Saturday, February 22, 2020
Claireville was a community that started in 1850 on the estate of Jean du Petit Pont de la Haye at the intersection of Steeles Avenue and Indian Line. He named the town after his daughter Claire and it grew until by 1870 there were 175 people living there. The town grew up to service the local farmers and soon had two general stores and two hotels. It attracted a butcher, a cabinet maker, blacksmith, tailor and flour mill. Today it has been isolated by the construction of Highway 50 and Highway 427. Most of the historic buildings in town were removed for the reconfiguration of roads in the area.
The first building in the area belonged to John Stark in 1832 and it was a halfway house on the south west corner of the intersection. It was demolished long ago. One of the former homes in Claireville now serves as the Bhagwan Valmiki Temple serving the nearby Hindu population.
De La Haye was a very generous man and he gave land to three different congregations to build churches in town. In 1842 the Congregationalists were the first to build a permanent church building in Claireville. The Primitive Methodists were next in 1846 and the Roman Catholics didn’t build until 1860. All three of those churches have since been demolished. The house pictured below was likely built in the 1860s or 1870s and is one of the few that is still lived in.
This house sits on early 1900s precast blocks but is missing the front steps. Like many others along Albion Road (now Codlin Crescent) it is likely waiting for a demolition permit because it has no heritage protection.
Edwardian Classicism is a style of house that emerged around 1910 and lasted for about 20 years. It was very simple in style, a reaction to the more fanciful Victorian Styles that had prevailed for the previous few decades. The presence of this style of house in Claireville suggests that the town was still serving the rural community at that time.
A similar house was built directly across the street quite possibly by the same contractor. Today both of these houses stand beside large buildings with industrial or transportation and shipping uses. The farmlands around Claireville were designated for Industrial/Employment uses by the 1980s and the end of the town followed quickly.
The “Albion Plank Road Company” was formed in 1846. Their mission was to build a plank road from Thistletown to Bolton, passing right through Claireville. To maintain the road a series of toll houses were established to collect money from users of the road. Typical tolls at this time were 1/2 pence for the passage of a horse and rider or 1/2 pence for each 20 hogs or sheep. The toll house in Claireville was built in 1851 and was located at 2095 Albion Road. The house is now sitting in the parking lot of a tractor trailer storage company and is also featured as the cover photo. It is the oldest remaining building in Claireville and the only one with a heritage designation. For more on plank roads see our post The Gore And Vaughan Plank Road.
Of the 14 original homes that remain in Claireville, only a couple are still being used for residential purposes. The former plank road had eventually been replaced with a more modern road as transportation was changed to the automobile. The main street became a busting centre for the local rural community. On a Saturday morning in February it is almost as abandoned as nearby Indian Line.
Indian Line started off as an Indian trail along the shore of the Humber river. When the land survey was made it was part of the border between Peel County and York County. When Highway 427 was extended north it became part of an off and on ramp to the highway. In 1992 when the highway was further extended it was closed off and abandoned.
It is believed that there are at least 150 pair of coyotes living in the parks and ravines of the GTA. Each of these breeding pair will have a litter of about 5 pups each spring. This will raise the population from around 300 to closer to 1000. Many of the young coyotes will not survive but the remainder do very well living in the city. We saw a coyote come out onto Indian Line and walk in front of us for a short distance before returning to the woods.
The Humber River has frozen over multiple times this winter but we’ve never had a long enough deep freeze to allow the ice to be safe for crossing. Ice needs to be at least four inches thick in order to safely support a person on foot. Since the ice thickness is rarely the same across an entire body of water, especially one which is flowing beneath, it needs to be more than that to tempt us to cross. Sometimes in the spring we see the ice flows pushed up on the shore and realize the ice was much thicker than we thought. Still, it’s better to be safe than on the evening news. There are still open places on the river as can be seen in the picture below.
We made our way back into Claireville Conservation Area where we had found free parking earlier. The conservation area includes 848 acres and the historic Wiley Bridge.
Silver Maples are one of the first trees to bud in the spring. Their tiny red flowers are often hidden by the scales on the buds. They react to the increased hours of daylight towards the end of February and early into March rather than to the increase of temperature which will follow a few weeks later.
Claireville and the surrounding area has plenty to explore, you can read more in our Claireville post.
Google Maps Link: Claireville
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I grow Up in that town. It was a beautiful town, and certainly doesn’t look like the pictures in this article.
As did I grow up there. Back in the days of Aunt Gertie’s general store and lush lawns and giant trees. It is vaguely recognizable from the pictures. I know all these houses that remain and I remember those who lived in them. Claireville is an imaginary homeland now only available in our memories.
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