Henry Scadding.

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

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On the right, beyond the Gardeners' Arms, appeared in this region at an
early date, at a considerable distance from each other, two or perhaps
three flat, single-storey square cottages, clapboarded and painted
white, with flat four-sided roofs, door in the centre and one window on
either side: little wooden boxes set down on the surface of the soil
apparently, and capable, as it might seem, of being readily lifted up
and transported to any other locality. They were the first of such
structures in the outskirts of York, and were speedily copied and
repeated in various directions, being thought models of neatness and
convenience.

Opposite the quarter where these little square hutches were to be seen,
there are to be found at the present day, the vineyards of Mr. Bevan; to
be found, we say, for they are concealed from the view of the transient
passenger by intervening buildings. Here again we have a scene
presenting a telling contrast to the same spot and its surroundings
within the memory of living men: a considerable area covered with a
labyrinth of trellis work, all overspread with hardy grapes in great
variety and steadily productive. To this sight likewise we should
introduce our timid, hesitating new comer, as also to the originator of
the spectacle - Mr. Bevan, who after a forty years' sojourn in the
vicinity of York and Toronto, continues as genuinely English in spirit
and tone now as when he first left the quay of his native Bristol for
his venture westward. While engaged largely in the manufacture of
various articles of wooden ware, Mr. Bevan adopted as a recreation the
cultivation of the grape, and the making of a good and wholesome wine.
It is known in commerce and to physicians, who recommend it to invalids
for its real purity, as Clintona.

Just before reaching the first concession-road, where Yorkville now
begins, a family residence of an ornamental suburban character, put up
on the left by Mr. Lardner Bostwick, was the first of that class of
building in the neighbourhood. His descendants still occupy it. Mr.
Bostwick was an early property owner in York. The now important square
acre at the south-east angle of the intersection of King Street and
Yonge Street, regarded probably when selected, as a mere site for a
house and garden in the outskirts of the town, was his. The price paid
for it was £100. Its value in 1873 may be £100,000.

The house of comparatively modern date, seen next after Mr. Bostwick, is
associated with the memory of Mr. de Blaquiere, who occupied it before
building for himself the tasteful residence - The Pines - not far off,
where he died; now the abode of Mr. John Heward.

Mr. de Blaquiere was the youngest son of the first Lord de Blaquiere, of
Ardkill, in Ireland. He emigrated in 1837, and was subsequently
appointed to a seat in the Legislative Council of Upper Canada. In his
youth he had seen active service as a midshipman. He was present at the
battle of Camperdown in the Bounty, commanded by Captain Bligh. He was
also in the Fleet at the Nore during the mutiny. He died suddenly here
in his new house in 1860, aged 76. His fine character and prepossessing
outward physique are freshly remembered.

Thus again and again have we to content ourselves with the interest that
attaches, not to the birth-places of men of note, as would be the case
in older towns, but to their death-places. Who of those that have been
born in the numerous domiciles which we pass are finally to be ranked as
men of note, and as creators consequently of a sentimental interest in
their respective birth-places, remains to be seen. In our portion of
Canada there has been time for the application of the requisite test in
only a very few instances.

The First Concession Road-line derived its modern name of Bloor Street
from a former resident on its southern side, eastward of Yonge Street.
Mr. Bloor, as we have previously narrated, was for many years the
landlord of the Farmers' Arms, near the market place of York, an inn
conveniently situated for the accommodation of the agricultural public.
On retiring from this occupation with a good competency, he established
a Brewery on an extensive scale in the ravine north of the first
concession road. In conjunction with Mr. Sheriff Jarvis, he entered
successfully into a speculation on land, projecting and laying out the
village of Yorkville, which narrowly escaped being Bloorville. That name
was proposed: as also was Rosedale, after the Sheriff's homestead; and
likewise "Cumberland," from the county of some of the surrounding
inhabitants. The monosyllable "Blore" would have sufficed, without
having recourse to a hackeyned suffix. That is the name of a spot in
Staffordshire, famous for a great engagement in the wars between the
Houses of Lancaster and York. But Yorkville was at last decided on, an
appellation preservative in part of the name just discarded in 1834 by
Toronto.

