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the architourist

The Jordan Munn house at 3020 Post Rd. in Oakville, Ont.Sedgwick Marshall Heritage Homes Ltd.

Row upon row, they sit. Fake muntin bars in every window, manufactured stone veneer walls, complex roofs peppered with multiple vents to exhaust multiple bathrooms and that mix-and-match of architectural eras – turrets and half-timbering and fake keystones – that most new home developments wear.

Drive too quickly along Dundas Street in north Oakville, and that’s all that will register, too. But if a traffic jam, say, causes a slowdown around Sixth Line, which divides Dundas into East and West, a handsome, red brick, late-1800s church, Munn’s United, will come into view. And across the road, a cemetery. Perhaps one’s GPS will display its name: Munn’s Pioneer Cemetery.

And while that same driver – surely in rush to get to work or home – won’t venture into that thicket of stone veneer, a quick jog up Post Road, just past the retention pond, would reveal one more piece of the Munn story.

Here, at 3020 Post Rd., the red-brick Jordan Munn house sits, an anachronistic heritage needle in a bland haystack, awaiting new ownership. And those who love heritage can thank the dynamic, heritage-loving duo of Mandy Sedgwick and Mirella Marshall for the TLC it has received.

The original timber-framed home was built sometime between 1816 and 1841, according to heritage documents.Sedgwick Marshall Heritage Homes Ltd.

But, first a little about the Munns: Daniel Munn, a United Empire Loyalist, built a farm at this intersection in 1803. Soon after, he allowed church services to be held at his home. Mr. Munn, with his wife, Millicent, also operated a tavern and inn for those en route to the waterfront, nine kilometres to the south. By 1844, on land Mr. Munn donated, the first church was built and, by all accounts, Munn’s Corners was a happening little hamlet.

According to a 2019 City of Oakville “Notice to Designate,” Jordan Munn built himself a timber-framed home near his father’s at some point between 1816 and 1841, and added a brick portion between 1830 and 1860, “when the Classical Revival style was prevalent in Ontario.”

While simple, the Munn home does sport a dramatic roof peak with deep returned eaves, a wide cornice, dual chimneys, symmetrical windows with wooden shutters, neat Common Bond red brick and an off-centre door.

But to learn a little more about the women who co-ordinated moving Mr. Munn’s house to that new subdivision, we must fast-forward to the 1990s, when both were volunteering at the Milton Historical Society. There, Ms. Sedgwick and Ms. Marshall became key players in saving James Waldie’s 1865 blacksmith shop from demolition, which took seven years. (The last blacksmith had been Alfred Waldie, who closed up in the early 1970s.)

Mirella Marshall, left, and Mandy Sedgwick examine a house ahead of a move.Sedgwick Marshall Heritage Homes Ltd.

“At first, it was really difficult, because nobody could see the potential in the building,” says Ms. Sedgwick, who remembers the building from when she was little. “But once you go in and you see it restored – and now especially with TV shows like Forged in Fire – and now they have blacksmithing classes there, it’s really evolved; it’s a busy place.”

In the early 2000s, with a development boom in Milton and Oakville, the women – who both live in heritage homes – found themselves “fighting to save houses all over the place,” Ms. Marshall says.

"It was frustrating of course,” she continues. “So, finally, we just said: ‘What if we use our own resources, let’s see if we can just buy a house at a time and see if we can save it and then we’ll sell it. And then we’ll do it again.’”

Sedgwick Marshall Heritage Homes moves old houses to save them from bulldozers.Sedgwick Marshall Heritage Homes Ltd.

Their first move as Sedgwick Marshall Heritage Homes Ltd., was one half of a 1910 duplex in Milton, Ont. A few years later, the duo caught wind of a pair of houses on Mary Street (again, in Milton) that were being offered up by the town so a parking lot could be constructed. With no takers, the women purchased one – a Regency cottage – and had it moved by Charles and Roger Matthews (now both deceased, I met and profiled the brothers in this space in 2004) to a lot they’d purchased around the corner and helped facilitate moving the other one.

After Sedgwick Marshall moved a few more, word got around to developers, who often don’t know quite what to do with the designated century-houses that come with their farmer’s field purchases. The first to come calling was Mattamy Homes, who needed a triple-brick, 1850 house once owned by Richard Harrison, the son of Milton’s first schoolteacher, moved, restored and updated so it could be put on the market.

In the decade since, with their small crew of carpenters and masons, they’ve co-ordinated moves for other developers, including a stone house for Branthaven Homes, while continuing to purchase for their own company.

One of Sedgwick Marshall's recent moves.Sedgwick Marshall Heritage Homes Ltd.

“We understand what the process is, what it is the [heritage] committee looking for,” Ms. Marshall says. “So, if a developer brings us in early on, we can help them get through the whole process, because they find that very overwhelming and daunting.”

And, since new additions are usually required – these are small houses by today’s standards – Sedgwick Marshall will ensure they don’t overwhelm the original and contain period appropriate finishes.

If there is one tiny complaint this author had after touring the Munn residence a few weeks ago, it’s that vintage interiors are non-existent. Then again, with a price tag of $1.5-million, expecting purchasers to ooh and aah over creaky old cupboards and beat-up wainscotting is a silly notion. It was, however, a real treat to see the rough-hewn, half-logs that have held Mr. Munn’s floors up for a century-and-a-half.

“People love these houses. They just want them finished,” Ms. Marshall says simply.

“It’s modern amenities in an old shell, basically,” Ms. Sedgwick says.

But there’s nothing “basic” about it: Commitment, drive, patience and boundless energy are all required to save these pieces of local history and make them marketable to today’s harried consumer.

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