INTERESTING OTTAWA HOMES #2 - RALPH ST By John McLeod & Rick Belliveau (Article)
This house was the first house designed by architect W.E. Noffke in the Glebe (1912), and his first Spanish Colonial Revival house. This type of house, with stucco walls and red tile roof, became a Noffke trademark. It is remarkable that designs more suitable for California or the Mediterranean would be taken up in our northern climate, and would actually perform very well.
Story of Noffke and the Baker House
W.E. Noffke (1878-1964) was one of Ottawa’s most influential, eclectic, and prolific architects. His work was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style, and Noffke visited him in Arizona in 1923-24. Noffke designed many fine houses, apartments, religious buildings in Ottawa, and such institutional buildings as the Medical Arts Building, the Champagne Baths, the Central Post Office building on Sparks Street, and many others, including the O’Brien House on Meech Lake
This house on Ralph Street was built for the Baker family, who had lived on the site in a gingerbread house since the 1890s, and was occupied by them until 1978. The house was built on 1.3 acres, with an excellent view of Brown’s Inlet off the Rideau Canal, though the large property was cut up and covered with several well-designed townhouses after lawyer C.C Baker sold out.
The style is Spanish Colonial Revival, sometimes called California or Mediterranean.
Ken Elder in his Heritage Ottawa Walking Tour, 2007 notes that the house has “stucco walls with picture windows and wide overhanging eaves supported on large wooden brackets. The cantilevered entrance canopy also supported on brackets is nicely detailed. Front terrace has four large stone urns in a very Frank Lloyd Wright style.” Other features are a low pitched roof, which emphasizes the horizontal, and a tall leaded window, to the left of the entrance, which brings light into the inner stairs.
Living in the House
About the time the property was built on, around 1980, the house itself was cleverly divided into two residences, with two similar front entrances. There is still a view of Brown’s Inlet from the front terrace. The overhanging roof protects the foundation and the stucco walls, as well as any open windows during rain. The interior woodwork is preserved, as is much of the plaster crown moulding between the ceiling and inner walls and around light fixtures, and the red tile roof has proved remarkably effective in the Canadian winter - as long as you don't walk on it.
One half of the house is occupied by Marjorie George and her husband Paul Butler. Marjorie loves the house for its remarkable quiet and its obvious solidity. The old trees around the house and the proximity of the pond on Brown’s Inlet have proved a haven for birds of which dozens of varieties are noted every year. The owners have maintained the original light oak door and window frames, and the magnificent oak panelled fireplace in the living room. The spirit of the original Noffke design lives on almost 100 years later.
This profile of the Noffke House on Ralph Street was written and photographed by John McLeod and Richard Belliveau, both members of Heritage Ottawa. Heritage Ottawa is an advocate for the preservation and knowledge of Ottawa's built heritage. Click on the link above to access their website.