Monday, December 19, 2011

Crescent Point Subdivision - 1910

Crescent Point Subdivision - Toronto World - July 31, 1910

White and Company Real Estate launched their Mimico Crescent Point subdivision in 1910.  The land has a long history.  

Purchased from the Mississauga nation as part of the Toronto Purchase in 1797, the property became part of Lot B, Range D Concession on Lake Ontario.  This lot, along with the much smaller Lot A was granted by the Crown to Robert Gray on April 24, 1811.  In 1824 these lands were seized by Samuel Ridout, Sheriff as part of a judgement against Robert Gray and sold to John Brown.  In turn, John Brown passed the land on to Mary (Brown) Arthurs, his daughter, upon his death in 1835 and she sold them to a member of her family.  The lands remained in the family for the next 39 years until they were purchased by Francis Hendry in 1874.

With the founding of the adjacent community of New Toronto in 1890 by the Mimico Real Estate Security Company, area land was in demand for residential development.  William Pinkerton purchased the Hendry lands for $38,000 (approximately $750,000 today), paying a portion of the transaction in cash, with Hendry holding the remainder as a mortgage.  He registered Plan 1056 for the area in 1890, then registered it again as Plan M 161 in 1891.  However, with the severe depression that hit the economy in the mid 1890s Pinkerton was unable to keep up with the mortgage payments and the lands were taken back by the Hendry family.

In 1910 Hendry sold the lands to Joseph McNabb for $45,000 (approximately $900,000 today).  McNabb registered his Crescent Point plan about a week later and launched the new subdivision at the end of the month.  His marketing plan was one of exclusivity and prestige, with statements like "It is the first high-class district west of High Park", and photos of a few of the "high-class homes in the District".  Photos appearing in the large advertisement in the Toronto World included:  Lynne Lodge (Fetherstonhaugh Estate), as well as the Hunter and Ormsby Estates.

In order to control the type of development that took place on the large waterfront lots, which were the showcase of the development concept, McNabb registered a covenant on title.  The covenant, which was to last for a period of 20 years from the registration of the plan, stipulated that "no trade, business or manufacture" was to be permitted in the area.  In addition, all homes had to be at least 50 feet from the street, no closer than 3 feet from the side lot line and cost a minimum of $ 4,500.  Lands in the rest of the subdivision also contained restrictions for homes ranging from $1,500 to $4,000 each.

Today homes in Crescent Point remain highly desirable.  The area is well known for its narrow roads, grassed boulevards and tall trees.  It would make a perfect Heritage Conservation District.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mimico Building Scandal - Judicial Inquiry 1961

Report of His Honour Judge J. Ambrose Shea
Cover Page

In 1961 a Judicial Inquiry was called to examine the issuance of building permits and the enforcement of municipal by-laws after many examples of non-compliance were pointed out by various citizens.  The findings of the Judicial Inquiry go a long way to explaining why Mimico looks the way it does today, especially the wall of apartments along the waterfront.

The Beginning:
It began with a series of articles in the Toronto Star by Pierre Berton in May 1961.  The first article was entitled “What’s Wrong in Mimico:  The Strange Case of Mrs. Jackson”, which laid bare the obstacles that had been placed in the way of Mrs. Jackson obtaining a building permit so that she could sell her lakefront land which was now surrounded by apartment blocks on all sides. 

The article went on to outline what appeared to be troubling issues with the granting of building permits, and the conformity of finished buildings to the requirements in the permits within the Town of Mimico.  In discussing the apartment built at 1 Superior Avenue, and the violations of the building permit issued for its construction, the article concluded that:  “In short, the largest possible building has been squeezed on to the smallest piece of land.  This may sound like a horrible example, but there are worse ones.  If you’re one of a group of favored builders apparently you can almost get away with murder in Mimico.  But if you are an elderly lady named Martha Jackson then you’ve got to toe the line.

As the pressure continued to build, the Toronto Star continued its coverage of the topic with two other articles by Pierre Berton, in addition to editorials.  As a result, Mimico Council passed a resolution on May 29, 1961 to ask Judge J.A. Shea of the County Court of the County of York to investigate further.

