King Street Digression Into Duke Street
On passing George Street, as we intimated a moment ago, we enter the
parallelogram which constituted the original town-plot. Its boundaries
were George Street, Duchess Street, Ontario Street (with the lane south
of it), and Palace Street. From this, its old core, York spread westward
and northward, extending at length in those directions respectively
(under the name of Toronto) to the Asylum and Yorkville; while eastward
its developments--though here less solid and less shapely--were finally
bounded by the windings of the Don. Were Toronto an old town on the
European Continent, George Street, Duchess Street, Ontario Street and
Palace Street, would probably now be boulevards, showing the space once
occupied by stout stone walls. The parallelogram just defined represents
"the City" in modern London, or "la Cite" in modern Paris--the original
nucleus round which gradually clustered the dwellings of later
Before, however, we enter upon what may be styled King Street proper, it
will be convenient to make a momentary digression northwards into Duke
Street, anciently a quiet, retired thoroughfare, skirted on the right
and left by the premises and grounds and houses of several most
respectable inhabitants. At the north-west angle of the intersection of
this street with George Street was the home of Mr. Washburn; but this
was comparatively a recent erection. Its site previously had been the
brickyard of Henry Hale, a builder and contractor, who put up the wooden
structure, possessing some architectural pretensions, on the south-east
angle of the same intersection, diagonally across; occupied in the
second instance by Mr. Moore, of the Commissariat; then by Dr. Lee, and
afterwards by Mr. J. Murchison.
(The last named was for a long time the Stultz of York, supplying all
those of its citizens, young and old, who desired to make an attractive
or intensely respectable appearance, with vestments in fine broadcloth.)
A little to the north, on the left side of George Street, was the famous
Ladies' School of Mrs. Goodman, presided over subsequently by Miss
Purcell and Miss Rose. This had been previously the homestead of Mr.
Stephen Jarvis, of whom again immediately.--Two or three of these
familiar names appear in an advertisement relating to land in this
neighbourhood, in the Gazette of March 23rd, 1826.--"For Sale: Three
lots or parcels of land in the town of York, the property of Mrs.
Goodman, being part of the premises on which Miss Purcell now resides,
and formerly owned by Col. Jarvis. The lots are each fifty feet in width
and one hundred and thirty in depth, and front on the street running
from King Street to Mr. Jarvis's Park lot. If not disposed of by private
sale, they will be put up at auction on the first day of May next.
Application to be made to Miss Purcell, or at the Office of the U. C.
Gazette. York, March 10, 1826."
Advancing on Duke Street eastward a little way, we came, on the left, to
the abode of Chief Justice Sir William Campbell, of whom before Sir
William erected here in 1822 a mansion of brick, in good style. It was
subsequently, for many years, the hospitable home of the Hon. James
Gordon, formerly of Amherstburgh.
Then on the right, one square beyond, at the south-easterly corner where
Caroline Street intersects, we reached the house of Mr. Secretary
Jarvis, a man of great note in his day, whose name is familiar to all
who have occasion to examine the archives of Upper Canada in the
administrations of Governors Simcoe, Hunter and Gore. A fine portrait of
him exists, but, as we have been informed, it has been transmitted to
relatives in England. Mr. Stephen Jarvis, above named, was long the
Registrar of Upper Canada. His hand-writing is well-known to all holders
of early deeds. He and the Secretary were first cousins; of the same
stock as the well-known Bishop Jarvis of Connecticut, and the Church
Historian, Dr. Samuel Farmer Jarvis. Both were officers in incorporated
Colonial regiments before the independence of the United States; and
both came to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. Mr. Stephen Jarvis was
the founder of the leading Canadian family to which the first Sheriff
Jarvis belonged. Mr. Samuel Peters Jarvis, from whom "Jarvis Street" has
its name, was the son of Mr. Secretary Jarvis.
On the left, one square beyond the abode of Mr. Secretary Jarvis, came
the premises and home of Mr. Surveyor General Ridout, the latter a
structure still to be seen in its primitive outlines, a good specimen of
the old type of early Upper Canadian family residence of a superior
class; combining the qualities of solidity and durability with those of
snugness and comfort in the rigours of winter and the heats of summer.
In the rear of Mr. Ridout's house was for some time a family
burial-plot; but, like several similar private enclosures in the
neighbourhood of the town, it became disused after the establishment of
Nearly opposite Mr. Ridout's, in one of the usual long, low Upper
Canadian one-storey dwellings, shaded by lofty Lombardy poplars, was the
home of the McIntoshes, who are to be commemorated hereafter in
connection with the Marine of York: and here, at a later period, lived
for a long time Mr. Andrew Warffe and his brother John. Mr. Andrew
Warffe was a well-known employe in the office of the Inspector General,
Mr. Baby, and a lieutenant in the Incorporated Militia.
By one of the vicissitudes common in the history of family residences
everywhere, Mr. Secretary Jarvis's house, which we just now passed,
became afterwards the place of business of a memorable cutler and
gunsmith, named Isaac Columbus. During the war of 1812, Mr. Columbus was
employed as armourer to the Militia, and had a forge near the garrison.
Many of the swords used by the Militia officers were actually
manufactured by him. He was a native of France; a liberal-hearted man,
ever ready to contribute to charitable objects; and a clever artizan.
Whether required to "jump" the worn and battered axe of a backwoodsman,
to manufacture the skate-irons and rudder of an ice-boat, to put in
order a surveyor's theodolite, or to replace for the young geometrician
or draughtsman an instrument lost out of his case, he was equally au
fait. On occasion he could even supply an elderly lady or gentleman
with a set of false teeth, and insert them.
In our boyhood we had occasion to get many little matters attended to at
Mr. Columbus's. Once on leaving word that a certain article must be
ready by a particular hour, we remember being informed that "must" was
only for the King of France. His political absolutism would have
satisfied Louis XIV. himself. He positively refused to have anything to
do with the "liberals" of York, expressly on the ground that, in his
opinion, the modern ideas of government "hindered the King from acting
as a good father to the people."
An expression of his, "first quality, blue!" used on a particular
occasion in reference to an extra finish to be given to some steel-work
for an extra price, passed into a proverb among us boys at school, and
was extensively applied by us to persons and things of which we desired
to predicate a high degree of excellence.
Over Columbus's workshop, at the corner of Caroline Street, we are
pretty sure his name appeared as here given; and so it was always
called. But we observe in some lists of early names in York, that it is
given as "Isaac Collumbes." It is curious to note that the great
discoverer's name is a latinization of Colon, Coulon, Colombe,
descendant each of columba, dove, of which columbus is the masculine