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Toronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario online

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316 Toronto of Old. [§ 2I *

named Toronto Street, as being situated within a few feet of the
line of the original thoroughfare of that name which figures so
largely in the early descriptions of York. — If in " York Street * a
compliment had been intended to Charles Yorke, Secretary at War
in 1802, the orthography would have been " Yorke Street."

After all, however, the name "York Street" may have arisen
from the circumstance that, at an early period, this was for teams
on their way to York, the beaten track, suddenly turning off here
to the south out of Dundas or Lot Street, the line of road which,
if followed, would have taken the traveller to Kingston.

The street on the west of the grounds of Osgoode Hall is
now known as University Street. By the donor to the public of
the land occupied by the street, it was designated Park Lane — not
without due consideration, as is likely. In London there is a
famous and very distinguished Park Lane. It leads from Oxford
Street to Piccadilly, and skirts the whole of the east side of Hyde
Park. The position of what was our Park Lane is somewhat ana-
logous, it being open along its whole length on the left to the plan-
tations of an ornamental piece of ground. Unmeddled with, our
Park Lane would have suggested from time to time in the mind of
the ruminating wayfarer pleasant thoughts of a noble and interest-
ing part of the great home metropolis. The change to University
Street was altogether uncalled for. It ignored the adjoining " Col-
lege Avenue," the name of which showed that a generally-recog-
nized " University Street " existed already : it gave, moreover, a
name which is pretentious, the roadway indicated being com-
paratively narrow.

Of the street on the east side of the grounds of Osgoode
Hall we have already spoken. But in connection with the ques-
tion of changes in street names, we must here again refer to it..
In this case the name "Sayer" has been made to give place to
"Chestnut." "Elm Street," which intersects this street to the
north, probably in some vague way suggested a tree name. " Elm
Street," however, had a reason for its existence. Many persons
still remember a solitary Elm, a relic of the forest, which was long
conspicuous just where Elm Street enters Yonge Street. And
there is a fitness likewise in the names of Pine Street and Sumach
Street, in the east ; these streets, passing through a region where
pines and sumachs once abounded. But the modern Chestnut
Street has nothing about it in the past or present associated with

§2i.] Queen Street — Osgoode Hall. 317

chestnut trees of any kind. The name " Sayer " should have been

It is unfortunate when persons, apparently without serious re-
trospective thought, have a momentary chance to make changes in
local names. Chancery might'well be invoked to undo in some
instances what has been done, and to prohibit like inconsiderate
proceedings in the future. Equity would surely say that a citizen's
private right should be sustained, so long as it worked no harm
to the community ; and that perplexity in the registration and
description of property should not needlessly be created.

Although we shall forestall ourselves a little, we may here notice
one more alteration in a street-name near Osgoode Hall. William
Street, immediately west of the Avenue leading to the University,
has in recent times been changed to Simcoe Street. It is true,
William Street was nearly in a line with the street previously known
as Simcoe Street ; nevertheless, starting as it conspicuously did
somewhat to the west of that line, it was a street sufficiently dis-
tinct to be entitled to retain an independent name. Here again,
an item of local history has been obliterated. William Street was a
record on the soil of the first name of an early Chief Justice of
Upper Canada, who projected the street and gave the land.
Dummer Street, the next street westward, bears his second name.

Of " Powell," his third name we have already spoken else-
where, and shall again almost immediately have to speak.

When it shall be proposed to alter the name of Dummer Street,
with the hope, perhaps, of improving the fame of the locality along
with its name, let the case of March Street be recalled. In the
case of March Street, the rose, notwithstanding a change of name,
retained its perfume : and the Colonial Minister of the day, Lord
Stanley, received but a sorry compliment when his name was made
to displace that of the Earl of March. (It was from this second
title of the Duke of Richmond^that March Street had its name.) —
It is probable that the Dummer Street of to-day, like the March
Street of yesterday, would, under another name, continue much
what it is. In all such quarters, it is not a change of name that
is of any avail : but the presence of the schoolmaster and home-
missionary, backed up by landlords and builders, studious of the
public health and morals, as well as of private interests.

