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Home of the Week: Renos respect the 200-year history of Eden Mills home

The listing: 8240 Wilson St., Eden Mills

Asking price: $1,295,000

Taxes: $7,103.16 (2015)

Lot size: 25.04 acres (742 ft. by 1,475 ft.)

Listing agent: Brad Douglas, sales representative, Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd. and Murray Taylor, Broker, Royal LePage Royal City Realty

8240 Wilson St., Eden Mills, Ont. (Anton Dodd)

Maureen Mercer can do something many homeowners can’t: She can trace back to figure out how many owners her home, 8240 Wilson St. in Eden Mills, Ont., has had.

And after listing several names aloud, she settles on eight. She and her husband, Peter, are the eighth owners of this property.

Mrs. Mercer’s history with the house starts in 1977 when she and her first husband were drawn to Eramosa county by the allure of pastoral life. “It was in the days of the back-to-land-type people,” she said. “My husband was really keen on having a sheep flock, chickens, ducks.”

And so they – along with their two young children – settled in to the old farmhouse that stands on the 25-acre plot of land, just outside of Guelph.

The home Mrs. Mercer bought in 1977 was your typical country home: stone walls, peaked roofs, lots of little rooms on the inside. (Anton Dodd)

Back story

The history of this Eden Mills home goes back nearly 200 years. In 1819, three Irish brothers, John, Henry and Robert Ramsey drew the lots of the land in the area. It was Robert who owned the lot that the Mercers now live on.

Robert wasted no time carving out his property. According to a report by a land assessor in 1826, the property had 15 cultivated acres of land, six members of the family living on it, plus one horse, one ox and three cows.

“When you think about it, in six years they cleared 15 acres,” Mrs. Mercer said. “They didn’t have chainsaws.”

By 1851, Mr. Ramsey had erected a one-and-a-half stone building that housed him and his 11 kids. And in 1906, there was a larger farmhouse built right beside it.

The home Mrs. Mercer bought in 1977 was your typical country home: stone walls, peaked roofs, lots of little rooms on the inside.

The house was simply adorned with some beams and gingerbreading supporting the porch and small detailing in the baseboards, windowsills and maple floors – but only on the first floor.

“Like all old houses in Ontario, you had the best stuff downstairs and the run-of-the-mill pine upstairs,” Mrs. Mercer said. “If you had limited amounts of money, you’re going to put the good stuff on the show where everybody can see.”

A living room at the Mercers' Eden Mills home. (Anton Dodd)

The house today

Over her years of ownership, Mrs. Mercer has kept the wider planks of pine on the second floor but she has upgraded the pine baseboards and door trims to match the fancier ones on the first floor.

But that’s not the only change, the Mercers have made. In 1999, they began a substantial renovation that involved pulling down what they believe was the original 1851 stone dwelling in order to build an addition.

The Mercers had a pretty clear idea of what they wanted in this new space: a ground-floor laundry room, a garage big enough to accommodate multiple cars and a workshop and lots of storage. “We also wanted a nice master suite,” Mr. Mercer said.

So, on the second floor of the addition, they built a 252 sq. ft. master suite that includes an ensuite bathroom and two walk-in closets, one of which has a wall of built-in drawers and cupboards; the other is large enough to fit Mrs. Mercer’s treadmill.

The kitchen. (Anton Dodd)

There are some obvious modern comforts to the addition, such as the skylight in the master bathroom, but Mrs. Mercer made sure the design worked with the original home by matching small details.

“Often, I will see a beautiful stone home and they’ve stuck this mammoth addition on it,” said broker Murray Taylor. “But in this home, the Mercers managed to tie it together with baseboards and trims.”

But the Mercers didn’t stop there after the addition was finished. Over their ownership, they also replaced the roof, landscaped four of the 25 acres, fortified the structural support of the basement, added a separate “drive shed” garage for landscaping equipment, re-mortared the original exterior stone walls, renovated the kitchen so that it’s big enough for two chefs to cook at once and, last year, Mrs. Mercer painted the entire exterior.

“Generally, when you buy a country home, it comes with old plumbing and old this and old that,” said Mr. Taylor said. “But they’ve solved all of the problems.”

“If something needs to be fixed, trust me, it gets fixed,” added Mrs. Mercer.

To keep the house imbued with its history, the Mercers wanted to keep the old staircase to the second floor. (Anton Dodd)

Favourite features

To keep the house imbued with its history, the Mercers wanted to keep as many original features as possible, such as the old staircase to the second floor. Mrs. Mercer figures it must be the original since you can still see square nails that the builders used at the time.

“I wanted to retain as much as we could of the original house,” she said. “I was thinking of all of the people, over all of the generations and years, that have gone up and down those stairs.”

But her favourite rooms are sunroom and the spacious living room, with its wood-burning fireplace, found in the new part of the home. “I find these rooms very comfortable, bright and airy. It’s almost like living outside.”

Mr. Taylor agrees, saying that the sunroom, with its western exposure, is his favourite room.

“I’m partial to the sunroom and the vista it gives you,” he said. “I’m an old farm boy, so, for me, to be able to look out over a pastoral scene, that’s a big deal.”

But for Mr. Mercer, it’s his study, which is located technically in the basement (of the new addition) but is actually at grade. It has a two large western-facing windows and a separate entrance. “It really is my space [down there].”

The home sits on 25 acres near Guelph. (Anton Dodd)

Above all else, the Mercers will miss how calming and cozy the home is when they leave.

“I’ve always aimed to make this place comfortable,” Mrs. Mercer said.

“And because of that, it truly is a home, not just a house,” Mr. Mercer said.

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