Author Archives: hikingthegta

The Boardwalk

September 25, 2022

Toronto has a lengthy stretch of beaches that begin near the foot of Victoria Park Avenue on Silver Birch Beach through to Woodbine Beach near Ashbridges Bay. Along the way the names change through Balmy Beach and Kew Gardens Beach, but they are all connected. They have been created over the years by sand that has eroded from the Scarborough Bluffs and has been carried by the lake in its westward spin. The rotation of the lake is known as Longshore Drift and is influenced by the pressure of the Niagara River that pushes water along the southern shore toward the St. Lawrence River. These beaches have been an attraction for city residents for decades and originally were home to amusement parks such as Victoria Park and Kew Gardens. Today they attract dog walkers, swimmers and those who just want to bake in the sun. The Waterfront Trail runs through the beaches and continues for 3,600 kilometres along the shores of The Great Lakes.

The picture below shows the beaches in April of 1929 when homes and cottages existed close to the water’s edge. As early as 1908 the city had built a wooden boardwalk from Woodbine Beach to Leuty Avenue. Storms in 1929 caused extensive damage and many of the homes had flooded basements. In 1931 and 1932 the city proposed the creation of a permanent boardwalk running from Woodbine Beach all the way to Silver Birch. This would allow for a continuous walk of nearly 5 kilometres. Since then, the boardwalk has been repaired many times and a bicycle and jogging path has been added alongside it.

The archive picture below shows people enjoying the early boardwalk along the area of Kew Beach.

Today, the boardwalk is a destination for many people in the city to enjoy but it wasn’t terribly busy on this September afternoon.

Muskoka Chairs were created in 1903 in the Adirondack Hills in New York with a sloping seat and back and large armrests to allow people to sit in a comfortable reclined position. There are several sets of Muskoka Chairs as well as benches and large pieces of armour stone that provide seating along the beaches.

The Leuty Lifeguard Station was built in 1920 and was described in our post Kew Gardens.

We visited the beaches during Windfest 2022 when dozens of kites were being flown on Woodbine Beach. The annual kite flying festival was held on September 17th from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Participants brought their own kites and there was a wide variety from the simple kites to elaborate ones with bright colours and several shaped like various cartoon characters.

There are over 100 volleyball courts at Woodbine Beach. Most of these are subject to usage permits and are dominated by league players. There’s only a few that can be accessed by the public on a “free to use” basis. There is a petition before City Council to change this and make 50% of the courts available for public use. Woodbine Beach also has a nine-hole disc golf course where people can play golf using frisbees that are thrown at metal poles with chains on them. The course had been expanded in November 2021 but complaints that the new section encroached on a sensitive area that is used by migrating birds led to the new section being removed this spring.

The beaches are a great place to relax although there may not be a lot of peace and quiet on some days. During our visit a concert was going on at Woodbine Beach and it was amplified very loudly. Sudden yelling from the microphone caused some of the people on the boardwalk to be startled and made them jump. Someone has created a couple of peace signs and several hearts out of painted rocks. This symbol dates back to 1958 when Gerald Holtom took the semaphore symbols for N and D to create a symbol for Nuclear Disarmament. A semaphore symbol is a system of depicting the alphabet using the arms and two flags.

Parking is available at Woodbine Beach and in various places along Queen Street.

Related posts: Kew Gardens

Google Maps Link: Woodbine Beach Parking

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Markham Museum

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Markham Museum is a 25-acre collection of historical buildings and artifacts that relate to the early history of Markham Township. There are close to 30 buildings which have been collected from various sites around the township over the past 50 years. Many of the buildings have had some restoration to preserve them. Seven of the buildings can be viewed from the inside as part of a guided tour that is free upon request with your paid admission. The museum is located at Markham Road and 16th Avenue. Just to the west of the museum is Markham Heritage Estates which is a subdivision made up of historic homes that have been moved from around the township to preserve them from demolition. These homes are lived in and can often be viewed inside during Open Doors events.

The oldest building in the museum was built in 1824 at McCowan and Stouffville Roads. Christian K Hoover and his wife Anna lived in this house followed by three more generations of the family. During the mid-1870s the house became a stopping point for Russian Mennonites as they emigrated west to Manitoba. In 1975 the house belonged to A.D. Reesor who donated it to the museum.

Inside the house is an open layout where kitchen, eating and sleeping areas are combined. The museum has decorated the home to look like the year 1860, at which time Christian’s son Abraham and his wife Fanny lived there with their three young children.

The blacksmith shop was built in 1862 by Henry Lapp in the village of Cedar Grove. Between 1866 and 1896 there were 9 different blacksmiths who worked in the Lapp blacksmith shop. Beginning in 1896 Arthur Clendenen took over and he bought the shop from Henry Lapp in 1905. He continued to work there until it closed in 1956. Cedar Grove plays a large part in the Markham Museum and the small community has been featured in several of our blogs in the past including Cedar Grove – Ghost towns of the GTA, Lapp’s Cider Mill, and Cedarena.

