Todays post is evidence that you need to keep your eyes open when you’re driving around. On my lunch I decided to drive through the area of the former community of Purpleville to see if there was a potential pioneer community story. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a vehicle in the woods a short distance from the road. Naturally, I found a place to turn around and went back to see what had caught my attention.
The cab and chassis is missing and all that remains is the enclosed cargo area of the vehicle. The sides and any windows have been broken out but fortunately the printing is still clearly legible. In Canada we have two main independent drug stores. Guardian and IDA are owned and operated by their pharmacists.
The Drug Trading Company was founded in 1896 to supply independent pharmacies with medications and other products. This was one of their delivery trucks but as the front view reveals, the engine and passenger compartment is no longer here.
Both sides of the vehicle carried a slogan trying to attract customers into their stores. “For friendly service and economy shop your independent drug store.” In 1962 Shoppers Drug Mart was founded as a national chain and it soon dwarfed the smaller independent pharmacies. While the bigger chains evolved into grocery and cosmetic shops and moved the pharmacy into the rear of the store, the smaller pharmacies kept a more personal touch with their clients.
One of the rear doors has been propped open but the other one isn’t opening any time soon without a lot of WD40.
When viewed together the two halves of the door read “DT Co” in the black circle which stands for Drug Trading Company. Then it says “Serving Pharmacy 100” which would suggest a date of 1996. Therefore this vehicle was still in service just 25 years ago. Most of the trees in the woodlot appear to be young and may have grown after the Drug Trading vehicle made its last delivery. Faint lettering can still be seen from the original Drug Trading Company logo on the rear doors.
The inside might have been protected against the elements when it was left here but there’s no longer any roof and both sides are wide open. While this may have once been a relatively unique piece of Canadian history it looks to be suffering an all too common fate. Neglected and soon forgotten. However, its memory will live on in these photos.
This old vehicle is visible from the road and although there isn’t any fence, the property is obviously owned by someone and needs to be respected as such.
I had a rare Friday off of work and found myself near one of the local parks that I had not explored previously. Dufferin Grove Park is on Dufferin Street just south of Bloor Street and is one of the older parks in the city and contains some carved stones that date back to 1876. Parking is limited on local side streets but I found some without any problem. The archive picture below is from February 1914.
The Cob Courtyard was built as a food preparation area and has a kind of “Flintstones” look to it. It is currently undergoing some restoration work to repair the deterioration that it has suffered over the years.
The local children have one of the best playgrounds in the city. There’s an enclosed playground with all the traditional slides and things to climb on. There’s also a large sandpit for little ones to play in with their toy trucks and diggers.
The park had a few parents with small children but for a Friday morning it was quite empty. I can imagine that Thursdays in the summer when the farmer’s market is on the park is quite busy. The snow that had fallen had been baked into ice which was tricky to walk on. In a few places there were even deep pools that people had walked over and broken through. The city was trying to pump water out of the deep one that had formed in the wading pool near the children’s playground.
There’s a small clubhouse in the north end but its days are numbered. There is a City of Toronto proposal to update the ice rink and clubhouse with a $3.5 Million replacement. It has gone through all the consulting and planning phases over the last three years. Construction should have started in 2020 but has been put on hold by the pandemic.
The park has a surprising number of amenities, some of which you don’t find in most places. The pizza ovens being a prime example. The revised clubhouse is expected to include a kitchen area.
The fifth Customs House in Toronto (or York) was built in 1876 and demolished in 1919, just over 100 years ago. All of them were located at Yonge and Front Streets. The archive picture below shows the building prior to demolition you can see stone faces that were carved into the keystone in the arches over the windows.
When the building was demolished the faces were repurposed into the upper façade of the Colonial Theatre which was later known as the Bay Theatre. It was demolished in 1965 and the faces were preserved with the idea that they would be incorporated into Simpson Tower which was being built on the site. Instead they ended up in High Park where they were setup in a circle near Colborne Lodge. They stayed here until 1991 when the city decided to remove them because they had become a party spot. In 1998 they were incorporated into an artwork in Dufferin Grove Park called Marsh Fountain.
The faces may represent people who were famous in that era. It is said that the faces may be those of John Cabot, Samuel de Champlain, and Mercury the god of commerce.
The park rises to a crest beside Dufferin Street and then is relatively flat stretching out to the soccer fields. There are plenty of mature trees even though there is no woodlot in the park. There’s even a Sakura Cherry Tree to provide some colour in the spring when the blossoms are out.
There is a second group of faces a little farther south along the side of Dufferin Street in the park. They can be found by looking for the fire pit where there is a little remembrance gardens to Garrison Creek and its tributary Dennison Creek which runs under the park. The concrete and bricks for the fire place appear to mostly be pieces of old buildings that have been brought here.
At the pit is a face of a lady with the only original (not vandals) inscription on it. The woman represents the city of Toronto and the old motto of the city of Toronto written below. “Industry, Intelligence, Integrity”.
