Category Archives: Historic Site

The Lynde House

Sunday, November 27, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google Maps Link: Lynde House

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Toronto’s Model T Factory

Sunday, November 13, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google Maps Link: Model T Factory

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Kensington Market

October 23, 2022

Saturday, October 22 was a beautiful day for late October and a perfect one to explore some of the small shops in the Kensington Market area of the city. George Taylor Dennison had served in the Canadian Militia in the War of 1812 and purchased an estate lot west of the town of York (Toronto). In the 1850s the former Dennison Family estate was divided into several narrow streets and over the next couple of decades was built up with small affordable homes. They were originally occupied by British workers but as this first group of residents prospered and moved out, they were replaced with a wave of Jewish immigrants. The small Victorian homes were converted into businesses by making shops out of the ground floor of the units and for several decades the area became known as the Jewish Market.

Following the Second World War, the area became home to new Canadians from Italy, Portugal, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and Asia. They each brought some of their culture to the area as they integrated into the fabric of the neighbourhood. Today, the mix of foods and shops reflects the diversity of the people who have called these few streets home. While graffiti can be seen on many of the buildings, there’s also some pretty creative artwork on display.

The Kensington Market Garden Car has been a fixture in the area since 2006. Originally, supporters paid the parking meter to keep it there, but the city soon approved it as a tourist attraction and allowed it to stay, provided that it is insured and also removed every winter to allow for snow clearing. Some consider it to be the smallest park in the city.

The mid-Victorian row houses that formed the community can still be seen behind the store fronts

Dolce Gelato has used some colourful artwork to draw attention to their location in Kensington Market. This is one of three locations they operate in Toronto that serve authentic Italian Gelato.

There is a theory that Kensington Market is one of the most photographed areas in the city and it was designated as a National Historic Site in 2006. With Halloween just around the corner, there’s several buildings which are all decorated for the season.

Bellevue Square Park has a couple of historical plaques and a map of the area. The park was formerly used by Dennison as a parade ground for his volunteer calvary group when the area was still his estate. His volunteer group participated in putting down the Rebellion of 1837. Today there’s a small but vibrant park on the site of the former parade grounds.

Narrow streets, lack of parking and the volume of pedestrians make this an area to avoid driving in. There’s plenty of parking under the Dragon City Mall at Spadina and Dundas which will leave you free to wander around and investigate the area.

There’s a lot of little stores and markets in the Kensington Market area and tons of places to eat a wide variety of foods. It’s also just a short walk away from Chinatown where there’s another whole variety of places to investigate or find something to eat.

Google Maps link: Kensington Market

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Peterborough Lift Lock

October 9, 2022

On a business trip to Peterborough in July I had a few minutes to stop and watch the operation of Lock 21 on the Trent-Severn Waterway. The waterway is 386 kilometres long and was first travelled by a European in 1615 when Jacques Cartier explored the region using long standing indigenous routes.

The canal was originally surveyed as a military route with the first lock being built in 1833 as part of a commercial venture. Three more locks were under construction in 1837 when the Rebellion broke out. It was determined that the canal would have too many locks to be used for rapid troop movements and so the three locks were completed, and progress was suspended. With the canal incomplete and no outlet to a major lake it was connected to other travel routes by toll roads, plank roads and eventually by railways. The image below shows the side view of the lift lock in Peterborough,

It was restarted in the late 1880s by the government of Sir John A. Macdonald, but little progress was made, and it was generally used as a political tool to get votes from the communities along the route. In the late 1890s it was undertaken with a new commitment, and it reached Peterborough and Lake Simcoe in 1904. The First World War slowed progress again and it didn’t reach Trenton until 1918 and Georgian Bay in 1920. By this time the ships had grown too big for the canal system and railways were carrying most of the commercial traffic. It became a pleasure route and eventually would be declared a National Historic Site of Canada and be used as a linear park. The image below shows the lift lock with the left hand side elevated and the right side being loaded for the next lift.

When it was completed in 1904 it was the highest hydraulic boat lift in the world and the largest concrete structure in the world. The vertical lift was 65 feet (20 metres) while most conventional locks had a lift of 7 feet (2.3 metres). The system consists of two identical caissons that sit at the level of the river at their lowest point. They each sit on a 7.5 metre diameter ram. In the picture below the lift is half completed and the two caissons can be seen beside each other.

When the lift reaches the top, it stops 12 inches below the water level in the upper reach. The gate is opened and water flows in to equalize with the level of the river in the upper reach. This causes the upper caisson to increase in weight so that it is 1844 short tons compared to the lower one which has 1700 tons of water in it. When the system is ready to reverse the valve between the two rams is opened and the extra weight in the upper caisson pushed the ram of the lower caisson up until the positions are reversed. The system requires no external power as the weight of the water is enough to operate the system.