The Judicial Inquiry:
The Judicial Inquiry began at John English School in Mimico on July 17, 1961 and testimony wrapped up on August 8, 1961.  There was a total of 15 days of hearings which heard from 46 witnesses.  The inquiry was called to examine a number of issues but the two main ones were:
  • the erection of buildings in the Town of Mimico, and the administration and enforcement of the restricted area and building By-laws in relation thereto, during the period from the 14th day of May 1953.” 
  • the sale, during the period from the 14th day of May, 1953, of any land owned by the Town of Mimico.
Following final arguments made by the lawyers at Toronto City Hall on September 22 and October 18, 1961, Judge Shea then began his consideration of the evidence and began drafting his report.  

Judge Shea's Report:
The report was issued on February 5, 1962 and made for very interesting reading.

It illuminated what can only be described as a dysfunctional municipal government that was lackadaisical and unprofessional in its management of the municipality, and the animosity of the various factions within the town.

In commenting on the witnesses that testified, under oath, before him Judge Shea commented:  “This investigation was handicapped to a very material extent by the fact that much of the evidence given could not be believed.  One is prepared to hear evidence that is coloured, distorted or exaggerated, but the evidence of this hearing was filled with half truths, concealment of facts, and untruths.”  He went on further:  “Feeling was high between the different factions, if not bitter, and witnesses seemed to be actuated by self-interest, or antagonism to others, or a desire at all costs to further the interests of the side they were supporting.

On the main issue of the erection of buildings in the town from 1953 to the present (1961) Judge Shea wrote:  “My conclusion is that very deplorable conditions existed in Mimico from 1950 to 1960.  These conditions began more or less innocently, if one could use such a word in connection with the breaking of any law, even By-laws.  At least they began without any intention on the part of members of Council or officials of any wrong doing.  The situation at the beginning could be described in a few words:  

1.  The financial condition of the Town of Mimico was very bad;  

2.  There was plenty of available vacant land; 

3.  There was no possibility of industrial development; 

4.  The only hope of increased assessment, with the consequent betterment of the financial situation, was in building of apartments and multiple family dwellings; 

5.  The attitude of Council, Building Inspectors, and others having to do with such matters, appears to have been that construction must be encouraged and that what appeared to be unnecessary obstructions and restrictions should not be put in the way of builders.  For example, if a building was built, or was in the course of construction, and it should have been obvious that it was constructed in violation of a By-law, and if the violation was not, in the opinion of those concerned, a serious one, nothing was done about it.” 

Judge Shea went on further:  “Some of the violations were apparently insignificant and unimportant at the beginning, but from these small beginnings of violations of the By-laws, the builders, real estate men, and the speculators took over.  They took complete charge, and if they were not encouraged, they were certainly not interfered with or impeded, to any appreciable extent, by members of Council or officials.

When, as I have said, the builders took over, the violations of the By-laws became more flagrant and obvious.  In my opinion the builders made no attempt whatever to conform with the Building By-laws and there was practically no supervision or interference by anyone.” 

My conclusion is that a great many buildings were constructed contrary to the provisions of the existing By-laws; that these violations were known, or should have been known, to members of Council and the Building Inspector, in such a small municipality as Mimico.  As one witness said: ‘everybody knew what was going on in Mimico.

On the issue of land sales Judge Shea stated:  “My conclusion is that the lands taken by the Town of Mimico for unpaid taxes were sold in a very unbusinesslike and improvident manner.  They were not sold in the way a private owner would have sold them.  There was no sale sign on the property, no advertisements, no independent appraisals or valuations, and tenders were not called for.  There is no evidence that any land was sold at a lower price that it should have been sold for, or in other words, that a higher price could have been obtained.  There was nothing to indicate any malfeasance or unfair dealings by any member of the Council, or any employees, and nothing to indicate any favouritism, but that system of dealing with municipal property is open to very severe criticism.  The transactions indicated a lack of knowledge or appreciation, or of indifference and apathy, on the part of members of Council and officials as to their duties and responsibilities.” 

He made particular mention of several of the witnesses in his report.

In regard to Mr. Lionel James Ferrie, who had been associated with the Town of Mimico since 1923, and was at the time a member of Council and Chairman of the Property Committee, Judge Shea stated that:  “I find no evidence whatever of any malfeasance, misconduct or breach of trust on the part of Mr. Ferrie.  There was no direct evidence of any misconduct on his part, but there were suggestions, hints and innuendoes.  I find these wholly without any basis in fact.  However, one cannot but come to the conclusion that some of his actions were arbitrary, dictatorial, ill-advised, and unbecoming of an official of a municipality.