Inside, the blacksmith shop is set up to look like it did around 1910. Blacksmiths were important to early communities and there were usually one or more in each village. The blacksmith made horseshoes and installed them in addition to making and repairing all manner of tools. Everything from hammers to belt buckles was created in these little shops. The Cedar Grove blacksmith shop was moved to Markham Museum in 1977.

The Cider Mill at the museum was actually a shed on a property belonging to the Lapp Cider Mill in Cedar Grove. The shed was moved to the museum and outfitted with the inner workings of the Lapp Cider Mill which was built in 1872. The Lapp Cider Mill operated until 1955 producing apple cider, vinegar and apple butter. The cider mill at Markham Museum is operational and is in use every year during their annual Applefest, which this year takes place on September 24, 2022.

The church in the museum was moved from the 9th Line just north of Major Mackenzie Drive. It was built on an acre of land that was purchased from Joshua and Rachel Miller in 1847. The church was opened as Knox Baptist Church the following year and always had a small congregation. In the early years the church shared a minister with two other congregations and the pastor would only teach there every three weeks. By 1958 the congregation had shrunk to the point where the church was closed. In 1981 the church was disassembled and each of the 35,000 bricks were numbered and then reassembled on the museum site.

Most early churches had a drive shed where carriages and horses were kept while the church service was going on. There are very few of these left in their original locations and we have previously featured the one at the Cober Dunkard Church in Vaughan.

James and Euphemia Maxwell operated a grist mill on the Rouge River in the area that is now Rouge National Urban Park. They built a log cabin around 1850 and raised 6 children in it. When James died in 1894 the house and surrounding lands were sold but the cabin was used as a home until 1962 when the Little Family donated the cabin to the Markham Museum. It was moved to the museum site in 1970. The remains of the Maxwell Mill can still be seen along Twyn Rivers Road beside The Rouge River and were written about in the linked story.

Henry Wilson and Clementia May were husband and wife business partners in Markham in the 19th century. They opened a general store in Markham in 1862 and expanded into this building in 1875. Henry operated a variety store out of the first floor while Clementia ran a dress making business on the second floor. Dresses were usually custom designed and sewn in this era and her business was far more profitable than the store downstairs. In 1898 their son Edmund took over the business, but he closed it in 1913 and sold the building to Dr. John MacDonald. When the building was slated for demolition in 1985 it was moved to the museum.

There is a collection of moustache mugs in the Variety Hall. These mugs were invented in the mid 1800s by Harvey Adams in England. In Victorian times, many men wore large moustaches which they waxed or dyed in order to make them more impressive. The moustache mug contains a small moustache shaped ledge with a little hole to allow the men to drink tea without getting it in their moustaches.

Markham Museum is home to the Locust Hill train station which was built in 1936 to replace an earlier station that had burned down the previous year. The first station in the community had been built in 1885 by the Ontario and Quebec Railway which had been completed through town in 1887. Train service through Locust Hill was discontinued in 1969 and the station was moved to the museum in 1983. One of the interesting artifacts in the museum collection is the Canadian Pacific snowplow number 400896. This classic wedge snowplow weighs 20 tons and was built in the Canadian Pacific Angus workshops in Montreal between 1920 and 1929. It cleared a 10-foot path and had blades in the front to clear between the rails. These blades would be raised at intersections to avoid damaging the equipment.

Markham Museum has a fairly small entry fee set at only $6.00 for adults but doesn’t allow you to enter all of the buildings like other heritage villages such as Black Creek Pioneer Village. This is likely due to the lack of staff which, unfortunately, are required to preserve the antique displays to keep them from getting broken or going missing.

Related stories: Markham Heritage Estates, Maxwell’s Mill, Cedar Grove – Ghost Towns of the GTA, Lapp’s Cider Mill, Cedarena, Cober Dunkard Church, Black Creek Pioneer Village.

Google Maps Link: Markham Museum

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Milne Dam Conservation Area 2022

Milne Dam Conservation Area is a 305 acre park in Markham which we have visited a few times. There are two previous blogs which talk about the park and the new bridges that were added across the Rouge River near the dam. We won’t be repeating very much of the information from those two stories and links to them can be found at the end of this blog.

The east end of the lake has become overgrown with lily pads this summer. Although the pads appear to float on the surface they are actually on long stems that grow from the bottom of the lake. The top side is flat but on the bottom of the leaves they have a series of tubes that are connected to openings on the top of the pad called stomas. Up to two litres of air are transported each day from the top of the pad to the root system using these tubes. Lily pads provide protection for small fish and also a safe place for frogs to sit and hide from underwater predators and catch flies and other insects.

