Author Archives: hikingthegta

The Cober Dunkard Church

Friday, August 7, 2020

Jacob Engle was one of the founders of the Dunkard sect of Mennonites in Pennsylvania and in 1808 was organizing settlers in York County.  Meetings were held in homes for the first 80 years even though a large Meeting House was built at Heise Hill in 1877.  Gormley was about 10 miles away and people in the area west of Yonge Street continued to meet in homes for the next 11 years.  Sixteen families hosted the church including that of Peter Cober (green on the map below) and several different Baker, Boyer, Doner and Heise homes.  Mennonties and other Anabaptist denominations were known for their belief that anyone baptized as a child needed to be re-baptized as an adult.  The Dunkards were named because of their belief in “dunking” people through immersion.

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In 1839 Peter Cober donated a small parcel of land on his property at Lot 12, Concession 2 in Vaughan Township for a cemetery.  Today it is known as the Baker-Cober Cemetery because the land was donated by the brothers-in-law Peter Cober and Michael Baker. Although it contains the remains of some of the first settlers in the area the cemetery is still active with the most recent burial being in 2010.  One of the truly unusual aspects of this cemetery is the pioneer styling of some of the recent burials.  They seek to keep the simplicity of the earliest buries including the tradition of reporting how long a person lived.  Today we tend to record birth and death dates.

In 1888 the congregation decided that it was time to build a permanent place of worship.  By this time the property had passed into the hands of George Cober.  He donated land south of the cemetery for the construction of a church.  Nicholas Cober constructed the building of white pine with no adornment.

The floor remains the way it was built without even the adornment of a coat of paint.  The benches and the stove provided a minimum of comfort and in the winter the congregants would sometimes sit closer to the stove.  On October 21, 1888 the first service was held in the new church but records from George Cober indicate that house meetings continued into 1896.

Peter Cober attained the position of Bishop in the church and conducted services in homes for many years.  It was Bishop Cober who introduced services in English in 1860.  Even as the German services were being replaced, the custom continued until 1916 of closing the service with a hymn sung in German.

The pioneers had to travel across roads that were often muddy or snow packed by horse and carriage.  A drive shed was added to give a place to shelter the animals during the service.  The Cober Dunkard church shed is the only surviving church shed in Vaughan Township.

They don’t park horse and buggy here as much anymore and so the space is in use for washrooms which are not provided in the little structure.  The cubicle that can be seen at this end of the shed is the ladies washroom while the outhouse for the men is at the other end.

George Cober was likely born at home on this piece of property in 1826, as was the custom at that time.  He continued to farm the property when his father passed on and in 1916 he passed on.  His burial service was conducted in the church that he donated the land for and then he was buried in the graveyard that bears his name.  I imagine that George saw relatively little of the world outside his community.

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In 1935 services were switched from every two weeks to just monthly and now the church can be used by appointment only.

Google Maps Link: Cober Dunkard Church

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Maple Nature Reserve

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Maple Nature Reserve is 35 hectares of the Oak Ridges Moraine near Dufferin Street and Teston Road.  Much of the property was used as a Ministry of Natural Resources office complex including and old quonset hut that had been decommissioned and has since been removed.  Access can be had from four locations but I had decided to look at it on my lunch on Friday and so I parked at the lot beside the old ministry building on Dufferin Street.  I went for a brief walk and got my first ever picture of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo which assured that I would return on Saturday to see what other surprises the reserve held.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo are distinctive in their call and are hard to spot because they will stand still and even hunch down to try and hide heir white bellies.  They are helpful to the forest because they are one of the few birds that can eat hairy caterpillars.  They can eat as many as 100 tent caterpillars in a single meal.  You might also find them feasting in an area where there are a lot of cicadas.

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The ministry building is currently vacant with all the services, including City of Vaughan Archives, having moved to city hall.  It is just one of the buildings on the site that is awaiting decision of its future.  The trail down the hill from here leads to a larger parking lot and some washroom facilities.

For Saturday’s adventure I decided to park in the circle that can be found in the first driveway east of Dufferin Street on Teston Road.  This leads to the Arboretum Trail which loops around most of the northern section of the nature reserve.   The trails are wide but climb up and down the moraine and although sections like the Arboretum Side Trail claim to have steep sections they are quite manageable.

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At one point along the trail there is a cluster of Veitch’s Blue Globe Thistles.  These produce a flower head the size of a golf ball  and a few of them were starting to open.  Globe Thistles have lovely flowers considering the less desirable prickly leaves on them and have been imported for use as garden flowers.  This escape is attracting a hover fly that is coming in to look for pollen.

Where the East Don flows through the park there are a couple of old buildings sitting near a small pond.  These have been shuttered most likely awaiting demolition as the area is slowly re-naturalized.

