One of the strangest homes in Toronto stands amidst an average-looking Scarborough subdivision. Prior to 1970, the home at 110 Maybourne was just a single-story bungalow, unremarkable among its neighbours. Since then the small home on a 50 X 100-foot lot has been repeatedly expanded to become a sprawling 3,400 square foot monstrosity. In spite of the fact that it is falling down, it recently sold for $760,000 which is basically just the purchase of the property. It will be demolished and replaced with a new home so we thought it would be good to capture its eccentricity before it is gone forever.
The home is the creation of Max Heiduczec who spent years slowly adding to the house. He picked up inspiration from many different architectural styles and ended up with a most unusual-looking result.
On the roof is a small dome that looks like it came off of a small Russian Orthodox church.
Inside the house sprawls over three and a half floors including an indoor swimming pool in the basement.
There’s a round tower that resembles a minaret on an Islamic Mosque. Lion statues line the entrance like those in an Egyptian temple.
Some of the statues could easily be re-used on the site when the owner gets around to redeveloping it. There’s a female carrying a water jug on her shoulder that appears to have weathered pretty well.
Max continued to maintain the building but with less and less ability as he got older. By 2014 he was only able to work for short sessions painting or replastering before he would retreat into the house for a rest. Today there are large sections of the stucco that have dropped away and the male statue looks like he might have spent a little too much time out in the cold.
The little windows and embattlements on the round tower reveal themselves to have only been painted on.
The square tower actually has pointed arches in the Gothic Revival tradition used on many churches in the mid to late 1800s.
This is one of the oddest homes that has been allowed to be created in the city. Perhaps no one ever thought too much about all the continuous building permits that Max must have had issued to him.
In the 1960s the University of Toronto decided to expand with an additional campus on each of the east and west ends of the city. Eventually Scarborough and Mississauga each got a new university campus. The University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) was develped on two adjacent pieces of land. The northern section was a millionaire’s estate while the southern section belonged to the Erindale Sand and Gravel Company. The old gravel pits have been redeveloped for the various buildings of the university while much of the old estate remains intact, forested and is home to the UTM Nature Trail. We set out to explore the nature trail and the local history. The 1961 aerial map below is from the Toronto Archives and shows the relative location of the mansion, the pond and the cottage going from the top of the image to the bottom.
Erindale Park was a lake when the dam was intact but is now a large park with plenty of free parking. It’s best to park there and then cross the Credit River on the footbridge. There’s a trail that goes to the right and follows the river upstream to where it climbs the ravine from the flood plain up to the table lands above.
The UTM Nature Trail begins at the top of the hill. The trail is a little less than 3.5 kilometres long and follows the edge of the ravine, providing some interesting views of the river below. Although the trail is a loop it isn’t all nature trail. Part of the loop passes through the University campus following a sidewalk route. We turned back when we got to that part.
The land that forms the northern section of the UTM property was granted to Peter Adamson in 1836 and he held it until 1854 when it was sold to Edward Shortliss. In 1869 Louise deLisle foreclosed on the mortgage and took the property away from Shortliss. Louise deLisle placed it in trust for the use of the Schreiber family. Weymouth Schreiber moved to Springdale (now Erindale) in the late 1870’s and lived there for awhile until a home was built on the northern portion of the property. Three houses were eventually built with Lislehurst being raised in 1885. The name likely pays respect to deLisle. Two other houses and a cottage were built but one of the homes was lost to a fire in 1913. The remaining home would be dismantled around 1930 and the materials used to enlarge Lislehurst when Reginald Watkins bought the property. He designed a false Tudor style home facing the river which features exposed beams and stucco. The University of Toronto acquired the 12,000 square foot home in 1968 when they bought the property to develop a western campus. Since then the home has usually been occupied by the Principal who has the luxury of 8 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms. They also enjoy the short commute down the old laneway which is now known as Principal’s Road. The house is well posted as private property but as it is clearly visible from the UTM trail it has been decorated for Halloween.
Reginald Watkins bought the property in 1930 and began to renovate it into a grand estate. One of his most endearing creations was an artificial pond with a concrete bottom. He built a stone arch bridge across the pond which is still in use by pedestrians as well as almost everyone who passes by with a camera. You can reach the pond by following the old laneway away from Lislehurst. Between the house and the pond a set of laneway curbs runs to the edge of the new growth forest. Therein lies the foundations from another of the outbuildings from the estate.
Near the pond stands a large carving called Curiosity Knowledge Wisdom. It depicts an owl, pileated woodpecker, raccoon and a fawn on the front with a male cardinal on the back. It was donated to the campus on September 29, 2013 by two members of the class of “81 and their two children.
If you follow Principal’s Road past the maintenance buildings you will find a small story and a half cottage that was built in the 1870s by the Schreiber family. At various times it has served as a groundskeepers home, a guest cottage and the gardeners house. When the Schreibers moved around 1900 they left Stanley Plumb as caretaker and he moved into the cottage. Watkins rennovated the cottage when he updated Lislehurst. When UTM bought the property they first used the cottage for the Artist in Residence. It is currently used to stage mock crime scenes for the forensic students to try and solve. While Lislehurst has a heritage designation the cottage does not.
The car that was left parked behind the cottage has been stripped of everything that could be reused. The inside of the car shows signs of having been set on fire. I think it could have been a Chrysler Sebring based on the shape.
The trails on campus were lightly used on this Sunday afternoon with the exception of a few students. The upper trails were in pretty good shape but the lower trail along the river was quite muddy.