Before you reach the dam you come to the newly constructed Milne Creek Bridge.  It is 42 metres long and helps connect the Markham Rouge Valley Trail which begins in Unionville at Toogood Pond.  The new bridges in the Milne Dam Conservation Area were officially opened on September 21, 2019.  The first three phases of the 15 kilometre trail are completed with the final phase currently under construction.

The first concrete and steel dam in Canada was built by Archie Milne on the Rouge River in 1911. It replaced a mill dam that had been located on the site since 1820. In the 1950s the dam and surrounding lands were bought by the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority who created Milne Dam Conservation Area using the dam to help with flood control on the Rouge River.

Canada Thistle is also known as Creeping Thistle and in spite of its name is not native to Canada. It was likely imported from the Mediterranean area by early settlers. Residents of New England blamed the emergence of the thistle on French Canadian traders and therefore gave it the name Canada Thistle. It grows both by seeds that are carried on the wind and by horizontal roots that spread below ground. It grows in open areas and likes lots of direct sunlight and can be found growing amongst crops such as canola, wheat and barley where it reduces the cash value of the crops. It tends to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies so therefore it has some benefits as well.

There is a small trail at the west end of the lake that leads down to the river where a floating walkway allows you to cross to the other side and into Camp Chimo. There is no entry fee for people who walk in to Camp Chimo and it can also be accessed from McCowan Road.

For a small fee families and youth can take basic canoe training and safety lessons at the camp.

Camp Chimo is a day camp for children that operates on the south side of the lake. They have archery, a climbing wall, a large bonfire pit and plenty of activities for the children to participate in.

Surprisingly, the children’s day camp is full of dense stands of wild parsnip. This toxic plant isn’t native to North America and was likely brough in by people who grew it for its edible root. Unfortunately, it has spread in the wild and can choke out native plants. The stems, leaves and flowers contain chemicals that make the skin more sensitive to sunlight and can cause burns and severe dermatitis. While the City of Markham cannot possibly eradicate the weed, they should try to control it in a day camp for children.

There is a nature trail on the south side of the lake which is a 5.3 kilometer loop that will bring you back to the summer camp. It is an easy trail and is suitable for all skill levels of hikers but is not accessible for handicapped people. It can also be followed to the far end of the lake and then, using the bridge by the dam, it can be turned into a longer loop back through Milne Dam Park.

Milne Dam Conservation Area has a nominal entrance fee of $4.50 per person on the weekends and holidays but is free during the week. It is well worth the entry fee because it is usually not crowded and there’s lots of picnic tables and several kilometers of trails to walk on.

Related stories: Milne Dam Conservation Area, Milne Dam Bridge

Google Maps Link: Milne Dam Park

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Forest of Cars

August 21, 2022

While on a business trip near Thunder Bay back in April I noticed a forest which appeared to be full of abandoned cars. I decided on my return trip this past week to check it out. Unfortunately the place is marked as No Trespassing and the owner could not be seen to try to get permission to go in and have a look around. I had to settle for a few pictures that I took as I walked along the front of the property. The image below is taken from Google Earth and shows the cars, trucks and buses that can be seen on the open areas as well as three buildings in various states of collapse. On the right hand side of the image is Oliver Road from which the images in this post were taken.

One of my clients has their business a few kilometers away from this location and so I asked them what they knew about the property. It seems that the owner had collected the vehicles over a period of years and refused to sell any of them or even let people buy spare parts to repair their own vehicles or classic cars.

Another local person told me a story of trespassers encountering the owner who showed his displeasure by brandishing a gun! There’s also a story about the original owner passing away and someone new taking over the property.

Most of the cars near Oliver road appear to be forty or fifty years old but who knows what might be located deeper into the forest. The view from Google Earth suggests that there could be some real treasures waiting to be discovered.

There doesn’t appear to be anything online about the property or the owner although I plan to keep looking to see what can be found.

The cars, vans and trucks seem to have been parked in an open area and the woods have taken over again making it almost impossible to be able to get a vehicle out, even if you wanted to.

This Cadillac has had a tree fall on top of it. I would imagine that there are likely several cars on the property that have suffered similar damage over the years.

The next time I’m in the area will likely be in November when the leaves are off of the trees but it might not make a huge difference because most of the forest is made up of evergreen trees.

I have been given the offer of meeting another classic car collector a few sideroads over when I visit next time. Perhaps he will know more about this mysterious forest of cars. If this is the case, he may also be able to put me in touch with the owner.

With luck, maybe I can make arrangements to go exploring during my spring visit to the area. That could prove to be very interesting indeed.

It would appear that there are hundreds, perhaps a couple of thousand vehicles in this forest. Someday I hope to bring you more pictures and the complete history of this forest full of cars.

