31 Cartwright St, London, ON
The house was originally built by Thomas Allen Rowat. Thomas immigrated to Canada from Scotland with his parents when he was 2 years old, and his family settled in Ontario. London archives tell us that Thomas A. Rowat owned and operated a grocery store T A Rowat & Co at 228 Dundas St. from 1887 to 1896, and then he moved his business to 234 Dundas St. In 1888, according to Inventory of Heritage Resources of London, he built his house at 31 Cartwright St. The architectural style is defined as Vernacular. Vernacular architecture is designed based on local needs, availability of construction materials and reflecting local traditions. At least originally, vernacular architecture did not use formally-schooled architects, but relied on the design skills and tradition of local builders.
In this house Thomas A. Rowat had been living with his wife Elizabeth, and their children, for 35 years till the day of his death on October 31, 1923 at the age of 66.
We found the photos of the T A Rowat & Co grocery store, Thomas himself, and his first son Thomas Purdom Rowat in 1901 London Old Boys Reunion book, which is being kept at the newly opened London Room at London Public Library. The only photo the house of Thomas A. Rowat can be seen at is the photo of a Demolition Act of the nearby house on 29 Cartwright St. (circa 1959). We can see 31 Cartwright St partly on that photo, but the house is recognizable, it is that house where Thomas A. Rowat lived, dreamed, hoped. Imagine all those years, all those people that used to live there. Children laughed, meals were cooked at the kitchen, flowers were grown on the front yard, friends were invited to share joy of the family success. Now there are new time, and the new owners who generously invited us in to make some photos. Of course, some renovations were made, some colours were changed, but if you close your eyes for a second you can easily imagine old days. It’s all there, it never faded away, and it will always be around us.
Let’s tribute London’s history and people who made their input and left their mark. Their children, grandchildren, grand grandchildren are grew up, and maybe live somewhere else. But it all started here. London is where the roots are.
Thanks to London Room staff for their help finding information in archives and to Lincoln, the current owner of the house, for making it all possible.
The story told by Anna Orishchenko in cooperation with Joan Sam.
Photos by Anna Orishchenko; archives of London Public Library.