It was a nice day for the Painted Turtle to crawl up on a log in the pond and start basking.  Water is a poor conductor of heat and so turtles will crawl up onto a log and soak up heat from both the log and the sunshine.  This allows them to regulate their body temperature to between 32 and 35 degrees celsius.  Basking also allows a turtle to absorb UVB which is needed for the absorption of calcium and it allows them to dry out causing leeches and parasites to fall off.

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South of the parking lot is the area that once held a quonset hut and parking lot used by the ministry.  Both have been removed and the area has been contoured to allow for pools to form when there is a lot of rain.  Known as Ephemeral Ponds the shallow spots also fill up with water in the spring when the snow melts.  They provide small habitats that are suitable for amphibians that come to eat the insects that abound when the ponds are full.  If you come at the right time you have a chance to see Spotted Salamanders in the ponds at Maple Nature Reserve.  The trails in this section of the park cross the Don River on a new foot bridge and boardwalk.

Scarlet Waxy Cap have a slimy cap with waxy gills and white spores.  They are sometimes referred to as Scarlet Fading Waxy Caps because the colour will fade to yellow as the mushroom ages.  They are considered edible but as always we leave the plants to do their natural cycle in the hopes that others will enjoy seeing them or subsequent generations.

With just over 3 kilometres of trails this is an area that can be completed in a single trip providing you do a couple of sections twice.

On your way to Maple Nature Reserve you may well pass the last church drive shed in Vaughan Township at the Cober Dunkard Church.

Google Maps Link: Maple Nature Reserve

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Goldie Mill Guelph

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Goldie’s Mill ruins in Guelph are part of a legacy that goes back to 1827 when David Gilkison built a sawmill on this site beside the Speed River.  Two doctors built a grist mill named Wellington Mills in 1845 but W. Clark and H. Orton lost their mill to a fire just five years later.  The mill was rebuilt in stone and given a new name, The People’s Mills.  After this new building burned in 1864 the land was bought by James Goldie.  He expanded the mill and completed a new stone building in 1866.  The Wellington Archives post card below shows the mill as it appeared in the early 1890’s.

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The Goldie family continued to operate and expand the mills until 1918 when they sold the operation.  It continued as a mill until the spring of 1929 when a flood washed out the dam.  The building was once again destroyed by fire in 1953 and has been left as a ruin ever since.  The picture below shows part of one wall.  The limestone that was used in the construction was all quarried and dressed on the site.  The masonry around the windows is quite impressive.

 

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Over the years the site added a cooperage to make barrels to ship the ground flour in as Goldie’s Mill became one of the primary producers in the area.  James Goldie was well respected and even served as the President of the Canadian Millers’ Association.  A foundry, tannery, piggery and distillery were all part of Goldie’s operations over the years.

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Industrial uses over the years have left the soils on the site with contamination and the work of the weather and the Speed River have created several sink holes.  For this reason the city decided to fence the site to keep the public out while they did further assessments.  It was found the most of the chemical waste on the mill site was about 0.75 metres below the surface but was somewhat less in some places.  The remediation plan includes adding a membrane where the soil is thin and then new soil and mulch.  This will fix the sink holes and eliminate any human impacts from the chemicals in the soil.  It is expected that the soil and sink hole repairs will cost $450,000.

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The building is also being stabilized and repaired so that it will be safe to use by the public.  The site has become popular for weddings which are expected to resume in the park in 2021 if the work is completed by then and there are no other delays.

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There are ruins on both sides of the Speed River and large sections of foundations are buried along the north and northwest sides of the building.

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The brick chimney sits on a foundation of cut limestone blocks.

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The 90-foot tall chimney is part of the heritage designation and has already been restored.  There is a plan to relocate a pair of Chimney Swifts to take up residence on Goldie Mill chimney.

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The remnants of the mill dam are in the river just upstream from the mill ruins.  The previous dam and mill pond were much larger than those left today.

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Across the street from the mill is the only other piece of architecture on Cardigan Street to survive from the 1850’s.  It was built in 1853 as a tavern and home for Bernard Kelly.  It was the common drinking hole for workers from the mills that operated along the river.  When Kelly died on 1882 James Goldie bought the place and rented it out as accommodations for some of his workers.  In 1911 the old inn was once again up for sale and this time it was purchased by the Stewart family who lived there until 1988.  It was eventually restored in 1996 to the original splendor.

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The picture below shows Kelly’s Tavern as it appeared in 1977, prior to restoration.  Notice that the door on the right has been closed and bricked in and all of the window shutters have been removed.  It has since been renovated and turned into four little apartment units.

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It will certainly be interesting to see how the restorations turn out and what has been done to preserve the building for future generations to enjoy.

The Rockwood Woolen Mill in Rockwood Park are also well worth a read and a visit.

