North Toronto Station

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Railways began to arrive in Toronto in 1853 and by 1858 it was necessary to have a central station where passengers and freight could switch between different lines. This led to the construction of a Union Station that was shared between the different railways. The original wooden structure was replaced in 1873 with a much larger station. In 1905 it was decided to replace this station with a new Union Station, which is the structure we now have on Front Street. Although it was proposed in 1905 construction didn’t begin until 1914 and the shortage of construction materials during World War 1 meant that it wasn’t until 1920 that the structure was largely completed. This station wouldn’t open to the public until August 10, 1927.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Pacific Railway had a line that ran through North Toronto and was serviced by a modest station on the west side of Yonge Street. The delays in completion of the Union Station led them to decide to replace their existing station with a much grander one on the east side of the road. Toronto mayor Tommy Church laid the cornerstone on September 9, 1915 and the station opened for service on June 14, 1916. The archive photo below shows the station shortly after completion.

The station served passenger traffic until September 27, 1930 when the CPR decided to route through the recently opened Union Station downtown and North Toronto Station closed. It reopened for a day on May 22,1939 for the royal visit when King George VI and his consort Queen Elizabeth passed through during their visit to Toronto. Canadian soldiers returning from World War 2 also passed through the station even though the Brewers Retail had moved into the north side of the building in 1931 and the LCBO had moved into the south side in 1940. One of the dominant features of the new station was its 43-metre (141 feet) clock tower as seen in relation to the active rail line that still runs behind the building.

The new station replaced an older one which stood on the west side of Yonge Street. The Toronto Archives picture below shows both the old and new stations.

The three story building was the first in the city to be built out of Tyndall Limestone imported from Manitoba and is designed in the Beaux Arts style. This limestone is known for it’s durability as well as the fossils that are embedded in it. The theme of three floors is repeated in the three large windows on the second floor as well as the three distinct sections of the clock tower.

During the years that the station was in use the clocks were always illuminated at night.

The Canadian Pacific Railway was incorporated in 1881 as noted in the emblem near the main doors on the south side of the building. The line was built between eastern Canada and British Columbia between 1881 and 1885 as part of a commitment to build Canada’s first transcontinental railway. This promise had been part of the agreement with British Columbia when it joined confederation in 1871.

The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was completed on November 7, 1885 with the last spike being driven in by Donald Smith. British Columbia now had a land link to the eastern provinces and the 4-month sea voyage was now reduced to 7 days by rail between Port Moody and Montreal.

Sometime between 1948 and 1950 the clocks were removed from the tower leaving openings behind that became the entryway for generations of pigeons to take up residence. By 2004 when restoration was undertaken there were over 4,000 kilograms of pigeon feces lying in the base of the tower. This had to be removed and disposed of as part of the restoration. The original clocks were recovered and restored and now have resumed their duty of keeping time for those who pass by on Yonge Street. Inside the old station the bottom of the tower has been turned into a tasting room where people can try some of the various alcohol available at the store.

The inside of the clock tower reveals the use of marble and the ornate doors that led into the building.

The main terminal gallery, or waiting area, had 38-foot (11.6 metres) high ceilings complete with brass lights designed to look like train wheels. Drop ceilings and walls had hidden many of the architectural features inside the building since it had been in use for retail purposes.

Restoration of the inside was undertaken in 2004 and all of the original interior was exposed again for the first time in over 60 years. A time capsule was uncovered in the cornerstone of the tower and was opened on the 100th anniversary of the laying of the stone. It contained newspapers from September 9, 1915, various coins, and a city map among other things. A new time capsule was put there to replace it. This one contains newspapers from September 9, 2015, the September issue of Toronto Life, some bottles of liquor from the store as well as an iPhone and a Blackberry. The picture below shows one of the original ticket windows that had been hidden for decades.

Other features of the old waiting area include a wooden bench that passengers sat on 100 years ago while they waited for their train to arrive or for passengers to show up.

The rails ran over Yonge Street on a trestle bridge that remains in place today. The station windows can be seen in the picture below, which was taken from across Yonge Street.

With the tracks passing through the centre of the building there had been stairs that led from the inside up to the track level. The picture below shows the north part of the building that served as a beer store starting in 1931. The entire building is currently home to the LCBO and is the largest liquor store in Canada.

At one time there were hundreds of railway stations across Ontario but many of them were demolished to lower property taxes and prevent the possibility of injury and lawsuits from trespassers. Fortunately, a few still survive and we will be looking at some of them over the coming months and years. You can see a few of them in the links below.

