Inside Casa Loma

August 14, 2022

We’ve previously visited the grounds of Casa Loma and written about the history of the castle and so we won’t be repeating a lot of that in this post. For that story you can follow this link, which will also be supplied at the end of this article, Casa Loma. It is North America’s only full sized castle and measures nearly 200,000 square feet. It took 300 men almost 3 years to build it at a cost of $3,500,000 which would be close to $100,000,000 in today’s money.

The ceiling in the conservatory has a very elaborate glass structure that lets in lots of light. This room has lots of windows and overlooks the gardens. It is located on the east end of the main floor.

The castle has one of the most beautiful libraries with book shelves that line two walls. I have personally always wanted a library like this to house my collection.

On the west end of the main floor, beyond the Great Hall, was the Oak Room. Like other areas in the castle, the carvings and woodworking are very detailed and intricate.

The Windsor Room is on the west end of the second floor and is named after the Royal Family of England. Henry Pellet had hoped that one day this room would serve as a guest space for members of the royal family. The furniture was sold in the 1924 estate sale but was bought back by Casa Loma in 1992.

Space for a telephone was provided in almost every room in the castle which was quite a luxury in 1914.

Sir Henry’s room was decorated in a fairly simple manner but included a tiger that he had personally shot. In the Edwardian era it was quite common for the wealthy to have separate living spaces and bedrooms for the husband and wife.

It was uncommon at the turn of the last century for people to have a fully equipped indoor bathroom but the Pellatts had more than one of them. Henry’s washroom also included a shower that had six different body sprays that were each controlled by a separate faucet. This was likely the only shower of its kind in Toronto at the time and may be the only surviving example.

Mary Pellatts room and suite was actually much larger than her husband’s and was furnished in a pale blue with white details that were inspired by classic Wedgewood pottery. She also had a large sitting room, a solarium, private bathroom and wardrobe. Mary was a strong supporter of the early Girl Guides movement.

Mary’s room opened onto a large balcony that looked out over the gardens and had a great view of the city below in the distance. She also had an interesting view of the rest of the castle including the Norman tower. Mary was able to entertain guests in her private suites.

There were five guest suites on the second floor of the castle including this one which was decorated in a style known as “Chinoiserie”. This style of decoration tends to imitate oriental patterns. Each of the guest suites had a bedroom, bathroom, closet and sitting room.

It is possible to access the roof of the Norman Tower via a small spiral staircase. The roof provides a 360 degree view of the city which obviously looks much different now than it did when the castle was built. A hundred years ago the Pellatts had access to fields north of the castle to run their horses in.

The stables were housed in another castle like building a short distance to the north. It is accessed through a tunnel that connects the two buildings.

There is an antique car display in the stables but it was closed on the day that we chose to visit. However, we were able to see this grand carriage that is stored outside of the horse stables.

The horse stalls each had the horse name on a brass plate with 18 karat gold lettering. The Pellatt horses had each won numerous prizes and championships throughout North America.

It’s possible to spend hours exploring the castle including all the military displays on the second floor and considering the $40 ticket price its a good idea to do so.

See our related stories: Casa Loma and Spadina

Google Maps link: Casa Loma

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Black Creek Pioneer Village

August 7, 2022

Daniel and Elizabeth Stong settled on the property on the south-east corner of Jane Street and Steeles Avenue in 1816 when it was virgin forest. They cut down the trees and created a farm that was operated by four generations of the family until 1952. The Toronto Region Conservation Authority purchased the property in 1958 and created Black Creek Pioneer Village which opened in 1960. The village was developed by moving 40 endangered or abandoned buildings from other sites in Ontario to display life in the 1860’s. We visited the village to look at some of the other buildings and the exhibits located within them.

The doctor’s house was originally built in 1830 as a two generation farm house near Brampton. It has two separate entrances and the upstairs is fully divided so that two families could live here in relative privacy. A door on the main floor allowed them to pass between the two halves to join in family activities. The design is perfect to showcase a small town doctor’s house where the one side could serve as an office. An herb garden in the back yard would be cultivated to provide remedies that were learned from the indigenous peoples who had lived on the land for centuries.

Inside the doctor’s house is a display of the tools that were in common use in the mid-1800s. Drills, tooth extractors and saws were basic implements. Because people had to pay for the doctor’s services they often waited until they were in severe distress hoping to get better on their own. A house call would cost 50 cents, or roughly a half days wages and then every service would be charged separately on top of that.

Mackenzie House was built in 1830 as a small log cabin. As the family grew the home became too small and so a kitchen wing was added as well as an upstairs area making it into a story and a half home. The house was originally located in Woodbridge and was built by Major Addison Alexander Mackenzie after whom Major Mackenzie Drive is named. The house is set up to display the historical home industries of clock making/repair and dress making.