Chiggers, or Berry Bugs, look like tiny bright red dots. The one pictured below was on a log but they commonly hang around on the tips of tall grass waiting to crawl onto people and animals that pass by. They feed on animal skin and can leave a serious bite that causes an itchy rash known as Trombiculosis.
Orange Jelly Slime grows on dead softwood trees. It isn’t poisonous but appareantly it doesn’t hold together if cooked so it needs to be eaten raw. It’s also said to be basically tasteless so perhaps if I was lost and starving…
We saw evidence that there are plenty of deer on the UTM campus where they can avoid the crowds of people who are enjoying Erindale Park. You can read about when the park was Erindale Lake in our story Erindale Hydro Electric Dam.
As Toronto grew and its rivers and lakefront became increasingly polluted the city understood that it needed to ensure a good supply of clean water. In 1913 the newly appointed Commissioner of Public Works R. C. Harris presented his plan. It was called the “Report of the Commissioner of Works on Additions and Extensions to the Toronto Waterworks Pumping and Distribution Plant.” The plans were put on hold for the First World War and not revived until 1926 when the need was becoming increasingly urgent. The revised report called for the construction of a new water works at Victoria Park complete with filtration, reservoir and pumping facilities. We know it today as The R. C. Harris Filtration Plant. A large filtered water tunnel across the lakefront would link it to a pumphouse and surge tower at John Street and another set in Parkdale. A reservoir at St. Clair and Spadina with an overhead storage tank was proposed to serve the city as it expanded northward. Most of this work would be completed between 1930 and 1955 and although we’ve visited most of the infrastructure, and parkland that was created in the process, we’ve not looked at the Parkdale Pumping Station.
The dominant feature of the Parkdale Pumping Station is the Surge Tower. Thousands of people pass the tower on the Gardiner Expressway or Lake Shore Boulevard every day and at one time or another they’ve likely wondered about the Neo-Classical tower that stands just east of High Park. Two surge towers were built but only the Parkdale one survives. The one on John Street was octagonal in design but was demolished to make way for Skydome to be constructed in the 1980s. It has been replaced with an unimaginative structure which along with the Parkdale surge tower is used to maintain a constant pressure on the main water line. The round Parkdale tower is seen below and in the cover photo.
The pumphouse building in Parkdale is purely functional without a lot of ornamentation.It was completed in 1952 when city planners were driven by costs and public works were not seen as atristic statements.
A stylized TWW (Toronto Water Works) adorns the main entrance to the pump house.
The heart of the water system is the R. C. Harris Filtration Plant at the foot of Victoria Park Avenue. Four towers were designed on the network with the one here being known as the Alum Tower. Water passing under the tower has alum dropped into it which causes any contaminant to settle out in a process known as flocculation. More about the filtration plant and its architecture can be found at the link above and also at the end of this article.
Water is pumped to one of several reservoirs located around the city. The Spadina Reservoir was the first part of the Toronto Water Works Extension to be completed with work finishing in 1930. At the time, a water tower was planned so that water pressure could be maintained during a power outage. Cutbacks brought on by the Depression meant that the tower was never built, however the footings were constructed and now form a circle in the park land on the top of the reservoir.
The image below was drawn in CAD using the original design documents and shows what the tower would have looked like if constructed. It was taken from “Toronto’s Tower Of Pure Water” by Steven Mannell.
The Yorkville Water Works originally supplied water to the small community just to the north of Toronto. When Yorkville was amalgamated with the city, the water works were expanded and renamed the High Level Pumping Station. In 1952 it was expanded again, this time to become the control centre for the entire city network. It controls the water from 4 water treatment plants, 18 pumping stations, 10 underground reservoirs and 4 water towers. These in turn supply water to over 3 million people. To read how a small town water supply became the organizational heart of the Toronto Water Works Expansion check out the link above.
The Parkdale Surge Tower is a visible reminder of the ambitious public works project that now supplies water to nearly 20% of the people in Ontario. The tower doesn’t have a large public park like other parts of the water delivery system, but High Park and Sir Casimir Gzowski Park are nearby.
Toronto has more than enough “cookie-cutter” houses but it also has some rather odd examples of private homes. This post collects some of them from various parts of the city and includes a Google Maps link to each one of them. Which one would you live in if you had the choice?
Leslieville is an area on the east side of the Don River which was formerly one of the industrial areas of the city. There are a lot of small side streets lined with working-class homes. The home at 37 Bertmount Avenue stands out from the rest because of the collection of toys, dolls, and collectibles that adorn the front lawn. The collection started as a hobby when the lady of the house lost her husband over 20 years ago. The collection is ever-changing as she adopts various holiday themes. Halloween items have taken prominent positions in the display.
The items on the front lawn appear to be mostly children’s toys and dolls leading to the nickname “The Doll House”. If you take the time to look carefully you just might see one that looks like something you used to own yourself.
The house at 157 Coxwell Avenue has had a makeover and what formerly looked like a mixed-up Rubik’s Cube is only slightly less out of place among its neighbours. The three-story tower was built in 2003 on four stilts that are sunk 48 feet into the ground. Designed by architect Rohan Walters the house takes full advantage of the 23-foot wide lot. Each floor is 16 feet wide and parking is provided under the house. There’s an open patio on the roof and the front door is reached across a private bridge. It was recently sold and the new owners have remodeled the outside to get rid of the blue, red, yellow, and green plywood panels that made it impossible to miss.
The house at 469 Broadview Avenue has the distinction of being the oldest, continually inhabited house in the city. The earliest section of the home was built prior to 1807 for John Cox who owned a store in the town of York. Alterations and additions over the years have hidden the original log structure. An electrician working in the home in 1995 discovered the original log home hiding inside the walls. This house now looks completely out of place surrounded by larger, more modern homes. There are a couple of log homes in the city that might be a few years older but this is the oldest one that still stands in its original location.