Related Stories: Roundhouse Park, Richmond Hill Station

Google Maps Link: North Toronto Station

Like us at

Follow us at

Also, look for us on Instagram

Milliken – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, March 12, 2023

The community of Milliken was located at the intersection of Steeles Avenue and Kennedy Road. Part of it was in Scarborough and part in Markham as Steeles Avenue is the dividing line between the two townships. The area was first settled by Europeans in 1798 and Norman Milliken arrived around 1807 and set up a saw mill and lumber business. It was known as Milliken Corners and got a post office in 1858 when it became a postal village. The post office was located just west of the present United Church.

The map below was taken from the 1878 county atlas and shows the Scarborough portion of Milliken. The homes of William Hood, Marshal Macklin and George Stonehouse are circled in green as is the original location for the Methodist Church. These will be covered in more detail below as they are the remnants of the original community.

The Stonehouse-Lawrence house was built in 1871 and formerly fronted onto McCowan road although this is now the back yard of the home. When the farm was developed for housing access was cut off from McCowan which became a four-lane road. Delburn Drive was cut through the back yard and now this is the main entrance and driveway for the home.

The most visible reminder of Milliken is Ebenezer United Church at the corner of Brimley Road. The 1878 county atlas for Scarborough Township shows a Methodist Church on the south side of Steeles while the one for Markham Township places it on the north side of the road as it is today. This happened because 1878 was the year the congregation decided to replace their original building with with this brick one constructed in the gothic revival style. They worshiped in the first church while they erected the new one across the road.

Marshall and Mary Macklin purchased their lot facing Brimley Road in 1830. The stone house was completed in 1851 and was used to raise their family which included 17 children. A small creek used to run between the house and Brimley but it was replaced with a drainage ditch many years ago. The house remained in the Macklin family for over a century.

William Hood emigrated from Scotland in 1831 with his wife, mother and two young sons. In 1839 they purchased a farm lot in Scarborough and in 1850 they built a one-story brick farm house in the Georgian style. The original five-bay house was very symmetrical with a plain central doorway and transom window above it to let in some light to the main hallway. As the family grew a second story was added to the home along with a Second Empire style of roof.

William’s youngest son, Thomas inherited the property in 1892 and remained there for the next ten years with his family. William Francis Gough bought the estate in 1920 and he and his wife renamed it Devonsleigh after their homestead in England. They farmed the land until 1954 and lived in the house until 1966. In 1982 the home was renovated and enlarged again and preserved as Devonsleigh Place. For awhile it was used as a steakhouse. Today the 170 year old home is used as Casa Imperial, an upscale Chinese Restaurant.

The map below was taken from the Markham County Atlas of 1878 and shows that portion of Milliken. Circled in green are the homes of Benjamin Milliken II which was owned by William Milliken at the time, William Macklin house and the site of Ebenezer Primitive Methodist Church.

Benjamin Milliken II was the son of the founder of Milliken and he built this home in 1855. It now stands behind the Dairy Queen near Hagerman’s Corners and is used as Milliken Pub.

The first school to serve the community of Milliken Corners was established in 1838 not far from the school pictured below. Initially the school had 26 students under the teaching of William Galloway. When newer schools were opened a little north in Haggerman’s Corners and south at L’Amoreaux students were transferred to these schools. In 1929 two acres of land were sold for $600 by L. E. Morgan to the school board for the construction of a public school. The cost of the school, including the land and all of the furnishings was $28,000. Milliken Public School was known as a union school because it served students from both Scarborough and Markham townships. The school operated until 1968 when newer schools were built and it was closed. The building was then used by the Richmond College of Liberal Arts and then Scarborough Christian High School. The picture below shows how the school looked in 1977.

In 2010 the building was demolished except for the front facade which was incorporated in the Milliken Centre development.

The William Macklin house was built in 1840 at 2501 McCowan Road and has since been expanded and now houses a daycare. Recently it has been designated as 2501 Dennison Road as the laneway is now accessed from this street rather than McCowan.

Milliken Corners and Milliken Mills were rural communities but in the 1970s and 1980s were swallowed up by development, leaving only these few traces of the former farming communities.

