Thursday, September 17, 2009

Heritage: Davenport Hill 1920's Walk

Leader Doug Fife (at right) started the "Atop Davenport Hill in the 1920's" Heritage Toronto walk outside Spadina House on 13-September-2009

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Last Sunday, there were multiple Heritage Toronto walks to choose from, and I chose to participate in "Atop Davenport Hill in the 1920's" which started at the house known as "Spadina." Built in 1866 and expanded four times (the last time in 1912), the home built by Albert Austin of Dominion Bank (appropriate for a walk sponsored by corporate successor TD Canada Trust) is sometimes overshadowed by its gauche neighbour, Casa Loma, but today is a city museum.

This pathway viewed on 13-September-2009 at Spadina House was once the road to the Eaton estate called "Ardwold."

As always, the anecdotes told by walk leaders Doug Fife and Dave Healy made the trip out to take the walk more worthwhile than just obtaining the guide and doing the walk on one's own. While still on the Spadina grounds, Fife pointed out that what looks like a walkway had once been the main road into the neighbouring estate of the Eaton family (of department store fame), who built the "Ardwold" house in 1909. The Austins decided that as friendly as they were with the Eatons at the time that they would rather not have the traffic passing right next to their house and had another entrance built for "Ardwold."

Sir Henry Pellatt allegedly paid children for the stones used in the fence at Casa Loma, which was still standing on 13-September-2009

One story I hadn't heard before about next-door Casa Loma was that original owner Sir Henry Pellatt was said to have paid children for stones to use in the fence outisde his 98-room castle. Looking at the stones seen in the fence (pictured above), this doesn't seem possible--I doubt I could lift most of these stones. Likely, according to Fife, the story may have had some truth to it, but the children's stones were used for the inside filler of the fence, and Pellatt made the gesture largely to flaunt his own wealth.

Ernest Hemingway had once been a tutor in this house at 155 Lyndhurst, observed on 13-September-2009, for the son of Canadian Woolworth owner Ralph Connable

Perhaps the most interesting story on the hill was back a few blocks at what had once been the home of Ralph Connable, the owner of the Canadian division of Woolworth's. Connable wanted a tutor for his son, and hired Ernest Hemingway in 1920. The few months of taking that position, which offered ample free time, served to introduce Hemingway to the Toronto Star, which would employ him as European correspondent as his writing career started to take off.

Combine these stories with that of the modern tale at 7 Austin Terrace described earlier this week and the "Atop Davenport Hill in the 1920's" walk offered quite a perspective on a Toronto neighbourhood.

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