Google Maps Link: Murillo Car Forest

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Inside Casa Loma

August 14, 2022

We’ve previously visited the grounds of Casa Loma and written about the history of the castle and so we won’t be repeating a lot of that in this post. For that story you can follow this link, which will also be supplied at the end of this article, Casa Loma. It is North America’s only full sized castle and measures nearly 200,000 square feet. It took 300 men almost 3 years to build it at a cost of $3,500,000 which would be close to $100,000,000 in today’s money.

The ceiling in the conservatory has a very elaborate glass structure that lets in lots of light. This room has lots of windows and overlooks the gardens. It is located on the east end of the main floor.

The castle has one of the most beautiful libraries with book shelves that line two walls. I have personally always wanted a library like this to house my collection.

On the west end of the main floor, beyond the Great Hall, was the Oak Room. Like other areas in the castle, the carvings and woodworking are very detailed and intricate.

The Windsor Room is on the west end of the second floor and is named after the Royal Family of England. Henry Pellet had hoped that one day this room would serve as a guest space for members of the royal family. The furniture was sold in the 1924 estate sale but was bought back by Casa Loma in 1992.

Space for a telephone was provided in almost every room in the castle which was quite a luxury in 1914.

Sir Henry’s room was decorated in a fairly simple manner but included a tiger that he had personally shot. In the Edwardian era it was quite common for the wealthy to have separate living spaces and bedrooms for the husband and wife.

It was uncommon at the turn of the last century for people to have a fully equipped indoor bathroom but the Pellatts had more than one of them. Henry’s washroom also included a shower that had six different body sprays that were each controlled by a separate faucet. This was likely the only shower of its kind in Toronto at the time and may be the only surviving example.

Mary Pellatts room and suite was actually much larger than her husband’s and was furnished in a pale blue with white details that were inspired by classic Wedgewood pottery. She also had a large sitting room, a solarium, private bathroom and wardrobe. Mary was a strong supporter of the early Girl Guides movement.

Mary’s room opened onto a large balcony that looked out over the gardens and had a great view of the city below in the distance. She also had an interesting view of the rest of the castle including the Norman tower. Mary was able to entertain guests in her private suites.

There were five guest suites on the second floor of the castle including this one which was decorated in a style known as “Chinoiserie”. This style of decoration tends to imitate oriental patterns. Each of the guest suites had a bedroom, bathroom, closet and sitting room.

It is possible to access the roof of the Norman Tower via a small spiral staircase. The roof provides a 360 degree view of the city which obviously looks much different now than it did when the castle was built. A hundred years ago the Pellatts had access to fields north of the castle to run their horses in.

The stables were housed in another castle like building a short distance to the north. It is accessed through a tunnel that connects the two buildings.

There is an antique car display in the stables but it was closed on the day that we chose to visit. However, we were able to see this grand carriage that is stored outside of the horse stables.

The horse stalls each had the horse name on a brass plate with 18 karat gold lettering. The Pellatt horses had each won numerous prizes and championships throughout North America.

It’s possible to spend hours exploring the castle including all the military displays on the second floor and considering the $40 ticket price its a good idea to do so.

See our related stories: Casa Loma and Spadina

Google Maps link: Casa Loma

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Black Creek Pioneer Village

August 7, 2022

Daniel and Elizabeth Stong settled on the property on the south-east corner of Jane Street and Steeles Avenue in 1816 when it was virgin forest. They cut down the trees and created a farm that was operated by four generations of the family until 1952. The Toronto Region Conservation Authority purchased the property in 1958 and created Black Creek Pioneer Village which opened in 1960. The village was developed by moving 40 endangered or abandoned buildings from other sites in Ontario to display life in the 1860’s. We visited the village to look at some of the other buildings and the exhibits located within them.

The doctor’s house was originally built in 1830 as a two generation farm house near Brampton. It has two separate entrances and the upstairs is fully divided so that two families could live here in relative privacy. A door on the main floor allowed them to pass between the two halves to join in family activities. The design is perfect to showcase a small town doctor’s house where the one side could serve as an office. An herb garden in the back yard would be cultivated to provide remedies that were learned from the indigenous peoples who had lived on the land for centuries.

Inside the doctor’s house is a display of the tools that were in common use in the mid-1800s. Drills, tooth extractors and saws were basic implements. Because people had to pay for the doctor’s services they often waited until they were in severe distress hoping to get better on their own. A house call would cost 50 cents, or roughly a half days wages and then every service would be charged separately on top of that.

Mackenzie House was built in 1830 as a small log cabin. As the family grew the home became too small and so a kitchen wing was added as well as an upstairs area making it into a story and a half home. The house was originally located in Woodbridge and was built by Major Addison Alexander Mackenzie after whom Major Mackenzie Drive is named. The house is set up to display the historical home industries of clock making/repair and dress making.

