Sunday Jan. 31, 2016
York (Toronto) was just ten years old in 1803 when Joseph Cawthra emigrated from Yorkshire in England. He was granted 400 acres of land extending north from Lake Ontario. Cawthra raised nine children and soon found that farming wasn’t for him so he moved to York where he established an apothecary and then a general store. They built houses at King and Sherbourne and later at King and Bay. The land grant was broken up when the lake front portion was given to Mabel Cawthra and her husband Agar Adamson for a wedding gift. The Adamson Estate was featured in a previous post.
In 1926 Grace Cawthra-Elliot and her husband Colonel Harry Cawthra Elliot built a new home on the family property near Port Credit using bricks covered with plaster. The old dirt road that accessed the home has since been named Cawthra Road and widened to 6 lanes in places. The home was built to remind them of the families roots in England in a style known as Georgian Revivalist. The house is five bays long designed symmetrically around the centre door. Each window has twelve over twelve double hung sash windows. They feature plain lintels above each window and plain lugsills below. At two and one half stories the upper floor has quarter round gable windows with radiating muntins. Some say it also has the ghost of a servant who can be seen looking out the quarter round windows at Cawthra Road.
The house was designed to make a statement with the front door where the symmetry continues down to the centre line. Four pilasters support a simple entablature above the doorway. Side lights mounted on either side of the door are made of wrought iron as are the shutter hinges and closures.
The front of the house featured a extensive lawn with landscaped gardens along either side. The gardens were accessed by three sets of steps which today lead into the new growth of trees which have taken over the property.
The Cawthras had a swimming pool dug in the front yard, at the end of the south gardens. The swimming pool was filled with water collected on the property and at one time was much larger than the remnant that lies behind the chain link fence. The two steps that can be seen in the picture below would have been under water in the 1930’s when the pool was one of only a couple in Mississauga. We previously featured pictures of Mississauga’s first swimming pool, constructed in 1918, in our story on Riverwood Estate.
The north side of the house also featured extensive gardens. A wide lawn stood between the house and the family’s prized rose gardens. Their orchard was at the end of the rose gardens and provided a quiet place for Grace and Harry to sit and quietly enjoy their country home. The picture below shows the rose bushes whose green leaves provide a welcome change from the usual browns of mid-winter.
The north gardens were flanked by a row of pine trees on either side. This row of trees is clearly visible from Cawthra Road as you drive by, once you know where to look for it.
The Cawthras built themselves a walled garden where they could grow flowers and vegetables and keep them protected from the local rabbits and deer. The wall was three bricks thick and stood over 8 feet tall. They featured arched entrance ways and, like the house, were built with bricks brought from Yeadon Hall, the family home at College and St. George in Toronto.
The property was legally known as lot 10 in the original survey and so they called it Cawthra Lotten. The house can be seen behind the gate post. Joseph recieved the grant in 1804 and by 1808 he had completed the requirements to take full possession of the property. These requirements normally included the clearing and fencing of a few acres, the construction of a small house and the clearing and maintaining the road allowance along the sides of the property. The house was added in 1926 and Grace lived here from then until she passed away in 1974. The city of Mississauga purchased the property at that time and operates it as a limited use park because it contains specimens of Jefferson salamanders. They are one of the salamander species considered most at risk in Ontario. Fences are in place to keep people from disturbing their habitat. We have previously featured pictures of the eastern red-backed salamander, one at least risk, in our Vandalized Memorial post.
Having parked at the end of 9th street we made our way through the woods that cover the former lawns of the estate. The forest floor is littered with the trunks of ash trees that were recently cut down. Most of the ash trees in southern Ontario will be killed by the Emerald Ash Borer. This insect will have completed it’s devastation by 2017 having killed 99% of the 860,000 ash trees in Toronto alone. The city of Mississauga is in a similar situation and is actively removing ash trees and replacing them with other native trees. The picture below shows the remains of ash trees lying on the ground among the pink ribbons of the newly planted replacement trees.
Google maps link: Cawthra Estate
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