Author Archives: hikingthegta

St. Lawrence Market

Sunday, January 29, 2023

St. Lawrence Market is the oldest continually operating market in the city of Toronto. It was founded 220 years ago in 1803 by order of the Lieutenant Governor, Peter Hunter. It was originally housed in a wooden building which is depicted in the historical sketch below. Notice how all of the surrounding land was still undeveloped as the town of York (later Toronto) was only 10 years old at this time and had a population of less than 1000 people. It was originally known as Market Square and was open on Saturdays for the sale of cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, produce and other merchandise. A by-law prevented the sale of many of these items anywhere in the city on Saturday between 6am and 4 pm except at the market.

The original building was demolished and replaced in 1831 with a square brick building with an open courtyard in the middle. The market was the primary place for the community to purchase food, including live animals that would be raised in the backyards of the residents homes. It was common for people to have chickens, sheep and pigs in their yards which would be slaughtered to provide meat to feed the family.

The market was developed as two buildings on either side of Front Street. St. Lawrence Market north was replaced several times. A 1968 single story building was demolished in 2015 to make way for a new five story north market. This building is nearing completion and expected to open soon. A future visit may focus on the new north market. The building on the south side of Front Street was rebuilt in 1845 to house Toronto City Hall. It was destroyed in a fire that demolished much of the downtown market core in 1849 and so it was replaced in 1850. This building served as City Hall until 1899 when council moved into the facility on Queen Street which is now known as Old City Hall. The archive picture below shows the 1850 building.

In 1904 both the north and south buildings were replaced. Part of the old city hall was retained and incorporated into the new building. It now forms the main entrance off of Front Street.

The market wasn’t terribly crowded on the Saturday afternoon when we visited and it’s laid out to provide plenty of room to be able to shop in comfort. Local farmers goods are presented in booths that sit next to ones that sell items imported from all around the world.

Several stalls are selling meat including standard cuts of beef, pork and chicken. There’s also some more exotic meats for those who are more adventurous. Buffalo, emu, and kangaroo are all available.

There are plenty of booths selling seafood and you can get almost anything that you can think of here. The market is clean and the food all appears to be fresh and is well presented to make it look very appetizing.

Plenty of fruits and vegetables are available including some of the tastiest strawberries that can be found in the city. National Geographic named St. Lawrence Market as among the world’s top ten best food markets in their September 23, 2011 issue.

A wide range of prepared food can be purchased at St. Lawrence Market. There’s restaurants selling ethnic food from many of the cultures that are represented in Toronto. There’s also plenty of booths selling pastries, sweets and various treats. There’s clothing, jewelry and souvenirs of Toronto and Canada for sale as well.

The market is open from Tuesday to Saturday and entry is free of charge. An antique market used to operate out of St. Lawrence Market but it has recently moved to The Small Arms Building on the former Arsenal Lands site in Mississauga. Watch for a future blog about the antique market.

Related stories: Kensington Market, Small Arms Testing Site, The Arsenal Lands, Long Branch Rifle Range

Google Maps Link: St. Lawrence Market

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LaSalle Park

Sunday, January 22, 2023

LaSalle Park is a 57 acre park on the north shore of Burlington Bay. It is owned by the City of Hamilton but has been developed and operated by the City of Burlington since the 1970s. It is located near where Sieur De La Salle, a French explorer, is thought to have landed in 1669. This would make him the first white person set foot on the shores of the bay. A lot has changed in the years since then. Dundurn Castle was built on the escarpment above the bay and the history of that property dates back to the War of 1812. The picture below shows the Burlington Skyway Bridge and the older lift bridge behind it. We previously covered these in our feature on the Burlington Canal.

Hamilton has long been the site of heavy industry including the manufacturing of steel. Stelco was founded in 1910 through the amalgamation of several smaller companies. These industries, and others, caused the Hamilton Harbour to become quite polluted. The situation was such that by the 1980s it had become an international concern. The International Joint commission identified Hamilton Harbour as one of 43 areas in the Great Lakes that required government and community action to resolve pollution problems. The Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan was put into play to help create new habitat for fish and wildlife. Since then, there have been many projects implemented to help restore spawning grounds and other places that encourage the return of wildlife to the area.

The Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan was developed with a list of 14 areas of use for the harbour that were impaired by the contaminants in the water. These include the loss of fish and wildlife habitat and the findings of tumours and reproductive problems with them. A specific action plan was developed for each of these areas and water quality was measured to determine the effectiveness and progress in each area. The waters off of the park are filled with a wide variety of ducks, geese and swans who choose to spend the winter in its sheltered waters.

Among the species of ducks that were observed during our visit were Mallards, Goldeneyes, American Black Ducks and Buffleheads, like the one seen below.

Pure white ducks are not native to Ontario and are usually farm escapees. This call duck stood out from the crowd because it was the only one in the park.

Trumpeter Swans were nearly extinct in Ontario but through the actions of the Trumpeter Swan Restoration Group Coalition the population has grown to over 1000. Many of these overwinter at LaSalle Park. The park provides ideal shelter from the cold northerly winds and has enough beach for them to rest on. It also has plenty of aquatic plants for them to feed on and the water is shallow enough for them to tip and feed. Swans don’t dive, so they need a certain depth of water to be able to reach their food. The swans are tagged with yellow tags on their wings for identification and tracking purposes.

The Waterfront Trail runs through the park but there’s several other trails to be explored as well. There’s also a short trail that runs east from the marina, along the edge of the lake.

This is the only place that I have ever encountered roots that have been painted orange. This seems like a very strange idea in a park that is associated with lake and wetland restoration. The paint must not be very good for the environment and will eventually find its way into the lake.

The LaSalle Park Pavilion was built in 1917 as a combination dance hall and picnic pavilion. It has an open veranda between two arcaded pavilions that have pilasters and is characteristic of the art deco period of architecture. The pavilion suffered damage in a fire in 1997 but was rebuilt to its original splendor.

LaSalle Park is a great place for bird watching, especially in the summer, with local clubs coming out to see how many species they can count.

Related stories: Dundurn Castle, Burlington Canal

Google Maps Link: LaSalle Park

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Bata Shoe Museum

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Everybody wears shoes but not too many people think much about them. The Bata Shoe Museum on Bloor Street West in Toronto presents 4,500 years worth of shoe history that can take you a step in a new direction. They have about 15,000 items in their collection and have a rotating display of about 1,000 shoes. The museum is based originally on the personal collection of Sonja Bata who spent her life in the shoe industry. She amassed a large collection that went on display in a dedicated building in 1979. The footwear is displayed in a four story building that has a permanent collection of historical footwear on the bottom floor while displays on the other three floors constantly change to provide a different experience every time you visit.

The oldest known shoe was found on a 5300 year old corpse known as the Otzi Man, or Ice Man. He was still wearing one of his shoes when the mummy was found in 1991 and the museum has an exact replica.

In ancient China, among the Han peoples, it was considered that the ideal size for women’s feet was 3 inches. To achieve this the feet were bound to limit their growth.

In the 13th century, socks were often made by combining human hair with vegetable fibre. This sock was made by the ancient Puebloan culture.

Brides in India were often given footwear that was crafted in silver. These shoes were known as mules and have filigree work that incorporates vines and leaves in a motif known as chinar. They were made in the 19th century.

These paduka were unusually high and elegant and were likely worn for an important aristocratic function. The silver plating, gold toe-knobs and extreme height identify these women’s shoes as upper class and would have been worn in India in the 18th century.

These dancing shoes were made in India around 1840 and are known as mojari. The jade beads and brass bells would have created a beautiful tinkling sound as the wearer performed their dance.

Many cultures have a story similar to Cinderella and there are said to be thousands of variants around the world. The earliest version of the tale appears to have been told around the time of Christ. The shoe museum has a few pair of glass slippers that have been made over the centuries to commemorate the heroine.

Some shoes had very specific uses like this pair. These clogs from France with the spikes on the bottom were used to crack the shells of Chestnuts.

Skating became popular in Amsterdam during the Middle Ages as a means of navigating the frozen canals. Some of the earliest skates were made from the long shinbones of deer. The old Dutch word for skate is “schenkel” which means “leg bone”.

North American indigenous peoples had created a range of footwear to suit the various environments in which they lived. The museum represents their footwear with several pieces including this colourful recreation of boots with Metis artwork on them.

Space boots were made of layered, Teflon-coated materials to protect the wearer from UV rays and temperature fluctuations. This boot was made in 1970 for Jim Lovel as a spare for his Apollo space mission.

