Although the insomniac fondly refers to it as the Gothic Mansion (surely one is allowed a little artistic license in blog writing), in reality it is a brick and sandstone farmhouse built in the Queen Anne Revival style . Riley Lodge, which is its legitimate name, was built in 1910 by Alfred George Fredrick Riley, son of prominent Calgary rancher Thomas Riley. In 1914 he married Ada Marie Pullen of Yorkshire, England, and he and Ada lived in the house until Alfred passed away in 1933; Ada remained in the house for only one more year. Alfred and Ada had no offspring to whom they could bequeath their home.
|The gates (and everything else of any value) |
were long gone by the time we acquired the house ...
|Judging from the style of clothing, one assumes this must be Ada Marie ...|
In 1936, the house was rented to Dr. R. H. McLaughlin who used it as an abortion clinic during the war; the house being raided numerous times during his occupancy. The doctor died in the 1970's in Vancouver, BC during “a bad drug deal”. The insomniac was just contacted a few months ago by someone writing a book on Dr. McLaughlin's life, which she will most certainly purchase when published, in order to gain a bit more insight into the somewhat checkered past of Riley Lodge.
The insomniac grew up just three blocks away from Riley Lodge, and around the age of three attended playschool there (a true fact and NOT just another instance of dramatic license). She has only two rather dim memories of the place; one being the smell of urine (perhaps none of the other attendees had been potty-trained yet), and the other that it was very dark and scary inside (an ambiance one has attempted to retain during the redecorating process, and the reasoning behind the Gothic Mansion nickname).
The house remained in the Riley family's possession until 1968, at which time it was sold to the City of Calgary. When the insomniac and her spouse purchased the house from the City in 1987, it had been rented out to a university fraternity for a number of years and was in poor condition, the balcony having been declared unsafe and boarded up six year's previously. Even now, people still stop and entertain us with tales of the excellent party house Riley Lodge was back in the day, and one can only imagine the fun that must have been had, falling through the second floor veranda to the one below.
|Poor Condition might be putting too positive a spin on it.|
A Likely Candidate for Demolition is slightly closer to the truth.
Besides its derelict condition, the house also needed to be moved from its original site on Crowchild Trail, as the expansion of Crowchild would take the new road right through the middle of the top floor; yet another small deterrent for anyone considering its purchase. Despite the apprehension of family and friends, the insomniac and her spouse decided it was a house worth saving and a project worth undertaking. With the City's assistance, a parcel of land three blocks west was chosen for the new location, at the bottom of the same undeveloped hill it was currently sitting on.
|If the garage had still been there when the house was purchased, |
it most certainly would have been moved as well ...
|At one point, as it was coming around the corner, the house was leaning so badly|
the insomniac was quite sure it was going to slide off the truck and onto the road.
And so, the next twenty-five years were spent restoring Riley Lodge, which truly has been a labour of love. One day, the insomniac will share pictures of the interior before the restoration, including the graffiti on Every Single Interior Wall, the drawings of demons on the ceilings (in the rooms where a ceiling still existed and hadn't already collapsed onto the floor) and the amusing admonition scrawled with a Sharpie in the bathroom - Don't Spit in the Sink!
All too soon, the day will arrive when it will become necessary to say farewell to the Gothic Mansion, as inner-city property taxes and house insurance for a historic home become too difficult to manage on a retirement budget. Which is why, at an age when most people are starting to plan their retirement, the insomniac is instead planning to put an end to the intermittent Contract Work and return to the work force Full Time, in order to delay the inevitable for at least a while longer.
|One wonders if it might be slightly odd to become this attached to a house?|
|The next house will definitely require a dormer window.|
After all, where would the insomniac be
without her Dim and Dreary Attic Dormer?
But when that sad time does eventually arrive, perhaps another Gothic Mansion in some small town will become available, with the potential for yet another restoration project. Even now, one can see the long-suffering spouse cringing as he's proofreading this post. And if you listen closely, you can hear the sound of the insomniac's Evil (but completely confident) Laughter echoing down the hallway ... Mwahahaha.
Until next time, the insomniac wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. And if you happen to live in Calgary, check out the Century Homes Calgary website for a map of the walking tours. The insomniac is actually planning on dragging herself away from the computer and taking in a few neighbourhoods herself!
Goodnight, my pretties.
PostScript: In the hopes the long-suffering spouse gets bored and doesn't proofread right through to the end of this post, the insomniac is going to let you in on a little secret - she has already discovered another lovely Victorian brick house in a small town just north of Calgary, and it has a Widow's Walk! One might actually be able to live in a house without an Attic Dormer, if one had a Widow's Walk ... Mwahahaha.
B&W Photos from the Glenbow Archives