The Manse was built in 1835 and is typical of four room cottages built in rural Upper Canada (Ontario) in the 1830s. It served as the manse for Reverend James Dick who was pastor of Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church from 1849-1885. In those times it was not very common to hold weddings in the church and many of them were conducted in the front room of this house. The building was also used as a store, a residence and a Sunday School before being moved to the village in 1978 where it compliments the Fisherville Presbyterian Church.

Burwick House was built in 1844 for Rowland Burr in the town of Burrwick which later became Woodbridge. This house represents the lifestyle of the middle class in this era. This is an example of the well proportioned and symmetrical Georgian style of architecture and was moved to the village in 1958.

The Halfway House was built in 1849 by Alexander Thompson to provide a resting stop for stagecoach passengers and horses. It was originally located at Kingston Road and Midland Avenue along the road from Pickering to Toronto. It also served as a hotel, an apartment and also a store before being moved to the village in 1966.

The apple storage cellar was built around 1850 in Edgely. It was built into the ground to provide storage to preserve apples, fruit and root vegetables. The storage bins would be layered with straw and produce using its 8 feet by 7 feet interior to keep food for winter and spring consumption. The field stone and brick structure was disassembled and moved to the village over a 65 day period.

Charles Irwin’s weaving shop was located in the Kettleby Temperance Hall which was built in 1850. The same building also housed the town print shop when it was no longer used as a temperance hall. Weaving provided a wide range of textiles for household use and at one time there were over 600 weavers in Ontario.

The harness shop was built in 1855 just two lots south of the future black Creek Pioneer Village. The harness and saddle trade were essential to the early farming and transportation industries as they allowed for the efficient use of animal strength for labour. The shop was moved to the village in 1961 and has been open to the public since 1963.

Dominion Carriage Works was built in 1860 in Sebringville as a blacksmith shop and wheelwright. As it grew in the 1870s it was expanded to a full carriage works with an upholsterer and a cabinet maker. When cars became more popular, the business declined but it carried on until 1972. The following year it was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village with all of its patterns and tools. It has been restored and opened to the public in 1976.

The village school was built in 1861 as Dickson’s Hill School in Markham on concession 7 and was known as School Section #17 Markham. Using local, hand made bricks, it was constructed for a total cost of just $1,078.79. The two separate entrances allowed boys to come through one door while the girls entered through the other one. Most one room schools in Ontario were closed by the 1950s and this one was vacant in 1960. At that time it was dismantled brick by brick and was then moved to Pioneer Village and reassembled.

Inside, the school is set up like a typical one room school of the 1860s. The younger students would have sat closer to the front of the room while the older ones were at the back. The desks and fixed seating are not from this school but are from the same time period. A box stove at the back provided heat which was carried by the pipe near the ceiling to the front of the room where the chimney stood. Many of the buildings in the village were heated in this manner. The large windows on either side provided light and also opened for ventilation.

Our cover photo features the Fire House which was built as a storage or work shed in 1850. It houses an 1837 wooden fire engine that was used in Toronto for over 4 decades. Beyond the fire house in the photo is Henry Snider’s Cider Mill which was built in 1840 in the community of Elia at Keele Street and Finch Avenue. It could produce 500 gallons of apple cider per day.

Several buildings in the village have been featured in previous blogs. The Stong log cabin and second house as well as several of their outbuildings were featured in Black Creek Pioneer Village: Elizabeth Stong. Roblin’s Mill had it’s own blog called Roblin’s Mill. Laskay Emporium was featured in the story Laskay: Ghost Towns of the GTA. The Presbyterian Church was featured in our story Fisherville: Ghost Towns of the GTA.

Google maps link: Black Creek Pioneer Village

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McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Sunday, July 31, 2022

On May 7, 1920 a new movement in Canadian art was launched at the Art Museum of Toronto (Art Gallery of Ontario). The seven men who came to be known as The Group of Seven were all friends and had worked together for several years. They had been influenced by the work of Tom Thomson who passed away before the group got started. The concept for the group had been in place in 1913-1914 when Thomson was still alive but was put on hold by the First World War. Four of the members, Harris, Jackson, Lismer and Varley were directly involved and a fifth, Carmichael had his studies in Antwerp interrupted by the war. Lawren Harris had the drive, energy and wealth to make the group happen and became the de facto leader. It was at his home at 63 Queen’s Park in Toronto that the group had its founding meeting in March of 1920. Between 1920 and 1932 the group held eight art exhibitions before they disbanded. MacDonald passed away in 1932 but the others went on to lengthy careers after the group was finished. In this post we’ll look at each of the seven as well as some other Canadian art that is housed in the collection.

Lawren S. Harris lived from 1885 until 1970 and was one of the heirs to the fortune created by the Massey- Harris farm machinery manufacturing company of Toronto. His fortune allowed him to pursue a career as an artist and he was ultimately the driving force behind the Group of Seven. His early work was mostly urban scenes but inspired by Tom Thomson he started to travel to Algoma in 1908 to paint and later to the north shores of Lake Superior. He developed a style of landscapes painted in flat colours but later developed a style of abstract formalized shapes. By the end of his career he had drifted to painting pure abstract art.