On Mr. Jack Book, who was employed by the Town as Building Inspector, Health Inspector, Plumbing and Drain Inspector, and Weed Inspector, Judge Shea stated:  “I find that on at least two occasions he deliberately gave false evidence and on many occasions gave evidence that was intended to mislead.  My conclusion is that I could not rely on Mr. Book’s evidence.”  On Mr. Book’s role as a town official, particularly in his role as the building inspector during the time of the many violations of the building by-laws Judge Shea stated:  “Over all this was the despotic, unrestricted and unsupervised powers of Mr. Jack Book, the Building Inspector….Mr. Book was given far too much authority and he was without proper assistance, guidance, or supervision by members of Council. He appeared to take sides with that part of the municipality who thought the more apartment buildings and multiple family dwellings were erected, the better.  In addition to that Mr. Book began to take sides with the applicants.  He began to play favourites.  He made it simple for some applicants to obtain permits and difficult, if not impossible, for other applicants to obtain permits.  There is no doubt in my mind he used his power to issue permits to his own advantage, in a small way.  The issue of a building permit was a very decisive factor in the value of land.  Once a permit for construction was issued the value of the land increased very materially, depending on the number of units to be constructed.  Applications, and even permits, were altered in Mr. Book’s office.  Numbers were struck out and changed apparently at the whim of Mr. Book, to satisfy the applicants.  The situation reached such a stage that Mr. Book had unlimited and arbitrary power over the issuing of permits.  Mr. Book reaped some material advantage from this power, but in my opinion it was insignificant." 

In regards to Mr. Walton, who was the leaseholder on the Rex Theatre that was shut down by Mr. Book, for reasons of public health, and who accused Mr. Book of seeking a bribe to keep the theatre open, Judge Shea stated that “The evidence of Mr. Walton was equally unreliable.  He seemed to be very bitter toward Mr. Book, and antagonistic to the authorities of the Town of Mimico.  My conclusion is that on many occasions he deliberately gave false evidence in an attempt to injure Mr. Book and to cause embarrassment and trouble to other officials and to members of Council.  It should be said in his favour that he seemed to have an honest belief that things were not right in Mimico.  He seemed obsessed with the desire to bring about improvements, and in so doing to bring credit to himself.  He spent months without expectation of any remuneration or material advantages in making investigations and obtaining material for this hearing.  It was unfortunate that because of his bitterness and his desire for vengeance, he considered it necessary to give evidence that could not be accepted and was not reliable.

The Fallout:
In the following municipal elections of December 1962 three of the sitting Mimico councillors were defeated.  These included Councillors Lionel Ferrie, Alex Halliwell and D.M. Smith who had all been urged to resign by other members of council following the release of Judge Shea’s report in February 1962.   The only person to be criminally charged and convicted was Mr. Jack Book.  However it was not for his activities as a town official but for lying to Judge Shea during the inquiry in relation to gifts from local builders and real estate men.  In March 1962 Book was sentenced to two months in prison for perjury.

The Lasting Impact:
Today Mimico continues to live with the repercussions of the  overbuilding that took place between 1950 and 1960.  The primary example of this is many of the apartment buildings built on the former Mimico Beach estates along the waterfront, and the multiple dwelling units (triplexes, sixplexes, eightplexes and apartments) on many lots within the single family residential areas of the former town. 

It is ironic that we are now being told by the consultants and planners of the City of Toronto that the solution to this overbuilding along the waterfront is higher intensification (i.e. more and taller buildings) as part of the development of the Mimico 2020 Revitalization Action Plan currently in process.  Even though the planning process is still ongoing the owners of the Amedeo Garden Court apartment complex have already submitted a redevelopment application to the city.

The preliminary Toronto Planning Department Report on the application proceeded to Etobicoke-York Community Council on September 12, 2011 and was adopted.  It provides a preliminary look at the application and projected next steps.

The Planning Staff report provides a summary of the development application as follows:

  • full replacement of all existing 396 rental housing units within 2 new 8 to 10 storey buildings;
  • 1,579 new condominium units over 3 to 5 storey base buildings and 6 new 20 to 44 storey buildings with a proposed Gross Floor Area of 165,412 square metres (i.e. amount of floor space they can build on the site);
  • extensive underground parking facilities for 1845 spaces;
  • a new public roadway system;
  • extension of public parkland and waterfront access; and,
  • devising an appropriate approach to the site’s identified heritage features (though none of the features appear on the site plan they submitted with their application).
Is history about to repeat itself?  Will the rejuvenation of Mimico be led by the city for the benefit of the local citizens or will the  developers take control of the process?