3 1 8 Toronto of Old. [§ 2 1 ,

Digression Northward at the College Avenue.

The fine vista of the College Avenue, opposite to which we have
now arrived, always recalls to our recollection a certain bright
spring morning, when on reaching school a whole holiday was un-
expectedly announced ; and when, as a mode of filling up a por-
tion of the unlooked-for vacant time, it was agreed between two
or three young lads to pay a visit to the place on Lot Street where,
as the report had spread amongst us, they were beginning to make
visible preparations for the commencement of the University of
King's College. The minds of growing lads in the neighbour-
hood of York at that period had very vague ideas of what a Uni-
versity really was. It was a place where studies were carried on,
but how or under what conditions, there was of necessity little
conception. Curiosity, however, was naturally excited by the talk
on the lips of every one that a University was one day to be estab-
lished at York; and now suddenly we learned that actual begin-
nings were to be seen of the much-talked-of institution. On the
morning of the fine spring day referred to, we accordingly under-
took an exploration.

On arriving at the spot to which we had been directed, we found
that a long strip of land running in a straight line northwards had
been marked out, after the manner of a newly-opened side line or
concession road in the woods. We found a number of men actually
at work with axes and mattocks ; yokes of oxen, too, were straining
at strong ploughs, which forced a way in amongst the roots and
small stumps of the natural brushwood, and, here and there, un-
derneath a rough mat of tangled grass, bringing to light, now black
vegetable mould, now dry clay, now loose red sand. Longitudin-
ally, up the middle of the space marked off, several bold furrows
were cut, those on the right inclining to the left, and those on
the left inclining to the right, as is the wont in primitive turn-

One novelty we discovered, viz., that on each side along a por-
tion of the newly-cleared ground, young saplings had been planted
at regular intervals; these, we were told, were horse-chest-
nuts, procured from the United States expressly for the purpose of
forming a double row of trees here. In the neighbourhood of York
the horse-chestnut was then a rarity.

Everywhere throughout the North American continent, as in the

§ 2i.] Queen Street — The College Avenue. 319

numerous newly-opened areas of the British Empire elsewhere on
the globe's surface, instances, of course, abound of wonderful pro-
gress made in a brief interval of time. For ourselves, we seem
sometimes as if we were moving among the unrealities of a dream
when we deliberately review the steps in the march of physical and
social improvement, which, within a fractional portion only of a
retrospect not very extended, can be recalled, in the region where
our own lot has been cast, and, in particular, in the neighbourhood
where we are at this moment pausing.

The grand mediaeval-looking structure of University College in
the grounds at the head of the Avenue, continues to this day to be a
surprise somewhat bewildering to the eye and mind, whenever it
breaks upon our view. It looks so completely a thing of the old
world and of an age long past away. To think that one has walked
over its site before one stone was laid upon another thereon, seems
almost like a mental hallucination.

A certain quietness of aspect and absence of overstrain after
architectural effect give the massive pile an air of great genuine-
ness. The irregular grouping of its many parts appears the unde-
signed result of accretion growing out of the necessities of suc-
cessive years. The whole looks in its place, and as if it had long
occupied it. The material of its walls, left for the most part super-
ficially in the rough, has the appearance of being weather-worn.
An impression of age, too, is given by the smooth finish of the sur-
rounding grounds and spacious drives by which, on several sides,
the building is approached, as also by the goodly size of the well-
grown oaks and other trees through whose outstretched branches
it is usually first caught sight of, from across the picturesque

Of the still virgin condition of the surrounding soil, however,
we have some unmistakeable evidence in the ponderous granitic
boulders every here and there heaving up their grey backs above
the natural greensward, undisturbed since the day when they drop-
ped suddenly down from the dissolving ice-rafts that could no
longer endure their weight.