The Manse was built in 1835 and is typical of four room cottages built in rural Upper Canada (Ontario) in the 1830s. It served as the manse for Reverend James Dick who was pastor of Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church from 1849-1885. In those times it was not very common to hold weddings in the church and many of them were conducted in the front room of this house. The building was also used as a store, a residence and a Sunday School before being moved to the village in 1978 where it compliments the Fisherville Presbyterian Church.

Burwick House was built in 1844 for Rowland Burr in the town of Burrwick which later became Woodbridge. This house represents the lifestyle of the middle class in this era. This is an example of the well proportioned and symmetrical Georgian style of architecture and was moved to the village in 1958.

The Halfway House was built in 1849 by Alexander Thompson to provide a resting stop for stagecoach passengers and horses. It was originally located at Kingston Road and Midland Avenue along the road from Pickering to Toronto. It also served as a hotel, an apartment and also a store before being moved to the village in 1966.

The apple storage cellar was built around 1850 in Edgely. It was built into the ground to provide storage to preserve apples, fruit and root vegetables. The storage bins would be layered with straw and produce using its 8 feet by 7 feet interior to keep food for winter and spring consumption. The field stone and brick structure was disassembled and moved to the village over a 65 day period.

Charles Irwin’s weaving shop was located in the Kettleby Temperance Hall which was built in 1850. The same building also housed the town print shop when it was no longer used as a temperance hall. Weaving provided a wide range of textiles for household use and at one time there were over 600 weavers in Ontario.

The harness shop was built in 1855 just two lots south of the future black Creek Pioneer Village. The harness and saddle trade were essential to the early farming and transportation industries as they allowed for the efficient use of animal strength for labour. The shop was moved to the village in 1961 and has been open to the public since 1963.

Dominion Carriage Works was built in 1860 in Sebringville as a blacksmith shop and wheelwright. As it grew in the 1870s it was expanded to a full carriage works with an upholsterer and a cabinet maker. When cars became more popular, the business declined but it carried on until 1972. The following year it was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village with all of its patterns and tools. It has been restored and opened to the public in 1976.

The village school was built in 1861 as Dickson’s Hill School in Markham on concession 7 and was known as School Section #17 Markham. Using local, hand made bricks, it was constructed for a total cost of just $1,078.79. The two separate entrances allowed boys to come through one door while the girls entered through the other one. Most one room schools in Ontario were closed by the 1950s and this one was vacant in 1960. At that time it was dismantled brick by brick and was then moved to Pioneer Village and reassembled.

Inside, the school is set up like a typical one room school of the 1860s. The younger students would have sat closer to the front of the room while the older ones were at the back. The desks and fixed seating are not from this school but are from the same time period. A box stove at the back provided heat which was carried by the pipe near the ceiling to the front of the room where the chimney stood. Many of the buildings in the village were heated in this manner. The large windows on either side provided light and also opened for ventilation.

Our cover photo features the Fire House which was built as a storage or work shed in 1850. It houses an 1837 wooden fire engine that was used in Toronto for over 4 decades. Beyond the fire house in the photo is Henry Snider’s Cider Mill which was built in 1840 in the community of Elia at Keele Street and Finch Avenue. It could produce 500 gallons of apple cider per day.

Several buildings in the village have been featured in previous blogs. The Stong log cabin and second house as well as several of their outbuildings were featured in Black Creek Pioneer Village: Elizabeth Stong. Roblin’s Mill had it’s own blog called Roblin’s Mill. Laskay Emporium was featured in the story Laskay: Ghost Towns of the GTA. The Presbyterian Church was featured in our story Fisherville: Ghost Towns of the GTA.

Google maps link: Black Creek Pioneer Village

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McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Sunday, July 31, 2022

On May 7, 1920 a new movement in Canadian art was launched at the Art Museum of Toronto (Art Gallery of Ontario). The seven men who came to be known as The Group of Seven were all friends and had worked together for several years. They had been influenced by the work of Tom Thomson who passed away before the group got started. The concept for the group had been in place in 1913-1914 when Thomson was still alive but was put on hold by the First World War. Four of the members, Harris, Jackson, Lismer and Varley were directly involved and a fifth, Carmichael had his studies in Antwerp interrupted by the war. Lawren Harris had the drive, energy and wealth to make the group happen and became the de facto leader. It was at his home at 63 Queen’s Park in Toronto that the group had its founding meeting in March of 1920. Between 1920 and 1932 the group held eight art exhibitions before they disbanded. MacDonald passed away in 1932 but the others went on to lengthy careers after the group was finished. In this post we’ll look at each of the seven as well as some other Canadian art that is housed in the collection.