The city can make it clear that they will be in charge of this process by passing an interim control by-law over the Mimico 2020 area.  This would freeze development for a one year period so that they can continue to work on the plan, in collaboration with the community, without the distraction of having to respond to (or be led by/or perceived to be led by) a major redevelopment application.  

If you would like a copy of Judge Shea’s report please email me at mimicohistory at

Monday, December 12, 2011

Charles Millar House - 41 Primrose Avenue

Charles Millar House - 41 Primrose Avenue
© Michael Harrison 2011

This large house was built in 1923 for Charles Millar, Manager of the Ontario Sewer Pipe & Clay Industries Ltd.  In the October 3, 1923 edition of The Contract Record and Engineering Review, it was described as a "handsome residence" built by Mr. J McGonegal, of 56 Jackman Avenue, Toronto. 

The article went on further:

"The house is of red pressed brick construction on the first floor, with stucco on hollow tile above.  The roomy verandah at the front is laid with a red quarry tile floor and handsomely trimmed with wood lattice painted white."

"Entrance is direct on a large living room the full width of the house... The main staircase on the right is in ash to match the balance of the trim and is one of the features of this room.  A large brick mantle is located in the left side wall... The kitchen, breakfast room and dining room arrangement is compact and convenient in this layout.  A separate entrance services this section of the house.  The floors are oak throughout."

"The upstairs layout combines four large bedrooms, sunroom and bathroom, with a minimum of hall space.  The flooring is of oak, and the trim ash, as downstairs, with the exception of the bathroom, which has tile floors and walls to a height of 4 ft."

"The basement is divided into laundry, fruit cellar and boiler room.  Heat is supplied by a Spencer heater."

Charles was the son of Archibald and Margaret Millar and born in 1865.  On March 9, 1893 he was married to Victoria Whytock, daughter of James and Jane Whytock.  They would go on to have three children:  Edna (b. 1894); Margaret (b. 1895); and, Charles (b. 1905).  A daughter Agnes was stillborn in 1906.  

In 1929 the Ontario Sewer Pipe Company was sold to other interests and so Charles took his expertise and became involved in the organization of a new company, Ontario Vitrified Products Limited in nearby Humber Bay.  In 1930 the company obtained approval from Etobicoke Council for a fixed assessment of $25,000 for a period of ten years.   This was approved by a ratepayer vote in May with 280 in favour and 22 opposed.  

I need to do further research to see how long the family lived in the home but when Charles died in 1948 he was living in Toronto.  He is buried in Park Lawn Cemetery.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dr William Woods House - 41 Superior Avenue

Dr William Woods House - 41 Superior Avenue
© Michael Harrison 2011

This large home was built for Dr. William Woods in 1910 to plans by the renowned architect William G. Rantoul which appeared in the July 1905 Ladies Home Journal; and adapted by  James Layrock Havill, a Toronto architect.

Dr. William Woods House - Goad Fire Insurance Plan for Mimico and New Toronto 1913
courtesy Library and Archives Canada  

William Woods was born in 1879 the son of Patrick Woods and Grace Stock (daughter of Edward Stock).  Patrick was born in Ireland in 1844 and immigrated to Canada with his family in 1850.  He married Grace Stock in 1872.  The family lived on Church Street (Royal York Road) in Mimico.  Patrick and his son Patrick had a butcher shop there, while his son William operated his dental practice from their home.  In the 1901 census William reported earnings of $350 a year.

Dr. William Woods married Dawn Tout in 1904 and the couple moved into their new home probably in early 1911.  By 1911 they had three daughters:  Josephine (b. 1905), Grace (b. 1906) and Georgina (b. 1910).

Dr Woods had a long involvement with the education sector in Mimico including being a member of the Public School Board, the High School Board and the Separate School Board.  He also added architecture to his list of accomplishments when he designed St. Leo's Separate School in 1926 - Mimico's first Roman Catholic School.   It was based on the design of the Catholic School associated with St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Toronto Township (present day City of Mississauga) near the corner of Dixie Road and Dundas Street. 

Descendants of the family lived in the house for over 100 years before its sale to new owners in 2011 who have lovingly restored it to its original glory.

