When the book “Recipes and Recollections” was first published in 2011, most people could only dream of visiting its magical setting. As the book gained popularity beyond the local region, it’s likely that many readers had no idea where such places as Glen Tay or DeWitt’s Corners were located. They may have even wondered, “Is it a real place?”
Perched on a gentle hill, a short drive west of Perth, Ontario, the ‘Stafford House’ has become known as one of the area’s most celebrated fictional houses. It is one of the best examples of a building associated with a Canadian author, Arlene Stafford-Wilson, who used the farmhouse as both the inspiration, and the setting, for her popular books.
Built in 1906, the two-storey house, a warm and welcoming residence, was home to the Stafford family for almost 50 years.
Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford, and his wife Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, met during WWI, at the Number 8 Bombing and Gunnery School, in Lethbridge, Alberta. They married in 1943, shortly before Tib was shipped overseas, to serve in Bournemouth, England. Their first child, Timothy, was born in Lethbridge in 1944, and their second, Judy, in 1945.
When the war ended, Tib brought his young family back to his native Eastern Ontario. Born and raised on the 11th concession of Drummond Township, he spent his youth on the homestead of his namesake, native of southern Ireland, and an early pioneer settler to the region.
With the help of a Veteran’s grant, Tib and Audry purchased the ‘Stafford House’, from Tib’s aunt and uncle, Thomas Carberry, and Clara (Richards) Carberry.
Stafford House – c. 1947
This traditional, rural home would become the backdrop for many well-loved books: “Lanark County Kid”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Calendar” and “Recipes and Recollections” “Lanark County Classics” “Lanark County Connections”, and “Lanark County Calling: All Roads Lead Home.
Along the fence, at the west side of the property, 1958 – l to r – Judy Stafford, Tim Stafford, Jackie Stafford, and Roger Stafford
l to rt. at the bottom – Arlene Stafford, Jackie Stafford, Ronnie Waterhouse (our cousin) Judy Stafford – this shows the location of the old barn. When the barn was torn down in 1961 it was replaced with the white wooden garage, built by Tib and his sons. Still standing today.
The Stafford children in 1962: l to r – Jackie Stafford, Tim Stafford, Judy Stafford, Arlene Stafford, front: Roger Stafford
The Stafford House, is valued both for its good aesthetic, and functional architecture. Its farmhouse design, places it firmly in Canadian vernacular building traditions of the earliest part of the 20th century. It is of an appealing, sturdy type, very common to many areas of eastern Canada. The interior of the house boasts a classic, traditional design, featuring good craftsmanship, and durable materials.
Many aspects of the interior plan, finishes, and details, have been lovingly preserved, and its overall scale and materials, are enhanced by its setting in park-like grounds, surrounded by stately maple trees.
The author described the family home: “a big beautiful red brick house, smothered in tall maples in the front, and apple orchards at the back, was the magical home of my childhood”
1964 – Judy Stafford, Jackie Stafford, front – Arlene Stafford – to the rear Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford, in front of the apple orchard- the orchard was located behind the house.
Judy Stafford in the apple orchard
Arlene Stafford gathers apple blossoms, in the apple orchard behind the Stafford House – 1964
The Stafford House, as it appeared from 1946-1992, when the Stafford family lived there.
Many are charmed by the beauty of the surrounding countryside, and the large and romantic woodland which drifts gently down the hillside, towards the railroad tracks, and the beloved duck pond, mentioned many times in Stafford-Wilson’s books.
Nearby, visitors can take a short walk, or a drive down the side road, and see the little creek where the Stafford children caught tadpoles in the spring.
In the cooler weather, visitors may walk along the fields, where the young Staffords carefully chose their Christmas tree each year in December.
A Stafford family Christmas tree – fresh-cut from the woods behind the house. Standing at the rear – Judy Stafford, centre, mother – Audry Stafford, l to r Jackie Stafford, Roger Stafford and Tim Stafford.
View the rolling farmlands, stunning landscapes, and nearby tiny villages of Glen Tay, and DeWitts Corners. Take a short drive up Cameron Side Road, and you will see the charming red brick Calvin Church where the Stafford family attended, another landmark which is mentioned many times in Stafford-Wilson’s books.
In 2014, for the first time, the Stafford House was open to the public, as part of the Heritage Perth Christmas House Tour. Special exhibits included photos from the private collections of the Stafford family showing the exterior and interior of the house as it was, when they lived there from 1946 – 1992. Included in the displays were some of the author’s Mother’s original hand-written recipes preserved, previously published in ‘Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen”.
Organized by the Perth and District Canadian Federation of University Women, the Heritage Perth Christmas House Tour, featured 8 local homes including the Stafford House, transformed for the holiday season by gifted local decorators.
As the Stafford House changed ownership over the years, first by the Brady family, then the Parker family, renovations have taken place, including the addition of a front porch, and many modifications to the interior, to modernize the home.