King Street From Caroline Street To Berkeley Street

Returning again to King Street: At the corner of Caroline Street,

diagonally across from the Cawthra homestead, was the abode, when

ashore, of Captain Oates, commander of the Duke of Richmond sloop, the

fashionable packet plying between Niagara and York.

Mr. Oates was nearly connected with the family of President Russell, but

curiously obtained no share in the broad acres which were, in the early

day, so
lentifully distributed to all comers. By being unluckily out of

the way, too, at a critical moment, subsequently, he missed a bequest at

the hands of the sole inheritor of the possessions of his relative.

Capt. Oates was a man of dignified bearing, of more than the ordinary

height. He had seen service on the ocean as master and owner of a

merchantman. His portrait, which is still preserved in Toronto, somewhat

resembles that of George IV.

A spot passed, a few moments since, on King Street, is associated with a

story in which the Richmond sloop comes up. It happened that the

nuptials of a neighbouring merchant had lately taken place. Some youths,

employed in an adjoining warehouse or law-office, took it into their

heads that a feu de joie should be fired on the occasion. To carry out

the idea they proceeded, under cover of the night, to the Richmond

sloop, where she lay frozen in by the Frederick Street wharf, and

removed from her deck, without asking leave, a small piece of ordnance

with which she was provided. They convey it with some difficulty,

carriage and all, up into King Street, and place it in front of the

bridegroom's house; run it back, as we have understood, even into the

recess underneath the double steps of the porch: when duly ensconced

there, as within the port of a man-of-war, they contrived to fire it

off, decamping, however, immediately after the exploit, and leaving

behind them the source of the deafening explosion.

On the morrow the cannon is missed from the sloop (she was being

prepared for the spring navigation): on instituting an inquiry, Capt.

Oates is mysteriously informed the lost article is, by some means, up

somewhere on the premises of Mr. J. S. Baldwin, the gentleman who had

been honoured with the salute, and that if he desired to recover his

property he must despatch some men thither to fetch it. (We shall have

occasion to refer hereafter to the Richmond, when we come to speak of

the early Marine of York Harbour.)

Passing on our way eastward we came immediately, on the north side, to

one of the principal hotels of York, a long, white, two-storey wooden

building. It was called the Mansion House--an appropriate name for an

inn, when we understand "Mansion" in its proper, but somewhat forgotten

sense, as indicating a temporary abode, a place which a man occupies and

then relinquishes to a successor. The landlord here for a considerable

time was Mr. De Forest, an American who, in some way or other, had been

deprived of his ears. The defect, however, was hardly perceptible, so

nicely managed was the hair. On the ridge of the Mansion House roof was

to be seen for a number of years a large and beautiful model of a

completely-equipped sailing vessel.

We then arrived at the north-west angle of King and Princes streets,

where a second public well (we have already commemorated the first,) was

sunk, and provided with a pump in 1824--for all which the sum of L36

17s. 6d. was paid to John James on the 19th of August in that year.

In the advertisements and contracts connected with this now obliterated

public convenience, Princes Street is correctly printed and written as

it here meets the eye, and not "Princess Street," as the recent

corruption is.

Let not the record of our early water-works be disdained. Those of the

metropolis of the Empire were once on a humble scale. Thus Master John

Stow, in his Survey of London, Anno 1598, recordeth that "at the

meeting of the corners of the Old Jurie, Milke Street, Lad Lane,

Aldermanburie, there was of old time a fair well with two buckets; of

late years," he somewhat pathetically adds, "converted to a pump."

Just across eastward from the pump was one of the first buildings put up

on King Street: it was erected by Mr. Smith, who was the first to take

up a building lot, after the laying-out of the town-plot.

On the opposite side, a few steps further on, was Jordan's--the

far-famed "York Hotel"--at a certain period, the hotel par excellence

of the place, than which no better could be found at the time in all

Upper Canada. The whole edifice has now utterly disappeared. Its

foundations giving way, it for a while seemed to be sinking into the

earth, and then it partially threatened to topple over into the street.

It was of antique style when compared with the Mansion House. It was

only a storey-and-a-half high. Along its roof was a row of dormer

windows. (Specimens of this style of hotel may still be seen in the

country-towns of Lower Canada.)

When looking in later times at the doorways and windows of the older

buildings intended for public and domestic purposes, as also at the

dimensions of rooms and the proximity of the ceilings to the floors, we

might be led for a moment to imagine that the generation of settlers

passed away must have been of smaller bulk and stature than their

descendants. But points especially studied in the construction of early

Canadian houses, in both Provinces, were warmth and comfort in the long

winters. Sanitary principles were not much thought of, and happily did

not require to be much thought of, when most persons passed more of

their time in the pure outer air than they do now.

Jordan's York Hotel answered every purpose very well. Members of

Parliament and other visitors considered themselves in luxurious

quarters when housed there. Probably in no instance have the public

dinners or fashionable assemblies of a later era gone off with more

eclat, or given more satisfaction to the persons concerned in them,

than did those which from time to time, in every season, took place in

what would now be considered the very diminutive ball-room and

dining-hall of Jordan's.

In the ball-room here, before the completion of the brick building which

replaced the Legislative Halls destroyed by the Americans in 1813, the

Parliament of Upper Canada sat for one session.