Dufferin Grove Park is more than the average community park when it comes to amenities and also has some interesting historical artifacts to fire the imagination of the curious.
Bradley Museum is a collection of pioneer buildings situated near the waterfront in Mississauga. The Bradley house stands on its original property and the Anchorage has been moved from a neighbouring one. I went there on December 29, 2020 while on Christmas break from work to walk around the buildings and appreciate their architecture. While I was there I walked the narrow greenbelt down to Lake Ontario at Watersedge Park.
The oldest home in the collection is a Regency Cottage that was built in the early 1820’s near Lakeshore Road and Southdown Road. In 1838 it was purchased by a retired British Navy Commander named John Skynner. He is quoted as having referred to the home as being his anchorage and it became known as The Anchorage. After the home had been lived in as a private residence by various people, in 1953 Jim Davidson sold it to the National Sewer Pipe Company who used it as their offices until 1977. It was moved to the Bradley Museum in 1978 but wasn’t restored until 1991. The National Sewer Pipe Company is responsible for the red beach at Lakeside Park. Mississauga has another beautiful example of a Regency Cottage, this one from 1838. The Grange has considerably more detail in the doorcase windows with intricate side lights and transom.
Lewis and Elizabeth Bradley arrived in 1830 from Savannah Georgia and built this small three bay story and a half house. It had become common to limit houses to a story and a half because a full two stories was taxed at a higher rate. This house features a roof style known as “salt box” because one side of the roof was longer than the other. Bradley House was occupied by the family until 1846 when Lewis died and Elizabeth sold the home. The British American Oil Company (now SUNCOR) eventually bought the property and planned to demolish the house in 1959. It was saved and moved a short distance farther from the lake where it was restored and opened as a museum in 1967.
The log cabin on site is actually the newest of the three homes, having been built around 1850 near Mono Mills, Ontario. In 1967 the 4th Port Credit Scouts and Rovers moved it to the mouth of The Credit River and it seemed safe from neglect or demolition. This didn’t turn out to be the case as it was eventually slated for demolition again. The Bradley Museum got involved and added it to their small collection of buildings. It was rebuilt and opened to the public on December 15, 2007.
The drive shed was built on the site in 1973 from materials moved from a farm in Chingaucousy Township. The shed is typical of thousands that would have stood on farms and in church lots across the province. This one came from the Carberry farm and has the usual post and beam construction. Another great example of a drive shed in its original location can be seen at the Cober Dunkard Church in Vaughan.
Several typical artifacts are stored inside the drive shed including this old buggy.
The barn was added to the collection in 1977 made of old planks from a barn that was located on the south east corner of Burnhamthorpe Road and Erin Mills Parkway. Architecture for domestic rather than public use which is average is referred to as being the local vernacular. This barn is Ontario vernacular although on a smaller scale than many of the late 19th and early 20th century barns. One of the most common styles of barns was known as the Gambrel-roofed Barn, named after its roof style where each side had two separate pitches. The extension at the front of the roof is known as a hay sling and it allowed feed to be lifted up to the loft through a larger door. Gambrel-roofed houses are even less common, which is probably why I always thought the house I spent ten years of my youth at in Hillsburgh looked like a barn.
The image below shows the basic design of the Gambrel-roofed Barn. Livestock would be kept in the bottom while the loft would be used for hay or fodder. An earthen ramp would provide access to the loft from one side of the barn. Often the silo and this mound are the two remaining clues that mark the former site of a barn.
Heading toward the lake you can follow a main trail or one that runs a little closer to the fence on the edge of the SUNCOR oil tank farm. I followed the fence line but most of the tanks in the first row along the fence have been removed over the last few years. There’s hardly anywhere that you can even get a glimpse of one, even in winter. I imagine in summer it must be almost as if this big industrial tank farm wasn’t there.
Meadowwood Park connects Bradley Museum to Lake Ontario at Watersedge Park. Meadowwood Tennis Club maintains three courts here and there’s also a unmaintained rink. I wonder if the rink is just out of use for 2020 or if it has been awhile since it was maintained?
It’s only a short walk to Watersedge Park and certainly worth it. Although small, the park does have a beach with some excellent views including the Toronto Skyline.
On a calm day the water here is quite colourful because of the different composition of the lake bottom near the shore. The small shells of Zebra Mussels cover parts of the beach and create a brighter patch in the water off shore. They were introduced to the lake in the 1980’s and since then have developed huge colonies. This beach is also considered to be one of the best places in Mississauga to catch a great sunset.
I would imagine that this area is likely busy much of the time but on this day I was by myself on the trail. This is a short walk and if you’re looking for more you can also take the trail that leads to Rattray Marsh. There’s boardwalks and lots of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, that can be seen at the marsh.
I’m looking forward to the time when I’ll be able to return and have a look inside the restored homes at Bradley Museum but for now it was nice to enjoy them even from the outside.
