Tag Archives: Eaton Hall

Eversley – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Eversley, also known as Tinline Corners, developed in the early 1800s at the intersection of 3rd concession (Dufferin Street) and 15 sideroad and was likely named after Eversley, Hampton, England. It never grew to more than a hamlet and in 1869 the population was listed as 29. This included two blacksmiths, two carriage makers, a doctor, a pastor, a butcher, three farmers and James Tinline who was a general merchant and post master. There used to be a few more buildings than the ones that remain but both of the homes in the 1908 archive picture below still stand.

The oldest surviving building in Eversley is the Presbyterian church which was built in 1848. The congregation and the cemetery date to 1834 under a circuit preacher but three years later the local school teacher, John Tawse, took on the role of pastor. In 1860 Dr. James Carmichael became the second pastor and he remained until 1910. When it closed in 1958 the minister from Timothy Eaton Memorial Church in Toronto spoke the final sermon. Lady Flora Eaton bought the church in 1960 and handed it over to the York Pioneer and Historical Society because she felt it was important to preserve small town history. She was raised in Omeemee and knew the value of community in a small village. A cemetery is located on the north side of the church but was inaccessible due to the snow. It would be interesting to have a look there for the grave marker of Henry Frost (1816-1851) which has an unusual music motif.

Starting in 1837 the church and school shared a log building a little to the south of the present church. In 1843 a new school was built of red brick just to the north of the log school. After the church moved to their new building the log one was taken apart and used in other buildings. In 1893 a third school building was erected, this time across the road, using buff brick with red accents. In 1961 two more classrooms were added on the front and it operated for another decade. One important teacher from this school’s history is Henry Frost who is responsible for developing the music program for Ontario schools. He taught here from 1850-1851 and then he passed away and was laid to rest in the cemetery across the road.

James Tinline built a store on the north east corner and served as post master when the post office opened there in 1865. Henry Rogers built this house next door in 1887 which he operated as a mercantile. When Tinline’s store burned down, this building was owned by a Mr. Gellatly who took over the post office until it closed in 1928. A side entrance was provided to the family home while the main one served the retail business. This home has had siding, window moldings and gingerbread added since the time of the historic photo above.

Robert Riddett operated a wheelwright shop where he made wagons and carriages on the north west corner of the intersection. It has since been demolished and the land is now under cultivation by a farmer who leases it from Seneca College. Meanwhile in 1900, after the loss of Tinline’s store, James Wells built a new home on the site of the former post office. Flora Eaton later bought the house and it served as the foreman’s dwelling for Eaton Hall Farm across the road.

On the south east corner a cheese factory was opened in 1878 by Job and James Wells. They made butter in the Winter and Spring and then cheese in the Summer and Fall. The cheese factory was closed and then demolished in 1914 but one of the small worker cottages remains as well as several out buildings that are all in poor condition. Alex Hurst also had a blacksmith shop on this corner.

One of the most prominent buildings in the old community of Eversley is the Henry Pellatt barn because it is quite close to15 sideroad. It was built in the early 1920s and later sold to the Eaton family along with 400 acres of land which they added to their estate, Eaton Hall. The foundation is surrounded on four sides with 3 over 3 windows giving it a unique look and allowing lots of light into the animal pens. Henry Pellatt owned Casa Loma and the nearby Marylake estate in the 4th concession.

Starting in the 1920s Eversley was transformed by the arrival of the Eaton family who bought 700 acres in the north west area of the community. We’ve featured many of their buildings in our Eaton Hall post but we left the gate house out due to space limitations. This building is visible from Dufferin Street and is now part of the main entrance to Seneca King Campus.

The Schomberg & Aurora Railway was incorporated in 1896 to connect with the Toronto & York Radial Railway at Yonge Street. Construction began near Bond Lake in 1899 and it opened in 1902. Eversley was served with three stops in close proximity. The first was Eversley Sideroad which was about a kilometer east of town on 15 sideroad. Eversley Station was basically across the road from the entrance to the Eaton Hall gate house. A third stop was located on 16th sideroad and was known as Cider Mill Crossing. June 10, 1927 marked the last run on this line and today the old right of way can be identified from Google Earth and is used for a hiking trail through Seneca King Campus.