Related stories: Milliken Park, Haggerman Corners

Google Maps Link: Milliken

Like us at

Follow us at

Also, look for us on Instagram

Conboy Carriage Company

Sunday, March 5, 2023

The Conboy Carriage Company Limited started in Vallentyne Ontario in 1860 before moving to Uxbridge. In 1884 it moved again, this time to Toronto to take advantage of the local market and the easy access to all the rail lines on the waterfront that allowed export of its products to other markets. The town of York had started as just ten blocks in 1793 but by 1797 it had started to expand beyond that to the north and west of the original site. When the town was founded, it was guarded by Fort York which was established along with the Garrison Common, a large military reserve land between it and the town. By 1833 the War of 1812 was a fading memory and plans were put into place to develop part of the Garrison Common for additional housing plus some estates for the wealthy along the lakeshore. When the railways arrived in the period between 1850 and 1880 much of this area was redeveloped for industrial purposes. In 1884 Daniel Conboy purchased Lot 3 and built an industrial building for his company the Conboy Carriage Company. The map below shows the area as it appeared on the 1884 Goads Fire Map. Also shown here is the Military Burying Grounds featured in a separate blog post. The map was taken from the submission to the city for historical designation of the Conboy building. The blue arrows shows the location of the building.

Conboy bought the one-story rough cast house at 413 King Street West and had the three story carriage factory built on the vacant lot at 407 King Street West. The business did very well and in 1897 Daniel commissioned a new home at 493 King Street West which was designed by the architect James Augustus Ellis. By this time the street had been renumbered and the factory was known as 485 King Street West.

In 1900 he had the original factory extended and added a new building at the rear of his house running perpendicular to the original building. The new structure is formally known as 495 King Street West and is currently being retained as part of a development being completed on the front of the property.

It wasn’t long before the business outgrew the original building and Conboy built a new factory on the east side of the Don River near Queen Street. The building suffered a fire in the 1920s and was restored a few years later. Unfortunately, it has been demolished and replaced with a condo development. When automobiles became more popular the company changed its production to manufacture auto bodies for Buick, Hudson and Rolls Royce. It was the first company outside of Britain to build the body of cars for Rolls Royce. In 1914 the company produced the most expensive car built in North America up to that time. It was called The Swan and sold to a Toronto client for $13,000. The image below is from their 1915 catalogue and was taken from the submission to the city for historical designation of the Conboy building.

It was constructed on the east side of the property to leave room for an alley along the west side of the building. Two delivery doors faced the alley and broke up the the sets of windows which lined all three floors. Originally the interior was lit by gaslight and so windows were provided to increase the amount of natural light available. The joists stretched across the building leaving no interior support and allowing a large amount of open space inside for moving materials around. When Conboy moved out of the building it was occupied in 1907 by the Imperial Paper Box Company.

Daniel Conboy died in 1917 from the Influenza epidemic and his company was taken over by his three sons. It was unable to survive the market turbulence of World War 1 and closed in 1918. Meanwhile, the same year saw the building on King Street taken over by The National Cabinet Company. They would change their name to The National Radio Cabinet Company before vacating the building in 1957. In 1958 the building was under the ownership of Pauline Pattenick who renovated the front face and interior of the structure. Between 1960 and 2014 it was occupied by the Du-Sel Importing Company under the ownership of the Pattenick family. The original windows were two over two sash windows with arched heads. The only adornment was a brick pediment on the top of the King Street face of the factory. In 2013 the front windows were boarded over and the side windows had previously been filled in with concrete blocks. White paint had been added to the front and part way down the west side.

The building has had an historic designation and has now been restored. Although the building is almost 140 years old and the Imperial Paper Box Company only occupied it for 11 years they are commemorated on the side rather than the Conboy Carriage Company.

Fortunately the King-Spadina Heritage Conservation Area has protected the row of historical factory buildings along this section of King Street.

Associated stories: Military Burying Grounds,

Google Maps Link: Conboy Carriage Company Building

Like us at

Follow us at

Also, look for us on Instagram

Royal Ontario Museum – Dinosaurs

Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Royal Ontario Museum is one of the largest museums in North America and is the largest in Canada. It was established on April 16, 1912 and opened on March 19, 1914 and was initially governed by the Government of Ontario and the University of Toronto. It has been expanded a couple of times and now is home to 40 galleries and over 6,000,000 items. In addition to the permanent galleries, it also hosts special exhibitions on a regular basis. Many blogs could be written on the various galleries but as I have been fascinated with fossils and dinosaurs since I was a young boy, I’ve decided to write this initial blog about their dinosaur collection.

Trilobites were among the first marine arthropods (invertebrate animals with an exoskeleton) and flourished for about 270 million years starting around 521 million years ago. There have been over 22,000 species of trilobites discovered so far.