Just 8 feet wide, the house at 363 Shuter is the narrowest detached home in the city, although it isn’t the smallest. That honour goes to a home which is also featured in this article. The original home on this lot was built in 1880 and was just a single story. Renovations over the years have hidden the original home and added two more floors. The home is filled with light and has a finished basement and landscaped backyard. It was recently on the market for $750,000.
Bright Street is a small residential street in the old Corktown area of the city. This working-class Irish enclave was named after Thomas Bright who owned the land until his death in 1857. After that, it was sold off into building lots. The intersection of Bright Street and Queen Street was adjusted, leaving all the lots on the street with irregular shapes. In the 1860s the victorian Bay and Gable terraces on either side of number 32 Bright Street were built but the rights to the lot where the little bungalow stood weren’t secured for development. With the angle of the roadway changed the bungalow sits at a funny angle to the street and its neighbours.
Toronto also has a what appears to be half of a house. It is actually one sixth of a row of Victorian row houses each featuring the Toronto signature “Bay and Gable” design. They were built in the early 1890s and a land developer began buying them up in the 1950s. By the 1970s five of them had been bought up but the sixth one was owned by someone who refused to sell. five of them were demolished leaving 54 1/2 St. Patrick Street looking like half of a duplex.
Cube houses were developed in the Netherlands in the 1970s. It takes a cube shape and stands it on an angle atop a small podium. They were designed to optimize space and the first three were built in 1974. Forty were built in Rotterdam and another 39 in Helmond. It was a short-lived fad and no more would be built until 1996. That is when 3 were built at 1 Sumach St. in Toronto. These three homes are now in the way of a 35 story tower and their fate is unknown. It was originally thought that they could be moved somewhere but there are currently no plans. I guess we’ll see what happens to the only 3 cube houses in the world, outside of the Netherlands.
Known as the Herman Heintzman House it was built in 1891 with part of the Heintzman Piano fortune. Located at 166 High Park Avenue the home features a round tower that hides the staircase to the secod floor. The tower has an open air gallery at the top.
The Parashos family has turned their home at 1016 Shaw Street into a showpiece for their Greek heritage. Columns, urns, and sculptures all adorn this house whose red clay tile roof is lined with statues.
128 Day Avenue has the distinction of being the smallest house in the city at just 2.2 metres wide and 14.3 metres long. It has a living room, kitchen and small sleeping area on the main floor and a small basement. Originally the lot was intended to be a laneway but the city wouldn’t cut the curb for vehicle access. Therefore, in 1912 Mr. Weeden decided to build a small house there. He lived there with his wife for 26 years before selling it. It’s had several owners since then and sold for $180,000 in 2010.
From the smallest to one of the largest and best examples of a Gothic Revival home in the city. The house is known as Oaklands and was built in 1860 with the tower added in 1869. The home is now part of De La Salle college.
Toronto has a wide variety of different architectural styles but there’s plenty of places that have a style all their own. These are just a few of the better-known ones.
Several electric railway lines radiated out of Toronto in the early 20th century but the longest was the one that ran from Toronto to Guelph. It covered 49 miles (79 kilometres) and passed through several towns where it conveyed passengers and provided an express service. The right of way was almost exclusively privately owned and included several major bridges that had to be constructed to carry the line across the ravines and waterways along the route. Among them was the 711 foot (213 meter) long steel trestle bridge that carried the train 86 feet (26 meter) above the Humber River. It is featured in the archive picture used as a cover photo for this article. Although the line was surveyed in 1911 and 41.5 miles (67 kilometres) of track was laid west of Islington in 1914 this bridge wouldn’t be ready until 1916 because they had problems setting the footings. The railway itself wouldn’t open to the public until April 14, 1917.
The 1925 schedule below for the suburban railway shows each of the major stops and the transit time between them.
The car sheds and maintenance shops were located just west of Scarlett Road and tucked in between the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and Dundas Street. These remained in use by other companies after the failure of the rail line until the 1980s. They were then demolished to create room for a townhouse development. From the maintenance yards a 200 foot (61 meter) wooden trestle was built as an approach to the bridge over the Humber River. The trestle was filled in when the 1925 extension to the Junction was built. At this time the line was re-routed under the CPR tracks to follow the power corridor. The underpass has been filled in but can still be identified by the cut on either side of the CPR mainline. The picture below looks along the filled in trestle toward the Humber River.
The piers and abutments for the bridge (see cover photo) are all that remains as the steel bridge works were removed for salvage. The river level piers have been repurposed for the pedestrian bridge on the Humber River Trail. The original bridge brought the railway across the river at about the same level as the CPR tracks beside it.
The railway stayed on the south side of the CPR as it approached Mimico Creek where it crossed on an 80 foot (24 meter) long bridge. The walkway that leads from behind Central Arena down into Tom Riley Park follows the cut in the embankment that was made by the railway. Once across the creek, the right of way passed under the CPR tracks and then turned west again. Central Park Roadway now follows the old alignment.
Islington is a village which has paid tribute to its heritage with a series of murals depicting the towns past. A beautiful mural of a radial car has been painted on the side of the building which the train ran behind. Initially there were 6 cars but two were destroyed by fire before they were even delivered. The remaining four cars were 60 feet long and had centre doors on either side. Two more cars were added in the mid 1920s (these with the standard door at the front) and service was increased to every two hours between Guelph and Toronto. For more about Islington and pictures of their other murals check our our post Islington – Village of Murals.