The Eaton Horse and Cattle Barn was completed in 1923 and was a notable sight in Eversley until it was destroyed by a fire in 1937. Lady Eaton promptly had it rebuilt but the two silos and clock tower were destroyed in a second fire on April 18, 1966 and were never replaced. The archive photo below shows the barns in their prime.

This ornate latch is found on the old dairy building from the Eaton Hall farm and is a reminder that Eversley has a history that includes the craftsmanship of the local blacksmith.

A sizeable portion of the former community of Eversley is now under the management of Seneca King Campus and there’s plenty of trails to explore. You can park in one of the lots on campus and explore the trails which include the Oak Ridges Moraine Trail. This robin was splashing around in a puddle and complaining about the recent weather.

Eversley has lost most of its residents but many historic buildings remain and none of the small town charm has disappeared.

Related stories: Pioneers of the GTA – Timothy Eaton, Eaton Hall, Toronto & York Radial Railway, Bond Lake, Casa Loma, Marylake

Google Maps Link: Eversley

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Eaton Hall

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Eaton Hall has been referred to as Canada’s answer to Downton Abbey and is close as we come to Canadian royalty. The 700-acre property has a history that goes back to First Nations who camped around the lake and made use of the nearby Carrying Place Trail. The Toronto Purchase in 1787 allowed King township to be surveyed and opened to farmers in the 1820s. Some of the earliest in the area of Eversley was the Ferguson family who had a kettle lake on their section of the Oak Ridges Morraine. The 1878 County Atlas below shows the eventual site of Eaton Hall Farm.

When Timothy Eaton, founder of the retail empire, passed away in 1907 his youngest son, John Craig Eaton took over the $22.4 million business. John Craig Eaton grew the business to $125 million in the next 15 years and so he and his wife Florence (Flora) lived in a large mansion near Casa Loma in the rich area of Toronto. Henry Pellet owned Casa Loma as well as a country estate known as Marylake. He convinced the Eatons to buy land near him in King Township to build their own country estate. In 1920 the Eatons bought the Ferguson farms and started to build their country home and farm. When John Craig died on March 30, 1922, Flora spent a year overseas and then chose to reside at Eaton Hall Farm most of the time. In 1924 she had the second Ferguson farmhouse moved a short distance and then expanded greatly to create her country mansion Villa Fiori. The middle section of the home, with the small dormers, is the farmhouse. The original Ferguson farmhouse was moved to a row of workers’ homes near the new barn but was left largely unrepaired from 1972 until 2015 when it was demolished.

A large section was added to the front of the original home with a dining room on one side and a living room on the other, both looking out over the lake. Two large bedrooms on the second floor each had their own bathrooms. An extension on the back contained a three-car garage on the ground floor and servants’ quarters on the upper one. When it was completed in the fall of 1924, Villa Fiori served as the primary country residence until 1936. When Lady Eaton passed away in 1970 and the estate was eventually sold to Seneca College, they used this building for a while. Eventually, it was determined to be unsafe and has been closed off for years. It’s hard to say if funds will be found for restoration before it is also demolished.

Nearby, the Tea House had a small kitchen and screened windows. It looked out over the rose gardens toward the lake in one direction and over the tennis courts in the other.

The Eatons went on a building campaign as they sought to develop their estate into a working farm that could produce eggs and butter as well as other products to be sold in their stores. They built a dairy building, a chicken house, an ice house, and a greenhouse. They added a large cattle and horse barn which suffered two fires. The remaining barn lacks the two silos and clock tower that used to adorn it.

It took a lot of people to run the farm and so some housing was provided. The single farm dwelling is located just south of the cattle barn and was one of three homes in a small community of workers.

They also built what they called the semi-farm dwelling where two more families lived. Beside it stood the relocated original Ferguson farmhouse.

