Page 4 Historic Buildings of Toronto

Ashbridge House

Ashbridge House - click to enlarge

The Ashbridge family emigrated from England to Philadelphia prior to the American Revolution. In 1793 Sarah Ashbridge and her family, including two sons, John and Jonathan, came to Upper Canada, their father having died several years earlier. Being U.E. Loyalists, they drew land from the crown and setttled on lot 8, concession 1, broken front east of the Don. The property’s sheltered frontage on the lake became known as Ashbridge’s Bay, a name it retains to this day. Located on the north side of Queen Street, Ashbridge House was built in 1854, and a second story was added in 1899. The house remained in the Ashbridge family until recently, when they donated the house and grounds to the Ontario Heritage Foundation.

Casa Loma

Casa Loma - click to enlarge

Designed by architect E.J. Lennox, Casa Loma was built between 1911 and 1914 for wealthy Toronto financier and industrialist Sir Henry Pellatt. Pellatt was born at Kingston in 1859, and by the age of 23 was a full partner in his father’s Toronto stock brokerage firm, Pellatt and Pellatt. In 1883 he showed himself to be a business visionary when he founded the Toronto Electric Light Company, which soon had a monopoly on the supply of street lighting to the city. Despite discouragement from his friends, he bought up stock in the Canadian Pacific Railway and the North West Land Company, which yielded huge returns as people began streaming to western Canada to take up free homestead grants. By 1901 Pellatt’s business interests included mining, insurance, land and electricity. In 1902 he was knighted for his service with the Queen’s Own Rifles, the militia being another of his passions. After Casa Loma’s completion in 1914, Sir Henry and his wife spent a great deal of time and money filling their home with expensive artwork and furnishings well suited to the spectacular castle and to the Pellatt’s social standing in the community. Unfortunately Pellatt’s midas touch in business did not last and his company began to go further and further into debt to keep Casa Loma running. His monopoly on electricity ended when the government made it a public utility. By the end of the first World War, facing an insurmountable debt, Pellat was forced to sell Casa Loma. In the 1920’s it operated for a short time as a hotel. In 1937 the Kiwanis Club took over the building and opened it as a tourist attraction, which it has remained to this day. See the “History Links” page to visit Casa Loma’s website.

Bank of Upper Canada

Bank of Upper Canada - click to enlarge

The building on the left in this photo was built in 1825 as the first permanent home of The Bank of Upper Canada. It is located on the northeast corner of Adelaide and George Streets, two doors down from Toronto’s first Post Office. The historic plaque reads: “Chartered in 1821, the Bank of Upper Canada, was until its demise in 1866, one of British North America’s leading banks. It played a significant role in the development of Upper Canada – supplying currency, protecting savings and making loans – and aided Toronto’s rise as the commercial centre of the colony. This building, opened in 1827, was the second home of the bank. Its design reflects the image of conservative opulence favoured by financial institutions of the time. The portico, designed by John G. Howard, a leading architect of the period, was added about 1844.” After the bank closed in 1866, the building, along with an addition to its right, housed a Catholic Boys’ School called De La Salle Institute.

Spadina House

Spadina House - click to enlarge

Located beside Casa Loma, this is the third Spadina House on the site. The original owner of the property was William Warren Baldwin, a prominent early resident of York who was a lawyer, doctor and sometimes architect. Baldwin’s grandson sold the eighty acre estate to financier James Austin in 1866, who erected the present building. It has undergone some major renovations over the years, including the addition of a third floor in 1912. The Austin family remained at Spadina House until 1980, when the building and six acres of the original estate were generously donated to the city as a museum. An unusual feature of Spadina House is that most of the furnishings and artwork were donated with the building, lending an air of authenticity and integrity to it.

Yorkville Library

Yorkville Library - click to enlarge

The Yorkville Branch of the Toronto Public Library, built in 1907, was the result of a generous endowment from American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. He offered the city $350,000 to build a new reference library and three branches, one of them being in Yorkville. Since 1884 when Toronto first had free public library service, the northern branch of the Toronto Public Library had been housed in St. Paul’s Hall, just around the corner on Yonge Street. (Yorkville’s Town Hall was renamed St. Paul’s Hall after annexation occurred in 1883). Its stock was moved to the new building which opened for business on June 13, 1907.

George Brown House

George Brown House - click to enlarge

Located at 186 Beverley Street, this house was built for George Brown between 1874 and 1876. Brown was born in Scotland in 1818 and came to Toronto in 1843. The following year he started his newspaper The Globe, which through Brown’s influence was instrumental the Reform Party’s 1848 victory in Upper Canada. In 1851 he entered the Legislative Assembly, and some years later, as leader of the Liberal Party, he formed a coalition with conservative John A. MacDonald and others to strengthen support for unification of the British North American colonies, which led to Confederation in 1867. Brown and his family did not get to enjoy their new home for long – a disgruntled Globe employee shot Brown, and he succumbed to his injuries soon after, dying May 9, 1880. The Ontario Heritage Foundation acquired the property in 1986 and restored the building to its former Second Empire-style glory. Today it is used for conferences, weddings and film shoots, and houses tenant offices on the upper floors.