Up the Gatineau! Selected Articles

Pink House

Volume 19, page 16

Christopher Carr

Historic Pink House stands with dignity and pride on a quiet street near the northern limit of Hull and adjacent to Gatineau Park. Many curious citizens drive up and down the street to admire this house, now surrounded by suburban development. It was built around 1873 by Alexander Pink. Constructed of red brick and trimmed in marl brick around the windows and accentuating the corners, it has a tower front and a kitchen wing.

The property where the house stands originally included all of lot 11 on Range 7, on which was located the Forsyth mine. The first attempt at exploiting this deposit was made at the end of 1826, by the Hull Mining Company, formed to work the iron ore and other minerals in the vicinity of Wright's village. Philemon Wright was president. "The following year Wright placed Louis Akey, as settler, upon the south half of lot 11, range 7, 100 acres of land which included the Forsyth deposit. Wright acted as agent; that is, he arranged the land grant and bore the expenses of the land patent and survey. Akey was permitted to remain on the land. In return Akey carried out settlement duties, as required by the Province, by clearing, cultivating and planting 7 acres but by agreement, actual ownership was transferred to Wright in 1831."1

Small amounts of iron ore from the Forsyth deposit were reduced to metal for local needs, and some ore was shipped to Cleveland in 1845 and 1846, presumably via the Rideau Canal. However, the company lacked capital and could not secure markets for its product.

Title to the property was vigorously contested by the Wright descendants, and was only settled in favour of Forsyth and Company on the death of Philermon's son Ruggles in 1863.2

The mine was then purchased by the Canada Iron and Manufacturing Company (incorporated on April 14, 1866, principal shareholders Thomas Watson of Montreal and Forsyth and Company of Pittsburg) for $17,000. The new owners had their problems: difficulty in calculating the charge of the furnace made it impossible to operate profitably; and in 1870 there were devastating fires, destroying first the house of the foreman, H.J. Cole, on February 17, and then all of Ironside on August 17. The Company then "became a land speculating company. On May 11, 1871 the company advertised in Hull, Templeton and Eardley Townships — 11.100 acres of ‘wild lands for sale on advantageous terms‘."3

We know that Alexander Pink owned the house by 1874 thanks to insurance records retained in Timothy Moffatt's Agricultural Insurance Book, now in the National Archives collection of valuable papers.4 The entry for the house is dated August 7th 1874 and the value is listed at $3583.75, the highest in the three years of insurance noted in the book. The property is described as “Alexander Pink dwelling house, furniture, provisions & wearing apparel, beds & bedding, harness 2 setts, 2 sleighs & waggon, Buffalo robes, & other articles to numerous to mention." The usual way of tracing deeds has not been possible because municipal deeds were destroyed in the Hull fire of 1900. In the 1871 census Alexander Pink is listed as living alone in Hull. (and of the Presbyterian religion). There is no record of the house in the municipal listings of properties for either Hull or Chelsea.

Extract from Timothy Moffat's Agricultural Insurance Book

Alexander Pink was the fourth child of Samuel Pink and Mary Elliott, born in 1832. Samuel had come to Canada directly from Belfast on the ship Alexander of Whitehauen in 1822. He returned to Ireland shortly afterward to fetch a wife and resettled in the area in 1832. Alexander was married in 18785 to Isabelle Link and their union produced twins, Jennie Maude and Thomas Samuel, who were born in 1879.6 Jennie died in 1913.

Alexander was the most noted rifleman in the valley, and was once a member of the Bisley team. He earned many trophies for his marksmanship7 including a medal from the Government of Canada in 1884 for winning the Gold Medal or Kolapore Cup with his companions of the 43rd battalions.8 There is also a story that Alexander's passion for guns was rooted in a fear of the possibility of Fenian raids. David Pelletier, son of a later owner, recalls that as a child he roamed the grounds looking for gun shells. The kitchen contains a gun-cupboard, a testimony to this interest.

The kitchen wing was probably built first. Its foundation is made of smaller field stone, with many traces of mica in it. This writer has noticed a great deal of mica in the area of the nearby iron mine, suggesting that the stone in the kitchen foundation was brought over from the mine area. The foundation of the main house is made of larger pieces of dressed limestone.