Seen at a little distance, as from Yonge Street for example, the
square central tower of the University, with the cone-capped tur-
ret at its north-east angle, rising above a pleasant horizon of trees,
and outlined against an afternoon sky, is something thoroughly
English, recalling Rugby or Warwick. On a nearer approach, this

320 Toronto of Old. [§ 21.

same tower, combined with the portal below, bears a certain re-
semblance to the gateway of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, as
figured in Palgrave's " Anglo-Saxons f and the elaborate and
exquisite work about the recessed circular-headed entrance enables
one to realize with some degree of certainty how the enriched
front of that and other noble mediaeval structures, seen by us now
corroded and mutilated, looked when fresh from the hands that so
cunningly carved them.

In the two gigantic blind-worms, likewise, stretched in terrorem
on the sloping parapets of the steps leading to the door, benumbed,
not dead ; giving in their extremities, still faint evidence of life, we
have a sermon in stone, which the brethren of a masonic guild of
Wykeham's day would readily have expounded, As we enter a
house devoted to learning and study, is it not fitting that the eye
should be greeted with a symbol of the paralyzing power of Science
over Ignorance and Superstition ?

Moreover, sounds that come at stated intervals from that cen-
tral tower, make another link of sympathy with the old mother-
land. Every night at nine, " swinging slow with solemn roar/'
the great bell of the University is agreeably suggestive of Christ
Church, Oxford, St. Mary's, Cambridge, and other places beyond
the sea, which to the present hour give back an echo of the ancient

And if to this day the University building, in its exterior aspect
and accidents, is startling to those who knew its site when as yet
in a state of nature, its interior also, when traversed and explored,
tends in the same persons to produce a degree of confusion as be-
tween things new and old ; as between Canada and elsewhere.
Within its walls are to be seen appliances and conveniences and
luxuries for the behoof and use of teacher and student, unknown a
few years since in many an ancient seat of learning.

In a library of Old World aspect and arrangement, is a collection
rich in the Greek and Latin Classics, in Epigraphy and Arch-
aeology, beyond anything of the kind in any other collec-
tion on this continent, and beyond what is to be met with in those
departments in many a separate College within the precincts of the
ancient Universities — a pre-eminence due to the tastes and special
studies of the first president and other early professors of the Cana-
dian Institution.

Strange, it is, yet true that hither, as to a recognized source

§2i.] Queen Street — The College Avenue. 321

of certain aid in identification and decipherment, are duly
transmitted, by cast, rubbing and photograph, the " finds " that
from time to time create such excitement and delight among
epigraphists, and ethnologists, and other minute historical investi-
gators in the British Islands and elsewhere.

There used to be preserved in the Old Hospital a model in
cork and card-board, of the great educational establishment to
which, in the first instance, the Avenue was expected to form an
approach. It was very curious. Had it been really followed,
a large portion of the park provided for the reception of the
University would have been covered with buildings. A multitude
of edifices, isolated and varying in magnitude, were scattered
about, with gardens and ornamental grounds interspersed. These
were halls of science, lecture-rooms, laboratories, residences for
president, vice-president, professors, officials and servants of
every grade. On the widely extended premises occupied by the
proposed institution, a population was apparently expected to be
found that would, of itself, have almost sufficed to justify
representation in Parliament — a privilege the college was actually
by its charter to enjoy. We should have had in fact realized be-
fore our eyes, on a considerable scale, a part of the dreams of
Plato and More, a fragment of Atlantis and Utopia.

When the moment arrived, however, for calling into visible
being the long contemplated seat of learning, it was found expe-
dient to abandon the elaborate model which had been constructed.
Mr. Young, a local architect, was directed to devise new plans.
His ideas appear to have been wholly modern. Notwithstanding
the tenor of the Royal Charter, which suggested the precedents of
the old universities of " our United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Ireland," wherever it should be practicable to follow them, the
architecture and arrangements customary in those places were
ignored. Girard College, Philadelphia, seems to have inspired the
new designs. However, only a minute fragment of one of the
buildings ot the new plan was destined ever to exist.

The formal commencement of the abortive work took place on
the 23rd of April, 1842 — a day indelibly impressed on the memory
of those who participated in the proceedings. It was one of the
sunniest and brightest of days. In the year just named it hap-
pened that so early as St. George's day the leaves of the horse-
chestnut were bursting their glossy sheaths, and vegetation gen-

322 Toronto of Old. [§ 2I -

erally was in a very advanced stage. A procession, such as had never
before been seen in these parts, slowly defiled up the Avenue to
the spot where the corner-stone of the proposed University was to
be laid.