Mushroom leather is a modern invention that is created using the middle layer of the tinder sponge. This polypore mushroom grows on dead or weak birch and beech trees and can be used to make a material that is suitable for shoemaking. This allows the creation of shoes that look like leather but don’t contain any animal by-products.

Adult admission to the museum is only $14.00 and it makes a very interesting and educational place to spend an afternoon.

Google Maps Link: Bata Shoe Museum

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Castle Killbride

January 8, 2023

Castle Killbride in Baden was built in 1877 for James Livingston. James was born in 1838 in East Killbride, Scotland. After moving to Canada in 1856 with his brother John they took jobs in the flax industry. Eight years later they opened the J & J Livingston Linseed Oil Company and went into business for themselves. By 1867 they had moved the operation to Baden, where his wife Louise had been born, and opened the Baden Linseed Oil Mill.

The ceilings and walls throughout the home are painted with a wide variety of intricate designs. One of the objectives was to showcase the various colours of paint that could be produced using the linseed oil that the family fortune was based on. In the library/home office the ceiling is painted using 38 different colours. The interior of the home was painted in 1878-1879 by Henry Scharstein. Throughout the home many of the paintings on the walls are done in a style known as “Trompe l’oeil” or “fool the eye”. The paintings of tassels along the walls in this room are a good example. They are flat but appear to stand off of the wall because of the shadows which are painted behind them. The shadows are designed to appear to emanate from the central light with the tassle in the middle having no shadow.

Another example of the “three dimensional” paintings in the castle can be found in this image of a vase. The shadows are added to make it look like a vase standing on a small shelf but both of them are part of a flat painting.

The house is decorated for Christmas with different trees set up in several rooms as well as Christmas Dinner staged in the main dining room. This Christmas tree has a small ornament on it that looks like a glass pickle. Legend suggests that the first child to find the glass pickle, which would be hidden on the tree, would get an extra present.

One of the unique features of the home is the window shutters which are on the inside instead being on the exterior of the home. This allowed to windows to be closed more easily to control the lighting and temperature. Three generations of the Livingston family lived in the home until 1988 when it was vacated.

The attic space in the house was generally used for storage. Old furniture and household items that had gone out of fashion were stored up here. In 1988 when the house was sold, eleven truckloads of furniture were removed from the attic and taken to auction to be sold over a four day period. At this time, the attic is home to the seasonal display of a miniature village based mainly on the works of Charles Dickens. The village is put together by Dave Herner and takes over 30 hours to set up. There are 130 major pieces such as homes and churches as well as over 250 minor pieces like people and trees.

When you reach the top of the stairs into the Belvedere you get a nice 360 degree view of the property. In the early years the fields to the north contained the flax that was being grown for processing in the mills that were visible to the south of the home. The front walkway is shaped like a heart. This is a tribute to Livingston’s wife Louise with whom he would have twelve children.

The basement of the house has been converted into a toy museum. Toys are on display from various eras over the past 100 years. It’s possible to find something that you had as a child on display here.

In 1988 the three hundred acre property was sold to a development company who built homes on the former flax fields. The house, however, was left to rot and by 1993 was in a state of disrepair. The building was bought by Wilmot Township and a new wing was added at the back to be used as municipal offices. The home was restored by removing the paint on the outside to expose the original brick as well as replacing many of the wooden features on the exterior. Inside, the walls were stripped of several layers of wallpaper to reveal the earliest paint schemes. The wall and ceiling paintings were carefully cleaned to remove layers of soot that had built up from the four fireplaces. By 1995 the restoration had been completed and much of the original furnishings were either donated or bought back. The house has been opened as a museum and given a designation as a National Historical Monument.

The original privy was located where the new council chambers were built and so it was preserved and moved to the side of the house. Each side of the privy had two seats, one for an adult and one for a child. Unlike most outhouses it wasn’t built over a deep hole but had metal bins underneath which were emptied daily by the butlers or maids. Most outdoor washrooms were built of wood and could be moved when the pits were filled but the brick structure didn’t allow for this.

Most of the linseed oil mills still stand close to the mill pond which originally provided power to the operation. Flax seed was pressed to extract the oil which was then used as a pigment binder in the manufacture of paints or in soap. The building for a similar operation at the Canada Linseed Oil plant in Toronto is in the process of being repurposed to become a community hub in a new park.