Lawren S. Harris lived from 1885 until 1970 and was one of the heirs to the fortune created by the Massey- Harris farm machinery manufacturing company of Toronto. His fortune allowed him to pursue a career as an artist and he was ultimately the driving force behind the Group of Seven. His early work was mostly urban scenes but inspired by Tom Thomson he started to travel to Algoma in 1908 to paint and later to the north shores of Lake Superior. He developed a style of landscapes painted in flat colours but later developed a style of abstract formalized shapes. By the end of his career he had drifted to painting pure abstract art.

Mount Robson 1929 (oil on canvas)

Sand Lake Algoma 1922 (oil on canvas)

Tom Thomson was born in 1877 and died in July 1917 when he drowned in Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. Tom made his first journey to Algonquin in 1912 and began sharing a studio with A.Y. Jackson in 1914. Thomson began producing hundreds of oil sketches and a handful of large-scale paintings. Tom was reputed to be an avid outdoorsman, canoeist and Algonquin guide but in July 1917 he drowned in Canoe Lake in circumstances that are still not understood.

In Algonquin Park 1914 (oil on canvas)

Snow In The Woods 1916 (oil on wood panel)

J.E.H. MacDonald lived between 1873 and 1932 and like several others in the group was a commercial artist for the Toronto firm Grip Ltd. In 1911 he left the firm to organize an exhibit of his own art works. He created various styles of landscape paintings until his trips to Algoma led him to take inspiration in the style of Tom Thomson. Beginning in 1924 he started taking trips to the Rockies to paint but he was sidelined by a stroke in 1931. A second one in 1932 was fatal and his loss led to the disbanding of the Group of Seven in January 1933.

Algoma Waterfall 1920 (oil on canvas)

Cathedral Peak and Lake O’Hara 1927 (oil on paperboard)

A.Y. Jackson was born in 1882 and lived until 1974. Jackson was a friend of Thomson and travelled to Algonquin with him in 1914. He enlisted for the First World War but was injured in the battle of Sanctuary Wood and spent the rest of the war as an official army artist. In 1927 he joined an RCMP ship to explore and paint the Arctic. When he went back to the Arctic in 1930 he took Harris with him.

Radium Mine 1938 (oil on canvas)

Bent Pine 1948 (oil on canvas)

Arthur Lismer 1885-1969 was born in England and came to Canada in 1911 and joined Grip Ltd. as a commercial artist along side other future members of the Group of Seven. Lismer was also a successful art teacher who took a teaching job in Halifax in 1916. He was a witness to the Halifax Harbour Explosion in 1917. When he died in 1969 he was living in Montreal but was brought to the Artists Cemetery on the McMichael grounds to be buried with five other members of the group.

Self Portrait 1924 (oil on board)

Canadian Jungle 1946 (oil on canvas)

Frank Johnston was born in 1888 and lived until 1949. He was a very prolific painter who only participated in one of the eight exhibits with the Group of Seven. The first exhibit in 1920 wasn’t a financial success and in fact was highly criticized. Johnston put together his own show later that year in which he showed 200 paintings that sold quite well. In 1924 he resigned from the group under the belief that he could do better on his own. His painting Winter Beauty from 1935 was done with oil on board and has been used as the cover photo for this article.

Dark Waters undated (oil on board)

Frederick Horsman Varley 1881-1969 is another of the group who worked at Grip Ltd. before joining the First World War as an artist. After returning from the trenches he became prone to depression and drinking and often got involved with the sitters for his portraits. He moved to Vancouver in 1926 where he stayed until 1935. When he passed away in 1969 he was buried in the cemetery at the McMichael gallery.

Night Ferry To Vancouver 1937 (oil on canvas)

Girl in Gold 1963-1966 (oil on canvas)

Alfred Joseph Casson 1898-1992 was asked to join the group in 1926 to replace Johnston.

White Pine 1957 (oil on canvas)

The art gallery also features paintings from Edwin Holgate 1882-1977 who joined the Group of Seven in 1929 and Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald 1890-1956 who joined briefly in 1932. Several other Canadian artists are also represented in the collection but we will highlight only a couple of them in the remainder of this lengthy post.

Gathie Falk was born in 1928 and is famous for her work with everyday items including fruit, Paper Mache dresses and picnics. One of the interesting displays at the gallery is her work with ceramics in creating shoes.

Single Men’s Shoes (ceramics)

Elisapee Ishulutaq 1925-2018 documented Inuit life in her art during her 50 year career. Starting in 1970 she created colourful drawings and prints that recreated traditional life and stories of her culture.