Fossils are formed when living organisms are buried quickly before they have time to decompose. Usually this happens when they are covered with mud, sand or volcanic ash. The soft tissues will often disappear leaving only the skeleton but sometimes even the tissues can be preserved. More sand or mud is deposited on top of the animal or plant and over time this will turn into rock. The bones themselves will turn to stone in a process known as being lithified. Eventually the rock may erode away exposing the fossil.

The first dinosaur fossil was discovered in England in 1672 and was named Megalosaurus, which means Great Lizard in Greek. The species itself wasn’t scientifically named until 1824 when it was originally thought to have walked on all fours like a lizard. Since then, further discoveries have shown that it was a biped and looked similar to a Tyrannosaurus Rex like the one featured on the cover photo. Some fossils are found in a nearly complete format like the one pictured above but this isn’t often the case. Sometimes only a bone or a few pieces of skeleton are found and the Megalosaurus was first identified by just a femur bone. The skeletal head of a Triceratops is featured below and is distinguished by the three horns on the face.

Albertosaurus was a similar species to the Tyrannosaurus Rex but smaller and very limited in range. It appears to have been pretty much restricted to the province of Alberta. It is interesting because since its original discovery in 1884 there have been 30 examples discovered. Of these, 26 were found in one location which suggests pack behaviour. Due to the larger than average number of specimens, it has been possible for Albertosaurus to be studied in greater detail than many other species where there are relatively few examples available.

Sauropods were the largest dinosaurs and Brontosaurus is likely the best known species within the group. These animals had long thin necks and tiny heads as well as long tails. They were herbivores and could reach 22 metres in length and weigh up to 17 tonnes. They lived around 150 million years ago in North America and were discovered in 1879 in Wyoming.

Dinosaurs laid eggs that were often protected by the mother while they were in the nest. In 2021 a fossil was discovered of a dinosaur that was buried while hunched over her nest of 24 eggs. At least seven of those eggs have preserved bones of the partially developed embryos. The museum has an example of dinosaur eggs on display.

We tend to be most familiar with the largest dinosaurs but of nearly 700 species identified most are actually quite small. And, of course, even the big dinosaurs were small when they first hatched. The image below shows the skeleton of a baby Maiasura, whose name means Good Mother in Greek. They were given this name because nests have been found which contained eggs and young animals. This told researchers that the mothers fed the infants in the nest. That was the first evidence of maternal activity in dinosaurs. The fossil below is of an infant which didn’t have the opportunity to grow to the full 9 metre length of an adult.

The world of the dinosaurs could be pretty violent with the large carnivores looking for prey. Some of the herbivores developed various methods of protecting themselves from long sharp horns on the face to bony shields protecting their necks. Stegosaurus grew flat plates along its back that may have prevented Allosaurus from biting it. Four sharp spikes protruded from the end of the tail and this could be swung at predators to convince them to find easier meals elsewhere. Hollywood likes to show this animal fighting off a Tyrannosaurus but in fact they lived millions of years apart and the Stegosaurus had died off before the T-Rex came along. The Stegosaurus had one of the smallest brain to body ratios of any of the dinosaurs but eating plants all day likely didn’t require a lot of thinking.

Dinosaurs first appeared around 245 million years ago and died out about 65 million years ago. During that time they dominated the land, sea and air. There’s a lot of speculation about what killed them off and chances are that we will never know. We are fortunate to have so many fossils available and places like the royal Ontario Museum where we can go to view them and learn about these fascinating creatures.

The Royal Ontario Museum is the type of place that can be visited many times and there will always be something interesting to look at and learn about. The dinosaur exhibit is just one small part of the museum.

Google Maps Link: Royal Ontario Museum

Like us at

Follow us at

Also, look for us on Instagram

Turner Chapel

February 19, 2023

Fugitive slaves and other black people began to arrive in Bronte and the Oakville area as early as 1830. The Act Against Slavery had been passed in Upper Canada, later renamed Ontario, in 1793 and was one of the first pieces of anti-slavery legislation in the world. It banned the importation of slaves and allowed children born to female slaves to go free at the age of 25. This meant that slavery would slowly disappear from the province. Britain banned slavery in Canada and other colonies in 1833 but the underground railroad was already in full swing bringing fugitive slaves into Canada. Many of these people ended up in the Oakville area.

One of these former slaves was James Wesley Hill who escaped to Canada inside a packing box and settled on a local farm. Over the next few years he returned to the United States many times and helped an estimated 700-800 African Americans escape to Canada. He offered them temporary work on his strawberry farm while they worked to establish themselves. James was also referred to as “Canada Jim” and he has been honoured by having a local school named after him. The following picture of James Wesley Hill is from the James Wesley Hill school page.

