Criteria for designation
The Culver-Browne house is a very early example of a brick building built in the Neo-Classic (Loyalist) style of architecture, in the town of Simcoe. Its original exterior appearance remains virtually intact and typifies the fine proportion, construction, and detailing of many early 19th Century residential buildings.
Historically, this house is a tribute to Major Joseph B. Culver whose family were United Empire Loyalists and who were very early settlers in Norfolk County.
For these reasons this building warrants designation as a property of architectural and historical importance in the Town of Simcoe and protection under the Ontario Heritage Act, 1974.
The house at Culverdene, built in the early 1840’s, is an example of Neo-classic or Loyalist style architecture in Upper Canada.
It is a substancial two-storey brick dwelling with an L shaped extention on the rear.
The three bay façade is basically simple in detail with attention concentrated upon the central doorway, with its flat-headed transom, sidelights and four-panel door. The three panes of the sidelights are divided into diamond shapes. This motif also appears in the centre pane of the transom. Both sides of the transom have been further divided to create narrow panes of glass bordering the sash opening.
On the east elevation wooden pegs in the bricks and the outline of pilasters either side of the door are an indication of what may have been the original porch.
Since there is no change across the first floor façade in brick colour or texture, caused by weathering, one could assume a full-length verandah has been on the house for many years. The present verandah has six plain Tuscan style columns across the front and a conforming pilaster at either end. It is built on a raised fieldstone foundation. There is a large double-hung window on either side of the doorway, with three more windows on the second storey, corresponding to the lower openings.
The main body of the house rests on a fieldstone foundation wall that extends above ground; two eight-pane hopper windows on both the north and south elevations provide light for the full basement. The brickwork on the façade consists of all stretchers; the side elevations consist of: four courses – stretchers, one course – one stretcher, one header.
The metal roof on the main block is a low-pitched gable with a simple moulded cornice and cornice returns. The roof is crowned by three chimneys, one at either end and one between just off-centre. This middle chimney retains its original design.
The east-west one and a half storey wing, which abuts the main block, also has a central chimney in the same design as the one on the main roof. This extention is a brick structure rising from a fieldstone foundation. It does not have a basement. Examples of small-paned, double-hung windows (12/12) remain in this portion of the house.
The north-south one storey wing is also brick and appears to have a brick foundation, with no basement. A large fireplace with a crane occupies the interior north wall. It has a bake oven beside it which originally opened to the outside. The windows here are double hung (6/6).
History of the building
Information compiled by The University Women’s Club of Norfolk, 1972
Joseph Culver was brought as a small child to Canada in 1798 by his father, William, and his grandfather, Joseph, United Empire Loyalists. William Culver purchased 200 acres, Lot 7, the Gore, Woodhouse in 1802. His will, registered in 1829, left the north 99 acres to his wife, Catherine, for life, then to his son Joseph. Joseph also inherited the south 101 acres.
Joseph Culver (1795 – 1872) married Jemima Maria Backhouse. They had one son, Dr. Backhouse Culver, who settled in Port Dover, and two daughters, Amelia and Emma. Amelia married Hiram Bowlby who built the large house a short distance to the north. The second daughter, Emma, married Walker Powell of Port Dover.
In 1848 Joseph Culver was appointed a Major in the First Battalion of the Norfolk Militia.
E. A. Owens describes Joseph Culver as a “generous, industrious and highly esteemed citizen”. His obituary wich appeared in the Norfolk Reformer July 1872, states the “deceased was one of the first settlers, being at the time of his death 77 years of age, and he was universally esteemed for his many good qualities.”
Joseph Culver’s will was registered in 1872. In it he left the whole of his real estate, including the house where he resided, to his wife Jemima Maria for her natural life. The north half Lot 7, Gore, Woodhouse, “where I now live” was then to go to his grandaughter Maria M. Culver, daughter of his son, Joseph Backhouse Culver, deceased, for her sole use and then to her heirs. If Maria died without heirs the real estate was to go to Amelia (nee Culver) Bowlby, wife of Hiram Bowlby.
During the period in which Maria M. Culver owned the property, two or three successive tenants inhabited the house. It is said that Maria travelled extensively and when she visited Simcoe, she stayed with her relatives in the Bowlby house to the north of the property she owned.
In 1910, Maria M. Culver, spinster, of Toronto, sold 98 acres, being the north half of Lot 7, Gore, Woodhouse, to Rolph Graham Bowlby and Frank Lewis Bowlby (sons of Hiram and Mary Amelia Bowlby). Rolph and his unmarried sister, Erie, then lived in the house until their deaths.
Rolph Bowlby died in 1950 bequeathing the homestead farm, Lot 7, Gore, Woodhouse, to his grandnephew, William Bowlby Browne, subject to the provision of a suitable home in the main residence for his sister, Erie L. Bowlby, for life. Erie Bowlby died in 1952.
The architectural style of this building indicates a construction date of the early 1840’s. Mrs. Mabel Browne states that her grandmother, Mary Amelia Bowlby, daughter of Joseph Culver, could watch from her father’s home, the construction to the north of the house where she would be taken as a bride by Hiram Bowlby in 1848. This information also supports an early 1840’s construction date.