The entrance room in the tower portion originally had four doors, two of which led out onto porches and are now blocked. The front hall is remarkably dignified. The stair case newel and railing of cherrywood has ornamental stringers and rises to a half-way landing where steps lead up to the second floor of the kitchen wing on the one hand and on the other to the upstairs hall. The stair rail continues on right around the stairwell making the upstairs hall a visual conversation piece. Four large bedrooms open from it. The floor above the kitchen and the main upstairs area is separated by a small door, which suggests that family and hired personnel slept in different areas. The woodwork and floors throughout are of the finest pine, the baseboards are very high and the trim is the familiar, fat round stock colloquially called "bullnose". On the ground floor east side, there were originally two rooms, a dining room and a bedroom which today are combined into one.9 The house was heated by wood stoves, and burn marks can still be seen on the basement ceiling where the heat ducts went up through the floor. There is a tile chimney in each of the west and east walls, the latter of which still functions as the chimney for the oil furnace. The inside of the gun cupboard door contains inscriptions in pencil which can still be read. For this period one reads: “Floss foaled, May 28, 1909".

Alexander died in 1913,10 aged 81 years, and his wife Isabelle died in 1928, aged 80 years.

Alexander's son, Thomas Samuel, became the next owner of the house. He married Emily Olmstead, daughter of Henry, an early settler in the area. They had no children. During the ownership of Thomas several inscriptions were written on the door of the gun cupboard: “First snow Oct. 24, 1933'. “First snow 12 Nov. 43, spot heifer Jan. 26, Grey cow bred Jan. 31“. “Bred Dec. 19, 1949", "snow, May 26, 1961“.

At the rear of the house there was a fairly large barn with a bell tower. The bell was probably rung to bring in the hired hands and/or to announce a fire or other emergency. (The bell was sold, with many other items of the estate, in an auction held after the death of Thomas.) The barn featured a three seater outhouse — the beginning of indoor conveniences. There was also a chicken house, a garage, and a windmill to the east. The well for the house was also to the east. It was quite shallow: fifteen feet. Thomas farmed cows and chickens, and people still living remember seeing cattle grazing. Emily was an ardent flower gardener. Even after several years of being unattended future owners were impressed by these gardens.

In 1961 Thomas Samuel Pink authorized the Gatineau Power Company to install an electric transmission line across his property. In 1964 parts of the property were expropriated for the construction of Autoroute 5. Construction of the autoroute had the unfortunate consequence of draining the well.

Pink house
Pink house: circa 1968

When Emily died in 1961,11 Thomas moved from the kitchen portion of the house, and boarded up the main part. Cattle continued to graze on the land. From time to time he would ring the barn bell for no apparent reason except to bring it (and those who heard it) to life! Neighbours would check in on him from time to time, somewhat cautiously because he could be cranky. One time a neighbour came to see if he needed any food. He knocked and there was no answer. Eventually the visitor decided to let himself in and see if anything was wrong. There was a motionless body on the cot. He touched the cold arm. and Thomas sat up and exclaimed, "I got you that time!". Thomas died in 1966,12 and bequeathed his estate equally to his 9 nieces and 3 nephews. T. William Olmstead and Maurice Morgan, acting as testamentary executors, sold the house in 1968 to Gilles Pelletier with part of lot 11B, range 7, and the buildings. When Mr. Pelletier purchased the property it included 2 acres of land; he later bought 2 more.

The Pelletiers did extensive renovations and restoration which included installing a concrete floor in the basement. They replaced the massive old coal furnace with a new oil model and installed conduits for circulating the warm air. They reroofed, installed plumbing and new electrical wiring, and built a barnwood wall unit in the living room. In the main bedroom they removed a wall, put in a clothes cupboard, a sink, and a private toilet. They bricked in two doors in the kitchen (one on the west side replaced with a window, and one in the back near the mudroom.)13 They also wallpapered the hall, built cupboards in the kitchen, and had Bill Olmstead, nephew of Emily, make a new top for the newel of the main railing and two stringers for the railing on the back staircase. During the Pelletiers' time a storm blew the wheel off the windmill. They commissioned a sculpture made of the farm tools they had found on the property. This sculpture is still in the possession of the family.14 They reclaimed many of the gardens originally planted by Emily.

The Pelletier children, David and Susan, loved the house. David played in the mine shaft. He added his signature on the gun cupboard door: "David Pelletier, 68-79". Susan remodelled the chicken house and served high tea to important guests like her visiting grandmother. In 197915 the Pelletiers sold the property to Maureen Beard Freedman.16 The Freedmans installed a swimming pool to the west of the house, took down the barn and chicken house, repapered the hall, stuccoed the walls of the dining room, sitting room and kitchen, laid a ceramic tile floor in the kitchen, installed new kitchen cupboards, and did extensive gardening. In 198717 the Freedmans sold the property to the development company Costohull Inc.18 The property was again subdivided.