Mount Robson 1929 (oil on canvas)

Sand Lake Algoma 1922 (oil on canvas)

Tom Thomson was born in 1877 and died in July 1917 when he drowned in Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. Tom made his first journey to Algonquin in 1912 and began sharing a studio with A.Y. Jackson in 1914. Thomson began producing hundreds of oil sketches and a handful of large-scale paintings. Tom was reputed to be an avid outdoorsman, canoeist and Algonquin guide but in July 1917 he drowned in Canoe Lake in circumstances that are still not understood.

In Algonquin Park 1914 (oil on canvas)

Snow In The Woods 1916 (oil on wood panel)

J.E.H. MacDonald lived between 1873 and 1932 and like several others in the group was a commercial artist for the Toronto firm Grip Ltd. In 1911 he left the firm to organize an exhibit of his own art works. He created various styles of landscape paintings until his trips to Algoma led him to take inspiration in the style of Tom Thomson. Beginning in 1924 he started taking trips to the Rockies to paint but he was sidelined by a stroke in 1931. A second one in 1932 was fatal and his loss led to the disbanding of the Group of Seven in January 1933.

Algoma Waterfall 1920 (oil on canvas)

Cathedral Peak and Lake O’Hara 1927 (oil on paperboard)

A.Y. Jackson was born in 1882 and lived until 1974. Jackson was a friend of Thomson and travelled to Algonquin with him in 1914. He enlisted for the First World War but was injured in the battle of Sanctuary Wood and spent the rest of the war as an official army artist. In 1927 he joined an RCMP ship to explore and paint the Arctic. When he went back to the Arctic in 1930 he took Harris with him.

Radium Mine 1938 (oil on canvas)

Bent Pine 1948 (oil on canvas)

Arthur Lismer 1885-1969 was born in England and came to Canada in 1911 and joined Grip Ltd. as a commercial artist along side other future members of the Group of Seven. Lismer was also a successful art teacher who took a teaching job in Halifax in 1916. He was a witness to the Halifax Harbour Explosion in 1917. When he died in 1969 he was living in Montreal but was brought to the Artists Cemetery on the McMichael grounds to be buried with five other members of the group.

Self Portrait 1924 (oil on board)

Canadian Jungle 1946 (oil on canvas)

Frank Johnston was born in 1888 and lived until 1949. He was a very prolific painter who only participated in one of the eight exhibits with the Group of Seven. The first exhibit in 1920 wasn’t a financial success and in fact was highly criticized. Johnston put together his own show later that year in which he showed 200 paintings that sold quite well. In 1924 he resigned from the group under the belief that he could do better on his own. His painting Winter Beauty from 1935 was done with oil on board and has been used as the cover photo for this article.

Dark Waters undated (oil on board)

Frederick Horsman Varley 1881-1969 is another of the group who worked at Grip Ltd. before joining the First World War as an artist. After returning from the trenches he became prone to depression and drinking and often got involved with the sitters for his portraits. He moved to Vancouver in 1926 where he stayed until 1935. When he passed away in 1969 he was buried in the cemetery at the McMichael gallery.

Night Ferry To Vancouver 1937 (oil on canvas)

Girl in Gold 1963-1966 (oil on canvas)

Alfred Joseph Casson 1898-1992 was asked to join the group in 1926 to replace Johnston.

White Pine 1957 (oil on canvas)

The art gallery also features paintings from Edwin Holgate 1882-1977 who joined the Group of Seven in 1929 and Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald 1890-1956 who joined briefly in 1932. Several other Canadian artists are also represented in the collection but we will highlight only a couple of them in the remainder of this lengthy post.

Gathie Falk was born in 1928 and is famous for her work with everyday items including fruit, Paper Mache dresses and picnics. One of the interesting displays at the gallery is her work with ceramics in creating shoes.

Single Men’s Shoes (ceramics)

Elisapee Ishulutaq 1925-2018 documented Inuit life in her art during her 50 year career. Starting in 1970 she created colourful drawings and prints that recreated traditional life and stories of her culture.

The McMichael property is also an interesting place to go for a walk along the trails and the beautiful grounds which joins to the Humber River Trail and connects to Bindertwine Park.

Related stories: Bindertwine Park

Google Maps Link: McMichael Canadian Art Collection

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Scarborough’s Steel Dinosaurs

July 24, 2022

Over 700 different species of dinosaurs have been identified in the world with over 100 of them having been found in Canada. Half of the Canadian ones have been found in Alberta in an area known as Dinosaur Provincial Park. Others have been found in various riverbeds in Alberta as well as British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Nova Scotia, Nunavut and Northwest Territories also have produced some fossils. Ontario has revealed a lot of fossils of small sea creatures such as crinoids, trilobites and corals.