Mr. Bloor was an Englishman, respected by every one. That his name
should have become permanently attached to the Northern Boulevard of the
City of Toronto, a favourite thoroughfare, several miles in extent, is a
curious fact which may be compared with the case of Pimlico, the famous
west-end quarter of London. Pimlico has its name, it is said, from Mr.
Benjamin Pimlico, for many years the popular landlord of a hotel in the
neighbourhood. Bloor Street was for a time known as St. Paul's road:
also as the Sydenham road.

While crossing the First Concession Line, now in our northward journey,
the moment comes back to us when on glancing along the vista to the
eastward, formed by the road in that direction, we first noticed a
church-spire on the right-hand or southern side. We had passed that way
a day or two before, and we were sure no such object was to be seen
there then; and yet, unmistakeably now, there rose up before the eye a
rather graceful tower and spire, of considerable altitude, complete from
base to apex, and coloured white.

The fact was: Mr. J. G. Howard, a well-known local architect, had
ingeniously constructed a tower of wood in a horizontal, or nearly
horizontal, position in the ground close by, somewhat as a shipbuilder
puts together "the mast of some vast ammiral," and then, after attending
to the external finish of, at least, the higher portion of it, even to a
coating of lime wash, had, in the space of a few hours, by means of
convenient machinery raised it on end, and secured it, permanently, in a
vertical position.

We gather some further particulars of the achievement from a
contemporary account. The Yorkville spire was raised on the 4th of
August, 1841. It was 85 feet high, composed of four entire trees or
pieces of timber, each of that length, bound together pyramidically,
tapering from ten feet base to one foot at top, and made to receive a
turned ball and weather-cock. The base was sunk in the ground until the
apex was raised ten feet from the ground; and about thirty feet of the
upper part of the spire was completed, coloured and painted before the
raising. The operation of raising commenced about two o'clock p.m., and
about eight in the evening, the spire and vane were seen erect, and
appeared to those unacquainted with what was going on, to have risen
amongst the trees, as if by magic. The work was performed by Mr. John
Richey; the framing by Mr. Wetherell, and the raising was superintended
by Mr. Joseph Hill.

The plan adopted was this: three gin-poles, as they are called, were
erected in the form of a triangle; each of them was well braced, and
tackles were rove at their tops: the tackles were hooked to strong
straps about fifty feet up the spire, with nine men to each tackle, and
four men to steady the end with following poles. It was raised in about
four hours from the commencement of the straining of the tackles, and
had a very beautiful appearance while rising. The whole operation, we
have been told, was conducted as nearly as possible in silence, the
architect himself regulating by signs the action of the groups at the
gin-poles, being himself governed by the plumb-line suspended in a high
frame before him.

"No workman steel, no ponderous axes rung;
Like some tall palm, the noiseless fabric sprung."

Perhaps Fontana's exploit of setting on end the obelisk in front of St.
Peter's, in Rome, suggested the possibility of causing a tower and spire
complete to be suddenly seen rising above the roof of the Yorkville St.
Paul's. On an humble scale we have Fontana's arrangements reproduced.
While in the men at the gin-poles worked in obedience to signs, we have
the old Egyptians over again - a very small detachment of them indeed - as
seen in the old sculptures on the banks of the Nile.

The original St. Paul's before it acquired in this singular manner the
dignified appurtenance of a steeple, was a long, low, barn-like, wooden
building. Mr. Howard otherwise improved it, enlarging it by the addition
of an aisle on the west side. When some twenty years later, viz., in
1861, the new stone church was erected, the old wooden structure was
removed bodily to the west side of Yonge Street, together with the
tower, curtailed, however, of its spire.

We have been informed that the four fine stems, each eighty-five feet
long, which formed the interior frame of the tower and spire of 1841,
were a present from Mr. Allan, of Moss Park; and that the Rev. Charles
Matthews, occasionally officiating in St. Paul's, gave one hundred
pounds in cash towards the expense of the ornamental addition now made
to the edifice.