Just below the lock is a swing bridge that allows the Canadian Pacific Railway to cross the river. When not in use by the railway it is moved out of the way of boat traffic on the river.

The Peterborough Lift lock was declared a National Historical Site in 1979.

Related stories: Newmarket Ghost Canal, The First Three Welland Canals.

Google Maps Link: Peterborough Lift Lock

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National Air Force Museum

October 2, 2022

On a recent business trip to the Trenton Airforce Base, I stopped and took in the collection at the National Airforce Museum of Canada. All of these photos were taken from outside the fence as I didn’t have time to go in and review the collection properly before my next appointment. There are other aircraft located inside the storage building which tends to house many of the older planes. The museum opened on April 1, 1984, on the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Canadian Airforce.

P-140 Aurora – This long-range patrol aircraft was put into service in 1980 and remained active until 2017. It has a range of 7,400 kilometres and has been used for rescue missions as well to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking. After being in storage for a year it was brought to the museum and re-assembled for display.

CC-115 Buffalo. This aircraft was built by De Havilland in Downsview and completed on August 27, 1967, after which it went into service as a transport plane. In 1975 it took on a dual role as a Search & Rescue craft until it was retired in September 2020 after over 50 years of service.

CC-144 Challenger. This aircraft was put into service in April 1983 in Ottawa to provide transportation for VIPs. It got a new assignment in 1995 when it went to Nova Scotia to serve as a training plane for pilots in electronic warfare. Five years later it was back in Ottawa flying VIPs around. It was in Florida in 2012 when it struck a large bird and was damaged requiring extensive repairs. In 2014 the Challenger fleet was reduced from 6 planes to just 4 and this one was retired. It found a new home in the museum in 2015.

CL-28 Mark II Argus. This is one of 20 Mark II aircraft purchased in 1958 and used for maritime patrol. It was stationed at Summerside P.E.I. in the 415 Maritime Patrol “Swordfish” Squadron. It flies at 463 kilometres per hour and was in service until 1982 performing patrols as part of anti-submarine warfare.

CH-124 Sea King went into service on May 14, 1964, performing surveillance and anti-submarine tasks. It has a compact design with rotors and tail that fold up allowing it to land on the smallest warships. It is also amphibious and can make landings in water. This one served in The Gulf War in 1991 as well as East Timor in 1999-2000. When it was retired in 2018 it had the most air-hours of any Sea King having racked up 17,775.3 hours.

The F86 Mark V Sabre is a fighter craft, and the model was purchased between 1948 and 1958. The one in the museum was in service until 1969 serving in Chatham, New Brunswick until it was placed in duty as an instructional airframe. This model of fighter can achieve speeds of 973 kilometres per hour.

CH-147D Chinook was originally a USA army helicopter beginning in 1969. The Canadian Government bought it and five others in 2008 to deploy to Kandahar in Afghanistan. It has been part of the museum collection since 2016.

F-18 Hornet. This aircraft is capable of flying at Mach 1.8, 2,200 kilometres per hour at sea level. The one in the museum was put into service in 1982 as a training craft in Cold Lake, Alberta. All training on the Hornet was conducted at Cold Lake. This airplane was donated to the museum in 2009 as part of the celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of flight.

The Spitfire Mark IX was one of the primary fighter crafts of the allied forces in the Second World War. It was in service between 1940 and 1950 and could fly at speeds up to 586 kilometres per hour. This example was donated to the museum in 2001.

Ch-118 Iroquois was a combat support unit which performed search and rescue operations. It was in service between 1968 and 1995 when all Iroquois were retired from service. This machine was then used at CFB Borden and then CFB Trenton for aircraft battle damage repair training. It was placed in the museum in 2007.

Code named “Fishbed” by the Allies, this Russian fighter jet was never flown by the Canadian Military. It was officially known as a MiG-21 and was first put into service in 1959 and was able to fly at 2,230 kilometres per hour. The specimen in the museum was put into service in 1975 in East Germany. After German Unification in 1990 it was soon withdrawn from service and was donated to the Canadian Government in 1993. It has been in the museum collection since then.

The CF-116A Freedom Fighter in the museum was in service from 1968 to 1995 and entered the museum in 1997. It was used at Cold Lake, Alberta as a tactical fighter and training aircraft. In 1976 it was transferred to the 419 Moose Squadron where it was painted red and white like the Canadian Flag.

This is just a sampling of the 37 aircraft in the museum, several of which are housed in the indoor facility. At some point I would love to spend the time to go through the museum properly and see the full exhibit including all the other memorabilia that is on display.