A highly wrought contemporary description of the scene is given
in a note in Curia Canadenses : " The vast procession opened its
ranks, and his Excellency the Chancellor, with the President, the
Lord Bishop of Toronto, on his right, and the Senior Visitor, the
Chief Justice, on his left, proceeded on foot through the College
Avenue to the University grounds. The countless array moved
forward to the sound of military music. The sun shone out with
cloudless meridian splendour j one blaze of banners flushed upon
the admiring eye. — The Governor's rich Lord-Lieutenant's dress,
the Bishop's sacerdotal robes, the Judicial Ermine of the Chief
Justice, the splendid Convocation robes of Dr. McCaul, the gor-
geous uniforms of the suite, the accoutrements of the numerous
Firemen, the national badges worn by the Office-bearers of the
different Societies, and what on such a day (St. George's) must
not be omitted, the Red Crosses on the breasts of England's con-
gregated sons, the grave habiliments of the Clergy and Lawyers,
and the glancing lances and waving plumes of the First Incorporated
Dragoons, all formed one moving picture of civic pomp, one glori-
ous spectacle which can never be remembered but with satisfac-
tion by those who had the good fortune to witness it. The fol-
lowing stanza from a Latin Ode," the note goes on to say, " recited
by Master Draper, son of the late Attorney-General, after the cere-
mony, expresses in beautifully classical language the proud occasion
of all this joy and splendid pageantry : —

"Io! triumphe ! flos Canadensium !
Est alma nobis mater ; semula
Britannise haec sit nostra terra, —
Terra diu domibus negata ! "

Another contemporary account adds : " As the procession drew
nearer to the site where the stone was to be laid, the 43rd Regiment
lined the way, with soldiers bearing arms, and placed on either
side, at equal intervals. The 93rd Regiment was not on duty here,
but in every direction the gallant Highlanders were scattered
through the crowd, and added by their national garb and nodding
plumes to the varied beauty of the animated scene. When the
site was reached," this account says, " a new feature was added to

§2i.] Queen Street — The College Avenue. 323

the interest of the ceremony. Close to the spot, the north-east
corner, where the foundation was to be deposited, a temporary
building had been erected for the Chancellor, and there, accom-
panied by the officers of the University and his suite, he took his
stand. Fronting this was a kind of amphitheatre of seats, con-
structed for the occasion, tier rising above tier, densely filled with
ladies, who thus commanded a view of the whole ceremony. Be-
tween this amphitheatre and the place where the Chancellor stood,
the procession ranged itself."

The Chancellor above spoken of was the Governor General of
the day, Sir Charles Bagot, a man of noble bearing and genial,
pleasant aspect. He entered with all the more spirit into the cere-
monies described, from being himself a graduate of one of the old
universities. Memories of far-off Oxford and Christ Church would
be sure to be roused amidst the proceedings that rendered the 23rd
of April, 1842, so memorable amongst us. A brother of Sir
Charles' was at the time Bishop of Oxford. In his suite, as one
of his Secretaries, was Captain Henry Bagot, of the Royal Navy,
his own son. Preceding him in the procession, bearing a large gilded
mace, was an " Esquire Bedell," like the Chancellor himself, a
Christ Church man, Mr. William Cayley, subsequently a member
of the Canadian Government.

Although breaking ground for the University building had been
long delayed, the commencement now made proved to be prema-
ture. The edifice begun was never completed, as we have already
intimated; and even in its imperfect, fragmentary condition, it
was not fated to be for any great length of time a scene of learned
labours. In 1856 its fortune was to be converted into a Female
Department for the over-crowded Provincial Lunatic Asylum.

The educational system inaugurated in the new building in 1843
was, as the plate enclosed in the foundation-stone finely expressed
it, " praestantissimum ad exemplar Britannicarum Universitatum."
But the " exemplar " was not, in practice, found to be, as a whole,
adapted to the genius of the Western Canadian people.