The history of another of Mr. Howard's erections on Yonge Street, which
we are perambulating, illustrates the rapid advance and expansion of
architectural ideas amongst us. In the case now referred to it was no
shell of timber and deal-boards that was taken down, but a very handsome
solid edifice of cut-stone, which might have endured for centuries. The
Bank of British North America, built by Mr. Howard, at the corner of
Yonge Street and Wellington Street in 1843, was deliberately taken down,
block by block, in 1871, and made to give place to a structure which
should be on a par in magnificence and altitude with the buildings put
up in Toronto by the other Banks. Mr. Howard's building, at the time of
its erection, was justly regarded as a credit to the town. Its design
was preferred by the directors in London to those sent in by several
architects there. Over the principal entrance were the Royal Arms,
exceedingly well carved in stone on a grand scale, and wholly disengaged
from the wall; and conspicuous over the parapet above was the great
scallop-shell, emblem of the gold-digger's occupation, introduced by Sir
John Soane, in the architecture of the Bank of England. (The Royal Arms
of the old building have been deemed worthy of a place over the entrance
to the new Bank.)

The Cemetery, the gates and keeper's lodge of which, after crossing the
concession road and advancing on our way northward, we used to see on
the left, was popularly known as "The Potter's Field" - "a place to bury
strangers in." Its official style was "The York General or Strangers'
Burying Ground." In practice it was the Bunhill Fields of York - the
receptacle of the remains of those whose friends declined the use of the
St. James's churchyard and other early burial-plots.

Walton's Directory for 1833, gives the following information, which we
transfer hither, as well for the slight degree of quaintness which the
narrative has acquired, as also on account of the familiar names which
it contains. "This institution," Walton says, "owes its origin to Mr.
Carfrae, junior. It comprises six acres of ground, and has a neat
sexton's house built close by the gate. The name of the sexton is John
Wolstencroft, who keeps a registry of every person buried therein.
Persons of all creeds and persons of no creed, are allowed burial in
this cemetery: fees to the sexton, 5s. It was instituted in the fall of
1825, and incorporated by Act of Parliament, 30th January, 1826. It is
managed by five trustees, who are chosen for life; and in case of the
death of any of them, a public meeting of the inhabitants is called,
when they elect a successor or successors in their place. The present
trustees (1833) are Thomas Carfrae, jun., Thomas D. Morrison, Peter
Paterson, John Ewart, Thomas Helliwell."

(Mr. Carfrae was for some years the collector of Customs of the Port of
York. The other trustees named were respectively the medical man,
iron-merchant, builder, and brewer, so well known in the neighbourhood.)

A remote sequestered piece of ground in 1825, the Potter's Field in 1845
was more or less surrounded by buildings, and regarded as an impediment
in the way of public improvement. Interments were accordingly
prohibited. To some extent it has been cleared of human remains, and in
due time will be built over. Its successor and representative is the
Toronto Necropolis, the trustees of which are empowered, after the lapse
of twenty-one years, to sell the old burying-ground.

Proceeding on, we were immediately opposite the Red Lion Tavern,
anciently Tiers', subsequently Price's, on the east side; a large and
very notable halting-place for loaded teams after the tremendous
struggle involved in the traverse of the Blue Hill ravine, of which
presently.

In old European lands, in times by-gone, the cell of a hermit, a
monastery, a castle, became often the nucleus of a village or town. With
us on the American continent, a convenient watering or baiting place in
the forest for the wearied horses of a farmer's waggon or a stage-coach
is the less romantic _punctum saliens_ for a similar issue. Thus
Tiers's, at which we have paused, may be regarded as the germ of the
flourishing incorporation of Yorkville. Many a now solitary way-station
on our railroads will probably in like manner hereafter prove a centre
round which will be seen a cluster of human habitations.

We discover from a contemporary _Gazette_ that so early as 1808,
previous, perhaps, to the establishment of the Red Lion on Yonge Street,
Mr. Tiers had conducted a public house in the Town of York. In the
_Gazette_ of June 13, 1808, we have the following announcement. It has
an English ring; "Beefsteak and Beer House. - The subscriber informs his
friends and the public that he has opened a house of entertainment next
door to Mr. Hunt's, where his friends will be served with victualing in
good order, on the shortest notice, and at a cheap rate. He will furnish
the best strong beer at 8d. New York currency per gallon if drank in his
house, and 2s. 6d. New York currency taken out. As he intends to keep a
constant supply of racked beer, with a view not to injure the health of
his customers, and for which he will have to pay cash, the very small
profits at which he offers to sell, will put it out of his power to give
credit, and he hopes none will be asked. N.B. He will immediately have
entertainment for man and horse. Daniel Tiers. York, 12th January,
1808."

