Dunrobin home hosts Last Tea

By Jake Davies - West Carleton Online

DUNROBIN – It’s a house that has been used by its community’s female leaders for more than 100 years. But thanks to the Sept. 21, 2018 tornado, the historic pale green home has been condemned.

The house at 2750 Dunrobin, Rd. seemed to have survived the devastating tornado while all around it, destruction loomed. The strip mall across the street was destroyed; the Heart and Soul Gift Shop across the other road, gone; the home behind it, obliterated; even all the trees that surrounded the lot were toppled.

Unbeknownst to the residents, the house that had ‘lived’ in the Dunrobin community for more than 150 years, was critically injured.

Judi Varga-Toth stands beside the bedroom crack that just kept growing and growing all winter long. Photo by Jake Davies
Judi Varga-Toth stands beside the bedroom crack that just kept growing and growing all winter long. Photo by Jake Davies

West Carleton Online visited the house last Thursday (March 7) to speak with the current resident who is also a strong female community leader, Judi Varga-Toth, during a short break from packing up and moving out of the house her family had occupied for less than a year.

“We moved in May 2018 and we chose this house because of its historical value, central location and excellent landlords,” Varga-Toth said. “It fit our needs perfectly as two of our children worked for Dunrobin Meat and Grocery, right across the street.”

Varga-Toth’s husband Jeff Cosman, a teacher at Stonecrest, was at home the day of the tornado.

“There was some minor damage to the roof and a barn board had pierced through the living room wall, but otherwise the house looked fine,” Varga-Toth said.

Varga-Toth is one of many community leaders and Dunrobin and District Women’s Institute (WI) members to make use of the long-standing home. In fact, current WI President Beth McEwen says this is where the WI got its start in Dunrobin almost 100 years ago.

Because of that, Varga-Toth hosted one ‘last tea’ for the WI at her home that same Thursday.

“It was a good meeting at the old house this morning,” McEwen told West Carleton Online (which could not stay for the tea in order to attend the ARAC meeting also that day). “We talked about the first meeting of the Dunrobin WI 101 years ago in that living room, which is still a big, bright and charming room. We had eight current members at the tea and two or three of them are related to original members by marriage and know members of the founding families that still live nearby.”

Of course, there was talk about the tornado as well.

“We also talked about the tornado that damaged this old house,” McEwen said. “And about the Deep Roots Food Hub initiative, which is all about the values of local good quality food that inspired the original members of the WI. Can’t believe the house needs tearing down. I think standards are too high these days – the next house there won’t last 150 years.”

Although the home looked okay in the immediate aftermath of the tornado, a long, cold winter soon made the damage more obvious.

“There was a very thin crack in the bedroom wall upstairs, but it kept getting bigger and bigger,” Varga-Toth said. “The landlords had two or three structural engineers go through the place and eventually they saw significant concerns in the basement due to shifting.”

The news they would have to move was an unwanted Christmas present.

“We found out just days before Christmas that we had to move,” Varga-Toth said. “The storage unit we were renting next door was also damaged when the roof blew off so much of our belongings there were damaged. It was very stressful as we had just moved in eight months earlier and wanted some stability for the kids. But we also feel lucky because unlike many of our neighbours we did not lose our home immediately after the tornado. We found it impossible to find a rental home suitable for a family in West Carleton, probably due to so many Dunrobin families needing to find temporary homes. It was disappointing we could not find a home within West Carleton but due to the urgency of the situation we are lucky we found something in Kanata North nearby.”

And the Varga-Toth family expects to be back in West Carleton soon enough.

“Our goal is to return to West Carleton within a year,” she said.

The minutes to the inaugural WI meeting held in the pale green home 100 years ago. Courtesy Beth McEwen
The minutes to the inaugural WI meeting held in the pale green home 100 years ago. Courtesy Beth McEwen

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