The revision of the University scheme with a view to the neces-
sities of Western Canada, was signalized by the erection in 1857
of a new building on an entirely different site, and a migration
to it bodily, of president, professors and students, without depart-
ing however from the bounds of the spacious park originally
provided for the institution ; and it is remarkable that, while de

324 Toronto of Old. [§ 21,

viating, educationally and otherwise, in some points, from the
pattern of the ancient universities, as they were in 1842, a nearer
approach, architecturally, was made to the mediaeval English College
than any that had been thought of before. Mr. Cumberland, the
designer of the really fine and most appropriate building in which
the University at length found a resting place, was, as is evident,
a man after the heart of Wykeham and Wayneflete.

The story of our University is a part of the history of Upper
Canada. From the first foundation of the colony the idea of some
such seat of learning entered into the scheme of its organization.
In 1 791, before he had yet left England for the unbroken wilder-
ness in which his Government was to be set up, we have General
Simcoe speaking to Sir Joseph Banks, the President of the Royal
Society, of "a college of a higher class," as desirable in the com-
munity which he was about to create. " A college of a higher
class," he says, " would be eminently useful, and would give a tone
of principles and of manners that would be of infinite support to
Government." In the same letter he remarks to Sir Joseph, " My
friend the Marquis of Buckingham has suggested that Government
might allow me a sum of money to be laid out for a Public Library,
to be composed of such books as might be useful in the colony.
He instanced the Encyclopoedia, extracts from which might occa-
sionally be published in the newspapers. It is possible," he adds,
" private donations might be obtained, and that it would become
an object of Royal munificence."

It was naturally long before the community of Upper Canada
was ripe for a college of the character contemplated ; but provision
for its ultimate existence and sustenance was made, almost from
the beginning, in the assignment to that object of a fixed and
liberal portion of the public lands of the country.

In 1819-20, Gourlay spoke of the unpreparedness of Upper
Canada as yet for a seat of learning of a high grade. Meanwhile,
as a temporary expedient, he suggested a romantic scheme. " It
has been proposed," he says, " to have a college in Upper Canada ;
and no doubt in time colleges will grow up there. At present, and
for a considerable period to come, any effort to found a college
would prove abortive. There could neither be got masters nor
scholars to b ensure a tolerable commencement for ten years to come;
and a feeble beginning might beget a feeble race of teachers and
pupils. In the United States," he continued, "academies and

§ 2i.] Queen Street — The College Avenue. 325

colleges, though fast improving, are yet but raw ; and greatly in
ferior to those in Britain, generally speaking. Twenty-five lads
sent annually at public charge from Upper Canada to British Uni-
versities, would draw after them many more. The youths them-
selves, generally, would become desirous of making a voyage in
quest of learning. — Crossing the ocean on such an errand would
elevate their ideas, and stir them up to extraordinary exertions.
They would become finished preachers, lawyers, physicians, mer-
chants ; and, returning to their native country, would repay in wis-
dom what was expended in goodness and liberality. What more
especially invites the adoption of such a scheme is the amiable
and affectionate connection which it would tend to establish be-
tween Canada and Britain. But it will not do at present to follow
out the idea."

Gourlay's prediction that " in time colleges will grow up there"
has been speedily verified. The town especially, of which in its
infant state he spoke in such terms of contempt, has been so pro-
lific of colleges that it is now become a kind of Salamanca for the
country at large j a place of resort for students from all parts. It
is well probably for Canada that the scheme of drafting a batch
of young students periodically to the old country, was not adopted.
Canada would thereby possibly, on the one hand, have lost the
services of some of the cleverest of her sons, who, on obtaining
academic distinction would have preferred to remain in the mother
country, entering on one or other of the public careers to which
academic distinction there opens the ready path; and, on the
other hand, she should, in many an instance, it is to be feared, have
received back her sons just unfitted, in temper and habit, for life
under matter-of-fact colonial conditions.

In the original planting of the Avenue, up whose fine vista we
have been gazing, the mistake was committed of imitating nature
too closely. Numerous trees and shrubs of different kinds and
habits were mingled together as they are usually to be seen in a
wild primitive wood ; and thus the growth and fair development

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