who could do it. It wasn't cheap either. In fact, the move cost the Webers double the purchase price.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
An old Magneto telephone sits on the wall. Trevor Greenway photo.

Once moved, the Webers began renting the cottage out to tenants, something 84-year-old Meg, now a widow, still does. The place has been modernized somewhat to accommodate for modern daily living, with a new IKEA kitchen and a new bathroom with washer and dryer, but most of the building is as it was more than 100 years ago.

The little red cottage sits on a hill at the top of the Weber's 200 acres of farmland with its weathered logs exposed. Entering the house feels a little like a time warp. The original wood floorboards creek with every step and the walls hold remnants from past times. Illegible handwriting covers the log walls of the cabin, which lead up to a working Magneto telephone, complete with bells, an ear piece and a crank. An old woodstove sits in the front room, the main source of heat, though the cottage also boasts a few electric baseboards.

A very narrow stairway leads up to the only bedroom in the cottage.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
The IKEA Kitchen makes this cottage liveable. Trevor Greenway photo.

Several renovations have been done on the building since it was purchased in the mid '60s, but Weber's 55-year-old son Christoph, brother of Arctic explorer Richard Weber, has made a point of keeping the building to resemble the original as much as possible, repairing the roof with cedar shakes similar to the original style and replacing the windows with vintage glass.

"(Preserving the history) is completely important because it's a historical building," said Christoph.

His mom agrees.

"Being born in England, things that are old are important," she said.

"And you keep them that way."

The Webers are interested in finding more information about the little red cottage formerly owned by the Wright family. If you have any information, visit the Low Down website at www.lowdownonline.com and leave a comment on this story.

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