Tag Archives: Laskay Emporium

Black Creek Pioneer Village

August 7, 2022

Daniel and Elizabeth Stong settled on the property on the south-east corner of Jane Street and Steeles Avenue in 1816 when it was virgin forest. They cut down the trees and created a farm that was operated by four generations of the family until 1952. The Toronto Region Conservation Authority purchased the property in 1958 and created Black Creek Pioneer Village which opened in 1960. The village was developed by moving 40 endangered or abandoned buildings from other sites in Ontario to display life in the 1860’s. We visited the village to look at some of the other buildings and the exhibits located within them.

The doctor’s house was originally built in 1830 as a two generation farm house near Brampton. It has two separate entrances and the upstairs is fully divided so that two families could live here in relative privacy. A door on the main floor allowed them to pass between the two halves to join in family activities. The design is perfect to showcase a small town doctor’s house where the one side could serve as an office. An herb garden in the back yard would be cultivated to provide remedies that were learned from the indigenous peoples who had lived on the land for centuries.

Inside the doctor’s house is a display of the tools that were in common use in the mid-1800s. Drills, tooth extractors and saws were basic implements. Because people had to pay for the doctor’s services they often waited until they were in severe distress hoping to get better on their own. A house call would cost 50 cents, or roughly a half days wages and then every service would be charged separately on top of that.

Mackenzie House was built in 1830 as a small log cabin. As the family grew the home became too small and so a kitchen wing was added as well as an upstairs area making it into a story and a half home. The house was originally located in Woodbridge and was built by Major Addison Alexander Mackenzie after whom Major Mackenzie Drive is named. The house is set up to display the historical home industries of clock making/repair and dress making.

The Manse was built in 1835 and is typical of four room cottages built in rural Upper Canada (Ontario) in the 1830s. It served as the manse for Reverend James Dick who was pastor of Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church from 1849-1885. In those times it was not very common to hold weddings in the church and many of them were conducted in the front room of this house. The building was also used as a store, a residence and a Sunday School before being moved to the village in 1978 where it compliments the Fisherville Presbyterian Church.

Burwick House was built in 1844 for Rowland Burr in the town of Burrwick which later became Woodbridge. This house represents the lifestyle of the middle class in this era. This is an example of the well proportioned and symmetrical Georgian style of architecture and was moved to the village in 1958.

The Halfway House was built in 1849 by Alexander Thompson to provide a resting stop for stagecoach passengers and horses. It was originally located at Kingston Road and Midland Avenue along the road from Pickering to Toronto. It also served as a hotel, an apartment and also a store before being moved to the village in 1966.

The apple storage cellar was built around 1850 in Edgely. It was built into the ground to provide storage to preserve apples, fruit and root vegetables. The storage bins would be layered with straw and produce using its 8 feet by 7 feet interior to keep food for winter and spring consumption. The field stone and brick structure was disassembled and moved to the village over a 65 day period.

Charles Irwin’s weaving shop was located in the Kettleby Temperance Hall which was built in 1850. The same building also housed the town print shop when it was no longer used as a temperance hall. Weaving provided a wide range of textiles for household use and at one time there were over 600 weavers in Ontario.

The harness shop was built in 1855 just two lots south of the future black Creek Pioneer Village. The harness and saddle trade were essential to the early farming and transportation industries as they allowed for the efficient use of animal strength for labour. The shop was moved to the village in 1961 and has been open to the public since 1963.

Dominion Carriage Works was built in 1860 in Sebringville as a blacksmith shop and wheelwright. As it grew in the 1870s it was expanded to a full carriage works with an upholsterer and a cabinet maker. When cars became more popular, the business declined but it carried on until 1972. The following year it was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village with all of its patterns and tools. It has been restored and opened to the public in 1976.

The village school was built in 1861 as Dickson’s Hill School in Markham on concession 7 and was known as School Section #17 Markham. Using local, hand made bricks, it was constructed for a total cost of just $1,078.79. The two separate entrances allowed boys to come through one door while the girls entered through the other one. Most one room schools in Ontario were closed by the 1950s and this one was vacant in 1960. At that time it was dismantled brick by brick and was then moved to Pioneer Village and reassembled.

Inside, the school is set up like a typical one room school of the 1860s. The younger students would have sat closer to the front of the room while the older ones were at the back. The desks and fixed seating are not from this school but are from the same time period. A box stove at the back provided heat which was carried by the pipe near the ceiling to the front of the room where the chimney stood. Many of the buildings in the village were heated in this manner. The large windows on either side provided light and also opened for ventilation.