Dinosaur fossils can be found at the Royal Ontario Museum as well as other major museums around the province but there isn’t any well known deposits in nature. An unusual display of public art at the corner of Crockford Blvd. and Lawrence Avenue East in Scarborough has been created by one of the local companies. This includes multiple steel representations of dinosaur skeletons.

Although this dinosaur park has been created as a method of promoting their waterjet laser cutting the results are quite interesting. There are over a dozen models on display on a small corner of land where Taylor-Massey Creek crosses Lawrence Avenue in the former town of Wexford.

Tyrannosaurus Rex lived about 68-66 million years ago in the area of Alberta and is one of the best known dinosaurs. It was one of the largest carnivores and had a massive head and a long tail to help balance it. The name means King of the Thunder Lizards and this is an apt title for this predator.

The metal dinosaurs have been on display for nearly a decade and are rusted so there is a warning posted to be aware that they could be sharp and to avoid touching or climbing on them.

While most of the dinosaurs on display are posed in attacking or grazing positions there is one of the Tyrannosaurs that has either fallen over or been pushed over but it gives the idea of being dead.

Stegosaurus appeared 155 to 145 million years ago and was a plant eating dinosaur that had an armored body. Four spikes on the tail may have been used for defense while plates on the back are thought to have been used to regulate heat in the body.

Triceratops was an herbivorous dinosaur that lived along with Tyrannosaurus Rex and were lost around 66 million years ago when there was an extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs and allowed mammals to take over as the dominant lifeform on Earth. Its name means three-horned face.

Several other models are on display in front of the AC Waterjet building where they were created in 2013.

Toronto has lots of public art but this display is a little unusual in that it has been created by a private company as a form of advertising.

See also out post on the murals in the former community of Islington and the Ghost Town of Wexford.

Google Maps link: Crockford Dinosaurs

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Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory

July 17, 2022

The Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory opened to the general public on January 26, 2001. It was originally known as the Wings of Paradise Butterfly Conservatory but changed its name in 2011 to better reflect the community in which it operated. The conservatory is housed in a 25,000 square foot building which includes a 10,800 square foot tropical garden where the butterflies are free to roam among the plants.

There are over 120 species of tropical plants in the garden many of which are in flower providing a place for the butterflies to feed. An artificial waterfall feeds a small pond which is full of goldfish and red-eared slider turtles.

Throughout the world there are about 30,000 species of butterflies with about 275 occurring in Canada. The butterflies in the conservatory are brought in from butterfly farms in Costa Rica and the Philippines. There are four stages to a butterfly’s life. It begins when a female butterfly lays a series of tiny eggs on a plant leaf. When the eggs hatch the larva or caterpillar will emerge. The caterpillar will feed on the leaves of the host plant until it is fully grown. Often the caterpillar can only eat a single type of leaf such as the milkweed plant which hosts Monarch Butterfly caterpillars. When the caterpillar is full grown it enters the pupa stage in which it spins a chrysalis around itself. The butterflies at the conservatory are imported in their chrysalis from sustainable farms. The image below shows a batch of Blue Morpho butterflies in their chrysalis.

The conservatory glues these in pairs to small straws and sets them aside to finish the metamorphosis into adult butterflies. If you arrive at the right time you may get to see a butterfly emerge from one of them. The Tarricina in the image below had just emerged and was waiting for its wings to dry so that it could fly away. The butterflies are then free to explore the tropical garden for the remainder of their lives. The total lifespan of the insect is about 40 days of which 6-10 is spent in the chrysalis phase.

Butterflies are insects with three body segments and six legs. They feed on nectar from flowers as well as fruit juices and honey. There are several places throughout the garden where they can drink from pieces of orange or banana. The Blue Morpho in the picture below was drinking from an orange through its long probiscis.

The butterfly in this picture has its probiscis rolled up but clearly visible on the front of its face.

Insects make up about 58% of all species on the planet and are an important part of the ecosystem. Unlike most insects which are feared or at least looked upon with disgust, butterflies are embraced for their beauty and charisma. They live all over the planet from sea level to the tops of mountains and from the equator to above the Arctic Circle. Some of them have very specific habitats while others like the White Cabbage Butterfly can be found in many different habitats and on different continents. Butterflies can be distinguished from moths by their antennae which are thin compared to a moth which has feathered ones.

The Brown Clipper is native to rainforests and can usually be found around rivers and streams. The conservatory also feature a Blue Clipper.

The Asian Swallowtail Butterfly is also known as The Chinese Yellow Swallowtail because of the yellow underwing colouring. These butterflies mate several times during their lifespan and are known to migrate up to 200 kilometers during their lives.

There are several different types of tropical birds that live in the conservatory and they are all remarkably tame. They will practically walk right up to you and don’t mind posing for pictures. The Zebra Finch in the picture below is native to Australia.

