Sunday, September 5, 2021
During the 19th century a horse and carriage was the primary mode of transportation and travelers had to have a place to keep them at the end of their journey. Hotels and inns were built at convenient distances apart for thirsty horses to get water and fodder and their owners to grab an ale. Almost every hotel had a stable and coach house and while many of the hotels remain there’s very few of the out buildings left standing. There’s only one coach house and stable left in the ten blocks that make up the historic Town of York (now Toronto). In spite of its uniqueness, a developer wants to tear the last one down to make way for a 17-story condominium.
This 1793 map shows the original plan for the Town of York. The Don River is shown on the right hand side of the map and Fort York is in the lower left corner. The fort is labelled as “C” and is nestled between Garrison Creek and the lake. The town plan is shown right on the harbour, which reveals how much infilling the lake has seen over the years. The site of the Little York Hotel is shown at the South-East corner of King Street and George Street and marked with a small red star.
The archive photo below is from 1885 and shows George Street looking north toward King Street, The Little York Hotel was just 5 years old at the time and is in the lower left corner of the picture. Just behind it you can make out the arch of the carriageway on the stables and coach house.
The site of the building is Lot 20 on the original town plan and it was patented to Richard Beasley in 1805. Beasley quickly sold it to Rev. George O’Kill Stuart who opened the Home District School there and operated it from 1807-1817. George Duggan bought the school in 1817 and turned it into a tavern. Over the next 62 years it was the site of taverns, hotels, a grocery store and even a furniture store. In 1879 Robert Waterhouse bought the property and put out a tender to build a new hotel. In May the local architectural firm of Langley, Langley & Burke began contracting the construction of the four story hotel in the Second Empire style that they were using on several other buildings around town at the time. Unfortunately, all those other buildings have been demolished already leaving this as the sole survivor. The three brick buildings to the east of the hotel on King Street were built by Waterhouse in 1882 to replace older wooden structures that had been condemned. The masonry and windows were designed to compliment those of the hotel. While the building beside the hotel sports a coat of pink paint, the hotel and stables were eventually covered in blue paint.
The building is clad in brick and has cast stone masonry over the doors and windows. Each of the windows in the hotel and carriage house has a key stone with intricate carvings on them.
In 1880 a coach house and stables were built on the south end of the property behind the hotel. Although just two stories in height, it was constructed with windows and brickwork to match the hotel. The hotel was sold to Robert Davies in 1885 and he rented it out to tenant operators who ran it as Little York Hotel and the York House. In 1900 it was renamed York Hotel which it operated as until 1925.
Like the hotel, the carriage house has decorative brickwork in the form of a string course above the windows, highlighted by a dentil course. The ground floor of the coach house had a place to store coaches and tackle for the night as well as stables for the horses. The second floor was used for storage of hay. Between 1892 and 1899 Dr. Alfred Asa Brown leased part of the stables for his veterinarian practice. In those days vets only really worked on horses and this was the perfect location. Starting in the 1920s a series of express and transport companies occupied the stables. Like the hotel they were also painted an ugly shade of blue, but that was stripped off in the 1980s. Today the stables are occupied by an art shop. The large entrance for carriages has been given a recessed glass doorway and the window on the left in the picture below has been extended to form a second doorway.
Looking from the south you can see the Little York Hotel Carriage House and Stables, the last remaining building of this type in the old Town of York. Very few remain in the city, but a stone carriage house still stands on the property of Sunnybrook Hospital and it is featured in our story Bayview Estates.
In 1973 the hotel was listed on the first Toronto Heritage Register while the stables and coach house would have to wait another eleven years to be listed. Then, on April 21, 2017 its very existence came under threat as a 17-story condo was proposed to replace the stables and coach house. To their credit, the city unanimously rejected the proposal. With the developer refusing to back down the city moved to designate the property under the Ontario Heritage Act. Designation, unlike the previous listing, allows the city to refuse demolition and limit alterations to the building. So, the developers have appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board who will pass a final judgement on the development proposal. The only question is whether or not the OMB will agree that the building merits the heritage designation. As recently as August 3, 2021 the city made its defense of the heritage designation to the OMB. That hearing was adjourned without making a judgement in this case. The building still proudly sports its 1984 heritage plaque while it waits to see if the city and the public win or if the last standing stable in the old town will give way to 16 condo units.
We’ll see what happens over the next few months but at least city council took a stand and defended this cultural link to our travel and transportation heritage.
Check out the stone carriage house at Bayview Estates
Google Maps Link: Little York Hotel
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