Davenport Road follows the bottom of the scarp that marks the old shoreline of Glacial Lake Iroquois. The Native Peoples who lived here for centuries had a portage trail that went between The Don River and The Humber River and connected to The Carrying Place Trail. Europeans found it convenient to use the same trail and it continues on its original route. John McGill built the first home accessed from the trail in 1797 and named it Davenport after Major Davenport who served at Fort York. It stood on the top of the scarp on the north east side of present Davenport and Bathurst.
In 1833 thirteen kilometres of Davenport Road was paved with planks. Five small cottages were built by the plank road company to house the men who were hired to collect the tolls. The tollkeeper lived with his family in the cottage which was situated directly beside the road. Known as Toll Gate #3, the little three room cottage that was built for the tollkeeper at Davenport Road and Bathurst Street was only 20 feet by 30 feet in size. It is listed as being the twelfth oldest residence remaining in Toronto and some sources claim it to be the oldest tollkeeper’s cottage in Canada, perhaps the only one. It is listed on Wikipedia as being built between 1827 and 1830 but this would seem to predate the planking of the road making this date too early. It is more likely to be 1832 or 1833. The space between the two posts in front of the house in the picture below represents the width of the road but the boards that represent the toll gate have unfortunately been knocked to the ground.
The inside was originally heated by a single fireplace which was later replaced with a pot-bellied stove. This meant that only the main room was heated. The two bedrooms would have been pretty cold on a winters night. During the 1860’s John Bullmin and his wife Elizabeth took up the position at the toll gate. They lived in this house with their seven children. One bedroom was used by John and Elizabeth while the other was used by the four daughters who slept two to a bed. The three boys slept in the main room and enjoyed the benefits of the fireplace, if not the comforts of a bed.
In 1851 the fees for using the plank road were based on the mode of transportation and the amount of livestock you had with you. A simple pedestrian paid no fees but if they had a horse it was two pence. A wagon pulled by a mule was 3 pence which went up to 6 pence if it was pulled by two horses. A pedestrian leading 20 cows or sheep would pay 1 pence. The toll keeper had to keep meticulous records to get their small percentage and the record books from this tollkeeper’s home still survive. These toll rates were likely unchanged a decade later when the Bullmin family arrived. John left his wife and children to perform household chores, fetch water from the Taddle Creek and collect the tolls while he worked 6.5 hectares of land to supplement their income. His wife used to churn and sell about 50 lbs. of butter per year from the family cows.
When roadside tolls were abandoned in 1896 the government placed road maintenance under the care of the municipalities. John Bullmin died in 1867 and is buried in The Necropolis while his wife survived him until 1912. The cottage became obsolete in 1896 and was sold to someone who moved it near Howland and Bathurst as a private home. A newer addition later obscured the original cottage and by the 1990’s it was in danger of demolition for a high rise development. A neighbour who recalled the story of the little cottage was instrumental in its being sold to a heritage group for a dollar. The TTC allowed them to move it to the Wynchwood Streetcar Barns where it was restored over a six year period. In 2002 it was moved to a small park kitty-corner to its original location. The house opened as a museum on July 1, 2003 with a small addition on the back for an interpretive centre.
The painting below is from 1875 and is by Arthur Cox. The vantage point is the top of the old escarpment looking toward the south east. The area below the hill is still farmland at the time and the church spires in Yorkville can be seen in the distance. The cottage sits with the front porch on the very edge of the road and the toll gate stretching across Bathurst. This picture was taken from taylorhistory.com.
There are a few other hints to our toll road systems of the past that can still be found throughout the city. In 1841 John Grubb founded the Weston Plank Road Company to improve his local roads by covering them with a layer of thick wooden planks. A few years later he also formed the Albion Plank Road Company. The building that the Weston Plank Road Company operated out of was built in 1846 and still sits on its original location about a kilometre south of the 401 on Weston Road.
The Gore and Vaughan Plank Road Company was established in 1855 to build a plank road along Dufferin Street. The road was to be built of local wood and various saw mills were engaged along the route to cut and prepare the planks. The picture below shows one exposed end of the plank road along with one of the steel spikes that held it together. The planks were sixteen feet long and held together with spies over two feet long though this section of the road.
Davenport Road is unique because it existed long before the time of the Europeans and still retains the Tollkeeper’s Cottage as a reminder of its era as a plank road.
Sunday, January 31, 2021 (pictures taken July 24, 2020)
St. Marys was founded in 1841 when Thomas and James Ingersoll bought 400 acres of land near the junction of Trout Creek and The Thames River. They dammed the Thames River just below the confluence and built mills on the south side of the present Queen Street. The mill race that fed their mills was incorporated as an integral part of the Victoria Bridge when it was built in 1864. The mill race was restored in 1980 and now has its own heritage designation. I visited here in July when the first wave of Covid was just relaxing and took these pictures that I present now that travel is once again restricted due to the pandemic. Hopefully we’ll get back to newly explored material before too long.