Around 1860 Samuel Adams and his brother in law, Rev. William Butler organized between 300 and 400 former slaves in the area to form a congregation of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. They were able to build a small church on the east side of Sixteen Mile Creek. This church burned down and in 1890 a plot of land was gained on the west side of the creek. Several setbacks occurred and construction didn’t begin until 1891 with the first service being held on Jan. 1, 1892. The side view of the church in the picture below shows the rounded arches of the windows which shunned the pointed arches of the gothic architecture common in churches of the era. The row of bricks turned on an angle under the roof line is the sole form of ornamentation in the brickwork.

The church was named after Bishop Henry McNeal Turner who had been an advocate of the “Back to Africa” movement in the United States. Turner was the first black chaplain appointed by Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. The church was dedicated as Turner Chapel to honour the bishop. A manse was built in the 1930s to the west of the church to house the pastor of the congregation. The manse can be seen on the right of the picture below which also shows the rear of the church.

Although the cornerstone of the church is dated 1890 it wasn’t laid until 1891. It also has lettering which denotes the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The church was in use until the later part of the twentieth century when the congregation had dispersed to other communities. For awhile the church was leased to an offshoot of the Anglican Church. However, in 2000 the building was put up for sale. Since the Oakville Historical Society has strict guidelines on what can be done with the building, it wasn’t attractive to developers. In 2002 Jed Gardner decided to buy both the church and the manse to house his antique business. The picture below shows the interior of the chapel looking from the rear toward the front of the chapel.

The following picture shows the view from where the pastor used to stand looking toward the entrance. The antique shop is an interesting place to wander around and explore and you just might find something to add to your collection.

The Oakville Historical Society has put a sign on the front of the building to bring attention to the history of the chapel.

Turner Chapel is an important part of the history of the Black Community and the underground railroad in Oakville.

Google Maps Link: Turner Chapel

Like us at

Follow us at

Also, look for us on Instagram

Antique Market – Small Arms Building

Sunday, February 12, 2023

The word “antique” is derived from the Latin word “antiquus” which means ancient or old. Some people define an antique as being over 100 years old but it is generally used in a looser definition. It can be used to describe an object which is ascribed value due to a combination of its age and scarcity. The Sunday Antique Market is held one Sunday per month in Mississauga. Many of the items for sale at the antique market are more correctly described as being vintage or collectable. For 31 years, an antique market operated on Sundays at the St. Lawrence Market. It recently has found a new home in the Small Arms Inspection Building in Mississauga. We have written about the Small Arms Testing Site and the Long Branch Rifle Range in earlier blogs and so we won’t cover it again here. Links to those stories will be provided again at the end of this post.

There are lots of old toys available, although most of these would fall into the category of collectables rather than antiques. The character of Batman was first introduced in November 1939 and has been updated many times since then on TV and in films. The action figures below, including the Joker who is laying down, were released in 1966.

There are plenty of vintage and antique cameras for sale at one of the booths. The ones pictured below which fold out of their cases and have extending bellows could be from around 1910.

If you collect coins, currency or even Canadian Tire money it’s a good idea to bring your want list along with you. One dealer has a large collection spread out over several tables and you just might find something to add to your collection.

There are several vendors selling old records. Some of them seem to be reasonably priced but one of the vendors, not shown below, appears to want 2-3 times what everyone else does for his music.

Old tins are another collectable that you can find at the market and there’s many kinds that can be highly sought after. The Whisk hand cleaner tin seen below is from the 1940s.

Aside from jewelry, old china appears to be one of the most common items available at the market. There are many tables with tea cups, saucers and tea pots. some very unique items can be bought to display in your collection.

The antique market is held in the only building that has survived from the manufacturing facility that used to sprawl over the Arsenal Lands. The water tower and some baffles and the back stop from the firing range also survive as part of the history of this site. The image below from Heritage Mississauga shows what the area looked like in 1956.