The McMichael property is also an interesting place to go for a walk along the trails and the beautiful grounds which joins to the Humber River Trail and connects to Bindertwine Park.

Related stories: Bindertwine Park

Google Maps Link: McMichael Canadian Art Collection

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Scarborough’s Steel Dinosaurs

July 24, 2022

Over 700 different species of dinosaurs have been identified in the world with over 100 of them having been found in Canada. Half of the Canadian ones have been found in Alberta in an area known as Dinosaur Provincial Park. Others have been found in various riverbeds in Alberta as well as British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Nova Scotia, Nunavut and Northwest Territories also have produced some fossils. Ontario has revealed a lot of fossils of small sea creatures such as crinoids, trilobites and corals.

Dinosaur fossils can be found at the Royal Ontario Museum as well as other major museums around the province but there isn’t any well known deposits in nature. An unusual display of public art at the corner of Crockford Blvd. and Lawrence Avenue East in Scarborough has been created by one of the local companies. This includes multiple steel representations of dinosaur skeletons.

Although this dinosaur park has been created as a method of promoting their waterjet laser cutting the results are quite interesting. There are over a dozen models on display on a small corner of land where Taylor-Massey Creek crosses Lawrence Avenue in the former town of Wexford.

Tyrannosaurus Rex lived about 68-66 million years ago in the area of Alberta and is one of the best known dinosaurs. It was one of the largest carnivores and had a massive head and a long tail to help balance it. The name means King of the Thunder Lizards and this is an apt title for this predator.

The metal dinosaurs have been on display for nearly a decade and are rusted so there is a warning posted to be aware that they could be sharp and to avoid touching or climbing on them.

While most of the dinosaurs on display are posed in attacking or grazing positions there is one of the Tyrannosaurs that has either fallen over or been pushed over but it gives the idea of being dead.

Stegosaurus appeared 155 to 145 million years ago and was a plant eating dinosaur that had an armored body. Four spikes on the tail may have been used for defense while plates on the back are thought to have been used to regulate heat in the body.

Triceratops was an herbivorous dinosaur that lived along with Tyrannosaurus Rex and were lost around 66 million years ago when there was an extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs and allowed mammals to take over as the dominant lifeform on Earth. Its name means three-horned face.

Several other models are on display in front of the AC Waterjet building where they were created in 2013.

Toronto has lots of public art but this display is a little unusual in that it has been created by a private company as a form of advertising.

See also out post on the murals in the former community of Islington and the Ghost Town of Wexford.

Google Maps link: Crockford Dinosaurs

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Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory

July 17, 2022

The Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory opened to the general public on January 26, 2001. It was originally known as the Wings of Paradise Butterfly Conservatory but changed its name in 2011 to better reflect the community in which it operated. The conservatory is housed in a 25,000 square foot building which includes a 10,800 square foot tropical garden where the butterflies are free to roam among the plants.

There are over 120 species of tropical plants in the garden many of which are in flower providing a place for the butterflies to feed. An artificial waterfall feeds a small pond which is full of goldfish and red-eared slider turtles.

Throughout the world there are about 30,000 species of butterflies with about 275 occurring in Canada. The butterflies in the conservatory are brought in from butterfly farms in Costa Rica and the Philippines. There are four stages to a butterfly’s life. It begins when a female butterfly lays a series of tiny eggs on a plant leaf. When the eggs hatch the larva or caterpillar will emerge. The caterpillar will feed on the leaves of the host plant until it is fully grown. Often the caterpillar can only eat a single type of leaf such as the milkweed plant which hosts Monarch Butterfly caterpillars. When the caterpillar is full grown it enters the pupa stage in which it spins a chrysalis around itself. The butterflies at the conservatory are imported in their chrysalis from sustainable farms. The image below shows a batch of Blue Morpho butterflies in their chrysalis.

The conservatory glues these in pairs to small straws and sets them aside to finish the metamorphosis into adult butterflies. If you arrive at the right time you may get to see a butterfly emerge from one of them. The Tarricina in the image below had just emerged and was waiting for its wings to dry so that it could fly away. The butterflies are then free to explore the tropical garden for the remainder of their lives. The total lifespan of the insect is about 40 days of which 6-10 is spent in the chrysalis phase.

Butterflies are insects with three body segments and six legs. They feed on nectar from flowers as well as fruit juices and honey. There are several places throughout the garden where they can drink from pieces of orange or banana. The Blue Morpho in the picture below was drinking from an orange through its long probiscis.

The butterfly in this picture has its probiscis rolled up but clearly visible on the front of its face.