The line roughly followed Dundas Street through Dixie and on toward Cooksville before cutting off on an angle toward Meadowvale. It ran roughly northwest until it reached Highway 7 and then followed it into Guelph. Meadowvale is the next stop along the line where there are still remains to be found. The rail line crossed over the tail race for Silverthorne’s Grist Mill and the crumbling bridge abutments remain as reminders to a different era.
Three substations were built to power the line. The Islington and Georgetown ones were put into service but the Guelph station never was. It was intended to power an extension to Kitchener but the partially built line was scrapped during World War 1. Although there were 100 official stops only three passenger stations were ever built, these being at Acton, Georgetown and Guelph. Some of the stops had small waiting shelters while others were simply a road crossing where one could wave at the train to get it to stop. From Meadowvale the line ran through Churchville and then on to Eldorado Park the most popular destination on the route on summer weekends. Eldorado Park was a 128 acre amusement park created by the railway in 1925 as an attraction that was intended to provide passenger business. Eventually it did this to the extent that multiple car picnic excursions ran to the park, being powered by the railways freight locomotive. The image below shows a rail car dropping passengers off at the park to enjoy a day of fun before jumping on a later car to return to the city.
You can locate the old line through the park by finding the swimming pool. It ran right past the edge of the place where the pool would be built.
Following the old right of way will lead you to the place where most of it has slipped down the embankment and into the river. So much for daily service along this line.
There were 16 sets of sidings constructed to allow trains to pass each other going in opposite directions. Three Wyes were built to allow the train to turn around using a three-point turn. Lambton, Georgetown and Guelph each had one but when the line was extended to The Junction no Wye was built there due to space limitations. In The Junction the car had to travel up a side street to an existing loop to turn before making the trip back to Guelph. Heading west the line passed through Huttonville and Norval before reaching Georgetown. From Georgetown the line carried on moving northwest until it passed through Limehouse. Here it had a wooden trestle over the mill pond in what has become the conservation area before crossing the Second Line where there was a small shelter on the west side of the road. The image below shows the railway trestle piers that remain in the now dry mill pond. You can read more about Limehouse and the kilns from the lime industry in our post entitled Limehouse.
East of Acton sections of the old right of way have been converted into the Guelph Radial Trail. This trail name is easily confused with the Guelph Radial Railway which operated within the city of Guelph. In many places the old railway berm is still clearly visible. For more on this section of the trail see our post Guelph Radial Trail – Action East.
The Guelph Radial trail lets people follow the old right of way from Limehouse to Guelph. The trail has been marked with orange blazes. More can be read about this section of the trail in our feature story Guelph Radial Trail – Acton Section.
The Halton County Radial Railway Museum is on Guelph Line and uses some of the original right of way for short tourist excursions. They provide a home to a lot of electric railway artifacts including the waiting shed for stop 47 along the route. This is the stop which was located at Meadowvale. At the roadside is this car from the London & Port Stanley railway. It operated as an electric railway from 1913-1957.
The next stop was Eden Mills and then on to Guelph. The line was never a financial success and it had very little end-to-end traffic. The timing was poor as it had to compete with the growth of automobile traffic. By 1920 there were 150,000 cars in Ontario which gave people a greater range of freedom than riding the rails could provide. Within a year of opening, the line was turned over to the Canadian Northern Railway and then in 1923 it became part of the recently created Toronto Transportation Commission. The addition of an express department which charged 40 cents to move 100 pounds of goods from one end of the line to the other did little increase revenue. In 1925 it was operating with a loss of 45 cents on the dollar. By 1931 the line was serving only 300 passengers per day and it was closed for good on August 15, 1931.
Aside from the relics featured above there’s likely a few others to be discovered on future expeditions.
When Jonathon Baker and his wife arrived on their new property in Vaughan in 1816 the land was covered with huge pine trees interspersed with smaller maple trees. They cut the pine trees for wood to build their home and barns and left the maple trees to mature in their place. From the beginning, they started tapping a few trees for maple sugar and maple syrup. These were the only sources of sugar that were readily available. They cleared half of their two hundred acre allotment and left 80 acres on the east end of the property and another 20 on the west end. In the year 2000, the City of Vaughan bought the eastern wood lot to preserve it because it was one of the largest remaining in the quickly expanding city. It was opened in 2011 and is now protected by heritage designations. There’s parking for several cars in a free parking lot at the park.
The two wood lots remain with the east one on Bathurst having been turned into the Sugarbush Heritage Park. The one at Dufferin and Langstaff is largely untouched except for flood control ponds that have been created on the edge of the forest. The 1877 county atlas below shows the Baker farm outlined in green. This farm had been in the family since 1816 when Jonathon Baker Sr. purchased it. By this time it was being operated by Jonathon Baker Jr.
After starting with a tapping a few trees for personal use, the wood lot was slowly turned into a profit centre. They continually added more trees to the collection process, going from 70 in 1870 to over 8000 by the year 1980.
The aerial photo below is from the 1975 survey and was taken from the Toronto Archives. It shows the Baker Sugar Bush outlined in green while the rest of the property is outlined in blue. The woodlot on the west end of the property was also used as a sugar bush and remains undeveloped until this time. It has been marked with an orange line. The Baker house is seen in its original position but it has since been moved near the entrance of the wood lot. In the upper left the Cober cemetery is circled in green and is the final resting place for many of the Baker family.
