Tuesday, February 12, 2013

# 36 ~ Russell Hill, Then and Now


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History has been making the news since various heritage groups began reminding Canadians of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.  April 27th, 2013, is of particular interest to Torontonians, as it marks two centuries since Americans brought the war to the townspeople of York.  Throughout 2013 (and maybe, into 2014) my "Toronto Then and Now" blog will look at the various buildings of the Town of York scattered througout Toronto.  Most of them have disappeared, though a few still remain.  Some had obvious connections to the War of 1812, but some did not. 
 
For those of you who are interested in more contemporary history, don't worry, I'll post that, too.  But from time to time there will be posts to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.  After all, I don't post on a regular basis, and it's a long wait for the 300th anniversary!
 
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Russell Hill, the home of Augustus Warren Baldwin, was built in 1818, near the north end of Glen Edyth Drive.
 
Augustus Warren Baldwin was born on August 1, 1776, in Ireland. He was the sixth of sixteen children born to Robert Baldwin, Sr., and his wife Barbara. History has often left him eclipsed by his brother, William Warren Baldwin, and his nephew, the great Canadian reformer, Robert Baldwin.
 
Augustus Baldwin entered the Royal Navy in January of 1792, while he was still a teenager. He served at sea for about a quarter of a century. In 1807, the British feared that Napoleon might coerce the Danish fleet into closing the Baltic Sea, thus forcing out British ships.. The result was the Battle of Copenhagen, in 1807. Baldwin was there, participating in the bombardment unleashed upon Copenhagen. The Danish fleet fell into British hands. In 1808, Baldwin aided in the capture of a Russian ship, and was decorated and given his own command as a result. He commanded a brig in the English channel for some time, but eventually retired from the Navy, and joined his family in York in 1817.
 
 
THEN : The bombardment of Copenhagen in September of 1807.
 
He purchased two hundred acres of land from Elizabeth Russell, buying property that lay just east of his brother William Warren Baldwin's estate, Spadina. Augustus Baldwin named his estate Russell Hill, both after the farm of the same name that he'd been born at, in Ireland, and as a tribute to Elizabeth Russell. From here, he could look down over the escarpment towards the Town of York, which lay nearly five kilometres off in the distance. The two-storey house at Russell Hill was built in the Regency style, and had a verandah lining the exterior. Baldwin married Augusta Mary Jackson in October of 1827, and together, the couple began a family at Russell Hill. They had a son and two daughters but sadly all three children would die in their teenage years.
 
By 1822, August Baldwin was serving as a magistrate, and in 1823, he was working as a commissioner, investigating the claims of those who had suffered financial loss during the War of 1812. These claims were still being turned in nearly a decade after that war had ended. Baldwin had investments in York, loaning £1,000 to the merchant Laurent Quetton St. George, partnering with other Baldwin family members in ship construction, and putting a great deal of money in the Bank of Upper Canada. The bank would be a disappointing investment when it collapsed, financially, and ceased to exist. However, since the bank failed after Baldwin's death, it was more of a concern for his heirs than for him. Baldwin's most significant financial legacy was real estate.
 
NOW : Augustus Warren Baldwin invested in the Bank of Upper Canada.  The bank shut its doors shortly after Baldwin died, but the fact that he hadn't exactly made the best investment in the world largely only mattered to his heirs.  Buit in 1826, the Bank of Upper Canada building on the northwest corner of Adelaide and George streets is one of the few pre-1834 buildings that survive in 21st century Toronto.
 
Baldwin gained a seat on the Legislative Council in 1831. In the spring of 1836, when Baldwin's nephew Robert led a mass resignation of reformers from the Executive Council, Lieutenant-Governor Sir Francis Bond Head asked Augustus Baldwin to serve on that council, and he accepted. Augustus Baldwin was much more of a Tory than his brother or his nephew. However, Robert Baldwin's political contributions to Canada are still remembered today, while his uncle Augustus Baldwin is largely forgotten. Augustus remained on both the Executive Council and the Legislative Council of Upper Canada until 1841.
 
THEN : Robert Baldwin, painted by Thomas Waterman Wood.  Augustus Warren Baldwin would never be as famous as his nephew, Robert Baldwin, who is looked back upon as a great and early Canadian statesman.  Robert Baldwin was somewhat bizarre, in his private life - let's just say it would make for a somewhat macabre post!
 
Augustus Baldwin's final years were mostly spent in leisure, and he died at Russell Hill on January 5, 1866. His wife, Augusta, moved out of Russell Hill in 1870, and the house was demolished in 1872. A later estate, Glen Edyth, was built on the same site by the Nordheimer family, but it was demolished in 1929. Today, Admiral Road – after Baldwin's highest rank in the navy – and Russell Hill Road are commemorations of Admiral Augustus Warren Baldwin and his home at Russell Hill.
 
THEN : Russell Hill, the home of Augustus Warren Baldwin, stood from 1818 until 1872.



3 comments:

  1. I all the time used to study article in news papers but now as I am a user of internet so from now I am using net for posts, thanks to web.

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