Google Maps Link: Goldie Mill Georgetown

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William T. Foster Woods

Saturday, July 18, 2020

William T. Foster Woods is located on Islington Avenue, just north of Major Mackenzie Drive.  The parking lot is easily overlooked and like the trails, completely underutilized.  This little nature preserve is named after a man who spent 36 years working in forestry, including a stint as Deputy Minister of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.  At the time of William’s passing in 1989 he had been chairman of the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority for the previous 4 years.  William T. Foster Woods is located on the eastern part of the original homestead of Joseph Capner.  When Capner and his wife Charlotte arrived from England in 1830 they settled on lot 21, just outside of Kleinburg.  The 1880 county atlas below has their property outlined in green while Islington Avenue is shaded brown.

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In order to claim the title for their lot early farmers had to clear at least 5 acres of land and fence it. The logs from the trees they removed were used to make the original log home and rail fencing.  The Capners raised 10 children in their first home.  In 1862 they got around to building the present house to replace the log cabin.  The bricks for the home were made on the property as were some used in the Kleinberg train station when it was built in 1870.

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I always think that people who take the time to put a date stone on their homes are showing their pride of workmanship.  Their expectation must be that it’s going to last long enough for people to appreciate the passage of time.  This one is approaching 160 years and looking fine for the age.

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From the parking lot there are several trails that you can follow, the first one being a circle around a large stone that bears a plaque in honour of William T. Foster (1925-1989).  This pathway is getting overgrown but it may just be that the strange times were living in causes a lack of maintenance.

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Many of the trees near the parking lot have been marked with little plaques that have been placed in memory of individuals.   Dog Strangling Vines and other weeds have filled the spaces between the trees and obscured the memorials.

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Wild parsnip has invaded the park and has taken over the fields under the hydro corridor.  This part of the trail needs to be hiked with caution because these yellow plants can cause severe burns if you get the sap on you.  Some people will still collect them because, like other members of the parsnip family, the roots are edible.

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The male black swallowtail has a series of pronounced yellow spots on the upper side of the wings.  They spend much of their lives on members of the carrot family such as parsley and Queen Anne’s Lace.  In their caterpillar stage they are bright green with bands and yellow/orange dots.  These butterflies are great pollinators and this pair was working its way through a patch of teasels looking for nectar.

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The picture below shows the female black swallowtail with her smaller yellow spots on the upper wing.  While the yellow spots may be smaller, the blue band between the yellow rows is much brighter on the female.  The cover photo shows the female under wing with its black dot in a red circle.  The picture also features a bumble bee that was just cruising in to check out the pollen on the teasel.

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Clavoroid Fungi is the name given to a group of ground forming fruit bodies that are also known as coral fungus.  These are considered choice edibles but the examples that we saw in the forest were a couple of days past their prime.

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Monarch butterflies were out in full force and there is plenty of milkweed in the area to support them.  Caterpillars should be out now but we didn’t see any.

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We didn’t explore the full extent of William T Foster Woods because it was simply too hot in the open areas.  After wandering through the wooded ravine we made our way back to the car expecting to return on a cooler day to investigate the rest of the area.  There are many trails some of which form connections to Boyd Conservation Area.

Google Maps Link: William T Foster Woods

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Gooderham Architecture

Sunday, July 18, 2020

Three generations of the Gooderham Family made their mark on Toronto through the distillery of Gooderham and Worts.  Their factory is remarkably well preserved in The Distillery District but they also left their mansions and some major projects, including the King Edward Hotel built in 1903.

The oldest surviving architecture that can be attributed to the Gooderham Family is the church at 245 King Street East.  Situated just a little north of the Gooderham and Worts distillery the church was founded because many of the factory workers and others in the community couldn’t afford to pay pew fees to attend Bishop Strachan’s Anglican Church.  With the assistance of these two families the Little Trinity Church was built in 1843.

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The four buttresses that form the corners of the bell tower are repeated at the rear of the original church.

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Beside the church stands the rectory that was home to the priests who served the congregation over the years.  The rectory was built in 1853 and is an example of Romanesque and Gothic Revival architecture combined.

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Charles H Gooderham was the eighth, and youngest son of William Gooderham and in 1882 he had a home built at 592 Sherbourne Street.

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George Horace Gooderham built the house at 504 Jarvis Street in 1891 in the Romanesque Revival style that was popular with the family architect David Roberts.  Roberts and his son would design the majority of the buildings at Gooderham and Worts Distilery. George H. was the grandson of the company founder and added his home to a growing list of The Mansions of Jarvis Street.

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The Gooderham Building is one of the best known structures from the early days of Toronto.  It is also known as the Flatiron Building after the more famous one in New York City.  Interestingly, the Gooderham Building predates the NYC one by a decade.  It was built to house the offices of Gooderham and Worts when the business was booming and had outgrown the offices at the distillery.

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George Gooderham took the office in the top of the five story building where he had a commanding view east along Front Street toward the distillery and the Don River.

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The Gooderham Building was completed in 1892 and was adorned with plenty of carved stone.  It was built for $18,000 and served as the offices Gooderham and Worts until 1952.  It has been protected by a heritage easement since 1977.  Heritage easements are agreements that are placed onto the title for a property and set out details of building which must be maintained in perpetuity.  They may also spell out conditions for renovations.