Before the sap started running the family had to go through the woodlot and blaze the trees. This involved inspecting each tree and selecting a new location for that years spiles. A small area of the outer bark was removed with a hatchet to make a smooth spot to bore the holes. This was important after the metal spiles were introduced because it allowed the spile to fit tightly and let the bucket hang straight. A brace and bit was used to bore the holes for 150 years until a tree tapper was bought in 1956. As you walk the trails you can step up to any one of the big old maple trees and look for the old bore holes. There’s lots of them between 5 and 6 feet off the ground. Some trees have dozens of visible holes because they were tapped for decades. It is reported that some of the trees from 1816 were still being tapped in the 1980s.
In the early days a 12″ long wooden spile was used to tap the trees. The wooden sap buckets sat on small benches near the base of each tree and the spile had to be long enough to reach out past the bottom of the tree which sloped outward. By around 1900 the spiles were replaced with tin ones that allowed the pail to be hooked on the spile. Then, around 1959 the spiles started to be replaced again with smaller plastic ones that worked with tubing instead of buckets. A careful eye might still identify a spile or two laying on the forest floor.
In 1959 forty trees were tapped using a new method of collecting the sap and transporting it using tubing that ran between the trees. Eventually this process would expand until almost every tree was connected with tubing. A few trees were still collected using the old tin buckets so that roadways could be left open to allow the tractor to pass through. There is still some tubing left lying around the forest floor in a few places.
Children will enjoy the Story Walk that has been set up along the trails. There are seventeen panels that tell the story of a panda and a parrot and what they learn about friendship and the joy of the world around them. Although there are 2.4 kilometers of trails in the park the Story Walk is set up on a shorter loop so the little ones don’t have to complete the entire thing.
A healthy forest will have several different types of fungi which serve to break down the wood of dead trees. One of the less common ones is Wolf’s-Milk Slime Mold which grows on large dead logs between June and November. When they’re young, if the tiny balls are popped a pinkish orange slime oozes out. Because this is about the consistency of toothpaste, this slime is also known as Toothpaste Slime. As they age the interior will harden and become ochre in colour. Wolf’s-Milk Slime Mold fruiting bodies are only a few millimeters across at the biggest and sometimes there could be only a single one which makes spotting them tricky. Several of the old maple logs lying on the forest floor are covered with this mold so it is a good place to look for it if you haven’t seen it before.
Turkey Tail Mushroom is also known as Tramentes Versicolor because of its multi-coloured appearance. It has been used for centuries in traditional medicines to relieve respiratory ailments. More recent studies show that it can improve the efficiency of chemotherapy in patients with colon or breast cancer.
The City of Vaughan operates several types of gardens where residents can grow their own fruits and vegetables. Allotment Gardens are ones in which people can rent a small plot on a yearly basis. There is only one in the city and it is located at Sugarbush Heritage Park where there are 20 plots available and a waiting list to get one.
The second house on the property replaced the original log home around 1863. As seen in the aerial photo above, it formerly stood central to the property with access from Langstaff Road. It was moved near the edge of the sugarbush so that it could be used for community purposes.
The other house on the property also belonged to the Baker family and was moved from its original location on Bathurst Street. It was repaired after years of vandalism and turned into the park washrooms.
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.
I’m looking forward to returning here in a couple weeks time to see the forest with its fall colours on full display but it makes a great place to go for a walk at any time of the year.
Hagerman’s Corners developed around the intersection of modern day Kennedy Road and 14th Avenue in Markham, just south of Unionville and north of Milliken. In fact, one of the four corners of Hagerman’s Corners was owned by Benjamin Milliken who donated land for the local school. By the time of the county atlas in 1877 the land was owned by William Milliken. The town had been founded in 1803 by Nicholas Hagerman who bought the property on the north west corner of the intersection.
Hagerman’s Corners never grew larger than a few buildings centred around the intersection. The post office was opened in 1873 and it was joined by a wagon maker’s shop, a hotel and a tavern as well as two churches and a handful of houses. The County Atlas below has green circles around the surviving structures which are featured in this article.
Hagerman’s Corners got its first school in 1858 but the wooden building burned down on April 11, 1888. They immediately set about replacing it with a unique brick schoolhouse. The building was designed by E.J. Lennox who is famous for designing Casa Loma. Rather than having an entrance that faced the street, this school had one on either side. One for boys and the other for girls. In 1966 the last classes were held in the school and it sat empty until 1985. That is when George and Patricia Zarafonitis bought the building and converted it into a restaurant.
Benjamin Milliken II was the son of the founder of Milliken and he built this home in 1855. The Milliken family attended the Presbyterian Church in Hagerman’s Corners and several of the grave markers in that cemetery bear their names.
Almost directly across the street from the Milliken house is the former home of Jesse Noble which was built in 1855. Ambrose Noble had purchased the property in 1826 and granted it to his son Jesse in 1864. The house was renovated and expanded in 1880. Today it serves as part of a bridal shop.
This home was lived in recently enough to have a satellite dish on the roof. It appears to be of 1850s or 1860s construction and could likely be returned to use with a little love and a pile of cash.
There’s only a few 19th century houses left in town and it appears that two of them may have had the same builder. There are two second empire style houses complete with the identifying mansard roof. While not identical, they stand out among the other historic homes.
The second mansard roof is only a couple houses away on the same side of the street. It’s possible that the houses in between were later additions and these homes were once neighbours. A pair of white two story, two bay houses with their imposing roofs.
The hotel in town was known as The Bee Hive Hotel and stood on the north east corner of the intersection. John and Jane Webber ran the hotel before moving their operation to Unionville where they owned The Queens hotel. In 1877 the property belonged to James Fairless who built the house pictured below, which is turned to face the former hotel.
