8597 County Rd 2, Napanee, Ont.
Asking Price: $2.5-million
Taxes: $6,184.86 (2021)
Lot Size: 27 acres
Agents: Rosa MacLeod and Libby Crombie, Royal LePage Signature Realty
In 1826, eight years after he sailed his wife and eight children across the Atlantic Ocean from Coleraine, Ireland, Captain Gilbert McGreer purchased 200 acres of land on the edge of what’s now known as the town of Napanee.
Mr. McGreer worked at clearing the unspoiled land, first building a log cabin and then a bit later, a wooden house for his family to live in. His two sons, Charles and Thomas, inherited the property and went on to become brick manufacturers. Around 1855, they built a one-and-a-half storey brick cottage on the property in the Ontario Cottage style.
The sons also provided the bricks that were used in Napanee’s Town Hall, says Kenneth Fish, who, along with his sister Deborah McLeod, now owns the property.
There were later additions, but by 1870 the house looked pretty much as it does now: an elegant, Victorian-style home. It’s known as Riverview Farm, the “view” attainable from the second-floor gallery over the bay window at the front of the house, though the “river” is no longer in sight. The house has elaborate wooden carvings on the exterior façade. The grounds feature remnants of the wild forest Mr. McGreer would have met upon his arrival.
Ms. McLeod and Mr. Fish were originally looking for property in Prince Edward County five years ago, when the four-structure property brought them a bit further afield, to Napanee.
“It’s so beautiful,” Ms. McLeod says. “You just fall in love with it when you come onto the property because of the way they situated the various buildings. … It’s the total package.”
The house today
Visitors to the four-bedroom, four-bathroom home today come up a long, winding driveway. There are three steps up to the porch that wraps around almost the entire home. Double doors swing open into a foyer with 10-foot ceilings and decorated with crown moldings, large baseboards and panelled doors.
To the right of the foyer is the dining room, which boasts a chandelier bought in Toronto at Eaton’s department store on College Street, the height of 19th-century homeware fashions.
Through a door off the dining room is the updated kitchen, with a double oven, granite countertops and tall cupboards. The easy access to the dining room makes it “beautiful for entertaining,” Ms. McLeod says.
Up the stairs and to the left, another set of double doors open into a library and sitting room – with rich wall-to-wall bookshelves, another bay window and a gas fireplace.
Every direction you look, the windows around the house give glimpses of the sprawling property.
“When you walk down the stairs in the morning, it doesn’t matter where your eyes fall. The view out of the windows is beautiful,” Ms. McLeod says. “It’s trees, it’s nature, it might be a bird.”
The best view, according to Ms. McLeod, comes via the circular dayroom at the back of the house. It is all windows and looks out onto what Ms. McLeod calls the “walnut acre,” because of the more than 100 black walnut trees scattered across the property.
Beyond the dayroom is a screened porch, from which can be seen the property’s other structures: a recently updated, three-bedroom, two-bath guest house; a carriage house and a large two-storey barn. The post-and-beam construction is visible in the carriage house, and the original 14-inch-thick, hand-hewn beam slices through the middle of the barn. The carriage house was recently repainted outside.
The main house has been updated with large closets in each of the bedrooms, and a new furnace, air conditioning and water heater in 2016.
The best feature
The home abounds with heritage features, but for Ms. McLeod and Mr. Fish, being tucked into their own natural oasis is what really makes the property special.
It’s like having your own park, “right next to town,” Ms. McLeod says. “So we kind of have the best of both worlds.”
The grounds are brimming with nature; long stretches of lawn, flower gardens, a meadow of goldenrod and milkweed for monarchs butterflies to feed on. There are deer and ducks, foxes, honey locusts, poplar trees, ash trees and raspberry bushes. There’s a small stream and ponds that wax and wane with the seasons.
All of it has been Ms. McLeod and Mr. Fish’s outdoor classroom for the past five years. The black walnut trees have taught them how to spot and protect seedlings budding after being planted by a squirrel, as well as how to clean, dry, hull and enjoy the tree’s fruits.
Varieties of vines have sharpened their ability to identify different grapes, and encouraged them to learn how to turn a 16-pound harvest into an excellent grape jelly.
There are garden beds around the main house and a larger field next to the vegetable gardens where they’ve planted flowers over the years. Last year they tried planting a hundred daffodil bulbs, and this spring “there were days when I would bring in like 200 daffodils from the field,” Ms. McLeod says.
Mr. Fish has taken a special interest in enhancing the natural beauty of the grounds, and says “it’s even fun to just cut the grass, and everything looks … beautiful.”
Even when the grass is covered in snow and the lawn mower is tucked away in the carriage house, nature still delights. There are trails throughout the property for cross-country skiing, and last winter one area froze enough for Ms. McLeod’s daughter to go skate on the ice. “It was just magical,” Ms. McLeod says, “to have a little rink out there.”
Though her kids are grown, Ms. McLeod says she thinks Riverview Farm would be a great place for children to learn how things grow and when to take care of things.
It’s a place where children would be able “to witness how we all live together.”
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