The history: In 2015, Norm and Jennifer met at a conference in Chicago. The two hit it off over their shared rural Ontario upbringings—Norm grew up close to Sudbury and Jennifer was raised near Omemee—and started dating.
Jennifer lived in New York City, while Norm resided in Mississauga. For the next three years, they took turns visiting each other on weekends.
Norm and Jennifer would typically head to Pearson or LaGuardia on Friday afternoons, before taking the one-hour flight to see the other. Hours before sunrise on Monday mornings, they’d grab a return flight and rush to make it in time for work at 9 a.m.
Their job commitments meant neither of them could move, so the exhausting weekend routine continued even after they got married in 2018.
They appreciated having the opportunity to see each other over most weekends and holidays. But after nearly four years of delayed flights and early Monday mornings, they longed for the day they could both retire and escape the rat race.
The couple decided to buy a retirement property they could use as a weekend getaway in the short term. In 2019, they set an $800,000 budget for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in Ontario, within a three-hour drive of Toronto.
Norm and Jennifer were avid kayakers and wine enthusiasts, so they also wanted a place near the water and several wineries.
The hunt: To celebrate New Year’s Eve in 2019, the couple booked a stay at the Queen’s Landing Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Since they were in town, they figured they might as well tour a few listings in the area.
One of their first viewings was the Butler House, sited in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s historic old town. The two-storey house was built in the late 18th century and named after John Butler, an American Revolutionary War militia leader who reputedly once lived in the house.
The house had a white colonial façade and blue window shutters. At 2,000 square feet, the interior contained three bedrooms, four bathrooms and a finished basement.
Jennifer, who has a Master’s in decorative art, holds a deep appreciation for anything old. As she toured the house, she envisioned filling the place with Regency-era antiques in homage to the period in which the home was built.
It was already decorated with beautiful antique blue and white porcelain dishes and paintings of 19th century-era English countryside.
She also loved the home’s four-poster beds, exposed ceiling beams and original pine floorboards, rumoured to have been salvaged from buildings destroyed during the War of 1812.
The sellers had operated the Butler House as a bed and breakfast, so the home was in excellent condition despite its age.