The Presbyterian Church was built almost across the street from the Methodist one. Worship services were held in the little church on the east side of Kennedy Road until the Presbyterian congregation elected to join the United Church in 1925. They merged with the congregation at the newly named Ebenezer United Church at Brimley Road and Steeles Avenue in Milliken. Their original building was demolished shortly thereafter and the 1839 cemetery is now known as Hagerman Cemetery East.
The Hagerman family cemetery was located on the original family farm on the north west corner of the intersection. The family were committed to the Wesleyan Methodist faith and in 1849 land was donated for the use of a cemetery and the construction of a wood framed church building. The original church was replaced with a brick one in 1874 and it stood on the south west corner of the present cemetery lot. The cemetery was recently mapped with ground penetrating radar prior to work on expanding Kennedy Road. The foundations of the old structure showed up on the radar. The cemetery is now known as Hagerman Cemetery West and was founded in 1838.
The Hagerman family were members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church and there’s a large section of memorials to them in this cemetery. In general, there are less of the older pioneer limestone tombstones in this cemetery than there are across the road.
In 1876 Robert Armstrong bought a property on the north edge of town from Nicholas Hagerman. The following year he built a story and a half Gothic Revival house on the property and began working the farm. His son Leslie took over the farm in 1903 and most recently the Government of Ontario purchased the property so they could build Highway 407. The house and property are now owned by infrastructure Ontario and the house is listed on the Markham heritage register.
Across from the new high school on Kennedy Road is another original home which belonged to John B Smith. The story and a half house has a full length front porch which was the family entertainment centre in the early days. There’s room for sitting after dinner and watching the world go by, or to have a chat with the neighbours.
Although the area has been highly developed over the past few decades there is a surprising number of buildings remaining that were shown on the county atlas 144 years ago. The same can’t be said for a lot of the ghost towns we’ve visited.
There is a series of linear parks that run east of Yonge Street in North York that comprise Willowdale Park North and Willowdale Park South. Starting in 2014, part of Willowale Park North was expanded by demolishing three developer owned residences and the newly created park was named Lee Lifeson Art Park. Construction of the park took place in 2016 with the grand opening being held on September 17, 2016. It was held in the rain with Mayor John Tory giving Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson (as well as Neil Peart who wasn’t present) the keys to the city in front of a few hundred Rush fans.
The one remaining house on the property was purchased by the city in 2015 for just over $2,058,000 with the intention of demolishing it and adding the property to the park. The current tenant was given a four year lease with three options to renew for a five year period each. Therefore, it could be 2034 before this becomes part of the park. The city has acquired several other properties with the intention of expanding Willowdale Linear Park. The December 2015 Google Earth capture below shows the three yet to be demolished houses circled in green while the one remaining home has the park name written over the roof.
Geddy Lee (Gary Lee Weinrib) was born on July 29, 1953 in Willowdale and went to Fisherville Public School with Alex Lifeson (Aleksandar Zivojinovic) who was born on August 27, 1953. In September 1968 they joined forces in the band that would go on to become Rush.
There is a permanent three part art installation in the park called 120 Mirrors which is inspired by the gramophone. The Horn of Reflection was created as a space for someone to sit inside and enjoy the soundscape as it is captured and amplified by the shape. However, you can’t get into the cone anymore because the end has been closed off.
The Hornucopia can be used to amplify sound within the park and by rotating it you can pick up distant bird songs.
Speak and Listen is the installation that has been overtaken by this garden in the picture below. Sound can be transmitted between the two points in much the same way that cup on the wall or a pair of cans on a string can.
Looking from the south east end of the park you can see the band shell and the three level amphitheater west of it.
The bandshell in Lee Lifeson Art Park is fittingly named Limelight after one of the songs on Rush’s 1981 album Moving Pictures. It was their most successful record, having sold over 5 million copies. Limelight was designed on a computer to amplify and direct sound with the best acoustics possible. It is based on a parabolic reflector and is covered with thousands of black glass mosaic tiles. It allows formal and informal presentations to be heard throughout the park. Limelight was created by Paul Raff Studios who also did the mosaic mural of Lee and Lifeson that can be seen in the cover photo and also later in the article.
The park is cut throughout by winding paths that lead among the plantings and art exhibits. Performances in the park were scheduled on a regular basis before being temporarily stopped by COVID restrictions. There’s plenty of space for people to sit on the grass and enjoy a show when the amphitheater is full.
Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and their partner in rhyme, Neil Peart, created a legacy of music that will be enjoyed for years to come. Sadly, Neil Peart passed away on January 7, 2020 but not before amassing 14 Platinum records and 24 Gold ones with sales of over 40 million albums. Together they toured the world multiple times and performed for this writer on 12 occasions beginning in 1982. Lee and Lifeson have been featured in a mosaic mural on the west end of the amphitheater where the washrooms and support buildings are located.
Lee Lifeson Art Park is only about 7,000 square meters, for now, but is an interesting little enclave among the high rises of North York. And, it’s a fitting tribute to two of the neighbourhood’s most nationally and internationally recognized men.
Marita Payne Pond is in a small residential park that follows the Don River through the Dufferin Road and Steeles Avenue area. The pond, and the park it is located in are named after Marita Payne who is a Vaughan resident. She is remembered for winning two silver medals in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. She is also currently a co-holder of the Canadian record for the 400-metre dash.
The park was developed on the grounds of the former Glen Shields Golf Course (1952-1979) where it ran along both sides of the Don River. The 1967 aerial photo below is from the Toronto Archives and shows the river and an earlier pond where Marita Payne Pond is today. The fairways and greens from the old golf course can still be seen in the picture. The table lands were developed for housing while the ravine areas were turned into Glen Shields Park and Marita Payne Park.