Insects make up about 58% of all species on the planet and are an important part of the ecosystem. Unlike most insects which are feared or at least looked upon with disgust, butterflies are embraced for their beauty and charisma. They live all over the planet from sea level to the tops of mountains and from the equator to above the Arctic Circle. Some of them have very specific habitats while others like the White Cabbage Butterfly can be found in many different habitats and on different continents. Butterflies can be distinguished from moths by their antennae which are thin compared to a moth which has feathered ones.

The Brown Clipper is native to rainforests and can usually be found around rivers and streams. The conservatory also feature a Blue Clipper.

The Asian Swallowtail Butterfly is also known as The Chinese Yellow Swallowtail because of the yellow underwing colouring. These butterflies mate several times during their lifespan and are known to migrate up to 200 kilometers during their lives.

There are several different types of tropical birds that live in the conservatory and they are all remarkably tame. They will practically walk right up to you and don’t mind posing for pictures. The Zebra Finch in the picture below is native to Australia.

There are a number of live insects in display cases in the conservatory and one of the most unusual creatures featured here is the Blue Poison Dart Frog. These frogs live in Suriname and northern parts of Brazil and were only discovered in 1969. Their diet is made up largely of ants and the phosphorus in them causes the frog to have a poisonous skin that can kill even larger predators.

Aside from live displays there are also several displays of mounted butterflies and insects.

The Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory has an admission price of $20.00 for adults and tickets need to be purchased on line in order to guarantee that you will be able to get in when you arrive. The tropical garden is hot and humid to provide a natural environment for the butterflies that live there, so you’ll want to make sure that you don’t over-dress for your visit.

While you are in the area you might want to also check out the Grand River in Galt or The Devil’s Falls

Also see our post Butterflies of the GTA

Google Maps Link: Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory

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Shouldice Hospital Estate

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Over that past 70 years the Shouldice Hospital in Thornhill has performed over 400,000 hernia operations. The hospital is located in a beautiful estate setting, for now. The property is currently the site of a five-tower development proposal that will retain the historic buildings but allow the countryside around them to be lost.

The history of the site goes back to the earliest days of Thornhill and is located on part of lots 30 and 31 in the first concession east of Yonge Street. The full 190 acre lot was first granted to Thompson Maxwell in 1803 but it appears he failed to complete his settlement requirements and forfeited the land grant. Stillwell Wilson was able to secure the patent on the property in 1808. In the 1790’s William Berczy had built John Street through the property from Yonge Street to gain access to his settlement of German Mills. The County Atlas image below shows the area in 1877 and John Street is coloured brown. The site of the Shouldice Hospital has been outlined in green. Lot 32 to the north is the site of Heintzman House which we featured last week.

The east half of the property was bought by Allan McNab in 1817 so that he could build the grist mill that is shown on the County Atlas as “G.M.”. McNab is best known for building Dundurn Castle in Hamilton. The grist mill was completed in 1820 and McNab operated it until 1844 but the town he envisioned never developed around it. He decided to sell the property to John Brunskill in 1844 and it was renamed Pomona Mills. This is now commemorated by Pomona Mills Park. Matthew Dean bought 91 acres on the east end of the lot, north of John Street and it served as a family farm until 1937 when it was bought by Clement George McCullagh who wanted to use the property to build a country estate. The picture below shows the oval driveway and stone gates that were constructed for the estate.

Clement made his money in the press and in mining. He started his career selling subscriptions to The Toronto Globe newspaper and then branched into mining operations. In 1936 he bought The Toronto Globe and the Mail & Empire and merged the two papers into the Globe and Mail. He was also a part owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs. During the Great Depression he advocated for an all-party federal government to run the country based on sound business principles. The picture below shows the front of the estate mansion that he had built for himself, his wife Phyllis C. Laidlaw and their three children Robert, George and Ann.

The two and a half story house featured seven bays and which looked out over formal gardens and orchards. It was built by Donald MacKenzie Waters who had designed several other prominent buildings in Toronto including Maple Leaf Gardens. Several fruit trees are still found in front of the house.

Formal gardens and tennis courts surrounded the house and a greenhouse was also built although it has been removed in anticipation of the new development.

The house was built into the side of a hill so that the rear showed off the basement. Aluminum siding has been added which imitates the original wooden clapboard construction.

The rear of the house looked out over the pond which is held in place by a stone retaining wall dated 1937. The pond is now obscured by trees in the summer months.

A painted turtle was sunning itself on the overflow to the pond at the time of my visit. These are the most common native turtles in North America and can be found from Canada to Mexico. They continue to grow until they reach sexual maturity and have been known to live for over 50 years in the wild.

