Norway – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The first capital of the united colonies of Upper and Lower Canada was in Kingston.  The British military was stationed at Kingston and a road was needed for rapid troop transportation in case of trouble from the newly created United States of America to the south.  A road was cut through the forest from York (Toronto) to Kingston.  Asa Danforth Jr. was contracted to build the road at a cost of $90 per mile to run from York to the mouth of the Trent River.  It was completed by December 1800 but was poorly maintained.  It served as a route for the mail coach and needed to be better maintained.  A series of toll booths were set up to collect funds for the ongoing repair of the road.  One of these toll booths was located at the intersection of the road with modern Woodbine Avenue.  This was the first area near the beaches to have a community arise and an early name for the town was Berkley.  By 1837 it is said that there were 80 people living in the community and they had a hotel, store, brewery and a steam-operated saw mill.  The mill still existed at the time of the county atlas in 1877 and is marked below as SM.  It stood east of the Post Office that had been erected at 320 Kingston Road in 1866 but which has since been removed.

Norway map (2)

A stagecoach ran every week between York and Kingston, beginning in 1817, usually taking four days to complete the journey.  Over the next 15 years, the frequency increased to a daily run that included regular delivery of mail to the village.   Tracks were laid along Kingston Road in 1874 to allow the operation of horse-drawn streetcars which were replaced in 1893 with the  Toronto and Scarboro’ Electric Railway, Light and Power Company.  This radial line was absorbed into the Toronto and York Radial Railway in 1904.

In 1853 Charles Coxwell Small donated 3 acres off his 472-acre estate to erect a church building and create a cemetery so that the local Anglican church could move their meetings out of O’Sullivan’s Tavern and into their own building.  The first building on the site was the old school house which had been purchased by the congregation and then moved by a team of oxen.  According to the terms of the land agreement the church was called St. John’s, Berkley.  The name was later changed to St. John the Baptist Norway at some point following Small’s death.  The picture below shows the original church as it appeared in the late 1920’s.  It had been replaced with the current building in 1893 which can be seen in the corner of the picture.

St. John's Anglican Norway, old church, close. - October 4, 1927

The congregation began to build their new brick church in 1892 and that is the date on the cornerstone.  The building was opened in 1893 and by 1915 an expansion was needed.

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The term Lychgate comes from the ancient Saxon word for corpse.  English churches often had a lychgate where the body would lie in state until burial.  People often died at home and the body was moved to the lychgate to await burial.  Bodysnatchers forced most of these to be guarded and very often there were seats for the family to sit and mourn for the deceased.  The first part of the funeral service would often be performed under the lychgate.

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The cemetery at St. John the Baptist has been in operation since 1853 and has over 80,000 interments.  Originally the cemetery was Anglican only but has been opened up as an interfaith burial grounds.  Many of the early pioneers of the city are buried here as well as founding families of the Beaches area.  Joseph Williams who was the founder of Kew Gardens along with many members of his family is buried here.

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The cemetery features a crematorium in which the bell from the original school has been preserved.

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The current Norway public school was built in 1976 and is at least the third building to occupy the site.

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The building at 340 Kingston Road appears to be one of the original buildings based on the brickwork and the fact that the ground level windows have been buried over time.  Only the bricks of the lintel show at street level.

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This store occupies a building that has an unusual name stone at the top.  Where one might find a date or bank name we see the letters T.W.M. which is likely the initials of the person who built the block.

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Norway has recently acquired a lot of low rise condos along Kingston Road where the historic buildings are falling, one at a time in the name of progress.

Google Maps link: Norway

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