One of the other prominent buildings in town is the Livingston Presbyterian Church. It was built in 1894 with funds donated by James Livingston while the stained glass windows were funded by other members of the Livingston family.

Castle Killbride has a small entrance fee and is well worth the visit if you are in the area. Other grand homes that we’ve visited that are known as castles include Casa Loma and Dundurn Castle.

Related stories: Canada Linseed Oil Mills,

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Heart Lake – Treetop Trekking

January 1, 2023

Heart Lake Conservation Park is the largest green space in Brampton. We previously looked at the formation of Heart Lake and the park in our story Brampton’s Kettle Lakes so we won’t cover much of that in this post. Heart Lake Conservation Park opened in 1957 and has been a popular spot for fishing and family outings ever since. We revisited it to check out some of the trails. There are six main trails in the park which are made up of the Esker Trail (3.1 km), Lake Trail (3.7 km), Rayner Trail (0.3 km), Terry Fox Trail (1.0 km) and the Wetland Trail (2.5 km) and there’s also a mountain bike trail. The Esker Trail is part of a longer trail that passes north through Brampton. We started by exploring the Wetland Trail which is featured in the picture below.

We then took the stairs down to the boathouse where we could connect to the Lake Trail.

Although we haven’t had any real extended periods of freezing weather, the lake is fully iced over.

It is interesting to see the foot prints and bicycle tracks passing along the ice just behind the “Danger – Ice Unsafe” sign. Over the years Hiking the GTA has tended to stay off of the ice on rivers and lakes based on the theory that we should do nothing while out hiking that would prevent us from going again next week.

The Lake Trail follows the lake and features this stone retaining wall in the area of the boathouse.

Alder trees have both male and female catkins, often on the same branches. They are pollinated by the wind which blows the pollen from the longer male catkins onto the cone shaped female ones. Although the female catkins resemble pine cones the tree is deciduous and loses its leaves every year. Several Alders are growing along the Lake Trail.

In 2001 the idea of Treetop Trekking was brought to Quebec from Europe and the first adventure park was opened the following year. Trekking came to Ontario in 2006 when a park was opened near Barrie. Port Hope and Huntsville got adventure parks in 2012.

Treetop Trekking came to Heart Lake in 2013 and has skill two levels for participants who meet the height requirements. The trek can also be combined with a zipline experience where you will “fly” across the lake. Bookings need to be made in advance and are for groups of four. Smaller parties will be grouped together so that everyone can participate.

Tree Top Trekking at Heart Lake looks like an activity that I will be trying this year and I have three fellow adventurers lined up to join me. It opens in April and there’s a good chance that a future blog could be shot from the tops of these trees.

Related stories: Brampton’s Kettle Lakes, Esker Trail

Google Maps Link: Heart Lake

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Toronto Skating Club

December, 18, 2022

The Skating Club of Toronto was founded in 1895 and incorporated in the winter of 1913-1914. In the early years, they had exclusive rights to use the Victoria Arena on Huron Street on Monday evenings and Friday afternoons. In 1921 they built their own skating rink at 568 Dupont Street. The archive photo below from 11/05/1921 shows the building as it neared completion.

The club originally allowed only 300 active members and 200 associate members. The 27th annual report was issued on April 12th, 1921 and showed membership at 515 members. The New Rink and Club House project had been fully funded and over $20,000 more had been raised than what was estimated to be needed to construct the new building. At that time the plans for the arena were at the architectural firm of Langley and Howland.

Beginning in 1912 the Toronto Skating Club held an annual winter carnival which was always a great success and had assisted in raising the funds for the new skating rink. It was estimated that the 1921 carnival had been responsible for an additional $50,000 worth of subscriptions for the funding of the project.

In 1956 the Toronto Skating Club amalgamated with the Toronto Cricket Club and the following year the Toronto Curling Club was included in the merger. The cricket club had begun around 1832 while the curling club started up in 1836. The new organization was known as the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club.

In 1957 the rink was converted into a members only Tennis Club which is known as The Queens Club. The facility originally operated a single court on the old ice surface. Adjacent properties were acquired and a second court was added in 1967 as a Centennial project.

This unmarked property used to have an historic plaque on the front corner but it was stolen a couple of years ago. The century-old building does not have any historical designation and the surrounding properties have come under redevelopment proposals in recent years. It stands just two buildings east of the original Model T Factory in the city.

