Adamson Estate

Saturday Jan. 24, 2015,

Joseph Cawthra came to York in 1802 and was given 400 acres of land near Port Credit where Lotten – Cawthra House would eventually be built.  He was a prominent reformer working with the likes of William Lyon MacKenzie to bring responsible government to Upper Canada.  Like Robert Baldwin, of Spadina house, he was elected to the government where he sought to bring about change.  Cawthra street in Mississauga used to be his driveway.  When his daughter Mabel married Agar Adamson they were given the lakefront property and it became known as the Adamson Estate.  The property remained in the hands of their son Anthony until 1970.

cawthra map

It was minus 2 feeling like minus 6 with the odd snow flurry.  Parking off of the end of Hampton Street will place you just east of where Cooksville Creek empties into Lake Ontario.  As we walked along the waterfront we found many species of birds including Mute Swans which have made their home along the waterfront.


The icy waters of Cooksville Creek have been splashing off the branches along the creek edge creating an elaborate ice sculpture.


Right at the mouth of Cooksville Creek we spotted a Snowy Owl sitting on the ice.  These owls spend their summers north of the Arctic Circle hunting lemmings.  Each bird can consume up to 1600 lemmings per year.  It is normal for a few Snowy Owls to be seen in Southern Ontario each winter.  Last year they appeared in record numbers for the first time in about 15 years.  When large numbers of birds are found outside of their normal migration zones it is called an irruption.  If it happens a second year in a row, as it has this year, it is termed an echo.  We observed this female from both sides of the creek as well as on a rooftop where she flew when we got too close.  We also saw what was likely a second one in the park near our cars when we returned at the end of the hike.


My first encounter with a Snowy Owl came almost exactly 40 years ago in February 1975 when local band Rush released their album Fly by Night.


From the mouth of the Cooksville Creek looking west you can see an old freighter.  This is the Ridgetown and it guards the entrance to Port Credit harbour at the mouth of the Credit River. Built in Chicago in 1905 it became grounded in a storm on it’s maiden voyage and suffered $100,000 worth of damage.  In 1970 it was sunk at Nanticoke to form part of a temporary break wall while construction of the Ontario Power Plant was being completed.  Later it was raised and brought to Toronto where it was filled with stone and sunk on June 21, 1974 in it’s present location.


Giant Hogweed is a noxious plant that grows up to 10 feet tall and can cause severe burns and blindness.  There are many examples growing along the west bank of the Cooksville Creek.  If you hike here in the summer beware as the path leads right through a patch of them.


As you enter the Adamson Property there are two old tree stumps that have been carved with animal figures.  One has three squirrels carved into it while the one in the picture below features raccoons.


Built in 1932 by Anthony Adamson, son of Agar and Mabel, the Derry House sits on the east end of the Adamson property.   It’s “U” shaped construction frames a central fireplace and flagstone courtyard.  Anthony and his wife Augusta lived here until his mother passed away in December 1943.  After they moved into the family mansion this house was sold to the Derry family, whose name it bears today.  Anthony was awarded the Order of Canada for his contribution to Canadian architecture.


The barn dates to 1870 and is one of the oldest surviving agricultural structures in the region. It is built with a foundation of field stones and mortar and an upper portion of board and batten. The farm was known as “The Grove” due to the large grove of white pine trees that were reserved to be used as masts for ships by the Royal Navy.


The main house was built over the winter of 1919-1920 and it’s date stone is featured in the cover photo.  It replaced a summer cottage from 1866 that stood between it and the lake.  The site of the original log cabin from 1809 was identified in 1991 and stood close to the water front.  It appears that each time the family built a new home they moved a few feet further away from the lake.  This view is taken from the upstairs balcony below the bell on the gatehouse.


The gatehouse or “Folly” was built in 1904 and is one of only three of this design in Canada.  The other two are in Ottawa at the residence of the Prime Minister and the Governor General.  The upstairs served as a nursery for Anthony who was born in 1906.


The so-called orange room extends from the west end of the house and contains a unique rounded balcony and a small cupola.


Rhododendron gardens grow under the evergreen trees on the front lawns of the house.


By 1968 there were only 15 acres of the original property left that had not been sold off. Anthony applied to the city for permission to develop the site for apartment buildings and the city rezoned it for high rise in 1972.  After neighbours sent in 115 letters of objection the Credit Valley Conservation Authority stepped in and expropriated the land, buying out the Adamsons in 1975.

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7 thoughts on “Adamson Estate

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