The singular _Hotel de Ville_ which in modern times distinguishes
Yorkville, has a Flemish look. It might have strayed hither from Ghent.
Nevertheless, as seen from numerous points of view, it cannot be
characterized as picturesque, or in harmony with its surroundings. - The
shield of arms sculptured in stone and set in the wall above the
circular window in the front gable, presents the following charges
arranged quarterly: a Beer-barrel, with an S below; a Brick-mould, with
an A below; an Anvil, with a W below; and a Jackplane, with a D below.
In the centre, in a shield of pretence, is a Sheep's head, with an H
below. These symbols commemorate the first five Councillors or Aldermen
of Yorkville at the time of its incorporation in 1853, and their trades
or callings; the initials being those respectively of the surnames of
Mr. John Severn, Mr. Thomas Atkinson, Mr. James Wallis, Mr. James
Dobson, and Mr. Peter Hutty. Over the whole, as a crest, is the Canadian
Beaver.

The road which enters from the west, a little way on, calls up memories
of Russel-hill, Davenport and Spadina, each of them locally historic. We
have already spoken of them in our journey along Front Street and Queen
Street, when, in crossing Brock Street, Spadina-house in the distance
caught the eye. It is a peculiarity of this old bye-road that, instead
of going straight, as most of our highways monotonously do, it meanders
a little, unfolding a number of pretty suburban scenes. The public
school, on the land given to Yorkville by Mr. Ketchum, is visible up
this road.

In this direction were the earliest public ice-houses established in our
region, in rude buildings of slab, thickly thatched over with pine
branches. Spring-water ice, gathered from the neighbouring mill-ponds,
began to be stored here in quantities by an enterprising man of African
descent, Mr. Richards, five-and-thirty years ago.

On the east side of Yonge Street, near the northern toll-gate, stood Dr.
R. C. Horne's house, the lurid flames arising from which somewhat
alarmed the town in 1837, when the malcontents of the north were
reported to be approaching with hostile intent. Of Dr. Horne we have
already spoken, in connexion with the early press of York.

Were the tall and very beautiful spire which in the present day is to be
seen where the Davenport Road enters Yonge Street, the appendage of an
ecclesiastical edifice of the mediæval period - as the architecture
implies - it would indicate, in all probability, the presence of a Church
of St. Giles. St. Ægidius or Giles presided, it was imagined, over the
entrances to cities and towns. Consequently, fancy will always have it,
whenever we pass the interesting pile standing so conspicuously by a
public gate, or where for a long while there was a public gate, leading
into the town, that here we behold the St. Giles' of Toronto.

[Illustration]




[Illustration]

XXV.

YONGE STREET, FROM YORKVILLE TO HOGG'S HOLLOW.


Of long standing is the group of buildings on the right after passing
the Davenport Road. It is the Brewery and malting-house of Mr. Severn,
settled here since 1835. The main building over-looks a ravine which, as
seen by the passer-by on Yonge Street, retains to this day in its
eastern recess a great deal of natural beauty, although the stream below
attracted manufacturers at an early period to its borders at numerous
points. There is a picturesque irregularity about the outlines of Mr.
Severn's brewery. The projecting galleries round the domestic portion of
the building pleasantly indicate that the adjacent scenery is not
unappreciated: nay, possibly enjoyed on many a tranquil autumn evening.

Further on, a block-house of two storeys, both of them rectangular, but
the upper turned half round on the lower, built in consequence of the
troubles of 1837, and supposed to command the great highway from the
north, overhung a high bank on the right. (Another of the like build was
placed at the eastern extremity of the First Concession Road. It was
curious to observe how rapidly these two relics acquired the character
and even the look, gray and dilapidated, of age. With many, they dated
at least from the war of 1812.)

A considerable stretch of striking landscape here skirts our route on
the right. Rosedale-house, the old extra-mural home, still existent and
conspicuous, of Mr. Stephen Jarvis, Registrar of the Province in the
olden time, afterwards of his son the Sheriff, of both of whom we have
had occasion to speak repeatedly, was always noticeable for the
romantic character of its situation; on the crest of a precipitous bank
overlooking deep winding ravines. Set down here while yet the forest was
but little encroached on, access to it was of course for a long time,
difficult and laborious.