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The Flatiron Building has one central window on each floor on the back end of the building.  In 1980 a Canadian artist named Derek Besant won a competition to create a public mural for the building.  He chose to paint a reflection of the Perkins Block across the street which gives the building the appearance of having more windows that it actually does.

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The Perkins Block was designed as a warehouse extension and storefront for a wholesale grocer named Frederick Perkins.  It was completed in 1875 and faced the original three story building named The Coffin Block that stood where the Gooderham Building would be constructed.  Notice the Italianate brickwork with multiple arches on the fourth floor windows.  These can be seen on the Flatiron Building mural.

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Between 1890 and 1892 George Gooderham built an imposing mansion on the corner of Bloor Street and St. George Street.  He had inherited the distillery when his father passed away in 1881 and was involved in the world of finance.  He founded the Bank of Toronto which is now the TD Bank.

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The house features a domed witch-hat tower, similar to the one on the Gooderham building.  Fancy brickwork on the chimney is complimented by the carvings around the tower base.  When George passed away in 1905 his widow Harriet sold the house and it has been home to The York Club since 1910.

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By the turn of the century the affluent neighbourhood had moved north of Bloor Street and the area of Rosedale became home to the new rich families in the city.  Edward D. Gooderham was one of the sons of William George Gooderham and he built his home in 1907 on Sherbourne Street North among the mansions of Rosedale.

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Built in 1908 the home at 112 Waren Road in Forest Hill represented a presence for the  Gooderham Family in the next wealthy neighbourhood.  The house features seven bedrooms in its two and a half storys.

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Albert Edward Gooderham was a grandson of the founder and had joined Gooderham and Worts as a clerk in 1879 at the age of 18.  When his father passed away in 1905 he became the Managing Director and in seven years was Toronto and in 1915 he bought 85 acres at Dufferin and Steeles.  Here he built and equipped Connaught Labs to produce tetanus antitoxin.  The labs later became the production facility for Toronto Penicillin which benefited countless diabetics.  The buildings below are part of the Gooderham architectural legacy.

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Both the buildings that George Gooderham completed in the early 1890’s are adorned with conical towers but also fantastic details that present little surprises as you study them.  The red stone from The Credit Valley has been intricately carved such as this example above a window opening on George’s home.  A pair of lion heads and the head of a man who looks a little surprised to see them there.

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The Gooderham Family has made a lasting impact on the architecture of the city with another forty-five buildings in The Distillery District that bear exploration.

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The Distillery District.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The story of the Distillery District starts in 1832 with the idea for a grist mill on the east end of York (Toronto) harbour.  James Worts had been a miller in Suffolk, England before moving to York.  He built a 70-foot tall windmill that was a prominent feature on the York skyline and started a milling business with his brother-in-law William Gooderham.  Together they started a business that led to the largest distilling operation in Canada.  However, disaster struck in 1834 when James Worts lost his wife in childbirth.  Distraught, he jumped in the well at the mill and drowned himself just two weeks later.  Gooderham adopted his children and raised them along with his own thirteen.  Among the adopted was James Gooderham Worts who would become his partner in the business.

Their position on the waterfront provided easy access to large quantities of grain and so Gooderham decided to use some of it to make whiskey.  The distillery began in 1837 and being an entrepreneur, Gooderham began selling the spent grain wash to local farmers as feed.  Over the next four years he set up 9 acres of cattle sheds on the east side of Trinity Street and started a dairy operation as well.  The company kept fantastic records and appreciated their own history and so they retained the original millstone that was shipped from England in 1832 and used at the windmill.

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The Toronto Archives photo below shows the distillery as it appeared in the 1890’s on a post card.  It gives an idea of the scope of the enterprise that developed from that humble beginning with a windmill and a millstone.

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 In April of 1859 work started on the first wave of expansion for the company.  They began to build the most ambitious industrial building in the city, up to that time.  Built of Kingston limestone it is 80 feet wide and 300 feet long.  One half is five stories high to contain the mill while the west end is a story and a half and contained the distillery.  Working with lanterns in a dusty environment creates a serious fire hazard and many grist mills burned down because of it.  Gooderham has his constructed to be fire proof and when it burned in 1869 only the interior was lost.  This was quickly rebuilt and it is said that the grain that fell from the upper floors protected the milling equipment below and saved it from burning.  The cover photo shows the south side of the building which originally faced the Grand Trunk Railroad Tracks.

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The Boiler House is known as building number two and it is attached to the north side of the mill.  It was originally a single story limestone building but it has been radically altered overt the years.  When the boilers were upgraded in the 1880’s the limestone wall was removed to accommodate the equipment and was replaced with the present brick structure.  Just behind the smoke stack is building number four which was part of a major expansion in 1863.  The boiler house was using 30 tons of coal per day to fire the 100 horsepower engine in the mill.  The ashes from all this coal were taken and spread around the neighbourhood streets leading to some of the best packed streets in the young city.