McCullagh was a founding member of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and was instrumental in the restoration of Fort York. It is therefore fitting that his estate should be preserved. He was fond of horses and the property still features a “U” shaped stable that sits adjacent to Bayview Avenue. It is located in a zone which has been reserved for future expansion of the roadway and may need to be relocated at some time in the future to avoid being demolished.

A gatehouse is located on the north end of the stables and is also on the road allowance for an expanded Bayview Avenue.

In 1953 the property was sold to Dr. Edward Earl Shouldice who perfected an operation to repair hernias during the Second World War. He converted the main estate residence into a private hospital and later added another wing to accommodate more patients. The other estate building that remains on the property is the gardener’s cottage. It also sits beside Bayview Avenue but like the other buildings featured here is protected by an heritage designation.

The artists concept below shows the new development with the Shouldice Hospital in the background.

The property is under a new development proposal but the historic buildings are to be retained among the new towers. A formal trail network is expected to connect to Ponoma Mills Park to the west of the property.

Related posts: Heintzman House, Dundurn Castle, Fort York

Google maps link: Shouldice Hospital

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Heintzman House

July 3, 2022

Heintzman and Company was founded in 1866 to produce pianos in a facility located in The Junction area of Toronto. It was started by Theodore Heintzman who was a German immigrant while his nephew started a rival company called Gerhard Heintzman Piano Company. When Theodore died in 1899 his son George took over running the business. The piano manufacturing business was moved to Hanover, Ontario in 1962. The company changed its name to Heintzman Limited in 1978 and then was sold to Sklar Peppler in 1981. This ownership only lasted until 1987 when it was sold to The Music Stand Company of Ontario who started to apply the name Heintzman to various pianos manufactured in the United States. The Heintzman name is still used by a Chinese and Canadian company called Heintzman Distributors and they supplied the grand piano that was used in the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The archive photo below shows the Heintzman and Company piano factory when it was located in The Junction area in the west part of Toronto near Keele and Dundas Street.

Lot 32 in Markham township fronted onto Yonge Street and covered the 190 acres between there and today’s Bayview Avenue. It was originally allocated to Anthony Hollingshead in 1798. Anthony had been a United Empire Loyalist having served in the American Revolutionary War as an officer. One of the conditions of earning the patent, or deed, for a property was the construction of a home that was a minimum of 16 feet by 20 feet in size. Hollingshead built a small story and a half home of adobe, or mudbrick and received the patent in 1802. This home was recorded as the first adobe home built in Upper Canada. The map below is from the 1877 county atlas and shows the property in the hands of the Lemon family and the house is circled in green.

The property changed hands many times and the house has had several additions and renovations over the past 200 years. Anthony Hollingshead died in 1817 and the property was sold to George Crookshank. Anthony’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Soules, was married to Samuel Lount who was one of two people executed following the failed Rebellion of 1837. Samuel Lount is buried in The Necropolis in Toronto.

George Crookshank was a close friend of Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe and was a wealthy businessman and member of the early government of Upper Canada. During the War of 1812 he was in charge of supplies to Fort York and after the war he bought several properties in the area. He married Susan Lambert in 1821 and then built a 13-room mansion on the site of Holligshead’s farmhouse. It was at this time that the property began to be called Sunnyside Farm.

In 1881 the farm was sold to John Francis Newtonbrook. His family farmed the land for almost 50 years including the period that their son Samuel owned Sunnyside Manor.

Charles and Marion Heintzman, owners of the piano company, bought the house in 1930. They made extensive renovations to it including adding a conservatory. A small greenhouse was added to the north end of the building.

The house was the scene of many social gatherings over the years that the Heintzmans owned it. They continued to operate it as a farm where they raised prized Jersey cattle. When Charles died in 1959 the property was sold to developers who started to build the homes that enclose the house on every side. The Town of Markham was persuaded by local residents to preserve the manor and it was renamed Heintzman House in honour of the last private family that owned it.

A unique planter stands on the front lawn and pays tribute to the piano manufacturers who completed the last set of expansions and renovations on the home.

The fields surrounding Heintzman House may have been developed for housing but the home is now used as an event venue.

Related stories: West Toronto Railpath, Rebellion of 1837, The Necropolis, Fort York

Google Maps Link: Heintzman House

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Buildings of York Prior to Toronto

Sunday, June 19, 2022

The Town of York officially became a city in 1834 and changed its name to Toronto. There are still quite a few buildings that have survived from this era in spite of the ongoing redevelopment and construction that is occurring all over the city. We’ve visited many of these places over the years and the following post brings some of them together along with links to the original larger posts and the Google Maps links to find them for yourself.

