Houses of the Gatineau Hills

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the May 25, 2011 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Horsing around on a Cantley hobby farm

by Lucy Scholey

This Cantley house is a hobby-horse farm dream come true.

Sitting on 100 acres of land, the property consists of two barns housing 12 horses, a mega-dome indoor arena measuring 70-by-132-feet, plus two other outdoor arenas.

The three-story brick house seems miniscule compared with the rest of the property. But for homeowners Andre Godbout and Louise Marie Fontaine, the horses are the real focus.

Godbout is an Ottawa-based Canadian Forces officer, who has only recently settled down after several years of moving around. The couple always wanted a horse farm and achieved that goal in L'Ange-Gardien during the 1990s. But their horses soon outgrew their 30-acre homestead and the couple needed to move.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Andre Godbout and Louise Marie Fontaine have made their 100-acre Cantley home into a horse hobby farm. Former East Hull Mayor Samuel McClelland built the house in 1915. Lucy Scholey photo.

Because the Cantley home sits on a huge property and is barely 30 minutes from Ottawa, it seemed the right fit.

"It was our dream coming true," says Godbout, while sitting at his living room table one evening.

Godbout is usually reticent, but horses get him chatting. The Canadian breed is his specialty and Godbout knows everything about the history of the black beasts (and the lone red) that roam his yard: their historical comings to Canada from France in the 1600s, their versatility in the field and how they compare to other horses.

Ask him what he knows about the history of his own home and he shrugs. He says he mostly knows what Bob McClelland, of the history group Cantley 1889 told him.

Samuel McClelland, mayor to what was known as East Hull, built the property in 1915.

The house stayed in the McClelland family until 1954 and exchanged hands a few times until Godbout and Fontaine landed it five years ago.

There are two other homes on the property: one semi-detached house that Godbout suspects was for workers, and one separate house that was once an icehouse.

As for Godbout and Fontaine's house, it's quaint, but unusual.

The basement has a nine-foot ceiling, there are three bathrooms and the house is built of brick, which Godbout says is rare for a rural house from that time period.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
One of the barns that houses Godbout and Fontaine's Canadian horses. Lucy Scholey photo.

"The guy who built this was a wealthy man," he says.

The couple is slowly renovating the home, finding balance between personalizing the space and keeping its historical character.

The thick wooden baseboards have a carved design untypical of modern homes.

Recently, Godbout and Fontaine renovated the front and side entrances to the homes, but kept the style of these dark baseboards.

They also painted the entrances a golden colour, keeping with the overall look of the place.

"We wanted to keep the integrity of the house," Godbout says. The same baseboards creep up along the staircase in presbytery-fashion, says Godbout. He's not far off: Rev. E. Ernest Miller, minister of St. Andrews Church, was the home's architect.

Other areas of the house remain a mystery.

An ornate wooden carving above the hallway could have been there originally, but Godbout is not sure.

Nor can he cite the origins of the antique agriculture machines that line the driveway, giving the property a museum-like feel. As for the barns, painted white with green doors and red trim, Godbout guesses they're older than the house itself. He's done a bit of work on the barns, repairing the plumbing and lights and laying down wood planks as reinforcement where needed.

Like training horses, renovating the historical home is a slow process. But the horses seem happy, as one stallion paces back and forth until he gladly accepts a bunch of hay.

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