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Several buildings were added to the north of the mill and west of Trinity Street in 1863 including new offices, cooperage buildings and the four story rectifying house for the purification of alcohol.   The modest offices pictured below served the growing business until they were replaced with a new office building on Wellington Street in 1892 known as the Flatiron Building.

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David Roberts Sr. was the architect for most of the early buildings in the compound while his son oversaw the construction of the later ones.  They were also responsible for designing several Gooderham family homes as well as the Flatiron Building.  Although the buildings served a utilitarian manufacturing function, Roberts made sure to include some purely aesthetic features.  Most of the brick buildings were set on limestone foundations so they would tie in visually with the stone mill.  The Rectifying House still has its decorative cupola and patterned brickwork.  This design is known as “arcaded corbelling” with a saw-tooth surmount.

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In the 1870’s another round of expansion took place.  The cattle sheds on the east side of Trinity Street were torn down and replaced with new ones on the east side of The Don River.  The Pure Spirits building, tank houses and store houses were built on their former site.  The Still Houses featured in the picture below were used to adjust the proof level of the spirits to ensure a consistent 40% alcohol.

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A dozen Tank Houses were added throughout the 1880’s for the storage of copper tanks of whiskey and later some were converted to hold up to 5,000 barrels per building.  

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Tankhouse Lane runs from Cherry Street to Trinity Street and is lined on both sides by these storage buildings.

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A shipping building was added in 1883 to store cases and barrels of whiskey that were ready for distribution to the markets.

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Meanwhile, the cattle sheds continued to function across the river and fifty years of disposing of the manure into Ashbridges Bay had contaminated it to the point where it was decided to fill it in and it was turned into The Port Lands.  During the First World War the company converted to producing acetone for the military under the name British Acetone.  The picture below is from the Toronto Archives and is dated November 30, 1916.

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After the war was finished the temperance movement succeeded in implementing Prohibition.  The company survived by distilling whiskey for export, although much of it passed through Quebec where it was legal and back into Ontario.  In 1927 the business was sold to Hiram Walker and continued to operate in a lesser fashion until the complex was closed in 1990.  

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The entrance to the Rectifying House was deliberately made grand to allow light into the interior of the building but it also has some awesome woodwork.  Two wooden arches support a circular oculi.  The original windmill was removed after the factory was converted to steam power and the site partially built over with the Rectifying House.  The semicircle of brighter red bricks in the lower corner of this picture marks the site of the windmill that started the enterprise.

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Rather than being turned into a museum like Black Creek Pioneer Village the site has been developed into The Distillery District which preserves the heritage in a unique way.  The factory buildings are full of interesting shops and activities that bring new life to one of the most complete Victorian Industrial Complexes in Canada.  The map below provides some insight into what awaits visitors to the area.

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The view below looks east along Gristmill Lane with the Stone Mill on the right and the chimney for the boiler room in the background.  The Coopers Shops and Rectifying House are on the left.

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This is one historic site that definitely needs another visit when I can go into the buildings and look around.

Just across Cherry Street stands the Palace Street School which was built in 1859 and served the children of many distillery workers.

Google Maps Link: Distillery District

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Schomberg

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Schomberg sits on the northern edge of the GTA in King Township.  The community got its start around 1830 when John R Brown emigrated from Pennsylvania to the area and settled on lot 26 in the 9th concession.  Three of his brothers also arrived in the area over the next couple of years, taking up adjacent farms.  The earliest name for the town was Brownsville but residents had to go to nearby Lloydtown for their mail so they applied for a post office of their own.  That was 1861 and the application was denied because there was already a Brownsville post office in York County.  The following year the name was changed to Schomberg, after The Duke of Schomberg, and the post office was finally opened.

An orange grain elevator stands on the side of Highway 9 close to Highway 27 that used to have the Shur-Gain symbol on the side.  Shur-Gain was introduced in 1937 as a brand name by Canada Packers.  They provided feed for animals and livestock.  Today there appears to be renovations going on at the old feed mill.

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Schomberg developed a little west of the road that we call Highway 27 today on a small given road.  The town retains many of its historical buildings and so I parked and went for a walk.  Although the Shur-Gain feed mill on Highway 9 might be better known to people who pass by on the highway there is an older feed mill in town.  In 1884 Anderson Tegart built the Schomberg Feed Mill on Main Street where it had direct access to the railway.  It operated until 1927 before it shut down.  Since that time it has housed a variety of businesses including The Scruffy Duck Restaurant which is still in business.  The cover photo shows the feed mill from the south view in contrast to the view from the north presented below.

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Beside the old feed mill is a small house built in the year of Confederation that belonged to one of the town doctors.  Harry E. Vaux would have served the community out of his home rather than some office in a clinic when he wasn’t visiting the homes of those who were too sick to come to him.