Related stories: Model T Factory

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Altona – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Altona was founded in the early 1800s by Mennonites of Swiss-German descent who had emigrated from Pennsylvania. They named their community after Altona in Germany, a town which is now part of Hamburg, Germany. It remained a small farming community until 1850 when Abraham Reesor built the first saw and grist mills in the area. Abraham was the son of Peter Reesor who was one of the early pioneers in the GTA. A school was built in 1834 and the community seemed to peak around 1856 at about 256 people. By 1869 the census showed only 200 residents and by 1910 it was down to only 100 people. This was often the fate of hamlets that were bypassed by the railways. The image below shows the Reesor mill as pictured in the 1877 County Atlas.

A couple of churches, the school and a hotel complimented the general store and provided for the spiritual and physical needs of the residents. A Mennonite Meeting House was built in 1852 and is one of the few buildings left in the community.

Through the window the simple pews can be seen as well as the pulpit. There is no ornamentation in the church and no stained glass in the windows. The Mennonites met here until September 15, 1974, after which regular services ceased.

The oldest grave marker in the cemetery is dated to 1835 and precedes the building of the meeting house. The early members of the community are interred here, including the Reesors, Nightwanders, Widemans, Hoovers and Stouffers.

When the Federal government decided to build a second international airport for the GTA, a large area of flat land in Pickering was chosen. Altona was seen to be just below an approach to one of the runways and flights were envisioned coming in over the town at about 300 feet above. The town was essentially expropriated, and all the property owners were bought out. This small Georgian Style Cottage has survived and is distinguished by its elaborate two-tone brick work.

We gave more details about the proposed airport in our previous post on Brougham and so we won’t go through all of that again here. Several of the homes in Altona are still occupied but if the airport ever gets off the ground they may well be demolished.

The story and a half home with a front gable and gothic pointed arch front window was perhaps the most common style of architecture in Ontario in the years leading up to Confederation. There are a couple of them still remaining in Altona, but for how long?

The house of William Rhoddick has been demolished but the barn and silo remain. It has been 50 years since the land was expropriated and current assessments suggest that there will never be an actual need for this airport to be built. It’s sad that the legacy of the people who cleared the land and worked so hard to make a living has been lost and soon may be completely forgotten. I wonder how they would feel if they could see what has happened to the fruit of their labours.

With so many of the buildings in the hamlet in a continuous state of disrepair there is an ongoing threat due to nature. The powers of wind, rain and snow are slowly demolishing several of the buildings that haven’t already been intentionally destroyed.

The community has become one of empty laneways that lead to former houses that were either torn down or fell victim to arson and vandalism. The Barkey House was built by one of the early pioneers who was also a Mennonite preacher who served at the meeting house. The home was eventually sold to the Mitchell family who owned it until it was expropriated in 1972. The house made the news in 2012 when it was discovered that someone had built a confinement room in the basement with the intention of kidnapping a woman and keeping her there. The home burned down a couple of weeks after the discovery in a fire which was deemed as suspicious.

Just up the road from Altona is a small family cemetery on the former Forsyth property which is the final resting place for many of the early members of that family. The Forsyth Family Cemetery has a small area at the rear where several of the earliest markers have been gathered together and laid in a horizontal cement cairn to preserve them.

The fate of the remaining buildings in Altona is very much “up in the air” as it depends on the eventual outcome of the Pickering Airport.

Related stories: The Reesors – Pioneers of the GTA, Brougham – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Google Maps Link: Altona

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The Lynde House

Sunday, November 27, 2022

The Lynde House is recognized as Whitby’s oldest building and was built around 1812. Jabez and Clarissa Lynde were some of the earliest Europeans in the area. Jabez operated a hotel and tavern on their lot between 1811 and 1819. The Lynde Family opened their home to militia during the War of 1812 so that soldiers could get supplies on their way to the battlegrounds in Niagara. General Isaac Brock was a noted guest of the house during this time. The archive picture below shows the house in its original location on Dundas Street West in Whitby at the northwest corner of McQuay Boulevard. This picture was taken around 1938 and includes the gas station that used to be beside the house. The building is a rare surviving example of the Georgian Architectural style.

The house remained in the family until 1893 when it was owned by Elmina Lynde. She was the youngest daughter of Jabez, and she bequeathed it to All Saints Anglican Church in Whitby. The church sold the property and the house changed hands several times over the next 40 years. A holding company owned by Loblaws bought the house and property in 1939. The elaborate front entrance way is enhanced by the second story window above.