Related Stories: Downsview Airforce Base

Google Maps Link: National Airforce Museum of Canada

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Markham Museum

Sunday, September 18, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google Maps Link: Markham Museum

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Inside Casa Loma

August 14, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See our related stories: Casa Loma and Spadina

Google Maps link: Casa Loma

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McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Sunday, July 31, 2022

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

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

Mount Robson 1929 (oil on canvas)

Sand Lake Algoma 1922 (oil on canvas)

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

In Algonquin Park 1914 (oil on canvas)

Snow In The Woods 1916 (oil on wood panel)

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

Algoma Waterfall 1920 (oil on canvas)

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

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

Radium Mine 1938 (oil on canvas)

Bent Pine 1948 (oil on canvas)

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

Self Portrait 1924 (oil on board)

Canadian Jungle 1946 (oil on canvas)

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

Dark Waters undated (oil on board)

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

Night Ferry To Vancouver 1937 (oil on canvas)

Girl in Gold 1963-1966 (oil on canvas)

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

White Pine 1957 (oil on canvas)

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

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

Single Men’s Shoes (ceramics)

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

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

Related stories: Bindertwine Park

Google Maps Link: McMichael Canadian Art Collection

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Shouldice Hospital Estate

Sunday, July 10, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts: Heintzman House, Dundurn Castle, Fort York

Google maps link: Shouldice Hospital

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Heintzman House

July 3, 2022

Heintzman and Company was founded in 1866 to produce pianos in a facility located in The Junction area of Toronto. It was started by Theodore Heintzman who was a German immigrant while his nephew started a rival company called Gerhard Heintzman Piano Company. When Theodore died in 1899 his son George took over running the business. The piano manufacturing business was moved to Hanover, Ontario in 1962. The company changed its name to Heintzman Limited in 1978 and then was sold to Sklar Peppler in 1981. This ownership only lasted until 1987 when it was sold to The Music Stand Company of Ontario who started to apply the name Heintzman to various pianos manufactured in the United States. The Heintzman name is still used by a Chinese and Canadian company called Heintzman Distributors and they supplied the grand piano that was used in the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The archive photo below shows the Heintzman and Company piano factory when it was located in The Junction area in the west part of Toronto near Keele and Dundas Street.

Lot 32 in Markham township fronted onto Yonge Street and covered the 190 acres between there and today’s Bayview Avenue. It was originally allocated to Anthony Hollingshead in 1798. Anthony had been a United Empire Loyalist having served in the American Revolutionary War as an officer. One of the conditions of earning the patent, or deed, for a property was the construction of a home that was a minimum of 16 feet by 20 feet in size. Hollingshead built a small story and a half home of adobe, or mudbrick and received the patent in 1802. This home was recorded as the first adobe home built in Upper Canada. The map below is from the 1877 county atlas and shows the property in the hands of the Lemon family and the house is circled in green.

The property changed hands many times and the house has had several additions and renovations over the past 200 years. Anthony Hollingshead died in 1817 and the property was sold to George Crookshank. Anthony’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Soules, was married to Samuel Lount who was one of two people executed following the failed Rebellion of 1837. Samuel Lount is buried in The Necropolis in Toronto.

George Crookshank was a close friend of Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe and was a wealthy businessman and member of the early government of Upper Canada. During the War of 1812 he was in charge of supplies to Fort York and after the war he bought several properties in the area. He married Susan Lambert in 1821 and then built a 13-room mansion on the site of Holligshead’s farmhouse. It was at this time that the property began to be called Sunnyside Farm.

In 1881 the farm was sold to John Francis Newtonbrook. His family farmed the land for almost 50 years including the period that their son Samuel owned Sunnyside Manor.

Charles and Marion Heintzman, owners of the piano company, bought the house in 1930. They made extensive renovations to it including adding a conservatory. A small greenhouse was added to the north end of the building.

The house was the scene of many social gatherings over the years that the Heintzmans owned it. They continued to operate it as a farm where they raised prized Jersey cattle. When Charles died in 1959 the property was sold to developers who started to build the homes that enclose the house on every side. The Town of Markham was persuaded by local residents to preserve the manor and it was renamed Heintzman House in honour of the last private family that owned it.

A unique planter stands on the front lawn and pays tribute to the piano manufacturers who completed the last set of expansions and renovations on the home.

The fields surrounding Heintzman House may have been developed for housing but the home is now used as an event venue.

Related stories: West Toronto Railpath, Rebellion of 1837, The Necropolis, Fort York

Google Maps Link: Heintzman House

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