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Schomberg has done a great job of identifying their historic buildings.  Most of the buildings on Main Street and along Church Street have little plaques attached giving the date and historical uses.

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In 1905 you would have been able to walk into this building with the false front and purchase your family meat from Adam J. Smart who was the butcher at that time.

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The first commercial bank in Schomberg didn’t arrive until 1902.  That was the year that the Trader’s Bank of Canada opened a branch in town.  The bank was headquartered on Yonge Street in downtown Toronto and would later become part of the Royal Bank of Canada.  The Traders bank opened in the left half of the building featured below.  The right side of the building had a grocer and general merchant in it, Wm. Leeson McGowan was proprietor of the store in 1924.

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The Schomberg Agricultural Society had been meeting since 1851 and was very active in the lives of the local farmers who were served by the town.  Schomberg was well known for its produce and drew people from miles around for its farmers market.  In 1907 the Market Association was formed and they built a community hall which was used as a market.  In 1922 they added a second story to serve as a full time community hall.  The hall is currently being upgraded to make the second floor accessible and restore some of the worn out infrastructure in the building.

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At one time Schomberg had its own railway line, the Schomberg and Aurora Railway which was intended to open the successful produce markets up to a larger customer base from Toronto.  It connected to the Toronto & York Radial Railway with construction beginning in 1899 at Bond Lake.  The railway operated from 1902 to 1927 bringing people to town who would have visited the markets in the community hall.   A little pathway beside the community hall building leads into the fair grounds where I found a clever use for a repurposed shipping container.  By taking the ends out it has quickly become a covered bridge over a small waterway.

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It’s hard to say what will happen to the fall fairs across Ontario in 2020 with the threat of an ongoing pandemic but it might be fun to visit the one in Schomberg sometime.  The fairgrounds were pretty deserted on this hot morning.

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The Baptist church in Schomberg had stopped using their building and left it vacant on Main Street.  Meanwhile, about three and a half miles away a Presbyterian congregation had been meeting since 1891 without a building of their own.  In 1907 it was decided to purchase the old church and dedicate it for their use.  They held their first services in June 1907 and continue to meet there at the present.

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The archive picture below shows the old Baptist Church (now Presbyterian) and the community hall at the time before the second floor was added to the hall.  This is apparently from a postcard from the 1910’s.

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Fred and Emma Sparling ran a bakery and confectionery on Main Street in the 1890’s in this building with the cute little quarter round gable windows.

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Levi Denis was the town miller in 1875 and lived in this two story home.  The ground floor has five bays while the second story has only three sets of windows.  This lack of symmetry suggests that the second floor may have been added at a later date.

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Just around the corner on Church Street is the old home of one of the town blacksmiths. This story and a half house was built in 1891 for James A. Kitchen and has some interesting patterns in the brickwork.  James and Elmira had a son named Percy who served in the First World War and then returned to live with his parents in Schomberg where he also took up the blacksmith trade.

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Garrett Brown was one of the four founding brothers who started Brownsville and he built this house on Church Street in 1871.  He owned several businesses and opened the first bank on Main Street in 1885.  His bank didn’t face competition from the larger chartered banks until 1907 when the Traders Bank arrived.

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Church street continues out of Schomberg and into Lloydtown which is another interesting little rural community with a unique heritage.

Here’s the link to our story on the Toronto & York Radial Railway. and the one about Bond Lake.

Google Maps Link: Schomberg

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The Mansions of Jarvis Street

Sunday, June 28, 2020

 

William Jarvis was granted 100 acres of land just east of Yonge Street and running between Queen Street and Bloor Street.  Jarvis was the first Secretary and Registrar for Upper Canada.  When the property passed to his son Samuel, he began to clear the southern 50 acres and built himself an estate which he called “Hazel Burn”.  When Samuel got into financial trouble with the government he was forced to divide the property into lots and sell them off to pay his debts.  He laid out a new street which he called Jarvis Street and sold smaller, working class lots closer to Queen Street and larger lots to the wealthy farther north.  The drawing below shows the original Jarvis estate.

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Many of the original homes have been lost to fires or redevelopment.  Several of the ones that remain are involved in development proposals at this time.  I decided to get some pictures and record the state of this once grand street as it exists today.  In the future there will likely be even less of the original glory remaining.  I found a parking place on the side of Jarvis Street, they’re free on Sunday mornings, and walked up and down both sides of the street.  The mansions are presented from the north end of the street walking south.

Arthur MacMaster was a dry goods magnate in Toronto and he built a Gothic style house in 1868.  MacMaster envisioned a type of medieval castle and completed his home with a crenellated tower.  Hart Massey, of the Massey-Harris Company, bought the home for $12,500 in 1882 when MacMaster passed away.  Massey renamed it Euclid Hall and enjoyed the fully landscaped grounds.  In 1947 the trees along the boulevard were cut down so that Jarvis Street could be widened and soon the trees and flowerbeds at the corner were removed in favour of a gas station.  Most recently the estate has been used as The Keg Mansion.