The oldest surviving building from York is known as Scadding Cabin. York was founded in 1793 and this small home was built in 1794 on the east side of the Don River. In 1879 it was moved to the grounds of The Canadian National Exhibition in time for the grand opening of the Ex.

The house that we know as Elm Bank was also known as Lavinia Cottage. It was built of stone around 1802 and is one of two old stone cottages on the property. The stone was taken from the Humber River and the home was built in the former community of Thistletown.

Gibraltar Lighthouse on Toronto Islands was built in 1809 and originally stood just a few metres from the water’s edge but now is isolated in a wooded area on the island. It is the oldest surviving lighthouse on the Great Lakes.

Several of the oldest buildings in the city are contained in Fort York. Following the War of 1812 in which Fort York was partially destroyed many of the buildings were rebuilt. In 1815 the blockhouses, barracks and the powder magazine were all replaced. At that time the fort stood near the edge of Lake Ontario and the city hadn’t been built up around it as it has today.

Black Creek Pioneer Village is also home to several of the earliest buildings from the time of York. The first one built there was the log cabin of Daniel and Elizabeth Stong which was erected in 1816. A couple of further buildings from the Stong farm have been preserved as well as a few other structures that date back to the town of York which have been moved there.

The original Gray Grist Mill dates back to 1819 and has been preserved on Donalda Farm, now part of the Donalda Golf Club.

John Bales built a log cabin in 1822 that was later expanded and covered with cement and pebbles. The balance of his farm has been converted into Earl Bales Park.

In 1822 there was a race to open the first paper mill in Upper Canada and one was built at Todmorden Mills but it came in second. Located at the same site are a couple of older houses and a brewery that date to the town of York.

In 1827 The Bank of Upper Canada opened their second building in the original ten-block part of York. The building has seen a couple of expansions and the addition of a portico over the years.

In the early years of York all the streets were muddy and the town was often called Muddy York. Eventually the roads were covered with planks and a toll was charged for using them. This cottage is where one of the Tollkeepers lived and it was built around 1827.

Montgomery’s Inn was built in 1830 by Thomas and Margaret Montgomery near the village of Islington. It sat abandoned for more than a decade but has now been restored and is operating as a museum.

On Thursday March 6, 1834 the town of York ceased to exist and was incorporated as the City of Toronto. One of the last buildings to be completed before this change took place was the fourth post office in the community. This would become Toronto’s First Post Office.

The Town of York has been gone for nearly 200 years but there’s still quite a number of the old buildings still in existence. There’s many others that are not featured in this post that might come up in future explorations.

For a listing of our top 50 posts check out Back Tracks – 8 Years of Trails.

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Casa Loma

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Casa Loma stands as a testament to the lavish lifestyles of some of the wealthiest people in Toronto’s history. As the city of Toronto grew the wealthy classes looked for a place to establish their garden estates and one of the primary areas was on top of the Davenport Escarpment. Here, they built large homes amongst lavish gardens with views out over the city and Lake Ontario to the south of them. The earliest estate built here was known as Davenport and was constructed in 1797. It was followed by Spadina and Russell Hill in 1818. These homes are long gone but several others still remain to remind us of the former glory of the area. For example, Lenwill the home of prominent Toronto architect E. J. Lennox was built in 1914 and still stands just to the west of Casa Loma. An early picture of Casa Loma from the Toronto Archives is featured below.

In 1903 Sir Henry Pellatt purchased 40 acres from the Austin Estate so that he could build his mansion which he called Casa Loma. The name Casa Loma means Hill House and reflects the fact that it was built on top of the escarpment that was the shoreline of Lake Ontario after the last ice age. Henry Pellatt was born in 1859 in Kingston and was instrumental in bringing hydro-electric power to the city of Toronto. Henry was a soldier in The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada as well as a financier having worked in his fathers firm of Pellatt and Pellatt.

Casa Loma was built between 1911 and 1914 and is the largest private residence ever built in Canada. It has 98 rooms and covers 64,700 square feet of floor space. A team of 299 workers spent three years building it until construction was stopped by the start of World War 1. The home contains secret passages and a swimming pool. There were plans to put three bowling alleys in the basement but only one of them was ever completed. The bowling alley is now used as a gift shop.

Casa Loma is currently hosting a collection of photographs that were taken by Princess Diana’s personal photographers. These larger than life photos and the stories behind them reveal a side of Diana that hasn’t been seen by the public before now. The exhibit is open until June 26, 2022 and has an additional ticket price on top of the regular cost of exploring the castle. The car that is parked outside to advertise the exhibit is a replica of Diana’s car.

