289 PINEHURST RD., PARIS, ONT.
Asking price: $2.995-million
Lot size: 12.58 acres
Agents: Alison Dyer (Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.) and Luanne Hancey (ReMax Twin City Realty Inc.)
The back story
The Maus family were United Empire Loyalists who moved to Upper Canada from Pennsylvania in the late 1700s. In 1850, John Maus hired a Scottish architect and spent three years building the stone house that is still known as Maus Park. The house sits just outside of Paris, Ont.
"It's a very substantial home," says real estate agent Alison Dyer of Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd. She points to the Scottish granite that was used as ballast in boats on the journey across the ocean, then used in the construction of the front of the house.
The more informal part at the rear – including the carriage house – was built of local fieldstone. The two portions are joined by a keeping room and enclosed porches.
The sills, lintels and quoining are of quarried Guelph limestone.
The current owner, Douglas Stocks, is an antiques dealer who describes the house as almost derelict when he first saw it 25 years ago. It was divided into two apartments and the upstairs had no heat or hydro.
The residents had hung blankets and quilts from the ceiling in the front hall to prevent heat from rising to the second floor. Fake wood panelling covered the original stone and wainscotting in the keeping room and the carriage house had virtually collapsed.
"I love Georgian-style houses," says Mr. Stocks, who bought his first antique from another dealer when he was 11 or 12 and has been trading them ever since. At Maus Park, he was drawn to the centre-hall plan, majestic front hall and gracious principal rooms with high ceilings and traditional windows.
"I went into the basement. It was very sound and not wet," he says. "I went up in the attic and it was a marvel. It was very well-built," he says of the house.
There were orange blinds covering every window but Mr. Stocks knew light would pour in once they were stripped away.
"I could tell it was going to be bright."
Mr. Stocks also loved the landscape, the creek running through the property, and the massive original barn that measures approximately 11,000 square feet.
The size of the barn points to the prosperity of businessman and farmer John Maus, says Mr. Stocks.
When he recently had the value of the barn appraised, the appraiser couldn't find another one of that size within 160 kilometres, Mr. Stocks adds.
"Barns have a magic to them that houses don't," he says. "Maybe it was all the animals and feed. It was such an interesting barn – huge."
When it came time to renovate the house, workers spent three days stripping away layers of flooring in the kitchen. Underneath, they found a trap door that led to a hidden room in the basement.
"The foreman was all excited about the secret room," says Mr. Stocks, who adds that the workers found evidence that people had been down there.
He speculates that Maus Park was a stop on the underground railway, which sheltered slaves who had escaped from bondage in the United States. The property had masses of orange day lilies, which were a signal during the time of the underground railway that the homeowner would offer a safe haven, he explains.
Mr. Stocks worked on the house for a couple of years before he moved in.
"It was an adventure – a creative one."
The house today
The challenge, explains Mr. Stocks, came from retaining the character of the house while hiding all of the modern amenities. He updated the electrical system, plumbing and heating.
The kitchen includes a La Cornue range and an island with marble countertop.
Upstairs, a large master bedroom suite includes a luxurious bathroom with air jet tub.
Throughout the house, most of the original paint colours were still on the walls so Mr. Stocks restored the rich blues, reds and greens that were typical of a house of the age. After a few years, however, he found the dark colours too oppressive.
"So I decided we're not going to live in a museum – let's update the colours while staying sympathetic to what would be found in a Georgian house."
Mr. Stocks kept some of the wood trim around the doors in its original unpainted finish but painted other parts of the wainscotting and trim in bright white. He used historical colours that work well as a backdrop for the antique furniture that fills the house. He found a post card from 1911 which showed the house with its original portico so he had it copied.
The best feature
The 12 acres of landscaped grounds have drawn potential buyers looking for a country estate. The property includes Charlie Creek, which flows through the property and eventually joins the Nith River. Mr. Stocks dredged the creek to return it to its 1875 appearance.
An 1875 engraving depicted the circular drive and entrance gates so Mr. Stocks had the grass torn up as a first step to rebuilding the driveway.
"Lo and behold we found the original circular drive under there."
The former cow pasture is now the site of landscaped gardens and there is a large swimming pool. Mr. Stocks has created a small golf course that takes golfers through the grounds and over some of the bridges that straddle the creek.
Film crews often use the house as a set. Recently an episode of The Listener was filmed on the property. The grounds are so expansive, explains Mr. Stock, that the crew was able to film a scene that appears to take place in a public park.