Plans for a family mansion that could host the children, grandchildren, and royalty we set in place in 1921. When John died they were put on hold until 1930 while Flora spent much of her time in Europe with her children. Construction began in January 1938 and finishing touches were completed by February of 1941. Looking like a castle, the 35,000 square foot home cost $380,531.13 which is about $6 million in today’s currency. It is made from local Humber River limestone which is appropriate since the lake in front of the castle is one of the primary headwaters for the river. It has two round turrets and one square one. The large round turret in the front of the home contains the grand staircase which only reaches the first three floors and does not continue to the servant’s levels above.

The east wing of the basement level is largely used for the staff dining areas and the laundry and storage. The large vault is located under the turret with the staircase in it while the rest of the lower level was largely used for entertainment with a card-playing room, billiards room, ballroom, and a theatre. The main floor contained the grand entrance hall, the grand hall, conservatory, and sitting rooms as well as the library. The second floor was used for living space and family bedrooms. Lady Eaton had her bedroom, dressing room, sitting room, and private conservatory at the west end of the building. The picture below shows the rear of the home.

There is wrought ironwork in several places on the building but only one place where it bears the letter “E” for Eaton. That is just above the door that was used as the servant’s entrance.

Eaton Hall has a most interesting and appropriate flag pole, which is shaped like a ship’s mast. It was created for them by Ditchburn Boats Ltd. in Gravenhurst. The Eatons had bought their cottage in Muskoka from the Ditchburns in 1906 and so it was natural for them to be contracted to build the unique flag pole. It was installed in 1940 but urban legend suggests that it was raised as a tribute to the Royal Canadian Navy which used Eaton Hall during World War Two. The Navy was given use of Eaton Hall beginning on August 24, 1944, at which time Flora Eaton took up residence in Villa Fiori once again. Between 75 and 100 injured or ill navy personnel were sent here to recover and get prepared to return to service.

When Lady Eaton moved out of Ardwold, their city home, she determined that there was no market for it and had it destroyed. A few items were brought to Eaton Hall including the fireplaces, some carved stone benches, and the pergola. Although they still allow light to get through, the idea of a pergola is to provide a level of shade. After Flora Eaton died on July 9, 1970, the family agreed to sell the 696-acre property. Seneca College bought it to create their King Campus. At the time, there were 19 buildings on the site and nine families plus five other workers lived in the complex. A total of 27 people were employed to keep the farm and buildings in order. Seneca cut this back to four people and building maintenance wasn’t kept up. As a result, many of the buildings are in poor shape and the boathouse has recently been demolished. The pergola, Villa Fiori, and the workers’ homes are all in a state of deterioration. All of the buildings on the western end of the property are now in ruins.

One of the trails through the property follows the Schomberg and Aurora Railway right of way. This 36-kilometer long railway was built in 1902 and connected Schomberg with the Toronto and York Radial Railway which ran up Yonge Street. This is how Henry Pellatt introduced the Eatons to the property as the Eversley train station was just opposite where the Eaton Hall gatehouse and driveway would be built. Pellatt also built a spur line on the boundary between lots 11 and 12 to service his estate at Mary Lake. The Schomberg and Aurora Railway closed in 1927 and the tracks were removed the following year.

The Oak ridges Morraine Trail runs through Seneca King Campus and there are many other trails to be explored which makes this an interesting area to visit more than once.

Related stories: Timothy Eaton, Marylake, Toronto and York Radial Railway, Casa Loma

Google Maps Link: Eaton Hall

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Pioneers of the GTA – Timothy Eaton

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Timothy Eaton founded Canada’s largest privately-owned department store and introduced many innovations into his retail business. His introduction of the retail catalogue and mail order service in 1884 gave rural Canadians access to a wide variety of merchandise making him one of the pioneers of retail in the country. Timothy Eaton was born in Ireland in 1834 near Ballymena where he apprenticed in a general store. At the age of 19 he came to Canada and worked for two years in a general store in this building in Glen Williams.

Along with his brother Kirk, Timothy opened a store in 1856 which they moved to St. Marys four years later. By 1869 Eaton was on the move again, venturing off to Toronto to open his own store. The archive drawing below shows his original store at 178 Yonge Street.