Chris and Connie Carr purchased the house on its new and smaller lot (l3,000 square feet) in 1988. The Carrs have done extensive landscaping of the property. A limestone terrace borders the east side of the house, where the gardens are mainly roses and lavender. Two long wide perennial beds where flowers bloom from spring to fall reach out from it. Separated by a spacious lawn, these borders are surrounded on one side by a pea-gravel area with herb gardens and a wild garden; on another with a horseshoe garden, sun dial, and a lawn large enough to take a swimming pool and a future tea-house; and on another (the east) by a large vegetable garden with asparagus, raspberries, blackberries and a composting area as well as space for the usual variety of vegetables. Newly planted trees complete the picture: pine, spruce, apple, oak, cedar and lilac.

Pink house
Pink house: circa 1992

The new owners installed a new chimney on the west side to service a new heat efficient fireplace which they installed in the main living room. At the same time the chimney on the east side was restored. They reroofed the house and discovered a tile chimney in the kitchen (north) wall. They replaced the old front door, which itself had been "temporarily" installed after the original had been vandalized, with a modern insulated metal door picking up the original design. The framing windows of the original door were salvaged and made into wall mirrors for their children. They rebuilt the original screen door in the attractive style of the original (with the encouragement of neighbours). A flagstone curved walk was installed from the street to the front door. The foundation walls were repointed (with thirty bags of mortar!), insulated and waterproofed and a drain was installed around its base. All this was being done at about the time that the City transferred the waste system of the house from the original septic tank to city services.

The Carrs also continued the ongoing job of interior renovation, replacing the ceiling in the upstairs room of the tower portion and painting and repairing plaster throughout.

The walls and eaves of the house had for many years, dating back to the time of Thomas Pink, been home to a large and healthy colony of bats. Many guests were entertained with the evening “bat show". The bats finally decided the time to move had come when the soffits (and the guano) were removed, permitting their holes to be blocked up after they had come out for their evening flight.

In the summer of 1989 access to the house was changed. Instead of coming down the attractive driveway across Leamy Creek from Mine Road (now boulevard Cite des Jeunes) the approach was via a new street, rue du Granite. The grand old maples that surrounded the house were brought down in half a day. The former garage was knocked down and buried in 20 minutes. The remainder of the property was redeveloped,19 and Pink House was given civic number 5. The Hull municipal council required that the new houses match the brick construction, height, slope and double roof of Pink house. Many of the owners on the new street admit to the positive influence that the presence of this historic house had on their decision to purchase. The street has been considered a successful integration of a historic house and a contemporary development.

  1. D.D. Hogarth, Pioneer Mines of the Gatineau Region, Quebec, (Ottawa: By Town Beavers, Publishers Reg'd., 1975), p. ll
  2. ibid
  3. D.D. Hogarth, op. cit., pp. 14-l5
  4. National Archives of Canada, Record series MG 55/29, Volume 81, Agricultural Insurance Co., Record of Clients in Hull area, 1873-1876
  5. 1878-11-20. This and other dates of births, marriages, and deaths are taken from A. Gard. op. cit. or from notes in the Pink family Bible in the possession of William Olmstead.
  6. 1879-12-31.
  7. A. Gard, Pioneers of the Upper Ottawa Valley, (Ottawa: Emerson, 1914) p. 52
  8. Gladys Blair, "Remote Now, but for how long?", Ottawa Journal, Dec. 29, 1973
  9. Gladys Blair, op. cit.
  10. 1913-01-01
  11. 1961-09-18, age 83
  12. 1966-04-21, age 88.
  13. This was a large wooden room built on to the house and covering the exterior access to the basement; it dated back at least to the time of Thomas Pink. It was originally used for the farmers to take off their muddy boots, and is now used for muddy plants, drying flowers, and the gardeners muddy boots.
  14. Mrs. Pat Dickie, formerly Mrs. Pelletier, provided much of the information and pictures relating to the period of the Pelletiers' ownership.
  15. 1979-07-09.
  16. Mrs. Harry Freedman
  17. 1987-05-08.
  18. President Michael Custom of Montreal and shareholder Gerry Bisson of Hull

List of articles - Volume 19