By 1845 there were a number of small limestone quarries operating in the area and many of the early homes and buildings were constructed from this material. The town had already attracted several stone masons and had three stores to serve its 100 inhabitants. The number of stone buildings that survive in St. Marys makes it a beautiful place to visit when safe to do so. The stone mill still stands beside the river where it sparked the community that has such an interesting heritage to share.
The Millers Residence was built in 1858 beside the mill race and across the street from the mill. An entire commercial block has been added to the original two and a half story home but it can be seen in the left of the picture below. The gothic influenced gabled roof sets it apart from the three story Georgian commercial block in the middle and the mansard roof of the Queen Anne styled section on the end.
The Grand Trunk Railway split in St. Marys with one line headed to Sarnia while the other went to London. Both required high level bridges that were built in 1857-1858. The London bridge is seen below as it crosses over Trout Creek.
The Imperial Order of Oddfellows in St. Marys had been expanding and had outgrown their original frame building. They commissioned a new hall and opera house which they envisioned to be the finest Lodge anywhere in the Dominion. When the building opened in 1878 they occupied the third floor which used to have a central gable. The Opera House occupied the second floor and three retail businesses operated between the gothic entrances below the spires on each end. The building lost money for the Oddfellows and they were forced to sell it in 1904. For three years it was home to a harness maker before being converted into a mill that operated until 1973.
The limestone block to the south of the Opera House was built in 1868 to serve as a store for Theodore Hutton with his residence above. Starting in the 1930’s it served as as a drill hall for the local militia and is also known as the armouries building.
St. Marys post office and customs building stands across the street from the Opera House. It was built in 1903 and was replaced with a newer facility in 1956.
As St. Marys grew the original town hall on Water Street quickly became obsolete, being small and located away from where the town was now developing. In 1859 a new location was chosen on Queen street and a two story town hall was constructed which housed the town clerk, police, jail and several butchers. The smell of the slaughter and preparation of meat permeated the building and it was quickly deemed to be a problem. The picture below was taken in 1865 and is from the book Early St. Marys by L. W. Wilson and L. R. Pfaff.
By 1889 when the frame town hall was destroyed by fire no one considered it to be much of a loss. Plans were put in place to build a grander structure, this time from stone. It was completed in 1891 and remains one of the signature buildings in the community.
James Ingersoll donated land for churches including the Presbyterian Church in 1849. They built a frame church in 1852 which was replaced with the present stone building in 1879. The congregation had been split over the appointment of a certain pastor and Knox Presbyterian also operated in town. Both congregations survived the United Church movement in 1925 but continued to operate separately until 1964 when 46 year old peace talks finally mended the rift in the Presbyterian congregation in St. Marys.
The Catholic congregation in town is aptly named the Holy Name Of Mary Catholic Church. Their second building still houses the congregation in a stone structure dating to 1893. Unlike the smaller stone church that formerly stood on this site, this one has an impressive tower. An 18-metre steeple stands on top of the 21-metre tower.
St. Marys features some very interesting stone houses dating back to the earliest one which was built by the Ingersolls in 1843. Some are simple Georgian cottages while others are mansions built later in the 1890’s.
By 1899 the Thames River and Trout Creek were both polluted and the citizens approached the town council to call for construction of a waterworks system. This would include waterworks buildings near the Grand Trunk Trestle over Trout Creek, a stone water tower for storage and pipes running throughout the town. The system was completed and put into service in May 1900.
Andrew Carnegie was an American industrialist who had a passion for funding libraries. Originally he built libraries in his home town in Scotland and his adopted town of Pittsburgh. Eventually he spread his influence founding 2509 libraries between 1883 and 1929 of which 125 were in Canada. In 1904 he donated $10,000 for the library in St. Marys which was built in the Grecian style which was his personal preference.
Andrews Jewelers has been a fixture in St. Marys since 1869. The Andrews family had arrived in town in 1857 when Henry Andrews came to lend his stone mason skills to the stone abutments of the London Bridge. William Andrews replaced his original frame shop with a building that was considered to be architect and mason William Williams’ masterpiece. Opened in 1884 it is a rare example of a building that is essentially unaltered inside or out. The side and rear walls are made of St. Marys limestone while the front is made of bricks with finely worked stone dressings. The clock is 4.5 feet in diameter and cost over $1,000, about $25,000 in modern currency.
The Grand Junction Depot was built in 1907 to supplement the Junction Station and replace the earlier frame station on Elizabeth Street. It was built from a brown glazed brick known as Logan brick and is a departure from the stone architecture in town. Slated for demolition in the 1980’s it has been preserved and restored.
St. Marys is a unique town because it’s stone buildings have survived the test of time. There are many other examples that can’t be presented in this length of an article but are equally interesting.
