Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Winter Garden

For many years, drivers hurtling past the intersection of Wonderland and Riverside would notice an empty house on the southwest corner next to McKillop Park. Abandoned because it was on a flood plain next to the Thames River, many would have called it an eyesore in need of demolition.

Yet its foundation was built of lovely stones the original owner collected from the nearby river. One would be hard pressed to find such workmanship and style in many houses built today.

In 2012, an interesting form of adaptive reuse took place. The best part of the structure, the stone foundation, was made into a garden by London Home Builders' Association. The Cancer Surivors Garden opened officially on June 3, 2012 and, as this picture shows, is a pleasant, attractive place even in winter. It's certainly an improvement over the five-storey office building Sifton wanted to build in 2007.

There's a metaphor here, of course. Cancer survivors are in a sense rebuilding their lives on the same foundations. They build their lives back up, stone by stone, just as this long-ago mason built his home. His craftsmanship lives on in this unusual tribute.

Thanks to the London Home Builders' Association for information.
Update: On February 19, 2015, I was pleased to present the London Home Builders' Association an award at the ACO-HLF 8th Annual Heritage Awards. Thanks again for this creative way of preserving our built heritage.


  1. Hi Jennifer,
    I just came across your blog when I did a Google search yesterday on the Cancer Survivors Garden. I'm interested in local history and architecture, and your blog looks interesting - I'll have to check it out further.
    For a long time now I've been driving by that house you mention and watched it crumble over the years - rather sad because many years ago I was in that house visiting a friend, a psychology prof who lived there back in the 1970s.
    I'd noticed recently that there had been some work done on the site, but of course flashing by in the car I could never really tell what it yesterday I made a point of checking it out and took my dog for a walk. What a pleasant surprise! A lovely job has been done - nice brick and stonework, and beautiful garden...and the labyrinth was a nice surprise. Despite the constant sound of the traffic, there was a sense of tranquility in that little hidden spot. I was impressed with the concept and the result - kudos to Sifton and the Home Builders group for a nice job.
    Anyway, just thought I'd compliment you on your blog entry.
    Rob Turner, London

  2. I was sorry to see the old home left to deteriorate until it was fnally demolished. It would have made an excellent city-sponsored art school. A potentially spectacular building located in a great area. As a child I took art instruction in an old carriage house. It was a great use for a structure that otherwise would have been demolished.