Friday, December 2, 2011

34 Cavell Avenue - Union Bank of Canada - Mimico Branch

34 Cavell Avenue - Union Bank of Canada - Mimico Branch 
© Michael Harrison 2011

The Union Bank of Canada established its Mimico Branch on Southampton Avenue (present day Cavell Avenue) circa 1910 with L. Ross Ferguson as Manager.

  Union Bank of Canada - 1913 Goad Fire Insurance Plan for Mimico and New Toronto
courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

It remained in this location until about 1916 when the branch was moved to the south side of the Lake Shore Road opposite Mimico Avenue.

The home must have been converted to a residential use at this time and has remained so ever since.

The Union Bank of Canada merged with the Royal Bank of Canada in 1925.

Alfred Baker House - 58 Wheatfield Road

Alfred Baker House - 58 Wheatfield Road
© Michael Harrison 2011

The large home at 58 Wheatfield Road (originally Robert Street) was built circa 1908 for Alfred Baker.

Alfred Baker was born in Stratford, Ontario on July 13, 1877.  He was the son of Ichabod Baker, a civil engineer with the Grand Trunk Railway and Carrie Matilda Smith.  He apprenticed with the architect Harry J Powell in Stratford in the late 1890s.  

The family later moved to Toronto and was living at 106 Cowan Avenue in Parkdale when the census taker came knocking in 1901.  By then Alfred was working as an architect for Samuel Hamilton Townsend's architectural firm at 15 Gerard Street East in Toronto.  When Townsend retired in 1930 Alfred led the firm.

In 1905 he married Isabel Sanderson of Stratford and they would have four children:  Alfred (though he went by his middle name Sanderson) (b. 1906), Isabel (b. 1909), Douglas and Catherine.

The family moved to Mimico in 1908 when their new house was ready.  Alfred Baker probably designed his new home as it seems to have a more refined look than something designed by a builder alone.  

The family lived in their Mimico home for many years.  Alfred died in 1956 and was buried in Park Lawn Cemetery.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Lake Shore Road/Sussex Drive Homes - 1926

Harold R. Watson, Architect - Lake Shore Road/Sussex Drive Project
base map courtesy of Toronto Maps

In 1926 the large lakefront estate lot on the south east corner of Church Street (present day Royal York Road) and the Lake Shore Road (present day Lake Shore Blvd West) was subdivided by Plan M 494.

Harold R. Watson, Architect was engaged to design the new houses for the majority of the lots.  Watson had already designed the homes on Eighth Street for the New Toronto Housing Commission in 1918, an unbuilt project on Murrie Street for the Mimico Housing Commission in 1919, as well as the Mimico Public School in 1922.  The construction of these smaller homes on this former Mimico Beach Estate lot was controversial, and Mr. Fetherstonhaugh on the adjacent Lynne Lodge Estate objected to the project.  However it went ahead anyway.

Watson was born in Toronto in 1895, the son of Albert Watson and Emma Wigley.  In 1916 he married Myrtle Irene Jack, daughter of John Jack and Sarah Dawson.   They went on to have five children together before her untimely death in 1928 of peritonitis following the birth of their last child.

The homes along present day Lake Shore Blvd W. and Sussex Drive show his skill as an architect.   The homes constitute a little country village, all executed in similar design and materials.  Their high pitched roofs and towering chimneys are distinctive, as is his use of brick on the first floor and stucco above.  The design employs many of the features he used in his Eighth Street project including exterior walls made of brick on the lower and stucco on the upper floor and small front porches that are covered by an extension of the roof line.  

The present day addresses include 2641, 2643, 2645, 2647 and 2649 Lake Shore Blvd. West as well as 2, 4 and 6 Sussex Drive.  The homes at 8 and 10 Sussex Drive were also part of this project but they were demolished in 2010 as part of the construction of a new house.

2 Sussex Drive
© Michael Harrison 2011

4 and 6 Sussex Drive
© Michael Harrison 2011

2641 Lake Shore Blvd. W.
© Michael Harrison 2011

2649 Lake Shore Blvd. West
© Michael Harrison 2011

William Adamson House - Cavell (Southampton) Avenue

William Adamson House - Cavell (Southampton) Avenue
courtesy of the Canadian Architect and Builder, Vol. 4 No. 1, 1891

This large home was designed by Gibson and Simpson, Architects in 1890 for William Henry Adamson, and built on his large lot on Southampton Avenue (later Cavell Avenue) in 1891 at the top of Victor Avenue.