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Chester D Massey (1850-1926) built his house in 1887 on the corner of the Euclid Hall property.  The concrete porte-cochere was added in 1910 as it had become fashionable to have a covered porch for vehicles to take on or discharge passengers under.

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William R Johnston made his fortune as a clothing merchant.  In 1875 he added his mansion to the growing list of mansions on Jarvis Street.  It remained in the family until 1941 when it became the national headquarters for the YWCA.  Today the building is home to Casey House which was the first independent AIDS/HIV hospice in Canada.  A matching home was built by Johnston’s business partner but like so many of the grand mansions on Jarvis Street it has been demolished.

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Thomas B Taylor had the house at 510 Jarvis built in 1888.  Taylor had been involved in three paper mills along the Don River including the one at Todmorden.

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The house at 471 Jarvis Street was built for Thomas Thompson in 1874.  The house goes by the name Elderslie and was owned at one time by Alexander Morris who served as a Conservative for Toronto East.  He was in opposition to the government of Oliver Mowat who lived at 372 Jarvis Street.

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Oliver Mowat bought a lot at 372 Jarvis Street in 1856 to build a home for himself.  Mowat was one of the Fathers of Confederation and later served as the Premier of Ontario.  His six consecutive majority governments sets a record of 24 years in power and speaks of how well loved he was.  This Georgian style house was only his for six years before he sold it.  Over the years it has belonged to several people as well as being headquarters for CBC for awhile.  It currently serves the National Ballet of Canada.  There are further pictures and details in our blog celebrating Sir Oliver Mowat and his contributions to Canada.

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Beside the Jarvis Street Baptist Church, at 337, stands a house that was built in 1849 for Samuel Platt.  Samuel had made his fortune as a brewer until he went into politics in 1845 as a city councilor.  In 1872 he became involved in planning the young city waterworks before being elected as an independent MP for Toronto East, a position he held until 1882.  His house now serves as the Toronto Baptist Seminary, also known as Church House to the pastors who visit there.

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The house at 314 Jarvis Street was built in 1865 and is known as the Sheard House.  The house was in the family for decades with some prominent members of the community living here.  Joseph Sheard was the mayor of Toronto from 1871 to 1872.  In 1901 his son Dr. Charles Sheard renovated the house.  Dr. Sheard was Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and was an MP from 1917-1925.  During WW2 the home was divided into apartments and eventually it was sold to developers.  The original proposal for a 43-story condo was rejected by the city.  The home was gutted by a fire in January 2016 and now the redevelopment of the site is going ahead.  It looks like the new proposal is going to incorporate part of a wall.

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The building at 290 Jarvis was built in 1890 and is a style known as Richardsonian Romanesque.  It appeared for only about 20 years and is attributed to an architect named Henry Richardson.  It is known as the William Carlyle House and there is a mirror image home at 280 Jarvis Street from 1891 that is also sitting empty and boarded up.  The two of them have historical designations and are intended to be incorporated into a new 25 story condo development.

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My personal favourite Jarvis Street mansion is found at number 504 and so it is presented out of sequence and as the cover photo.  This Richardsonian Romanesque house was built in 1889 for George H. Gooderham.  The Gooderham family owned the Gooderham and Worts distillery that dominated the waterfront and today is known as the Distillery District.  At least half a dozen family members owned mansions within a few minutes walk of George’s new mansion.  The conical tower on one side is paired with a bald gable on the other end.  Accents are cut from Credit Valley stone that could have come from the Willoughby Property.

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There are several other interesting old homes along this stretch of Jarvis Street which are worth checking out if you’re passing through this part of town.

Google Maps Link: Jarvis Street

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Altona Forest 2020

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Altona Forest in Pickering is known to have a wide variety of wildlife but when we visited in August of 2018 we found the park to be deteriorating badly.  Garbage abounded in the parking lot, the trails were overgrown and most of the boardwalks had become broken and dangerous.  Laceys Pond was impassable because the water level was up from beaver activity and the boardwalk was broken in several places.  I sent the Toronto Region Conservation Authority a link to the blog we published with the pictures of the park’s conditions.  The TRCA responded that they had already purchased materials to repair the boardwalk through Lacey’s Pond but that some sections of the trail in the north woods might be closed permanently.  Nearly two years later we decided to return to see how things had developed.

It’s a good sign when you see interesting wildlife the moment you park the car.  A pileated woodpecker was making its way around the telephone pole a few feet away.  The easiest distinction between the male and females of this, the largest woodpecker native to Ontario, is the red stripe on the cheek.  It looks like a red mustache on the males, which identifies this bird as a female.

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The mushroom shown below was one of a couple dozen that were growing in a rough circle around the base of a large tree.  There are several varieties of mushrooms that have scales on them and most of these are poisonous.  Any time the exact identification of a specific mushroom can’t be made it is best to leave it alone and not even touch it.

