Sunday, March 14, 2021
The community of Fairbank was established in 1835 at the intersection of Dufferin Street (brown), Eglinton Avenue (purple) where Vaughan Road (black) intersected from the southwest. Today, the ghost of this little farming community has almost faded with only two buildings remaining from before 1900. There is some parking on Hopewell Avenue across from Walter Saunders Memorial Park. From here you can access the York Beltline Trail and the other places in this story are just a short walk north and then south on Dufferin Street. The map below was taken from the 1877 County Atlas and marks the location of the two remaining buildings with circles.
Jacob P. Ross owned the property outlined in blue on the map above. The house was built in 1855 and is the last surviving original house in the former community of Fairbank. The pediments on the west side mark it as neoclassical in style. It is a one and a half story farm house clad in brick, stone and wood. There have been several additions to the house over the years but the original home can be identified by the four quarter-round brackets set in the corners. Standing in a modern subdivision the house appears to be facing the wrong way compared with its neighbours, although it directly faces Dufferin Street
One of the interesting features of this house is the doorcase. Very often in early architecture in Ontario the face of the house was very plain with just the doorcase being more intricately detailed. In this home it is recessed from the front wall leaving no sidelight windows. There’s a plain set of windows in the transom and the date in the lintel above the door.
The Fairbank Village BIA uses the following picture in their promotions of the local business district as they recall the town history. The left side of the picture shows three streets from top to bottom. These are Dufferin Street, Vaughan Road and Eglinton Avenue. On the southeast corner of Eglinton and Dufferin is what appears to be a small Tollkeeper’s Cottage. Dufferin Street was formerly known as the Gore and Vaughan Plank Road and would have had toll gates at major intersections.
Matthew Parsons was just 19 when he arrived and bought York West Concession 3 Lot 3 which he developed into his family farm. He named his property Fairbank Farms (outlined in green above) and from this the community took its name. Then in 1837 he was arrested as a rebel and accused of supporting William Lyon MacKenzie in his rebellion. Parsons was never charged and his good name was restored when he donated land in 1844 to the Methodist Congregation who had been meeting in the local school. They built a frame structure which was replaced in 1889 with the brick building that has continued to serve the United Church since the name change in 1925.
Fairbank Presbyterian Church began in 1889 on Fairbank Avenue but moved to a new larger building at the corner of Eglinton and Dufferin in 1914. The building bears a two date date-stone marking both of these milestones. In 1925 it joined the United Church and in 1931 took the name St. Cuthbert’s United Church to distinguish itself from he Fairbank United Church a little north on Dufferin Street. It closed in 2001 and the building has been occupied ever since by the British Methodist Episcopal Christ Church. This denomination started in Toronto in 1845 as a church founded by freed slaves. There are only 9 churches of this denomination in Ontario and only one other in Toronto. When they lost their building to fire in 2001 they were able to move into the old Fairbank Presbyterian Church which was recently vacated.
Fairbank got a post office in 1874 and quickly developed into a crossroads community with Francis McFarlane running one of the hotels and serving as postmaster. In July of 1890 Fairbank Village Parish was set up to provide Anglican services for the community, meeting in the ballroom of McFarlane’s Hotel. In 1893 they opened their own church on Vaughan Road at the intersection with Dufferin Street. St Hilda’s church is pictured below in a 1934 photo from the Toronto Public Library.
In the early 1970’s the congregation decided to build affordable housing for seniors and three towers and a new church building were constructed.
By the late 1880’s the city was booming and land speculation along the edges of Toronto began. One creative scheme involved building a commuter line to join the suburbs with the downtown core. Known as the Belt Line Railway the developers proposed to build houses in the areas of Forest Hill and Fairbank. The line began operations in 1892 with a fare of 5 cents between each of it’s stops. However, the timing was bad as a recession meant that the houses weren’t built and the passengers never showed up. Service only lasted for 28 months before it was closed. Some sections continued to be used for industrial purposes but eventually all the tracks were removed. Today, the old Belt Line has been converted into a ribbon park with a multiuse trail. We’ve reviewed the Beltline in three sections previously telling its history and showing the areas where it ran. From the Fairbank end moving east then south the stories are: York Beltline Trail, Kay Gardiner Beltline Trail and Moore Park Beltline Trail.
The steel bridge over Dufferin Street is the third structure that survives in Fairbank from the 19th century. Only two original bridges survive from the Beltline with the other one being at Yonge Street where the old railway goes by the name of The Kay Gardner Beltline Trail. The trail passes through Fairbank on a raised berm and provides a trail that connects the west end of Fairbank with the Don Valley Brick Works and then on to the Lower Don Trail.
Fairbank was filled in with development between the two world wars erasing much of its original character. The fact that it was developed in the inter war period is perhaps apropos considering that it’s known for Prospect Cemetery where many military veterans are buried.
Google Maps Link: Fairbank
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