There are a number of live insects in display cases in the conservatory and one of the most unusual creatures featured here is the Blue Poison Dart Frog. These frogs live in Suriname and northern parts of Brazil and were only discovered in 1969. Their diet is made up largely of ants and the phosphorus in them causes the frog to have a poisonous skin that can kill even larger predators.

Aside from live displays there are also several displays of mounted butterflies and insects.

The Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory has an admission price of $20.00 for adults and tickets need to be purchased on line in order to guarantee that you will be able to get in when you arrive. The tropical garden is hot and humid to provide a natural environment for the butterflies that live there, so you’ll want to make sure that you don’t over-dress for your visit.

While you are in the area you might want to also check out the Grand River in Galt or The Devil’s Falls

Also see our post Butterflies of the GTA

Google Maps Link: Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory

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Shouldice Hospital Estate

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Over that past 70 years the Shouldice Hospital in Thornhill has performed over 400,000 hernia operations. The hospital is located in a beautiful estate setting, for now. The property is currently the site of a five-tower development proposal that will retain the historic buildings but allow the countryside around them to be lost.

The history of the site goes back to the earliest days of Thornhill and is located on part of lots 30 and 31 in the first concession east of Yonge Street. The full 190 acre lot was first granted to Thompson Maxwell in 1803 but it appears he failed to complete his settlement requirements and forfeited the land grant. Stillwell Wilson was able to secure the patent on the property in 1808. In the 1790’s William Berczy had built John Street through the property from Yonge Street to gain access to his settlement of German Mills. The County Atlas image below shows the area in 1877 and John Street is coloured brown. The site of the Shouldice Hospital has been outlined in green. Lot 32 to the north is the site of Heintzman House which we featured last week.

The east half of the property was bought by Allan McNab in 1817 so that he could build the grist mill that is shown on the County Atlas as “G.M.”. McNab is best known for building Dundurn Castle in Hamilton. The grist mill was completed in 1820 and McNab operated it until 1844 but the town he envisioned never developed around it. He decided to sell the property to John Brunskill in 1844 and it was renamed Pomona Mills. This is now commemorated by Pomona Mills Park. Matthew Dean bought 91 acres on the east end of the lot, north of John Street and it served as a family farm until 1937 when it was bought by Clement George McCullagh who wanted to use the property to build a country estate. The picture below shows the oval driveway and stone gates that were constructed for the estate.

Clement made his money in the press and in mining. He started his career selling subscriptions to The Toronto Globe newspaper and then branched into mining operations. In 1936 he bought The Toronto Globe and the Mail & Empire and merged the two papers into the Globe and Mail. He was also a part owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs. During the Great Depression he advocated for an all-party federal government to run the country based on sound business principles. The picture below shows the front of the estate mansion that he had built for himself, his wife Phyllis C. Laidlaw and their three children Robert, George and Ann.

The two and a half story house featured seven bays and which looked out over formal gardens and orchards. It was built by Donald MacKenzie Waters who had designed several other prominent buildings in Toronto including Maple Leaf Gardens. Several fruit trees are still found in front of the house.

Formal gardens and tennis courts surrounded the house and a greenhouse was also built although it has been removed in anticipation of the new development.

The house was built into the side of a hill so that the rear showed off the basement. Aluminum siding has been added which imitates the original wooden clapboard construction.

The rear of the house looked out over the pond which is held in place by a stone retaining wall dated 1937. The pond is now obscured by trees in the summer months.

A painted turtle was sunning itself on the overflow to the pond at the time of my visit. These are the most common native turtles in North America and can be found from Canada to Mexico. They continue to grow until they reach sexual maturity and have been known to live for over 50 years in the wild.

McCullagh was a founding member of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and was instrumental in the restoration of Fort York. It is therefore fitting that his estate should be preserved. He was fond of horses and the property still features a “U” shaped stable that sits adjacent to Bayview Avenue. It is located in a zone which has been reserved for future expansion of the roadway and may need to be relocated at some time in the future to avoid being demolished.

A gatehouse is located on the north end of the stables and is also on the road allowance for an expanded Bayview Avenue.

In 1953 the property was sold to Dr. Edward Earl Shouldice who perfected an operation to repair hernias during the Second World War. He converted the main estate residence into a private hospital and later added another wing to accommodate more patients. The other estate building that remains on the property is the gardener’s cottage. It also sits beside Bayview Avenue but like the other buildings featured here is protected by an heritage designation.

The artists concept below shows the new development with the Shouldice Hospital in the background.

The property is under a new development proposal but the historic buildings are to be retained among the new towers. A formal trail network is expected to connect to Ponoma Mills Park to the west of the property.

Related posts: Heintzman House, Dundurn Castle, Fort York

Google maps link: Shouldice Hospital

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