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home of the week
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Built in 1908 as a hunting or fishing cabin, the house has been rebuilt into a 2,201-square-foot space nestled in the Waterdown escarpment.Northern Spruce Media Inc.

50 George St., Waterdown, Ont.

Asking Price: $2,390,000

Taxes: $6,129.19 (2023)

Lot Size: 144 by 259 feet

Agents: Vickie Cooper, Re/Max Escarpment Realty

The backstory

Gary and Penny Deathe were living in a typical suburban home with their two small children when they began to imagine life in a more tranquil setting.

“We decided to get away from subdivisions,” Mr. Deathe says of their quest 30 years ago for a new home.

They looked at country properties but Ms. Deathe didn’t like the idea of needing a car for every excursion. When the couple’s son and daughter entered their teenage years, she wanted them to have the opportunity to walk to school and other activities.

The couple’s search led them to Waterdown, Ont., where a house close to the centre of the historic town was for sale. Grindstone Creek ran through the property, falling over a limestone ridge to create a 20-foot high natural waterfall.

The couple crossed a narrow bridge over the creek to a rustic dwelling surrounded by woodland.

“It was a little, simple cottage,” Mr. Deathe says. “It had mature trees and water rushing and a dry stone fence. When you drove across that bridge, you could feel the difference.”

The house, built in 1908, was likely used originally as a hunting or fishing cabin, Mr. Deathe figures.

“My wife said, ‘just promise me we’re going to renovate,’” he recalls with a smile.

The house today

The three-room house started out with stone walls and an exterior covered in cedar board and clad in metal siding. The couple soon removed the metal and replaced it with traditional board and batten.

The makeshift kitchen had only a 12-inch sink of the type normally found on boats.

The Deathes added a new kitchen with built-in appliances and a separate breakfast area.

  • Home of the Week, 50 George St., Waterdown, Ont.Northern Spruce Media Inc.

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As they settled in, the Deathes began meeting long-time residents of the town, who shared the history of the property. The couple learned there was a mink farm in the woods at one time. Around the 1940s, a previous owner set up a workshop in the barn to make and sell wooden toys.

Over time, the Deathes expanded the house to the 2,201 square feet it provides today.

The main floor has a large living and dining area with a wood-burning fireplace and windows overlooking the perennial gardens. A family room beside the kitchen is the couple’s spot for TV watching.

There’s also a home office next to the front entry. The adjacent bathroom was recently renovated to include a walk-in shower in place of the old cast iron tub.

Mr. Deathe says the space works well for a home-based business or as an in-law suite.

Upstairs, the couple lifted the attic to create a second storey with a suite for themselves and two additional bedrooms for the kids.

Outside, the couple added a two-car garage with a 600-square-foot deck above.

Last year the Deathes undertook another renovation when they topped the primary suite with a cupola and skylight that brings light into the sleeping area.

The ensuite bathroom now has a stand-alone tub with views into the garden. There’s also a renovated family bathroom and a walk-in shower.

They also updated the kitchen with freshly painted cabinets and new countertops and appliances.

The house is surrounded with green lawns, stone walkways, perennial gardens and native plants. A path leads to the creek and a gazebo in the woods which Mr. Deathe calls his summer office.

There’s a fire pit in the back and lots of space for kids and dogs to run around, he adds.

Deer, wild turkeys and foxes sometimes wander through, and the trees attract a variety of songbirds.

In Mr. Deathe’s opinion, the location combines the tranquillity of the countryside with the convenience of nearby restaurants, shops and banks.

The children grew up catching frogs in the creek and playing in the woods, he says.

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Grindstone Creek winds through the property and creates a waterfall with a pool at the bottom.Northern Spruce Media Inc.

When the couple arrived, the area above the property was still farmland and the Victorian-era village of Waterdown was known mainly for its antique shops and tea rooms.

In recent years, farms and nurseries have become subdivisions and the main street has expanded with fast-food outlets and big box stores. New schools have been built and the GO Train station is a short drive to the south.

Despite a spate of recent development, the heritage limestone buildings at the centre of town stand as reminders of the area’s history.

“A lot of our friends here have been here for generations,” Mr. Deathe says.

The area around the creek is protected conservation land and the setting provides a buffer from the town, Mr. Deathe says. Walking trails lead to a nearby pond which is home to herons and other wildlife. The Bruce Trail winds along the Niagara Escarpment a short distance away.

The best feature

Grindstone Creek winds through the property and tumbles over a rock wall to create a waterfall with a pool at the bottom.

“When you have a melt, it’s thundering over there,” says Mr. Deathe, adding that kids love to explore the creek banks and walk behind the veil of water.

Exploring waterfalls along the Niagara Escarpment has become popular with day trippers and Instagrammers, leading to overcrowded trails and parking lots in some areas.

But this waterfall on private property retains its serenity, he points out.

“I always stop and go over and look at it,” he says. “It never gets old.”

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