The pond serves as a flood control feature by holding heavy rainfall until it can be slowly released into the Don River. The pond is fairly small but has a surprising amount of wildlife.
Although the pond has been home to a Great Blue Heron for the past several summers it was a pleasant surprise to see a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron standing on the rocks at the storm water outfall into the pond. Juveniles have a brown colour with lighter streaks and a pale yellow beak. As they mature the belly turns a pale white and they develop a black crown and back. As their name suggests, they are nocturnal and do most of their feeding in the evenings. During the day they can be hard to spot because they sleep in trees or dense foliage. The average Black-crowned Night Heron can expect to live for about 20 years.
Great Blue Herons, on the other hand tend to live for around 17 years. With their wingspan of nearly two meters they are able to reach speeds of 55 kilometers per hour in flight. It’s common for them to nest in large colonies and then fly for up to an hour each day to reach their feeding places. There has been a Great Blue Heron at Marita Payne Pond for several years in a row and it’s likely the same one each year. Birds that have been banded for tracking purposes are known to migrate to the same place each winter and return to the same nesting grounds each spring. For some reason many of these birds moved farther north this spring and we seem to have a lot more of them in the GTA. The Great Blue Heron in the cover photo is a second one, the first time I have ever seen two at this little pond. It is flying with its neck stretched out straight unlike the normal retracted “S” curve we usually see when they’re in flight.
Painted Turtles usually live between 20 and 30 years but some have been known to survive for 50 years. When you see the feet of Painted Turtles you may notice that some of them have long nails while others have relatively short ones. The long-nailed ones are the males and they use them to stroke the female turtle on the head to indicate interest in mating. If she is tickled correctly she will dive to the bottom of the water and wait for him to come and mate. When I took the picture below I thought there was just one turtle in it but a second one decided to photobomb my picture. That was nice of it.
Call Ducks are domesticated and sometimes kept for pets. They were developed in the mid-19th century as hunting ducks. They were specifically bred to be smaller than average ducks so that they could lure other ducks into funnel traps and then escape through the small exit. They also have a distinct call that carries well and can lure wild ducks from great distances. With the advent of duck whistles and the decline in popularity of hunting, Call Ducks became relatively rare. In the mid-20th century they made a come-back as show ducks and as livestock on hobby farms where they are raised for eggs and food. The pair of Call Ducks at Marita Payne Pond were quite attached to each other and when they decided to sleep they snuggled up and dozed off.
I was surprised to see a Cormorant at Marita Payne Pond for the first time in nearly 20 years of visiting here. An adult Cormorant will eat about a pound of fish per day which is nearly 10,000 pounds in their 23 year lifetime. The pond is said to have Bass, Carp, Sunfish, Catfish and Black Crappie but I wonder if it isn’t being over-fished by the large predatory water birds.
Pleated Inkcap Mushrooms grow in short grass or on wood chips and can be found in the mornings, especially the day after a rain storm. These little mushrooms are also known as Little Japanese Umbrella and the caps are between 1 and 2 centimeters and stand atop a 6 centimeter stem which is only 4-5 millimeters in diameter.
These mushrooms are very frail and thin. The radial grooves that extend from the centre to the edge of the cap match the gills on the underside. They reach maturity around noon and after releasing their spores they bein to fade away. Twenty-four hours later there will be hardly a trace of their coming and going.
The Eastern Grey Squirrel comes in both grey and black colours. Both can be born in the same litter but some confuse them for two different species. The black ones are more common in the northern range of their habitats while they don’t exist at all in the southern United States. Some populations are also known to have a black body with a red tail and a few groups of albino squirrels have also been reported.
The trail through Marita Payne Park is part of the Bartley-Smith Greenway, a 15-kilometer trail that follows the West Don River. As you follow it north-west you pass under the Glen Shields Avenue bridge and the trail changes to fine gravel from pavement. The park also become a little less maintained between here and and where it passes under the bridge for Highway 407.
I was wondering if the second Heron at Marita Payne was possible the one that is usually at the old dam just past the 407 bridge. As it turns out, this bird is in its normal spot at the base of the abutment from the dam. There’s no shortage of Herons this year in any of our parks.
River Grapes or wild grapes are growing in abundance along the side of the river. From the looks of the fruit, it’s going to be a good year for a large crop. Cultivated grapes have been developed from wild grapes by choosing plants that are the hardiest and cross breeding them.
Destroying Angel is one of the poisonous mushrooms that grow in the region. They are often found growing solo and can be identified by their bright white colour and the large veil below the cap. A distinguishing feature is the sac-like cup at the bottom of the stem.
Highway 407 was originally proposed in 1959 but the first section wasn’t opened until 1997. When construction was completed through the Concord area it was decided to re-align Highway 7 where it crossed the West Don River. A small portion of the old highway was closed and the bridge was removed. There is still a small section of the old road allowance that can be found just before the present Highway 7 bridge.
We often look for loop trails so that we can experience more terrain without having to go back over sections we already explored. Trails along the rivers in the GTA tend to be “out and back” as the parks are normally only as wide as the floodplain of the waterway they surround. It’s amazing how often we see something on the way back that was missed on the outward part of the journey. This time it was a baby Snapping Turtle that was lying in a puddle on the edge of the path. It looked a lot like a leaf in the water and could have easily been stepped on or crushed by a bike tire. Snapping Turtles can live up to 45 years in the wild and this one will have a better chance after I moved him up onto the grass between the path and the river.