There are currently 13 golf courses in Toronto and another 87 within 20 miles of Toronto which attests to the popularity of golf. Between 1869 and 1919 there were thirty courses opened in the city but many of them have been built over with homes. At least two of them have been turned into parks that we’ve visited. The former York Downs Golf and Country Club is now Earl Bales Park. Similarly, Pine Point Golf and Country Club is now Pine Point Park.
Pine Point Golf and Country Club wasn’t one of these original 30, nor is it one of the remaining 13 as it came and went between then and now. In 1925 it got its start as the Riverside Golf Course. It consisted of 225 acres and was operated by Cecil White until 1932 when he sold it to Bert and Frank Deakin. This father and son partnership rebranded it as Pine Point Golf and Country Club. They built a new club house in 1932 to replace the existing one.
They experienced disaster on the night of August 6th, 1938. At 2:20 in the morning Frank Cech was watering the far greens on the course when he saw the glow of the blaze. The club house was completely destroyed before the Weston Volunteer Fire Brigade could put it out. As soon as the clean up was complete they set about building a new club house. Things carried on until 1950 when the government bought a strip through the middle of the golf course for construction of the 401. Another 22 acres were bought on the north side of the new highway for the creation of a new park. Pine Point Park was opened in 1957. The picture below shows the back of the club house and a bunch of newly planted trees.
The main chimney still sports the logo from the days when golfers would congregate here before and after a round of golf.
The chimney on the south side of the main door is crumbling badly and appears to be hazardous. You wouldn’t want to be walking below when one of those large stones dropped out.
Below is a 1953 aerial photograph from the Toronto Archives. The small circle on the left is the club house featured above. Shapes of greens and sand traps can be seen in the circle at the centre of the picture while the larger circle shows the bridge over the Humber River. Meanwhile, the new highway west of the river isn’t even fully laid out yet.
Seventy years have passed since the last game of golf was played at Pine Grove. In 1957 the city bought 22 acres of land on the north side of the 401 to create a new park. The club house was retained and the floodplain was turned into an open field of grass with a walking trail along the side of the Humber River. One large section of the park has been allowed to return to a more natural condition and second generation trees have become established. Throughout this wooded area there are several curved depressions in the ground that look suspiciously like old sand traps.
The Humber River had a thin layer of ice along the edges and a fair amount of slush floating downstream but surprisingly has not frozen over yet this season. Some years there could be large ice sheets pushed up on the banks that are several centimeters thick. This freezing and thawing could happen several times per winter.
Other than the club house and the general shape of some parts of the park there isn’t very much remaining from the days of Pine Point Golf and Country Club. Near the river stands an old lamp post that is likely hidden by vines for most of the summer. Notice the two bands of steel at the top which distinguish it from the modern lighting around the parking lot.
We often see tents and other temporary shelter for homeless people in the parks and this year there may be more than average as a result of the pandemic. One of the most unusual of these types of shelters is the one we found in Pine Point Park. Someone has found a group of trees which they have surrounded with industrial stretch wrap. Earth has been scooped up around the bottom to seal out the wind and water while ropes support a roof made of burlap. It’s just about the right size for a sleeping bag to be laid out inside of it. Although it seems like an environmental disaster, i give it high marks for creativity.
In the game of golf it is quite common to hit an errant ball that could come close to hitting another player. It might be more instinctual to yell “heads up” or “duck” but in golf the normal expression is “Fore!”. This appears to be tied to the idea that the player or caddie in danger is before, or in the foreground, of the incoming ball. Since the game of golf is no longer played here it is much more appropriate to whisper “duck” and point to the river. The Common Goldeneye pictured below is the female which has a chocolate brown head and a gray body.
The male Common Goldeneye has an iridescent green head which frequently looks black. They have a white patch behind their bill and white wings on a mostly white body. The wings appear to have little white windows on them. Goldeneye ducks often forage in small flocks and dive together, staying under for up to 20 seconds at a time.
Common Merganser males have a mostly white body with a green head and orange bill. The female has a brown head with a white chin and an orange bill. When migrating or during winter Mergansers are known for mixing with other species of diving ducks, including Goldeneyes, other Mergansers and Buffleheads.
Mallard Ducks were the most common birds we sighted, except perhaps Canada Geese, and a group of them were checking out the ice skating facilities.
Construction of the 401 brought an end to the Pine Point Golf and Country Club and the original highway has been expanded several times creating an extensive set of bridges over the Humber River. It appears that one effective method of reducing graffiti under the bridges is to allow the creation of public art on all the available surfaces. People seem reluctant to tag over the top of some of this creative artwork. The entire length of the trail under the 401 has been covered in some very impressive artwork.
Many people walk their dogs or go jogging through Pine Point Park without ever realizing the history they are passing through.
While on a walk along the West Humber Trail near Albion Road I had the opportunity to photograph the oldest building in Etobicoke as well as one thought to be number 3 or 4. This section of the trail on either side of Albion runs through property that was once the farm of the Grubb(e) family.
