Loyalist Refuge

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When Van Horne ran into difficulties enlarging Covenhoven, he contracted a gifted young Canadian architect, Edward Maxwell, to advise him. Maxwell would one day design Regina’s legislative buildings and Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts. His signature style, however, was the picturesque Queen Anne Revival cottage, popularized in the United States as the Shingle Style. The antithesis of the well-proportioned Georgian, the Queen Anne home was irregular, almost eccentric, in plan, shape, color, and texture. It employed what one writer described as an “almost medieval arrangement of roofs, dormers, chimneys and gables” to suggest elegance without formality. Consonant with the fey aesthetic mood of the era, houses acquired fanciful titles—Clibrig, Les Goelands, Berwick Brae—that sounded straight out of a Sir Walter Scott novel. The apotheosis of the Queen Anne Revival house can be seen at Maxwell’s own summer retreat, Tillietudlem, opposite Minister’s Island. Others—Hillcrest, Meadow Lodge, and Rosemount—are just a leisurely walk from the Algonquin.

Today, on the Algonquin’s trellised veranda, the descendants of Loyalists and revolutionaries can share an incendiary nine o’clock sunset secure in a mutual respect for a kindred heritage. Yet St. Andrews’s mystique for Americans has always run deeper than merely an appreciation for fine architecture and natural setting, a fraternal ancestry, and a genteel past. It has to do with a warp in the fabric of Anglo-American history, a heightened appreciation for the grace, traditions, and, above all, the resilient British spirit that we south of the border, by some ineradicable instinct, long to claim as our own—a spirit composed of the same British traits of individualism and initiative that animated both the rebel cause and the Loyalists’ stolid reaction to it. More than two centuries ago at a dinner party in colonial Massachusetts given by John Adams’s Loyalist friend Dr. Paine, who eventually settled in St. Andrews, Adams rejoined a toast to “His Britannic Majesty” with an impudent toast to “His Satanic Majesty.” Mrs. Paine, unfazed, remarked that “as the gentleman has been so good to drink to the health of the King, let us by no means refuse to drink to his friend.” Perhaps even John Adams would agree it’s time to give the devil his due.

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