A History Lesson


A reflection on the past, and the peculiar ways its weaving itself into our future.

There are some stories you know as intimately as yourself. While others unfold around you and without you, slowly and quietly marching forward in time. Sometimes you catch a glimpse—an article in a newspaper or something overheard from a friend at a dinner party. But more often than not, we can never know all the histories that surround us.

We never meant to buy it. Only look. 88 acres of sprawling farmland that descends onto a winding river, and where an ancient, two-story Italian villa sits overlooking it all. Let’s look we said. I hear the lake is close by too. Barely visible, off No. 8 Highway, down what felt like an endless driveway of canopied Birches and Maples that gives way to a cluster of colossal Pines, stood a piece of history. A history—we would later learn—that began before the founding of Canada, and intertwined Italian, American and British sensibilities before being left to decay.

But let’s begin at the beginning. When Lune was (unromantically) known as Lot 7, originally deeded to William Fischer Gooding in 1833, now regarded as the first citizen of Goderich, Ontario. The land sat empty until purchased by American, Alexander Hawley. The Hawley family, originally from Port Huron, Michigan, completed their Italian revival style villa in 1860—seven years before Canada would become a confederate.

Outside, with its gently sloped roofs, rows of round-headed windows and a belvedere tower, the house feels oddly familiar, if not wildly romantic. It was modelled after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s Isle of Wight summer residence: the Osbourne House. Designed by Prince Albert himself in 1845, the Osbourne House was meant to resemble an Italian Renaissance palazzo, and Hawley’s grand farm house is an almost exact replica of the Queen’s residence. Little is known about Hawley and the architect who built the house—and yet, almost two centuries later, here was a house in the middle of rural Ontario with 12-foot ceilings and ten fireplaces, carved out of marble imported from Italy. We had to keep looking.

Inside, a small and very worn genealogy hung quietly in the hallway. But it was not of the Hawleys. The Curzons, of British nobility, could trace their lineage back to early 11th century England, and by the late 1800s had become an influential aristocratic family with ties to the British Prime Minister and the Spencer-Churchills. In 1893, Arthur Wardlaw Curzon, born third son of Colonel the Hon. Ernest George Curzon bought the Hawley house, where he lived with his wife Charlotte Radcliffe and their daughter until he died in 1934. The house was transformed into a gathering place, hosting both locals and British aristocrats up until his death, and became lovingly known to residents as ‘The Curzon House.’ 

After the Curzons, the house exchanged hands a number of times before falling derelict in the middle of the last century. The vines took over and almost threatened to destroy much of the original facade until the late 90s when a local couple began a tireless restoration process. 2500 bricks were replaced, chimneys were rebuilt and all original windows were restored. For the next 15 years, it served mainly as a family home. 

So there I stood, just looking. We only came to look. I saw the flower gardens just beyond the row of kitchen windows, the fields and the densely wooded forest with trails leading to river in the distance. Let’s gather again I thought. This house is a story I never thought I’d know, or needed to know. And its history will continue long after we’re gone. But for now, as it intertwines with our own—and as our stories meld and become one, a future has begun to unfold around us. And for this brief moment in time, it feels like home.     




Words Edited - Aliyah Craig