Edward Young Eaton was born to Timothy and Margaret Eaton in 1863 while they were living in St. Marys. Edward worked for his father’s store after finishing school and worked his way up from the bottom to the position of Vice-President. He died in 1900 of kidney disease just two years after he completed his house at 157 St. George Street. The home was sold by the Eaton Family to the University of Toronto Fraternity “Delta Kappa Epsilon” for a dollar, reportedly to avoid paying the taxes on it. They’ve occupied it ever since.

The Eaton empire continued to grow and Timothy took good care of his employees compared to standards of the day. He closed his stores at 6:00 pm every night so they could be with their families and in the Summer he gave them Saturday afternoon off. He started manufacturing his own products and set up a variety of departments and services in his stores. You could even order entire houses from Eatons. By the time of his passing, Eatons employed over 9,000 people and it would continue to grow as a retail force. Timothy died from pneumonia on January 31, 1907, and was buried in the newly built family mausoleum in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.  Seventeen other members of the Eaton family have also been buried in this mausoleum.

John Craig Eaton inherited the Eaton retail empire when his father died although he was the youngest son. In January of 1909, he bought 11 acres of land in the newest hip area for Toronto’s wealthy. The top of the Davenport hill was home to Spadina House (seen in the background of the photo below) as well as Casa Loma which was then under construction. He comissioned a home with 50 rooms including 14 bathrooms and an indoor pool. He named it Ardwold which was Gaelic for High Green Hill. When he died in 1922 Lady Eaton started to spend less time there and by 1936 decided the building was a waste. So she had it blown up! The photo below is from Wikipedia and is dated 1910.

The site was then developed into an exclusive little enclave of homes for the wealthy. One remnant of the Eaton estate is the gatehouse which still stands at the corner of Spadina and Ardwold Gate.

The Methodist Social Union of Toronto was looking to open a branch in the growing area of St. Clair Avenue West and approached the Eaton Family to see if they could get a donation. Timothy Eaton’s widow, Margaret, and his son John Craig Eaton donated the land for the church and paid for the original church buildings. The Sunday School was finished in 1911 and hosted the worship services until 1915 when the sanctuary was dedicated. It has been a member of the United Church of Canada since 1925 and contains several large stained glass windows dedicated to Timothy and other members of the Eaton Family.

Carved in the stone along the front of the building are the words Timothy Eaton Memorial Church and the earliest section has a 1910 date stone.

After Timothy died, the board of directors was chaired by Sir John Eaton and they decided that the heart of Toronto’s shopping district was going to move north and they wanted to remain the flagship retailer. In a three day period in 1910 they bought 3/4 of the land between Yonge and Church for two blocks north of Carlton. This land would later be sold back for such projects as Maple Leaf Gardens. Instead, they elected to build on the land they acquired on the south west corner of Carton and Yonge. Their plans were put on hold by World War One but in 1925 they announced a seven-story, 600,000 square foot retail building on the site. Five months later they announced a 32 story tower to be added to the structure which would have made it one of the largest buildings in the world at the time. The Great Depression came along and cancelled all but the originally planned building. The planned tower can be seen in the promotional drawing below.

The building that we call College Park is the remains of this grand project. The large assembly of land also resulted in widened sidewalks and streets around the building and the straightening of the intersection of Bay and College. In 1977 the old Eaton properties at Queen and Yonge would be redeveloped into the Eaton Centre, Toronto’s most popular tourist attraction.

Around 1920, Henry Pellatt convinced Lady Eaton to buy 700 acres of land adjacent to his Marylake property. Pellatt was owner of Casa Loma and knew the Eatons from their days at Ardwold. Plans were drawn up for a massive estate home in 1921 but construction didn’t start until 1938, being completed the following year. Lady Eaton, who found Ardwold to be too large moved into this modest 72 room home. During 1944 and 1945 the Royal Canadian Navy used Eaton Hall as a convalescent hospital. When Lady Eaton died in 1970 the property was sold to Seneca College which operates the King Campus on the site. The property is now cut with many trails and I made my way in from Dufferin Street. For more details and many more pictures see our post, Eaton Hall.

Timothy Eaton left his mark on Canada as a pioneer in the area of catalogue retail, of which online shopping is a modern descendant.

Related stories: Glen Williams, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, St. Marys, Marylake, Eaton Hall

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