Adamson House, Southampton Avenue, detail 1913
Goad's Fire Insurance Plan of Mimico, 1913, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

William Henry Adamson was the son of Henry Adamson and Ann Abigail and born in 1859.  On May 18, 1881 he married Alice Corlett, daughter of Robert and Margaret Corlett in Yorkville.

They originally lived in the city of Toronto but moved to their new house in Mimico after it was completed in 1891.  There they raised their 4 children:  Harold (b. 1882); Frank (b. 1884); Florence (b. 1886); and, Robert (b. 1888). 

He began his work with the Ontario Railway Company but later worked for the Western Assurance Company.  He remained in Mimico until about 1904.  The 1911 census finds the family living at 117 Maitland Street in Toronto.  By 1921 he had created his own company WH Adamson and Sons, Insurance Adjustors and was living on Keele Street.

The home was then acquired by John Verner (JV) McAree, the famous Toronto Mail and Empire columnist who wrote the well read "Fourth Column".  In 1934 a collection of his work was published in book form with the title Fourth Column.  When the paper was merged with the Globe to become the Globe and Mail in 1936 the column continued, but McAree also wrote on politics and other topics as well.  In 1953 he would publish Cabbagetown Store, which was a memoir of his childhood in his family's home and store in Toronto's Cabbagetown.  He named the house "Fairview" and lived there for the rest of his life.

He worked until the very last day of his life, his last column appearing in the Globe and Mail on March 25, 1958, three days after his sudden death on March 22, 1958 in his Cavell Avenue home at the age of 81 years.  His funeral was held at Wesley United Church in Mimico on March 25, 1958 after which he was buried in St. James Cemetery.  He was survived by his wife Margaret and four daughters.

It was probably shortly after this that the home was sold and demolished and a sixplex was built on the site.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mimico Orange Hall - 46 Mimico Avenue

Mimico Orange Hall
© Michael Harrison 2011

The cornerstone for the Mimico Orange Hall was laid in a ceremony attended by several hundred people on April 18, 1919.  Grand Master Horatio Clarence Hocken, local Member of Parliament was given the honour of laying the cornerstone.  Dr. Forbes Godfrey, local Member of Provincial Parliament also made remarks.

The building is dedicated to the memory of the men of Sir Edward Carson Loyal Orange Lodge of Mimico who died in World War I.

Mimico Orange Hall - detail
© Michael Harrison 2011

The Hall was put to a number of uses in the community.  The Mimico Baptist Church first held its services here beginning in 1920 until their purpose built church on Hillside Avenue was ready in 1923.

The building is now the Mimico Daycare Centre but remains as a reminder of the Orange Order that was well organized throughout Ontario and Canada in the 19th and early 20th centuries during which it played a major role in the political process.

The building does not appear on the City of Toronto's heritage inventory.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

William Palk House - 46 Stanley Avenue

William Palk House - 46 Stanley Avenue
© Michael Harrison 2011

The large impressive home on the north east corner of Stanley and Victor Avenues was built about 1907 for William H Palk.

William Palk was born in 1857 in Toronto and was the son of Thomas Palk and Mary Nicols.  Palk worked as a gilder at Matthews Brothers and Company in Toronto.  The company manufactured mouldings, picture frames and mirrors.

In 1888 he married Annie McDonald and they had four children:  Norman (b. 1889); Jenne (b. 1891); Mildred (b. 1895) and Grayce (b. 1899).  

They originally lived in Toronto but by 1894 were living on Church Street (present day Royal York Road) in Mimico. 

They moved to their new impressive house on Stanley Avenue in 1907.

The family remained in the house until sometime after 1922 but would later move to 14 Glendale Avenue.

It was there that William died on October 26, 1936.  A private funeral was held there on October 28th after which his body was transported to St. James Cemetery in Toronto for burial.

The building does not appear on the City of Toronto's Heritage Inventory.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Andrews Dods - Trinadad House - 50 Stanley Avenue

Andrew Dods (Trinadad) House - 50 Stanley Avenue
© Michael Harrison 2011

The large home at the north west corner of Stanley and Victor Avenues was built in 1912 for Andrew Dods.

Dods was born in Alton, Ontario in 1882.  He was married in Port Hope, Ontario to Mary Grace Geary on January 1, 1906.  They would have three daughters:  Marjorie (b. 1907); Catherine (b. 1909) and Mary (b. 1911).  Later after she passed away he would marry Florence Hatton.