Admission is free and there’s over 200 free parking places so it makes a great way to spend an afternoon and perhaps find a treasure to add to your collection. Upcoming shows will be held on March 5, 2023, April 2, 2023 and May 14, 2023. Future dates will be posted on their website: sunday antique market

Related Stories: St. Lawrwence Market, Small Arms Testing Site, Long Branch Rifle Range, The Arsenal Lands

Google Maps Link: Small Arms Building

Like us at

Follow us at

Also, look for us on Instagram

St. Lawrence Market

Sunday, January 29, 2023

St. Lawrence Market is the oldest continually operating market in the city of Toronto. It was founded 220 years ago in 1803 by order of the Lieutenant Governor, Peter Hunter. It was originally housed in a wooden building which is depicted in the historical sketch below. Notice how all of the surrounding land was still undeveloped as the town of York (later Toronto) was only 10 years old at this time and had a population of less than 1000 people. It was originally known as Market Square and was open on Saturdays for the sale of cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, produce and other merchandise. A by-law prevented the sale of many of these items anywhere in the city on Saturday between 6am and 4 pm except at the market.

The original building was demolished and replaced in 1831 with a square brick building with an open courtyard in the middle. The market was the primary place for the community to purchase food, including live animals that would be raised in the backyards of the residents homes. It was common for people to have chickens, sheep and pigs in their yards which would be slaughtered to provide meat to feed the family.

The market was developed as two buildings on either side of Front Street. St. Lawrence Market north was replaced several times. A 1968 single story building was demolished in 2015 to make way for a new five story north market. This building is nearing completion and expected to open soon. A future visit may focus on the new north market. The building on the south side of Front Street was rebuilt in 1845 to house Toronto City Hall. It was destroyed in a fire that demolished much of the downtown market core in 1849 and so it was replaced in 1850. This building served as City Hall until 1899 when council moved into the facility on Queen Street which is now known as Old City Hall. The archive picture below shows the 1850 building.

In 1904 both the north and south buildings were replaced. Part of the old city hall was retained and incorporated into the new building. It now forms the main entrance off of Front Street.

The market wasn’t terribly crowded on the Saturday afternoon when we visited and it’s laid out to provide plenty of room to be able to shop in comfort. Local farmers goods are presented in booths that sit next to ones that sell items imported from all around the world.

Several stalls are selling meat including standard cuts of beef, pork and chicken. There’s also some more exotic meats for those who are more adventurous. Buffalo, emu, and kangaroo are all available.

There are plenty of booths selling seafood and you can get almost anything that you can think of here. The market is clean and the food all appears to be fresh and is well presented to make it look very appetizing.

Plenty of fruits and vegetables are available including some of the tastiest strawberries that can be found in the city. National Geographic named St. Lawrence Market as among the world’s top ten best food markets in their September 23, 2011 issue.

A wide range of prepared food can be purchased at St. Lawrence Market. There’s restaurants selling ethnic food from many of the cultures that are represented in Toronto. There’s also plenty of booths selling pastries, sweets and various treats. There’s clothing, jewelry and souvenirs of Toronto and Canada for sale as well.

The market is open from Tuesday to Saturday and entry is free of charge. An antique market used to operate out of St. Lawrence Market but it has recently moved to The Small Arms Building on the former Arsenal Lands site in Mississauga. Watch for a future blog about the antique market.

Related stories: Kensington Market, Small Arms Testing Site, The Arsenal Lands, Long Branch Rifle Range

Google Maps Link: St. Lawrence Market

Like us at

Follow us at

Also, look for us on Instagram

LaSalle Park

Sunday, January 22, 2023

LaSalle Park is a 57 acre park on the north shore of Burlington Bay. It is owned by the City of Hamilton but has been developed and operated by the City of Burlington since the 1970s. It is located near where Sieur De La Salle, a French explorer, is thought to have landed in 1669. This would make him the first white person set foot on the shores of the bay. A lot has changed in the years since then. Dundurn Castle was built on the escarpment above the bay and the history of that property dates back to the War of 1812. The picture below shows the Burlington Skyway Bridge and the older lift bridge behind it. We previously covered these in our feature on the Burlington Canal.

Hamilton has long been the site of heavy industry including the manufacturing of steel. Stelco was founded in 1910 through the amalgamation of several smaller companies. These industries, and others, caused the Hamilton Harbour to become quite polluted. The situation was such that by the 1980s it had become an international concern. The International Joint commission identified Hamilton Harbour as one of 43 areas in the Great Lakes that required government and community action to resolve pollution problems. The Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan was put into play to help create new habitat for fish and wildlife. Since then, there have been many projects implemented to help restore spawning grounds and other places that encourage the return of wildlife to the area.

The Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan was developed with a list of 14 areas of use for the harbour that were impaired by the contaminants in the water. These include the loss of fish and wildlife habitat and the findings of tumours and reproductive problems with them. A specific action plan was developed for each of these areas and water quality was measured to determine the effectiveness and progress in each area. The waters off of the park are filled with a wide variety of ducks, geese and swans who choose to spend the winter in its sheltered waters.