They subdivided the house and created three apartments inside. They removed the grand central staircase and replaced it with a different to access the upstairs apartment. They also covered the original wood siding with stucco.

In 1968 a fire broke out in the rear apartment in the area that was formerly the kitchen. The Whitby Historical Society had been formed in 1967 and they took an interest in saving the home because of its historical and architectural significance. Loblaws agreed to donate the house to the historical society in 1972 on the condition that it be moved within one year. They were unable to come up with the funds to move the house and instead operated it as a museum until 1986. This came to an end when a fire broke out on the second floor and damaged much of the roof. Loblaws then sold the property to a developer.

The Town of Whitby donated the house to Cullen Gardens and Miniature Village, and it was moved there in August 1986. The image below is from the Whitby historical Society and shows the house on its way to Cullen Gardens. I find it interesting that there appears to be two people sitting on the roof while it is in transit. It looks kind of dangerous and I wonder what they hoped to do to assist with the move. Perhaps it was to ensure that overhead wires were lifted out of the way so that they wouldn’t get caught as the building passed underneath.

Quadrangle Architects oversaw the restoration of the house to its 1856 status. This included removing the stucco, repairing the clapboard siding and installing a replica staircase to the second floor. The home was furnished with period appropriate furniture that was bought at auction. Lynde house once again opened as a museum in 1988 as part of Cullen Gardens. When Cullen Gardens closed in 2005 the house was sold back to the Town of Whitby. Town council approved moving the house to the corner of Brock Street and Burns Street where it is now operated as a museum by the Whitby Historical Society.

The archive picture below shows the Lynde House as it appeared in 1905. The family is remembered in the name given to Lynde Creek as well as Lynde Shores Conservation Area. Lyndebrook Golf Course also pays homage to the family name.

At this time the museum is open for tours by appointment only and I just happened to be in the area on work business and hadn’t made arrangements to go inside. Perhaps another time.

Google Maps Link: Lynde House

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Edgeley – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, November 20, 2022

The community of Edgely was centered around the modern intersection of Jane Street and Highway 7. The first Europeans to settle in the area arrived around 1800 from Somerset, Pennsylvania. The northeast corner of the intersection had a hotel while the southeast corner had the general store which also had the post office from 1872 to 1960. A steam driven shingle mill was located on the northwest corner. A cider mill was located just south of the general store which produced cider, apple jelly and apple butter until it closed around 1900. Along with a community hall, there was also a blacksmith, dressmaker, a shoe maker, a wagon shop, a casket maker and two slaughterhouses.

In 1823 an acre of land was deeded to the Mennonite congregation in the Edgeley area for use as a cemetery and Meeting House. Jacob Smith Sr. (originally Schmitt) granted the land which currently is the most tangible evidence of the former community. After the Meeting House was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village in 1976 the cemetery wasn’t maintained and by 1985 many of the earliest stones were in disrepair. The city of Vaughan gathered them together into a cairn to protect them from further deterioration.

The Meeting House was built in 1824 and clad with horizontal board siding. It was used for 99 years before being closed in 1923. It was operational again for a brief period between 1963 and 1976 after which it was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village. It is the oldest surviving log Meeting House in Ontario and was built out of first growth white pine that was cut in the area of Edgely. Services were only held in the church every fourth Sunday because the pastor was shared with other Meeting Houses in the area.

The benches and wood stove inside the meetinghouse are original to the building. As per Mennonite custom, none of the wood was painted. The work was done by hand and even the nails that were used were forged by the local blacksmith. The total cost of the building, not including the stove was $221.

The drive shed was built around 1860 and used to store carriages while the Mennonites were attending services at the meeting house.

An archive photo from about 1900 shows the Meeting House, also known as Schmitt Meeting House, along with the original drive shed. This shed was replaced in 1916.

Edgley had two buildings that were used by the local farmers to butcher their livestock. It is a timber frame structure that is clad with board and batten siding. When it was built in 1860 there was no easy way to store large quantities of meat and so the local farmers would work together. One animal would be butchered, and the meat shared. When it came time to prepare another animal it would be provided by a different farmer. Once refrigeration became available this practice was no longer needed and in 1970 the building was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village and opened as a rabbit hutch.