They originally lived in the City of Toronto but moved to Mimico in about 1908.  They first lived on Station Road but moved into their impressive new house at 50 Stanley Avenue in 1912.

What brought Dods to Mimico was his job at the Ontario Sewer Pipe Company which was Mimico's largest industry located at the north end of Burlington Street.  Dods began work there as an office boy eventually working his way up the corporate ladder to became President.  In 1929 the company was sold and he took his equity stake and moved onto other ventures.  

Dods undertook a number of leadership roles in the municipal government.  When Mimico became a Town in 1911 he was appointed as the first clerk for the Town of Mimico.  He later served as a municipal councillor, and as a member of the Public Utilities Commission.

Dods was also active politically and was a member of the Conservative party.

In 1930 he was appointed as the local magistrate.  He undertook the role for four years until he was informed by the new Liberal government in 1934 that his services were no longer required.  

He died on December 27 1946 at his home and is buried in the family plot in Alton, Ontario (present day Caledon, Ontario).

The name "Trindad" over the front door is a continuing mystery that I hope to solve one day.

The building is listed on the City of Toronto's Heritage Inventory, however it is not designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dr. Forbes Godfrey – First Ontario Minister of Health

Godfrey House - 49 Stanley Avenue
© Michael Harrison 2010

Godfrey House 1913
detail from 1913 Goad's Fire Insurance Plan - Town of Mimico

Forbes Elliott Godfrey, son of the Rev. Robert Godfrey, a Methodist Minister and Mrs. Mary Godfrey was born in 1867 in York Township but grew up in Owen Sound.   After attending the local primary school he attended Owen Sound Collegiate and then went on to the University of Toronto to study medicine.  After graduating from the University of Toronto in 1889 he went to Scotland for post graduate studies in Glasgow and Edinburgh. 

He was married to Mary Melissa Carson in Logan County, Ohio in 1894.  They moved to Mimico shortly thereafter and lived in a home on Southampton Avenue (present day Cavell Avenue) out of which he operated his medical practice.  Their first and only child Constance was born there in 1900.  In 1908 he commissioned Ellis and Connery, Architects to design a large home and office further south on a property located at the south west corner of Stanley and Albert Avenues

Dr. Godfrey's political career began in 1907 when he entered provincial politics as a Conservative and was elected in a by-election in the York West riding.  He took his seat in the Provincial Legislature as a back bencher in the government of James Whitney.

Dr. Godfrey felt strongly that the government should take the lead in combating tuberculosis, a disease that was taking a terrible toll on the citizens of Ontario – especially the young.  He was instrumental in the formation of a government commission to create a provincial plan for its prevention and cure, the end result being the construction of a system of government supported tuberculosis hospitals.  A big supporter of preventative medicine, he was a champion of inoculation against infectious diseases.

When Whitney died following the 1914 election he served as a backbencher in the government of William Hearst, and then in Opposition when the government of E.C. Drury was in power from 1919 to 1923.

In the general election of 1923 the Conservatives returned to power and G. Howard Ferguson became Premier.  Godfrey was invited into Cabinet and became the Minister of Labour; and then in 1924 was also made the first Minister of Health.

As the first Minister of Health in Ontario, Godfrey was responsible for organizing the department from the ground up, and began tackling many of the preventative health initiatives that needed to be addressed.  He brought in measures to protect miners from silicosis; instituted industrial health programs; created public health clinics in remote areas of Ontario and offered free immunization programs for Ontario school children.

On February 14, 1925 his daughter, Constance Godfrey was married to Warren Snyder.  They were both students at the University of Toronto at the time of their marriage.  Snyder was a football player and rower.   His greatest athletic achievement was in 1924 when he won a sliver medal as part of the eight rowing team at the Olympic Games in Paris, France.  After graduating with his medical degree he became Godfrey’s partner working from the large Godfrey home on the corner of Stanley and Albert Avenues.

Godfrey remained in Cabinet until September 1930 when he was forced to resign by ill health though he remained the MPP for York West.  Suffering from pernicious anaemia his health continued to deteriorate until he died on January 6, 1932.

courtesy of The Story of Mimico:  Home of the Wild Pigeon

In the 1960s the home would be purchased by a developer who built apartment buildings on the large grounds and divided the Godfrey House into apartments.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Slessor Family of Mimico

I recently acquired a number of photographs of the Slessor family who lived at 46 Albert Avenue in Mimico from the early 1920s to the late 1950s.