Among the species of ducks that were observed during our visit were Mallards, Goldeneyes, American Black Ducks and Buffleheads, like the one seen below.

Pure white ducks are not native to Ontario and are usually farm escapees. This call duck stood out from the crowd because it was the only one in the park.

Trumpeter Swans were nearly extinct in Ontario but through the actions of the Trumpeter Swan Restoration Group Coalition the population has grown to over 1000. Many of these overwinter at LaSalle Park. The park provides ideal shelter from the cold northerly winds and has enough beach for them to rest on. It also has plenty of aquatic plants for them to feed on and the water is shallow enough for them to tip and feed. Swans don’t dive, so they need a certain depth of water to be able to reach their food. The swans are tagged with yellow tags on their wings for identification and tracking purposes.

The Waterfront Trail runs through the park but there’s several other trails to be explored as well. There’s also a short trail that runs east from the marina, along the edge of the lake.

This is the only place that I have ever encountered roots that have been painted orange. This seems like a very strange idea in a park that is associated with lake and wetland restoration. The paint must not be very good for the environment and will eventually find its way into the lake.

The LaSalle Park Pavilion was built in 1917 as a combination dance hall and picnic pavilion. It has an open veranda between two arcaded pavilions that have pilasters and is characteristic of the art deco period of architecture. The pavilion suffered damage in a fire in 1997 but was rebuilt to its original splendor.

LaSalle Park is a great place for bird watching, especially in the summer, with local clubs coming out to see how many species they can count.

Related stories: Dundurn Castle, Burlington Canal

Google Maps Link: LaSalle Park

Like us at

Follow us at

Also, look for us on Instagram

Bata Shoe Museum

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Everybody wears shoes but not too many people think much about them. The Bata Shoe Museum on Bloor Street West in Toronto presents 4,500 years worth of shoe history that can take you a step in a new direction. They have about 15,000 items in their collection and have a rotating display of about 1,000 shoes. The museum is based originally on the personal collection of Sonja Bata who spent her life in the shoe industry. She amassed a large collection that went on display in a dedicated building in 1979. The footwear is displayed in a four story building that has a permanent collection of historical footwear on the bottom floor while displays on the other three floors constantly change to provide a different experience every time you visit.

The oldest known shoe was found on a 5300 year old corpse known as the Otzi Man, or Ice Man. He was still wearing one of his shoes when the mummy was found in 1991 and the museum has an exact replica.

In ancient China, among the Han peoples, it was considered that the ideal size for women’s feet was 3 inches. To achieve this the feet were bound to limit their growth.

In the 13th century, socks were often made by combining human hair with vegetable fibre. This sock was made by the ancient Puebloan culture.

Brides in India were often given footwear that was crafted in silver. These shoes were known as mules and have filigree work that incorporates vines and leaves in a motif known as chinar. They were made in the 19th century.

These paduka were unusually high and elegant and were likely worn for an important aristocratic function. The silver plating, gold toe-knobs and extreme height identify these women’s shoes as upper class and would have been worn in India in the 18th century.

These dancing shoes were made in India around 1840 and are known as mojari. The jade beads and brass bells would have created a beautiful tinkling sound as the wearer performed their dance.

Many cultures have a story similar to Cinderella and there are said to be thousands of variants around the world. The earliest version of the tale appears to have been told around the time of Christ. The shoe museum has a few pair of glass slippers that have been made over the centuries to commemorate the heroine.

Some shoes had very specific uses like this pair. These clogs from France with the spikes on the bottom were used to crack the shells of Chestnuts.

Skating became popular in Amsterdam during the Middle Ages as a means of navigating the frozen canals. Some of the earliest skates were made from the long shinbones of deer. The old Dutch word for skate is “schenkel” which means “leg bone”.

North American indigenous peoples had created a range of footwear to suit the various environments in which they lived. The museum represents their footwear with several pieces including this colourful recreation of boots with Metis artwork on them.

Space boots were made of layered, Teflon-coated materials to protect the wearer from UV rays and temperature fluctuations. This boot was made in 1970 for Jim Lovel as a spare for his Apollo space mission.

Mushroom leather is a modern invention that is created using the middle layer of the tinder sponge. This polypore mushroom grows on dead or weak birch and beech trees and can be used to make a material that is suitable for shoemaking. This allows the creation of shoes that look like leather but don’t contain any animal by-products.

Adult admission to the museum is only $14.00 and it makes a very interesting and educational place to spend an afternoon.

