Hamilton

At 176 years old, one of Hamilton's oldest homes has a new owner

That the 176-year-old wood frame house is still standing in the downtown core is remarkable. It has the original fireplace, a beautiful hand carved entranceway, and the carpentry tools of the original owners tucked away in the attic.

Anthony Raich, a wagon maker, bought the house in 1865

The Raich House built in 1845 ia a rare Pre-Confederation house still standing in Hamilton;s downtown core. (Kathy Renwald/CBC)

One of the oldest houses in Hamilton has a new owner. 

The Raich House at 179 Mary St. was built in 1845, a good 22 years before Confederation, and one year before Hamilton would become a city.

Surrounded by two-storey Victorian houses on the section of Mary between Cannon and Robert streets, it stands out in a modest way. It is just one story, with plain wood siding, multi-paned windows and a rugged, stacked stone foundation. But counteracting the simple frame construction is a remarkably beautiful front entrance.

Ionic columns frame the doorway. At the top where they support a transom window, the hand-carved scrolls and acanthus leaves signal the house is one of status.

Dolores Hastings never thought she would sell her home. "I thought I would be carried out," she says. But at age 80, caring for a 176-year-old house has become a burden.

Hastings' grandfather bought the house in 1942 from the last remaining Raich and it has remained in Hastings' family ever since.

Anthony Raich, a wagon maker, bought the house in 1865, and it has since been associated with him. But we have Thomas and Peter Fitzpatrick to thank for Classical-Revival gem on Mary Street. The two were carpenters and the house was built for them and very possibly by them.

"One of my grandson's found a toolbox in the attic," Hastings recalls. "All the tools had the Fitzpatrick name marked on them."

Hastings grew up near the Raich house on Mary Street and remembers hearing stories that there were servant quarters in the raised basement, where the original kitchen was located.

This entrance way is one of several features mentioned for preservation and protection in the Raich House heritage designation. (Kathy Renwald/CBC)

Home designated under the Ontario Heritage Act

In 1991, Hastings and her late husband Ken had their rare house designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. The designation notes the importance of preserving the front and side facades, the entranceway and original 1845 fireplace in the living room.

In 2013, restoration carpenter Doug Vickers was hired to recreate and replace the deteriorating wood siding.

"You know the Irish were known as outstanding carvers, so it was really interesting the tools the Fitzpatricks used were found in the attic," Vickers says. "The craftsmanship is so skilled, the doorway of course, and the really simple but elegant stairway inside."

That a wood frame house of this time period has survived is remarkable according to Vickers. Particularly since cooking in the early days was done in the basement over a wood fire.  

According to the city's inventory of Pre-Confederation homes, just 40 are left in Hamilton. About 100 remain in the outlying communities.

The Raich house was listed at $549,000. In this competitive market, agent Sam Kwon with Mackay Realty Network didn't know what to expect.

"It's not for everybody," he says of the house. "It's for someone who loves history. "

Hastings is comforted that the Raich house is protected by a heritage designation.

"I hope they keep it original," she says.

So do the people who love history, architecture and the story of Hamilton.

In 2013, restoration carpenter Doug Vickers made new wood siding to match the original, and prepared the ornate doorway for repainting. (Kathy Renwald/CBC)

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