In the rear of Jordan's, detached from the rest of the buildings, there

long stood a solid circular structure of brick, of considerable height

and diameter, dome-shaped without and vaulted within, somewhat

resembling the furnace into which Robert, the huntsman, is being

thrust, in Retzsch's illustration of Fridolin. This was the public oven

of Paul Marian, a native Frenchman who had a bakery here before the

surrounding premises were converted into a hotel by Mr. Jordan. In the

Gazette of May 19, 1804, Paul Marian informs his friends and the

public "that he will supply them with bread at their dwellings, at the

rate of nine loaves for a dollar, on paying ready money."

About the same period, another Frenchman, Francois Belcour, is

exercising the same craft in York. In Gazettes of 1803, he announces

that he is prepared "to supply the ladies and gentlemen who may be

pleased to favor him with their custom, with bread, cakes, buns, etc.

And that for the convenience of small families, he will make his bread

of different sizes, viz., loaves of two, three, and four pounds' weight,

and will deliver the same at the houses, if required." He adds that

"families who may wish to have beef, etc., baked, will please send it to

the bake-house." In 1804, he offers to bake "at the rate of pound for

pound; that is to say he will return one pound of Bread for every pound

of Flour which may be sent to him for the purpose of being baked into


After the abandonment of Jordan's as a hotel, Paul Marian's oven,

repaired and somewhat extended, again did good service. In it was baked

a goodly proportion of the supplies of bread furnished in 1838-9, to the

troops, and incorporated militia at Toronto, by Mr. Jackes and Mr.


As the sidewalks of King Street were apt to partake, in bad weather, of

the impassableness of the streets generally at such a time, an early

effort was made to have some of them paved. Some yards of foot-path,

accordingly, about Jordan's, and here and there elsewhere, were covered

with flat flagstones from the lake-beach, of very irregular shapes and

of no great size: the effect produced was that of a very coarse, and

soon a very uneven mosaic.

At Quebec, in the neighborhood of the Court House, there is retained

some pavement of the kind now described: and in the early lithograph of

Court House Square, at York, a long stretch of sidewalk is given in the

foreground, seamed over curiously, like the surface of an old Cyclopean

or Pelasgic wall.

On April the 26th, 1823, it was ordered by the magistrates at Quarter

Sessions that "L100 from the Town and Police Fund, together with

one-fourth of the Statute Labour within the Town, be appropriated to

flagging the sidewalks of King Street, commencing from the corner of

Church Street and proceeding east to the limits of the Town, and that

both sides of the street do proceed at the same time." One hundred

pounds would not go very far in such an undertaking. We do not think the

sidewalks of the primitive King Street were ever paved throughout their

whole length with stone.

After Jordan's came Dr. Widmer's surgery, associated with many a pain

and ache in the minds of the early people of York, and scene of the

performance upon their persons of many a delicate, and daring, and

successful remedial experiment. Nearly opposite was property

appertaining to Dr. Stoyell, an immigrant, non-practising medical man

from the United States, with Republican proclivities as it used to be

thought, who, previous to his purchasing here, conducted, as has been

already implied, an inn at Mrs. Lumsden's corner. (The house on the

other side of Ontario Street, westward, was Hayes' Boarding House,

noticeable simply as being in session-time, like Jordan's, the temporary

abode of many Members of Parliament.)

After Dr. Widmer's, towards the termination of King Street, on the south

side, was Mr. Small's, originally one of the usual low-looking domiciles

of the country, with central portion and two gable wings, somewhat after

the fashion of many an old country manor-house in England.

The material of Mr. Small's dwelling was hewn timber. It was one of the

earliest domestic erections in York. When re-constructed at a subsequent

period, Mr. Charles Small preserved, in the enlarged and elevated

building, now known as Berkeley House, the shape and even a portion of

the inner substance of the original structure.

We have before us a curious plan (undated but old) of the piece of

ground originally occupied and enclosed by Mr. Small, as a yard and

garden round his primitive homestead: occupied and enclosed, as it would

seem, before any building lots were set off by authority on the

Government reserve or common here. The plan referred to is entitled "A

sketch showing the land occupied by John Small, Esq., upon the Reserve

appropriated for the Government House at York by His Excellency Lt. Gov.

Simcoe." An irregular oblong, coloured red, is bounded on the north side

by King Street, and is lettered within--"Mr. Small's Improvements."

Round the irregular piece thus shewn, lines are drawn enclosing

additional space, and bringing the whole into the shape of a

parallelogram: the parts outside the irregularly shaped red portion, are

colored yellow: and on the yellow, the memorandum appears--"This added

would make an Acre." The block thus brought into shapely form is about

one-half of the piece of ground that at present appertains to Berkeley


The plan before us also incidentally shows where the Town of York was

supposed to terminate:--an inscription--"Front Line of the Town"--runs

along the following route: up what is now the lane through Dr. Widmer's

property: and then, at a right angle eastward along what is now the

north boundary of King Street opposite the block which it was necessary

to get into shape round Mr. Small's first "Improvements." King Street

proper, in this plan, terminates at "Ontario Street:" from the eastern

limit of Ontario Street, the continuation of the highway is marked "Road

to Quebec,"--with an arrow shewing the direction in which the traveller

must keep his horse's head, if he would reach that ancient city.--The

arrow at the end of the inscription just given points slightly upwards,

indicating the fact that the said "Road to Quebec" trends slightly to

the north after leaving Mr. Small's clearing.