The memorable fancy-ball given here at a comparatively late period, but
during the Sheriff's lifetime, recurs as we go by. On that occasion, in
the dusk of evening, and again probably in the gray dawn of morning, an
irregular procession thronged the highway of Yonge Street and toiled up
and down the steep approaches to Rosedale-house - a procession consisting
of the simulated shapes and forms that usually revisit the glimpses of
the moon at masquerades, - knights, crusaders, Plantagenet, Tudor and
Stuart princes, queens and heroines; all mixed up with an incongruous
ancient and modern canaille, a Tom of Bedlam, a Nicholas Bottom "with
amiable cheeks and fair large ears," an Ariel, a Paul Pry, a Pickwick,
&c., &c., not pacing on with some veri-similitude on foot or respectably
mounted on horse, ass, or mule, but borne along most prosaically on
wheels or in sleighs.

This pageant, though only a momentary social relaxation, a transient but
still not unutilitarian freak of fashion, accomplished well and cleverly
in the midst of a scene literally a savage wild only a few years
previously, may be noted as one of the many outcomes of precocity
characterizing society in the colonies of England.

In a burlesque drama to be seen in the columns of a contemporary paper
(the _Colonist_, of 1839) we have an allusion to this memorable
entertainment. The news is supposed to have just arrived of the union of
the Canadas, to the dismay, as it is pretended, of the official party,
among whom there will henceforth be no more cakes and ale. A messenger,
Thomas, speaks:

List, oh, list - the Queen hath sent
A message to her Lords and trusty Commons -
All - What message sent she?
Thomas. - Oh the dreadful news!
That both the Canadas in one be joined. - (_faints._)

Sheriff William then speaks:

Farewell ye masquerades, ye sparkling routs:
Now routed out, no more shall routs be ours;
No gilded chariots now shall roll along;
No sleighs that sweep across our icy path, -
Sleighs! no: this news that slays our warmest hopes,
Ends pageantry, and pride and masquerades.

The characters in the dramatic _jeu d'esprit_, from which these lines
are taken, are the principal personages of the defeated party, under
thinly disguised names, Mr. Justice Clearhead, Mr. John Scott, William
Welland, Judge Brock, Christopher, Samuel, Sheriff William, as above,
and Thomas, &c. Rosedale is a name of pleasant sound. We are reminded
thereby of another of the same genus, but of more recent application in
these parts - Hazeldean - the pretty title given by Chief Justice Draper
to his rural cottage, which overhangs and looks down upon the same
ravine as Rosedale, but on the opposite side. (A residence of the Earl
of Shaftesbury in Kew-foot Lane near Richmond, on the Thames is called
Rosedale House, and is associated with the memory of the poet Thomson,
who is said to have written his _Castle of Indolence_ there.)

The perils and horrors encountered every spring and autumn by travellers
and others in their ascent and descent of the precipitous sides of the
Rosedale ravine, at the point where the primitive Yonge Street crossed
it, were a local proverb and by-word: perils and horrors ranking for
enormity with those associated with the passage of the Rouge, the
Credit, the Sixteen, and a long list of other deeply ploughed
watercourses intersected of necessity by the two great highways of Upper
Canada.

The ascent and descent of the gorge were here spoken of collectively as
the "Blue Hill." Certain strata of a bluish clay had been remarked at
the summit on both sides. The waggon-track passed down and up by two
long wearisome and difficult slopes cut in the soil of the steep sides
of the lofty banks. After the autumnal rains and during the thaws at the
close of winter, the condition of the route here was indescribably bad.
At the period referred to, however, the same thing, for many a year, was
to be said of every rood of Yonge Street throughout its thirty miles of
length.

Nor was Yonge Street singular in this respect. All our roads were
equally bad at certain seasons every year. We fear we conveyed an
impression unfavourable to emigration many years ago, when walking with
two or three young English friends across some flat clayey fields
between Cambridge and the Gogmagogs. It chanced that the driftways for
the farmers' carts - the holls as they are locally called, if we remember
rightly - at the sides of the ploughed land were mire from end to end.
Under the impulse of the moment, pleased in fact with a reminder of home
far-distant, we exclaimed, "Here are Canadian roads!" The comparison
was altogether too graphic; and our companions could never afterwards
be got to entertain satisfactory notions of Canadian civilization.

But English roads were not much better a century ago. We made a note



Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 40 of 59)