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Caron House

Winnipeg MB

Caron HouseAdvanced Design/Build has been the principal renovator for the Charleswood Historical Society's Caron House Project since 1992. This 1906 residence was built by George Caron as part of a dairy farm he operated with his brothers in St. Charles Parish. The riverside farm used a small ferry powered by the river current to transport its products across the Assiniboine River and onto Portage Trail to be taken into the city for sale.

Caron House was quite luxurious in its day - it was fully wired although no electrical service reached this area at the time. A windmill may have powered the home with 32 volt service until the 120 volt grid reached out from Winnipeg. A large tank in the attic was filled with water from the Assiniboine River, and a cistern in the basement was probably used for rainwater collection. A staff of cooks toiled in the basement to prepare food in a primitive cooking area, and then the food was sent up to the main floor by means of a dumbwaiter. There would have been a cook stove in the basement and a second woodporch renovation heater on the main floor. Wood was used initially, and later coal for a boiler in the basement and radiators in each room provided heat. A front staircase was used by the Caron family and a narrow back staircase was used by serving staff. A caretaker's bedroom was located in the stone basement and a maid's bedroom in the attic. The home has 4 large bedrooms on the second floor. A unique feature of the home are a pair of curved walls that form a turn in the 2nd floor hallway - possibly a detail imported when the Caron family came from Quebec. Because George Caron also held a position with the Provincial government, there was an office located on the main floor with its own entrance. Coming up from the river, a visitor would walk on a sidewalk that split into two routes - the west one led to the office door and the east one to the home's entrance. Above the front entrance is a small balcony that faces north - a cool location on a hot summer day.

This is the last farm house on the Assiniboine River to be saved from that era, and it was only barely rescued by the Charleswood Historical Society. By 1981, the home had fallen into disrepair, and the last owner - an elderly woman in declining health - was forced to leave the home to receive medical care. One of the 'pastimes' for students from River West School was to take the 5 minute walk down to the old abandoned place to add graffiti, kick out some more of the brick walls, or break some glass. Other evening and weekend visitors almost succeeded in setting a fire in the basement more than once. The Historical Society was able to convince the City to give them the money set aside for demolition ($5,000) and they began babysitting the home each night until funds were raised to do the necessary repairs to make the home livable again. The first family to move into Caron House as part of the restoration work was forced to live out of a tent set up in the parlour until the windows and doors could be replaced and the space made bug- and rodent-free.

By 1992, the home was weather tight, re-roofed, with running water and hydro/gas utilities hooked up. While the exterior appearance must not be altered, in order to maintain its Historical Building designation, extensive renovations have been made to the interior. Temporary cabinets removed from the kitchen and replaced with more traditional cabinets made with Manitoba ash. The kitchen floor was restored to hardwood strip flooring. Windows are gradually being upgraded to reduce the energy usage of the home. In-floor heating is being Caron House west viewadded to the main floor. Most of the original doors were lost to vandalism, so each room needs period-appropriate doors and mouldings. The original plaster and lath is being removed room by room to get access to the knob and tube wiring which must be replaced with modern wiring. At the same time, walls are being insulated with cellulose.

 

 

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