Most homes and farms had at least one apple tree and some had a full orchard. The fruit was harvested in the fall and stored for the winter to provide food for the family. Edgely had at least one of these storage cellars and it has been preserved by moving it to Black Creek Pioneer Village. The cellar was dismantled and moved to the village over a 65-day period. Two sets of wooden doors were used to help insulate the interior so that the fruit would be better preserved.

Inside, the storage cellar is just eight feet long and seven feet wide. The fruit or root vegetables were placed in the wooden bins and covered with layers of straw for better insulation and to increase the storage life. The small vent at the back of the building could be opened or closed in order to regulate the temperature inside.

A single house remains from the community, and it is located just south of the cemetery on Jane Street. This style of architecture is known as Edwardian and was built sometime between 1901 and 1910. It is also sometimes referred to as “four-square” because of the four windows on the front of the house.

The former community of Edgely has been almost completely erased from the landscape and is being replaced by high-rise condos. Fortunately, the cemetery is still there to mark the hamlet and a few buildings are being preserved at Black Creek Pioneer Village.

Related Stories: Ghost Towns of York Region, Black Creek Pioneer Village, Elizabeth Stong, Pioneer Cemetery Cairns

Google Maps Link: Edgeley

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Toronto’s Model T Factory

Sunday, November 13, 2022

The Model T was the first mass produced automobile, and it changed the way people lived and travelled. A steam powered vehicle had been created as early as 1672 but the first gas powered vehicle wasn’t tested until 1870 when a small motor was placed on a cart. Carl Benz created the first gas powered automobile in 1885 and produced several copies. Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Company in 1903 and assembled a few cars per day with a team of two or three men building a complete car. He soon perfected the concept of the assembly line where each man did a few small tasks as the line carried the automobile past their workstation. He sold a few hundred copies per year of several models during the first couple of years. In 1908 he invented the Model T which would go on to sell 15 million copies over the next twenty years. It was the first automobile to be mass produced on an assembly line and the best selling car of all time until it was surpassed in 1972 by the Volkswagon Beetle.

Soon his factory wasn’t able to get the manpower needed to keep up with demands and so sales to the international markets began to be assembled in other countries. Canada got four of the new Ford assembly plants. One each in Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Toronto. The assembly plant in Toronto was built at the corner of Dupont Street and Christie Street.

The five-story building was purpose-built with heavily re-enforced floors to support the weight of the automobiles that were being assembled inside. The ground floor was the showroom while the second one was for shipping and receiving. The third and fourth floor were used for assembly while the fifth one had the paint shop on it. At this time, Ford cars were only available in black. The roof had a small track that was used for testing the cars.

Loading docks were located on the second floor facing the CPR railway tracks. Parts were brought in by train and finished automobiles were then shipped back out on railway cars to be sent to various markets around the country and the British Empire. This facility also built the right-hand drive cars for India, Australia and New Zealand, among other British colonies. The close up in the image below shows the heavy concrete transfer pads (just below the graffiti) that formed the floor and were designed to carry the weight of the incoming and outgoing shipments.

Parts for the Model T were shipped to the facility as kits from contracted suppliers who were required to package the components in very specific sizes of crates. This was because the crating material was designed to be used in the construction of the floors of the automobiles. In 1924 the building was sold, and production was moved to a new facility on Danforth Avenue. This was done because the introduction of a new Model A Ford required more room for manufacturing. Several food companies occupied the building until 1948 when it was bought by Planters for packaging peanuts. Planters Peanuts stayed until 1987.

The archive photo below shows the assembly workers putting together a row of Model T automobiles.

The first-floor showroom was designed to dazzle prospective buyers and entice them to purchase one of the automobiles. The car sold for $360 in 1927 when the factory closed, which is equivalent to $5,616 in today’s currency.

A Model T can be seen in the window on the second story of the building.

Faema Caffe now occupies much of the lower floor of the building and has a Model T on display as well as a sign board showing a brief history of the car and building. This one was a convertible while the one upstairs is a hard top.

The front view of the car shows its simplicity compared to the modern cars that can be seen outside in the parking lot. However, it also lacked a lot of the features and comforts of the modern automobiles, as well as the hefty price tag.

Toronto once had several automobile manufacturing plants but this at least has not been demolished. Not yet anyway.

Google Maps Link: Model T Factory

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