Regular and/or recent readers will surely recall who Cora Patterson is. As the wife of The Rev. W.W. Patterson, minister at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough from 1941 to 1945, the late Mrs. Patterson was the châtelaine of the Manse, just as my mum was a few decades after her, from 1964 to 1975. Thanks to an early-1940s photo of W.W. and Cora and their children at the Manse sent me by a reader, and followup information from other readers and posts here and here, we all learned, first, Cora’s first name (i.e. that she wasn’t just “Mrs. W.W. Patterson”), and later, that she was also an artist.
But it’s in her capacity of mistress of the Manse that I would ask Cora a question this evening, if only I could. And that question would be: was the Manse’s bathroom always the Manse’s bathroom?
Let me explain.
As I’ve written before, the Manse has only one bathroom – which is a not-uncommon situation in an older home, though in these pampered modern times we tend to get used to, and take for granted, the idea of a house having at least a powder room in addition to the main bathroom. Eventually, as part of the renovations, Raymond and I would like that too – one bathroom upstairs and one downstairs.
But this post is not about the quantity of bathrooms; it’s about bathroom history in this old (1888) house of ours.
You see, the location and size of the existing bathroom – which was also the bathroom when I was a kid growing up at the Manse – are odd. It is a huge room, about twice as big as it needs to be even after tub, sink, toilet, cabinets, hooks, shelves, etc. are taken into account. But odder still is its placement: right inside the kitchen door (which is the de facto front door, and I imagine always has been). And odder still is that it has a window looking straight onto the front porch – which means that the window must always have a blind drawn, in the interest of modesty, thus shutting out a potential source of lots of sunlight for the house.
All of which leads me to believe that this room was originally intended for something other than a bathroom. Especially since there would have been no running water when the Manse was built; there must have been an outhouse on the property back then. (And I would be interested to know where exactly it was.)
Now, when it was that the Manse acquired running water – and, I guess, the need for what we would think of as a full and proper bathroom – I do not know, though given that there was more than one outhouse still in use in the village of Queensborough in the years my family lived here, I would not be at all surprised if it was after the time of the Pattersons’ tenure. And that is why I would just love to be able to talk to Cora and ask her about it. What was that inside-the-front-door room used for in her time? A kitchen, maybe?
And is it possible that what is now our small pantry, immediately behind the bathroom, was the old-fashioned bathroom with a tub that needed to be filled by hand (and, of course, no toilet)? That would kind of make sense, actually.
In the absence of Cora, is there any chance that any readers who grew up in Queensborough might remember the Manse’s layout of way back then? Funny, I never thought twice about The Great Bathroom Mystery when I was a kid here (but then, what kid does spend any time thinking about house layouts?), but now that I’m back in the place it’s kind of driving me crazy.
Especially if there’s a possibility that our renovations might restore something of the original layout; that could be interesting.
If only we could figure out what that layout was…