In 1833 John and Janet Grubb arrived in Etobicoke from Scotland. They bought 150 acres of land which included a two story home that had been built of river stone between 1802 and 1820. The house is unusual for its era because of the lack of symmetry. Often a three bay house would have the upper windows lined up with the first floor ones. The ground floor windows are different sizes and on different levels. There also appears to have been a small entrance porch at one time based on the discolouration of the stones around the door. Eight separate land owners held the property prior to Grubb and the original builder of the home is no longer known.
The Grubb family eventually included ten children and so they needed more space immediately. Using more stone from the Humber River, John built a second home just 20 feet south of the first one. The second home was built in 1834 and is a story and a half Regency Cottage design with a low hipped roof. Dormers face north and south and a large veranda looks from the south side down onto the river and floodplain below. The two houses are connected below ground with a tunnel. The second house can be seen behind the first one, on the left in the picture below. It is much larger as befits a family home but only the corner can be seen without walking right up onto the property, which isn’t appropriate without seeking permission first. The homes can be found at 19 and 23 Jason Road.
John Grubb was also the president of the Weston and Albion Plank Road Company until he passed away in 1850. In 1889 John’s son William also passed and the farm was sold to cover the expenses still owed on the former plank road company. The family continued to live in their home east of Albion road until 1930. This home is marked in orange on the atlas above and has been rescued and moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village. Across the street, a house has been built on the original stone foundations of the Grubb barn. The barn and a piggery next door were both constructed in 1835 when John was getting his farm established.
The house that was built on the foundations of the piggery is in poor shape, although it does appear to be lived in.
In addition to farming, the Grubb family also got into town building by laying out the original community of Thistletown. John Grubb was distressed at the condition of the early roads and decided to do something about them. In 1841 he founded the Weston Plank Road Company to improve the local roads by covering them with a layer of thick wooden planks. A few years later he also formed the Albion Plank Road Company. The building that the Weston Plank Road Company operated out of was built in 1846 and still sits on its original location about a kilometre south of the 401 on Weston Road.
The rear of the building is also quite interesting because you can see the way the building has been modified over the years. Where the ground level door is there are signs that another door or a window was previously bricked in just above it. The green beam that runs between the first and second floors matches the one on the front side of the building. The variations in the brickwork patterns reveal where sections of this have been closed off. It appears that this may have been one larger shipping door that was split into a couple of windows. The building was given an historic designation in 1987 but has sat neglected for a least a couple of decades now. It suffered a small fire in March of 2019 but fortunately it wasn’t completely destroyed.
Dufferin Street was also covered in planks around the same time. It was known as the Gore and Vaughan Plank Road and a small section still exists in a ravine south of Finch Avenue. Massive sixteen foot long boards held together with huge spikes were unearthed during recent erosion control work. The picture below shows one of these spikes compared to the size of my foot. The link above leads to an article with many more pictures of the planks and spikes.
The next image was taken from “A History of Vaughan Township Churches” by the Vaughan Historical Society and shows the 1851 Primitive Methodist Church in Shiloh. It is interesting because of the plank road that runs in front of the church. You can get a good idea of the size of the planks that were used and the amount of maintenance that must have been required to keep it from rotting away. These costs were not always offset by the tolls charged for using the roads.
On the way back out from Jason Street be sure to stop and admire the home of the Franklin Carmichael Art Centre. The home was built in 1934 and was converted into the Art Centre in 1971 to showcase the works of Franklin Carmichael who was one of Canada’s famous Group of Seven artists.
A little south of Elm Bank on a road known as Elmhurst sits the last remaining Victorian Era farm house in the area. The rear portion of this home was built in 1864 by George and Hannah Garbutt. This section has a nice row of buff coloured bricks just below the roof. In 1903 their daughter Alice married William Gardhouse. George passed away a few months later and Alice inherited the farm. When her family outgrew the home, an addition was built on the front of the original house. The family continued to farm the property until 1952 when it was sold to developers for a subdivision. Today this house sits at a funny angle to the street but it faces Islington Avenue squarely.
The Grubb and Garbutt family homes are note worthy because of their age and also the way in which they have been retained in spite of the urban sprawl that hit the area in the 1950’s.
Bond Lake has an extensive history and in earlier blogs we touched on some of the electric railway uses of the area. Returning, we set out to discover what else remained to be seen at Bond Lake.
The original land grant had been given to William Bond who briefly settled in there in 1793 constructing homes and building 8 miles of Yonge Street in the area. By 1795 he had already sold the land but had left his name on the lake. The county atlas below shows the area in 1877 when it consisted of several small farms including that of the Thompson family. Moses Gamble and his heirs would own all of this land by the middle of the 20th century and today it has been over-run with single family homes. The story of Bond Lake and the years in between can be found in our feature Bond Lake.
