February 21, 2018
The Glengarry News, page 5
By Scott Carmichael
Restoration of the Bishop’s House in St. Raphael’s – primarily the historic structure’s landscaping – is progressing, thanks in large part to the efforts of a number of dedicated volunteers.
“Last summer, we had 34 supporters who helped bring about the improved look of the house,” Brenda Baxter, president of the Glengarry Fencibles Trust, the non-profit citizens’ group overseeing the rehabilitation of the more than two-centuries old Bishop’s House, told recently.
“The sumacs and rather spindly maples and all of their root systems, in front of the circular driveway, were all taken out, and everything was smoothed out and seeded.”
According to a newsletter issued by the Fencibles Trust late last year, “all the foundation shrubbery (two storeys high in some places),” has also been removed, and the lilac grove near the west stone wall cut back about 30 feet.
“The look is remarkable. There are lawns where there was low shrubbery and overgrowth before,” added Mrs. Baxter, who pointed out the work has resulted in an unobstructed view of the majestic St. Raphael’s Ruins across the road as well.
The makeover of the building’s landscaping has been undertaken while honouring the historical integrity of the Bishop’s House, including a key component on the property.
“The 1826 garden was created by a (Mr.) Chisholm, and respect for his initial vision for the way that landscape, and the garden, were contoured has been retained,” explained Mrs. Baxter. An article in an 1882 edition of the magazine makes reference to the garden, which appears to have been a place where Bishop Alexander Macdonell, the first bishop of Upper Canada and the home’s primary resident between 1808 and 1836, would – in the modern vernacular – decompress.
“The Bishop’s House is a spacious stone mansion capable of accommodating many persons, and fronting on a large garden laid out in 1826 by a gardener whom he (the bishop) brought out from Scotland,” states the piece, entitled “A Scotch Catholic Settlement in Canada.”
“The bishop seems here to have found rest and solace among his flowers.”
Upcoming projects in the Fencibles Trust’s rehabilitation of the site include demolition of the 1930s-era kitchen wing at the rear of the house – which, according to Mrs. Baxter, the group has been told by authorities in the field “has little heritage value” given that it consists primarily of a kitchen and washrooms – repair of its mansard roof, and work on the structure’s front veranda.
© The Glengarry News, Wednesday, February 21, 2018. Page 5
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