Our cover photo features the Fire House which was built as a storage or work shed in 1850. It houses an 1837 wooden fire engine that was used in Toronto for over 4 decades. Beyond the fire house in the photo is Henry Snider’s Cider Mill which was built in 1840 in the community of Elia at Keele Street and Finch Avenue. It could produce 500 gallons of apple cider per day.

Several buildings in the village have been featured in previous blogs. The Stong log cabin and second house as well as several of their outbuildings were featured in Black Creek Pioneer Village: Elizabeth Stong. Roblin’s Mill had it’s own blog called Roblin’s Mill. Laskay Emporium was featured in the story Laskay: Ghost Towns of the GTA. The Presbyterian Church was featured in our story Fisherville: Ghost Towns of the GTA.

Google maps link: Black Creek Pioneer Village

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Laskay – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Laskay is not a ghost town in the formal sense because people still live there.  It was founded in 1832 when a dam was erected on the East Humber River to create a mill pond for a sawmill.  Joseph Baldwin took over the mill site that year when he bought the 100-acre property.  In 1849 he added a grist mill and later expanded with a woollen mill.  When he arrived the community had the nickname Bulltown but Baldwin changed the name to Laskay after his hometown of Laskay in England.

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The Humber River was prone to flooding and the mill dam was often washed out.  The buildings themselves were destroyed in the floods of the late 1870’s.  By the time of the map above the sawmill was already gone.  The Grist Mill and Carding Mill are marked in blue.  Fires took out the rest of the mills and by the end of the century, they were all gone.

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Village lots were laid out on either side of the river on Joseph Baldwin and David Archibald’s lands.  From the 1850’s these lots began to fill up with workers from the mills along the river.  The town soon had a blacksmith whose shop once stood on Old Forge Road.  Travellers along 3rd line west (Weston Road) would seek a place to water their horses and wash the dust from their throats and beginning in 1845 they made Laskay Tavern a regular stop.  The tavern was built by Baldwin who constructed a general store and post office next door.  Adjacent to that, he built a dressmaking store for his wife to run, a business she shared with her sister.  The tavern is in use as a private home today.

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The town doctor lived in this house on the main street.  The side and rear of the house were planted with herb gardens used in various healing ointments and potions.

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The county atlas shows a Primitive Methodist church in the town in 1877, marked with red on the map.  The church itself was absorbed into the United Church of Canada and the building was eventually closed as a church.  Today it is marked by Old Church Road on which this interesting house can be found.  The walls contain double sets of buttresses with concrete caps as was common on churches around the turn of the past century.  It appears that the old wood structure was either replaced or given a new brick cladding around 1908.  Today most of the church structure is gone and a house stands amid the old walls.

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The Laskay Emporium is shown below and in the cover photo.  It was one of the main hubs of the community starting in 1856 when it was built.  It served the town as a general store and post office for nearly a century.  The store had a “Boom Town” front that hid the sloping roof from the street.  The veranda has a unique sloping roofline under which the locals would sit to watch the evening fade and smoke their pipes.  The Emporium closed and sat vacant waiting for demolition until February 19, 1960, when it was rescued and moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village where it is preserved.

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Joseph Baldwin’s son Henry was the postmaster for 20 years and part of his job was to sort the daily mail into the various slots on the post office pigeonholes.  The Post Office is designated with PO and marked in orange on the map.

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The emporium was the Walmart of the era, importing things and reselling them.  All the usual household needs could be bought here.

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Customers could buy milk by the cup for 2 cents or a lemon for 3 cents.  Three cups of sugar sold for 20 cents and eggs were 2 cents each. You could get four cups of flour for 20 cents, a cup of butter for 18 cents and baking soda for 5 cents.  For under a dollar you could get the ingredients to make a cake.  The cod for your main meal would cost you 8 cents.

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The Emporium was divided into three rooms on the ground floor with one serving in part as an office.  The post master’s desk and safe are seen in this picture.

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The third room was used to sell larger items and to unpack the crates of imported goods.  Beginning in 1852 the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Railway began stopping at their new station in Springhill (King City) to deliver products from overseas as well as to allow local products, such as grain milled in Laskay, to be shipped to market. A selection of typical cookware is displayed in the rafters of the Emporium.

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One other building from Laskay has been preserved and that is Laskay Hall which was moved from the town to King Township Museum in 2017.  It was built in 1859 by the Sons of Temperance.  Since this museum also houses the railway station mentioned above, the oldest surviving railway station in Canada, it will certainly be featured in a future post.

Google Maps Link: Laskay

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