The Thompsons ran their farm until 1908 when the General Manager of the Merchant’s Life insurance Company of Toronto, a man named John H. C. Durham, bought the place. He turned it into his country estate and in 1912 had the old farm house remodeled to suit himself. Then in 1915, he had a cobblestone cottage built to house the farm manager and his family.
The cottage is square with a stone chimney on both the east and west walls. The roof is hipped with the four sides meeting in the middle. Rounded river stones face the building with larger ones used to form rough quoins on the corners. Above the windows are wedge shaped stones that form a rough arch. These are known by their French name of “voussoirs”.
The south wall has had a frame addition at some point over the years. Records show that the original stone building had double hung, 6 over 6 windows while the addition was 3 over 2. This building is on the heritage list and has had an earlier attempt to preserve it by adding a tarp over the holes in the roof. That appears to have been done quite some time ago. The home itself and the land around it was sold in 1940 to the Gamble family who were increasing their hold on the area around Bond Lake.
One of the many little buildings that once surrounded the lake, this one has seen its best days. Outside it has a lazy kind of lean to it but inside it has been semi-demolished.
Inside this building has been trashed which is a pure shame. I understand that people like to get together with friends and have a drink and smoke something and they may not be able to do it at home. Buildings like this provide some shelter from the weather and perhaps some discretion as well. However, I don’t understand why people can’t stop by for a party and enjoy themselves without having to ruin the place. It seems to be self-defeating behaviour as far as I can tell.
We found the remnants of several old cars, or at least the chassis of them. This one was a green truck and had more of the body still remaining. Most likely this was some kind of 1970’s G.M. pick up truck.
Sets of cut stone blocks form the mounting pads for the old steam generators for the Toronto & York Radial Railway. These also contain the old fire places where the coal was burned to create the heat for the generators. In this shot the maintenance shed can be seen in the background. It is still in quite good shape considering the number of years since it was last used to service electric railway cars and equipment.
The substation at the Electric Railway Generating Plant is in worse condition every time we visit the area. Having suffered a fire, and with major holes in the back roof, it seems that this historic building may soon be history.
Bond Lake was still, and with the light fluffy clouds reflected off the surface of the water, it was quite calming to relax for a minute and just observe.
Tamarack is also known as Larch and is a coniferous deciduous tree. This means that it bears cones like an evergreen but loses its leaves like a Maple or Oak tree. On the south east side of Bond Lake several extensive patches of Tamarack have been planted and since they turn colour later than the broad leaved trees, they provide a late season splash of yellow to the woods.
This canoe was one of two small craft that we found in the edge of the woods. The area has been home to many forms of recreation over the years including reportedly being used as a home for motorcycle gangs. I wonder if there’s a classic bike hiding around here somewhere?
I suspect that only a few of the local dog walkers have the true picture of everything that awaits the thorough explorer at Bond Lake.
The site of Paletta Lakefront Park covers 14 acres and is considered to be the finest among the waterfront parks in Burlington. The original land grant has a long history of changing hands starting in 1809 when lot 8 in concession 4 was given to Laura Secord. The Secord family didn’t settle on their property in Nelson Township and conveyed the lot to John Beaupre in 1810 before moving to the Niagara region. Laura Secord would go on to play a pivotal role in The Battle of Lundy’s Lane in 1813 during the War of 1812.
After being sold about 15 times the property was bought in 1912 by Cyrus Albert Birge and William Delos Flatt. It was used as a fruit farm and people from around the area would visit for the purpose of fishing, swimming or boating.
Cyrus Albert Birge was an industrialist who started off with the Canada Screw Company and by 1910 he was the VP of the new Steel Company of Canada. He died on December 14, 1929 leaving his wealth to his daughter Edyth Merriam MacKay. She tore down the existing home on the property and set about building an 11,000 square foot mansion. The finest materials were used which she sourced on trips to Europe and the Southern United States. The house included servant quarters, a dumbwaiter and large ballroom.
The mansion sat empty from 1990 until 2000 when restoration began. The work was expensive and $2 million dollars were donated by Pat Paletta whose name has now been given to the estate. The view from the mansion to the lake is quite spectacular and has changed over the years as some of the grounds have been planted with new trees.
Horse riding was a favourite pass time and horses were kept in a stable on the property. These stables are one of last surviving ones in the urban part of Burlington.
A miniature house was built for the children to play in. This was known as the doll house and was constructed in the early 1930’s for Dorthy McKay and her friends so that they would have their own special place. It was complete with running water and electricity.
There were three formal gardens, various lawns and fruit trees that all required the help of a full time gardener. The former gardeners house is the fourth historic structure that is being preserved in the park. This building served as a gatehouse from the time of its construction in 1912.
On the east side of the property there are three lawns, each separated by a row of cedar hedges. The cedars have run wild and are thirty feet tall. Beyond the hedges is another section of the park where a small creek flows through a more natural area that is home to a lot of wildlife.
The past 90 years have seen the original hedge rows get a little on the wild side.