Google Maps Link: Bata Shoe Museum

Like us at

Follow us at

Also, look for us on Instagram

Castle Killbride

January 8, 2023

Castle Killbride in Baden was built in 1877 for James Livingston. James was born in 1838 in East Killbride, Scotland. After moving to Canada in 1856 with his brother John they took jobs in the flax industry. Eight years later they opened the J & J Livingston Linseed Oil Company and went into business for themselves. By 1867 they had moved the operation to Baden, where his wife Louise had been born, and opened the Baden Linseed Oil Mill.

The ceilings and walls throughout the home are painted with a wide variety of intricate designs. One of the objectives was to showcase the various colours of paint that could be produced using the linseed oil that the family fortune was based on. In the library/home office the ceiling is painted using 38 different colours. The interior of the home was painted in 1878-1879 by Henry Scharstein. Throughout the home many of the paintings on the walls are done in a style known as “Trompe l’oeil” or “fool the eye”. The paintings of tassels along the walls in this room are a good example. They are flat but appear to stand off of the wall because of the shadows which are painted behind them. The shadows are designed to appear to emanate from the central light with the tassle in the middle having no shadow.

Another example of the “three dimensional” paintings in the castle can be found in this image of a vase. The shadows are added to make it look like a vase standing on a small shelf but both of them are part of a flat painting.

The house is decorated for Christmas with different trees set up in several rooms as well as Christmas Dinner staged in the main dining room. This Christmas tree has a small ornament on it that looks like a glass pickle. Legend suggests that the first child to find the glass pickle, which would be hidden on the tree, would get an extra present.

One of the unique features of the home is the window shutters which are on the inside instead being on the exterior of the home. This allowed to windows to be closed more easily to control the lighting and temperature. Three generations of the Livingston family lived in the home until 1988 when it was vacated.

The attic space in the house was generally used for storage. Old furniture and household items that had gone out of fashion were stored up here. In 1988 when the house was sold, eleven truckloads of furniture were removed from the attic and taken to auction to be sold over a four day period. At this time, the attic is home to the seasonal display of a miniature village based mainly on the works of Charles Dickens. The village is put together by Dave Herner and takes over 30 hours to set up. There are 130 major pieces such as homes and churches as well as over 250 minor pieces like people and trees.

When you reach the top of the stairs into the Belvedere you get a nice 360 degree view of the property. In the early years the fields to the north contained the flax that was being grown for processing in the mills that were visible to the south of the home. The front walkway is shaped like a heart. This is a tribute to Livingston’s wife Louise with whom he would have twelve children.

The basement of the house has been converted into a toy museum. Toys are on display from various eras over the past 100 years. It’s possible to find something that you had as a child on display here.

In 1988 the three hundred acre property was sold to a development company who built homes on the former flax fields. The house, however, was left to rot and by 1993 was in a state of disrepair. The building was bought by Wilmot Township and a new wing was added at the back to be used as municipal offices. The home was restored by removing the paint on the outside to expose the original brick as well as replacing many of the wooden features on the exterior. Inside, the walls were stripped of several layers of wallpaper to reveal the earliest paint schemes. The wall and ceiling paintings were carefully cleaned to remove layers of soot that had built up from the four fireplaces. By 1995 the restoration had been completed and much of the original furnishings were either donated or bought back. The house has been opened as a museum and given a designation as a National Historical Monument.

The original privy was located where the new council chambers were built and so it was preserved and moved to the side of the house. Each side of the privy had two seats, one for an adult and one for a child. Unlike most outhouses it wasn’t built over a deep hole but had metal bins underneath which were emptied daily by the butlers or maids. Most outdoor washrooms were built of wood and could be moved when the pits were filled but the brick structure didn’t allow for this.

Most of the linseed oil mills still stand close to the mill pond which originally provided power to the operation. Flax seed was pressed to extract the oil which was then used as a pigment binder in the manufacture of paints or in soap. The building for a similar operation at the Canada Linseed Oil plant in Toronto is in the process of being repurposed to become a community hub in a new park.

One of the other prominent buildings in town is the Livingston Presbyterian Church. It was built in 1894 with funds donated by James Livingston while the stained glass windows were funded by other members of the Livingston family.

Castle Killbride has a small entrance fee and is well worth the visit if you are in the area. Other grand homes that we’ve visited that are known as castles include Casa Loma and Dundurn Castle.

Related stories: Canada Linseed Oil Mills,

Google Maps Link

Like us at

Follow us at

Also, look for us on Instagram