Returning to the pond, it’s possible to follow the trail to the corner Of Glen Shields Avenue and Dufferin Street where it cuts through the Ghost Town of Fisherville before ending at the entrance to G. Ross Lord Park.
Marita Payne Pond has a direct connection to the Don River and fish have an easy way into the pond. Perhaps this is why such a small pond can support four large fishing birds.
The Town of Georgina is the northern most community in the Township of York. It’s made up of the three little towns of Keswick, Sutton and Jackson’s Point and several smaller communities. At the turn of the last century it was a tourist attraction and served as cottage country for people from Toronto. In the early 20th century it was serviced by the Toronto & York Radial Railway which ran as far as Sutton. One of the objectives of the grand tour presented below was the photographing of two more relics from the old railway.
As the Toronto & York Radial Railway expanded north in 1899 it built power stations at Bond Lake and Lake Simcoe. The Bond Lake power house has been left abandoned and now is in a poor state of repair. The one at Lake Simcoe was located at Kennedy Road and Metro Road and is now in use as a private residence.
The York Regional Forest covers 2,300 hectares of land that is protected and yet available for public use. It is comprised of 18 different forested properties that have a total of over 120 kilometers of trails. The Metro Road Tract is near Jackson’s Point and has a 2.6 kilometer trail in it, although most of the property is left without formal trails.
Jackson’s Point was a beach resort for those who arrived by the radial railway to escape the city for the day. However, when cars started to become more popular its importance started to fade because other places became accessible to the family. Today, most of the beach is private property and parking is restricted to a few parking lots. Even so, Lake Drive East has plenty of great views out over the lake.
Until 2018 the harbour at Jackson’s Point had a day marker to guide boaters away from the rocks at the harbour entrance. That year, the Town Council authorized a local resident to begin work on designing a lighthouse for the harbour that would celebrate Jackson’s Point as a destination on Lake Simcoe. Daryl Urquhart has put up the $160,000 for the lighthouse himself and construction was completed in 2019. It stands 30 feet tall and has an LED light that is programmable and can be seen for up to 5 nautical miles.
In the 1830s Jackson’s Point was a destination for steamships that visited for trade, and later, for tourism. Sometime between 1910 and 1920 the bandshell was built as a shelter on the end of the government wharf. In 1977 it was dismantled and moved to the present site at the Georgina Pioneer Village and Archives. Here it was fully restored and added to the collection of historic buildings. We’ll look at a few other buildings from Pioneer Village a little later in this post.
The Toronto & York Radial Railway built its terminus in Sutton in 1908. The station master and his family lived on the upper floor while the lower one served as the station. Radial service began in Sutton on January 1, 1909 and continued until March 16, 1930. The building was then purchased by the Hydro Electric Power Commission who used it as an office until 1970. It currently serves as home to a real estate brokerage. The beautiful brickwork has been covered over with bland siding but otherwise it remains in good shape with a bay window that no longer looks out over railway tracks.
In 1819 the first grist mill was opened on the Black River where Sutton would eventually be founded. By 1830 it had been converted to a board and batten construction which is now covered over with aluminum sheeting. The mill was operated under several different millers until the 1950’s when milling operations were shut down. For a period of time starting in the 1880s it also supplied surplus electrical power to the community. The mill dam still exists on the opposite side of High Street and the tail race where water was returned to the river is still open on the side of the building.
Georgina Pioneer Village & Archives were officially opened on Thanksgiving Day 1975 and the 10 acre site has become home to quite a few buildings that were constructed in the area between 1850 and 1920. One of these buildings is the Noble House which was built in the mid 1850s and moved from High Street in Sutton in 1986. During its prime it was home to three generations of doctors.
The first Sutton train station was built in 1871 for the Lake Simcoe Junction Railway. When it burned down in 1900 the railway was under the ownership of The Grand Trunk Railway who replaced it with one in their typical style of the era. This station was also lost to fire in 1920 and was replaced in 1924. When the station was no longer in service the Georgina Historical Society was able to purchase it for $2.00, moving it to the village in 1977.
The Smallwood Family built a log house in Elm Grove around 1866. After standing empty from 1966 until 1974 it was acquired by the Georgina Historical Society and relocated to the village.
Roche’s Point kept applying for a post office and was finally granted one in 1870. Most post offices were opened by the proprietors of the local general store. In Roche’s Point it is believed that the local boot and shoe retailer used his store as the post office until 1921. Following the death of the post master, the post office was moved to an alternate location in town. The former post office and shoe store was moved to the Pioneer Village in 1999.
Prior to 1884, there were several Methodist Denominations that competed for the same adherents. The Primitive, Wesleyan, Episcopalian, and New Connexion all united as simply The Methodist Church leaving only the Free Methodists as a separate denomination. The Methodist Church in the Pioneer Village is believed to have started life as a Wesleyan Methodist Church in Elm Grove around 1871. When it closed, the Free Methodists bought the building and moved it across the street. They met there from 1887 until 1925 when they joined with the newly created United Church of Canada. The oldest continually serving Free Methodist Church in Canada continues to hold services in Armadale. You can read about it in our feature Armadale Free Methodist Church.
Just north of the Pioneer Village on Civic Centre Drive is the Georgina Animal Shelter. As I was driving past the laneway I saw a very skinny fox which was likely suffering from mange. It was running along the side of the road and looked very ill and terribly skinny. Its eyes were almost crusted closed and it looked like it would have a hard time capturing food. I was able to alert the animal shelter of the fox and hopefully they were able to have it caught and treated.
There’s no doubt that this is just a teaser of all the things to be seen in the Town of Georgina. It’s well worth planning a day trip to enjoy the area for yourself.