Peter Slessor was born in Aberdeen Scotland on December 18, 1877.   He was the son of Robert Slessor a Mason and Builder, and Henrietta Slessor.  In his 20s he became an architect.  The online Dictionary of Scottish Architects includes references to the 14 houses that he designed in Aberdeen between 1898 and 1901.

On June 19 1901, Peter Slessor married Jessie Gordon, daughter of Alexander Gordon, a veterinary surgeon, and Marion Gordon.  At the time Peter was living at 28 Salisbury Terrace, Aberdeen and Jessie was living at 30 Hoborn Street, Aberdeen.

Jessie Gordon as a young woman

They had 2 children together.  Ivy was born in 1903 and Errol in 1907.  I am not sure why but Peter decided to immigrate to Canada.  He boarded the Mongolian in Glasgow in May 1907 and landed in Montreal on the 31st.   His wife and children stayed behind in Scotland.

In 1911 he is found in the census living in a rooming house in Montreal.  He listed his occupation as a foreman working for a builder with an annual salary in 1910 of $1050.

It looks like Jessie and the children visited their father in Canada in 1912, and again in 1913 when the children came for a visit with their aunt Gertrude Stone.  I have not been able to find a record of their entry into Canada in 1912 but in 1913 they arrived on September 15 on board the Cassandra.

When World War I began in August 1914 Peter was one of the first to enlist.  He travelled to Valcartier, Quebec and enlisted there on September 23, 1914.  He listed his next of kin as his wife Jessie Gordon living on 2 Bruce Crescent, Ayr, Scotland.  He also indicated that he had 13 years of previous military experience with the Royal Engineers, another 7 with the 91st Canadian Highlanders, as well as 1 year as a Private.  On his attestation papers he is described as 5 feet, 9 inches tall with brown eyes, black hair and a dark complexion.

Jessie and the children finally immigrated to Canada on the Athenia, landing in Quebec City on August 5, 1916.  Jessie listed their destination as Bridgeburgh, Ontario.  It is noted in the passenger manifest that her husband was a prisoner of war and that her Canadian residence was “undecided”.

Upon his release in 1918 he received a personal handwritten letter from King George V welcoming him back to the United Kingdom.

They seem to have arrived in Mimico about 1921. He listed himself as an architect in the Mimico section of the Toronto City directory for 1922 (living on the east side of Victor Avenue) but I have not found any reference to any buildings that he designed, and he does not appear in the online Biographical Dictionary of Architects In Canada.  He most probably continued in the building trade which may have been more lucrative than working as an architect.

In 1924 a small article appeared on page 3 of the Toronto Star seeking contact with him.  It stated that the Toronto headquarters of the Great War Veterans Association was seeking information on his whereabouts as his sister Margaret was hopelessly ill in St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco.

It seems that the Slessor family lived quietly in Mimico from the 1920s to the late 1950s, originally living on Victor Avenue but moving to Albert Avenue sometime later.

 Slessor Family
l-r Ivy Slessor (in chair), Jessie Gordon, Peter Slessor, unknown women
circa 1930s - Mimico?

Jessie Gordon on the porch of their home at 46 Albert Avenue, Mimico
circa 1930s - The house across the street is 41 Albert Avenue

Peter Slessor died in the Christie Street (Military) Hospital on August 11, 1938.  His obituary indicates that he was a member of the 13th Black Watch Battalion and that his residence was at 46 Albert Avenue, Mimico.  He was buried in the Veterans Plot in Prospect Cemetery.

Jessie Gordon died in Toronto on October 12, 1957 and was cremated.

Their son Errol continued to live in Toronto.  He worked for Simpson-Sears and died on November 9, 1984 in his 79th year.  He was married with one child.

Their daughter Ivy was a school teacher in northern Ontario.   She was listed in her mother’s obituary in 1957 as living in Foyelet, Ontario and in her brother’s obituary in 1984 as living in Blind River, Ontario.

Ivy Slessor Fall 1932
Foleyet, Ontario?

The photographs that I acquired were found in an old home in Blind River, Ontario a few years ago.  It must have been Ivy’s home. 

Fortunately I was able to acquire them to add to my collection of Mimico photographs and preserve them for the future.  

The house at 46 Albert Avenue is gone, replaced by a small apartment building as happened on many of the large lots in Mimico in the 1950s and 1960s, actively aided and abetted by the municipal government and its officials.