Casa Loma cost $3.5 million dollars which would be over $100 million dollars today. When the government decided to remove the private ownership of electricity and make it public, Henry Pellatt started to have financial troubles. After World War 1 the economy suffered a downturn and Pellatt found himself owing the bank about $20 million dollars. This, combined with the huge property tax bill, caused him to have to auction off the castle and his assets. In 1924 he moved to his country estate in King Township and today Casa Loma has become a tourist attraction. His country home was also lost to him and has been turned into Marylake, a religious retreat.

The grounds contain extensive gardens and fountains in both the front and back yards.

A private gate leads from Casa Loma to the neighbouring property where Spadina house is located. This is one of the other estates that have survived the construction of newer residences in the area.

Casa Loma has an extensive stables that were built in 1906 just a short distance north of the main castle. They were designed to look like Casa Loma and compliment the main structure.

The Hunting Lodge is also known as the Coach House and is a two story building with 4,380 feet of living space that was eventually used as servants quarters. Pellatt and his wife lived here while the main castle was being built. The stables are now used to house a classic car collection.

An underground tunnel connects the stables to the castle and it was used during World War 2 as a secret factory for the assembly of ASDIC. This was a type of sonar that was critical for the Allies to help them in the battles that were fought in the Atlantic Ocean.

This story features some of the history of Casa Loma but there are tours available which will allow you to see the inside of Toronto’s most famous castle.

Also see our feature on Spadina House and also Marylake

For a listing of our top 50 stories please check out our post Back Tracks – 8 Years of Trails

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Ontario Powder

Sunday, June 5, 2022

The town of Tweed is situated on the shores of Stoco Lake and business takes me there every two months. On my visit of April 24th, 2022 I had the opportunity to spend some time walking the Trans Canada Trail while I had my lunch. As I made my way along the trail I crossed the old CPR bridge, and stopped to admire the lake which was in a condition of high water.

A little further along the trail you come to a series of old ruins on the woods along the shore of the lake. They date back to 1883 when Ontario Powder was founded in town to produce dynamite.

Just two years later there was a tragic explosion when two workers were in the process of transporting dynamite from the factory to Burleigh Falls. No one is sure what happened but James Simmon and George Morton both lost their lives when a crater 70 feet across and 10 feet deep was blown in the ground. The blast could be heard as far away as Peterborough and only a few pieces of the men, their horses and the cart were recovered. It wasn’t until 2006 that a memorial plaque was placed at the site of the blast. The image below shows the remains of the water tower from the factory and is the largest remaining artifact from Ontario Powder.

By August 22, 1903 the factory was producing 750 pounds of dynamite per day but then an explosion occurred at the facility. It happened so suddenly that three workers lost their lives and others were injured because they couldn’t get away in time. Barrels of nitroglycerin were being stored on the site and they exploded causing a concussion that could be heard for 50 miles around.

The factory was rebuilt and this time additional precautions were taken. Ontario Powder purchased several neighbouring properties as well as five of the local islands in the lake. After building a tall fence around the property to contain shrapnel they planted the property with a heavy forest to help stop the effects of any future blasts.

The explosion of 1903 was expensive for the company because it cost $25,000 to rebuild and they paid $1000 in damages to the community. The rebuilt factory went back into production and in fact got even busier. Within 5 years they were producing 1500 pounds of dynamite every day. This wasn’t to last and disaster came again on the morning of February 4, 1908. Early that day the vats of nitroglycerine began to overflow onto the floor and a fire broke out. Workers in the mixing room ran out into the -35 degree weather and shouted for everyone to run for their lives. By the time they had reached the CPR bridge just down the tracks the factory blew up for a second time sending pieces of the building across the lake. The bottom of the lake is still littered with artifacts from the explosion.

All the buildings within 5 miles were rattled and windows were broken. You would think this should have been the end of Ontario Powder but they set out to rebuild the factory again. This time it was only used for storage of dynamite but public outcry meant that the trust was gone and local residents were happy when the business was bought out by a competitor. Most of the buildings were dismantled but a few were saved and relocated. The employee change house was moved to Louisa Street and converted into a residence. The office was dragged across the ice the following winter and put on an island in the middle of the lake to serve as a summer home.

The Tweed Heritage Centre has one picture of part of the Ontario Powder factory and along with the ruins featured above is all that remains of this industry in town.

Although its been gone for over a century, Ontario Powder has left its mark on the town of Tweed in the form of these crumbling ruins. Many of the older buildings in town still have structural bracing that was installed after the two explosions at the factory.

Also from Tweed is our feature on Tweed’s Tiny Jailhouse

For a list of our top 50 stories check out Back Tracks – 8 Years of Trails

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