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
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
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.