A long stone wall runs along the length of the gardens but the gate has been removed over the years.
The lake provides a perfect backdrop and the park has become a common place for weddings and other types of social events. It’s a lot quieter this year.
This is a beautiful example of a grand estate that was built during the early years of the Great Depression.
Just west of the mouth of Bronte Creek is a geological feature that dates back 13,000 years to the end of the last ice age. At that time, the lake level was about 100 feet higher than today and that version of Lake Ontario is referred to as Glacial Lake Iroquois. It is responsible for various land formations all around the lake including the Scarborough Bluffs and Iroquois Shoreline Woods Park. We decided to go and see this feature and explore the area and we used free parking in one of the lots on West River Street.
The map below shows the area as it was in 1877 including the Sovereign property which originally stretched all the way to Bronte Creek. The Sovereign House featured below is one of the three at the end of the property by the lake, possibly the one circled. Also circled is the site of the Bronte Cemetery which was on land donated by the family.
Philip Sovereign was one of the first settlers on Twelve Mile Creek, now known as Bronte Creek, when he arrived in 1814. His property on the west side of the creek mouth would be the site of the first school house in the community when he had a small log building erected the following year. His son Charles would be the teacher in the school by the time he was 17. The Sovereign family was instrumental in the early development of Bronte and their house was built in 1825. After Charles passed away in 1885 the house had several tenants the most notable being in the years 1911-1914. During this time Mazo de la Roche lived here. She was the author of the “Jalna” series of books whose 16 novels were among the most popular of the era. The house was moved on Aug. 23, 1988 to Bronte Bluffs Park where it was restored and now houses the Bronte Historical Society. Several trails run east from the house along the bluffs and lead to stairs that provide access to the beach.
Hawks are one of the few animals with colour receptors in their eyes making them incredible hunters even at great distances. Their keen eyesight also allows them to be diurnal, hunting during both the day and night hours. They can take their prey from the air as well as off the ground and can dive at speeds up to 150 miles per hour to capture it. The one sitting in a large tree outside of Sovereign House allowed me to get pretty close before pooping in my general direction and flying off. Such attitude!
There were several swans on the lake and three of them were an obvious family unit. The cygnet, or baby swan, was still grey in colour and slightly smaller than its parents. Swans are not very graceful when they take off as they need about 30 yards just to become airborne and about that much again to achieve a safe height above the land or water. The picture below shows one just as it is landing.
There was a small flock of Bufflehead ducks on the lake. These birds dive for their food and at times the entire group would disappear at the same time. The males have the large white patch that wraps around the back of the head while the females have a smaller white patch on the cheek.
While we were watching from the top of the bluffs a young couple appeared on the beach below. They both dashed into the water but she only went about knee deep. He didn’t hesitate, diving in and getting completely wet. Except for those two people there was no one else enjoying the lake on this sunny day. Even so, the Halton Police were still out on patrol, perhaps looking for those people who froze while swimming.
Chris Vokes Memorial Park is named after Major General Christopher Vokes who served Canada during the Second World War. He was from Oakville and passed away there in 1985. The war memorial in the park is dedicated to the soldiers who died in two World Wars plus the Korean War. It is actually the second war memorial to be built in Bronte, the first one being placed in 1956 at 2457 Lakeshore Road West.
Bronte harbour was home to fishermen and stone hookers who provided much of the early industry in the town. Lake Trout, Whitefish and Herring were cleaned at the docks and packed into ice for shipping to the large city markets. Up to 22 fishing boats operated out of the harbour until the 1950’s by which time most of the fish stocks had been depleted. The stone hooking industry ended after 1910 when portland cement replaced stone as a primary building material for foundations. There are several information signs around Bronte describing the local history and there is one dedicated to the fishing industry as well.
The Methodist Church sent missionaries to Upper Canada as both Primitive Methodists and Episcopal Methodists, often competing to both start a church in a community. The Episcopal church formed in Bronte and built a white structure of wood on the south side of Lakeshore. The two Methodist groups united in 1884 and a period of growth followed. By 1912 the church had outgrown its building and the next year a new brick building was opened across the street. Since this building was a gift from the Walton Family in memory of their father the church became known as Walton Memorial church. It has been part of the United Church since 1925.
Bronte Cemetery is located on land that was owned by Philip Sovereign and both he and his son Charles are buried here. A large portion of the headstones in Bronte Cemetery commemorate those who drowned working in the fishing and stone hooking industries along the lakeshore. Ironically, some of those who drowned and were later recovered and buried may be among those whose remains have subsequently been lost to the lake. Over the years about 70 feet of the cemetery has been eroded into the lake as it relentlessly beats on the shore
Philip Sovereign died in 1833 and was laid to rest in the cemetery he donated to the community.
Bronte Bluffs Park made for an interesting visit and somehow you get the feeling that you may have just scratched the surface of all that is to be seen. Hmmm…