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When we came to the trail that leads toward the pond in the forest we found the newly repaired section of boardwalk.  They’ve done a nice job of weaving the trail among the trees.

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Lacey’s Pond refers to a pond that used to exist on the property when it was a farm belonging to the Lacey family.  At that time it was much larger than today and encompassed some of the area where nearby houses stand today.  When developers bought the land they drained the pond and built houses where they could.  Part of the land was still unsuitable for houses and was left fallow until the TRCA bought it in 1995.  They made efforts to re-establish the pond by building a retaining berm.  The pond refilled to about one third the original size.  Further flooding has been caused by beaver who moved into the new pond.  There is no evidence of recent beaver activity as all the stumps appear to have been chewed some time ago.  There is still a series of trails that have been made through the wetlands and some of them had the mud recently stirred up in them.

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Lacey’s Pond has an observation deck where you can watch the pond during some seasons.  At the moment the bull rushes are growing tall enough to obscure most of the water in the pond.

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On both sides of Lacey’s Pond the forest is full of cedar trees.  The area was likely a cedar forest when the land was cleared for farming,  One of the advantages of having a lot of cedar on the property is the availability of cedar rails to make fences from.  The Lacey family has used slit rails to make zig-zag fences that now have forest growing up along both sides of the fence and in every corner.

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When we returned to Lacey’s Pond we found that a flock of Cedar Waxwings had arrived.  These are majestic looking birds with yellow breasts and a black mask on a peach coloured head.  They have a crest which sometimes lies flat against the neck.  The tips of the wings are red and their tails are squared off with a bright yellow tip.  Males tend to have a larger dark area under the chin and unless seen in a larger group it can be hard to identify the sexes.

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After making our way back north from the pond we set out looking for post number 33 that would lead us to the northern parts of the forest.  The map at the gate shows this part of the forest as being open and the posts are numbered to help guide you through the trails.  The maps haven’t been updated yet but the northern part of the forest is intended to be closed permanently.  The blockade at this end isn’t obvious anymore.

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When you come to the section of boardwalk it becomes plain that this section was not repaired.  It has some loose boards and places where it rocks underfoot.  There are also sections where the rebar that holds it in place stands above the surface of the boardwalk presenting a real trip hazard.  When we reached the other end we found that the trail had been closed off and marked as dangerous.  Please don’t use this section of the trail and allow it to become fully overgrown.

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Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies were seen a couple of times before one paused long enough to get photographed.  The eggs are laid in bunches between 100 and 700 on the underside of leaves.  The caterpillars go through four stages during which time a high percentage is lost to wasps that lay eggs in them.  The ones that survive to the fourth stage over-winter in leaves on the ground.  In the spring the caterpillars molt and a single fly of Baltimore Checkerspots grace the landscape.

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Altona Forest looks like it could be very interesting in every season and we look forward to enjoying a fall day and perhaps a winter day here in the near future.

Our previous feature on Altona Forest can be found at this link: Altona Forest

Google Maps Link: Altona Forest

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Sir Oliver Mowat

July 1, 2020

HAPPY CANADA DAY EVERYONE!

Sir Oliver Mowat was born in Kingston, Upper Canada in 1820. Mowat was called to the bar in 1841 but had joined the law firm of John A Macdonald in 1835. Macdonald would be an ally of Mowat in forming Confederation but an adversary in determining what powers the federal government would have compared to the provinces.

 

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Mowat attended the Quebec Conference on Confederation in 1864 where he took charge of forming the committees decisions into a legal format.  He is credited with helping to write the Articles of Confederation.  In 1856 Oliver Mowat purchased one of the estate lots on Jarvis Street from Samuel Jarvis and built this two story, 3 bay house in a Georgian Style.

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Mowat was elected as the Premier of Ontario on October 25th 1872, a position which he held for the next 24 years.  Oliver was the longest serving Premier in the history of the province winning six majority governments in a row.

The house that he built before going into politics reflects the simplicity and symmetry of design that is typical of Georgian architecture.  They style always tends to put the most emphasis on the entrance and this house is no exception.  Today it bears a name related to the National Ballet School which occupies it.

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While serving as the Premier Oliver Mowat had to face a fellow Father of Confederation and business partner in John A Macdonald.  Mowat was responsible for challenging the federal government and securing powers for the provinces.  When Mowat left provincial politics he went on to a position as Leader of the Government in the Senate for 2 years.  Then on November 18, 1897 he became the 8th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

The picture below shows the detailed carvings on the columns that support the entrance porch as well as below the transom window.

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Oliver died on April 19, 1903 at the age of 82 while still in office as the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.  Mowat was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

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Oliver Mowat was a significant figure in the founding of Canada and the Province of Ontario but is somehow less known than his political rival Sir John A Macdonald.

Google Maps Link: Oliver Mowat House

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