Saturday, January 25, 2014

# 43 ~ Chorley Park, Then and Now

In my last post (# 42 ~ Toronto's Early Viceregal Homes, Then and Now, 21st January 2014) I gave a history of the institution of Ontario's "Government House".  From the period between 1791 and 1915, a number of homes were set aside as the official residence for whomever happened to be the lieutenant governor of Ontario.  That article mentioned that there had been a purpose built Government House at the southwest corner of King and Simcoe streets, opened in 1870, and then sold to the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1912.  This building was demolished in 1915.  When it was closed in 1912, the lieutenant governor moved into Cumberland House, on St. George Street, while a new Government House was constructed. 
This Government House was built between 1911 and 1915.  It was without a doubt one of the most striking homes to ever have been constructed in Toronto.  The whole concept of a house built specifically for the use of a representative of the Royal Family is (sadly, in my opinion) somewhat alien to those of us living in Toronto in 2014.  A majority of the population no doubt took it for granted a century ago.  In the intervening century, this home, known as Chorley Park, has had its detractors.  Some have labelled it "gaudy", an architectural monstrosity transplanted from a Disney theme park and dropped down in Toronto.  I would disagree, but there is no accounting for taste, architecturally or otherwise, and certainly, to each their own opinion.  But by 1930, there were whisperings against the institution that it lavishly represented.  Mitch Hepburn, who was campaigning to be the next premier of Ontario, took up the rallying cry and made it is mandate to have this Government House destroyed.  He became premier in the Summer of 1934 and Chorley Park went on the block before it was eventually demolished.

THEN : This photograph from 1911 shows the foundations for Chorley Park having been laid.
THEN : The completed Chorley Park, shown here in an aerial photograph from 1930.

When it was constructed, Chorley Park was styled after a great French chateaux.  It was to date one of the most expensive homes to have ever been built in Canada. Even Rideau Hall, the home of the Governor General in Ottawa, seemed subdued in comparison.  The house, which was built of stone from the Credit Valley area, was approached by a long curving drive that wandered in from Roxborough Drive.  The property on which the house sat had originally been owned by a Toronto alderman named John Hallam, who had been born in Chorley, Lancashire.

NOW : Chorley, Lancashire, England gave its name to Chorley Park in Toronto.

THEN : Toronto's Chorley Park in 1923.
Chorley Park was designed by Francis R. Heakes.  For an incredible thirty years, from 1896 until 1926, Heakes was the Chief Architect of the Public Works Department of the Province of Ontario.  Heakes had designed the Mining Building at the University of Toronto in 1905, and would go on to work on Whitney Block on Queen's Park Circle (1926 to 1932), but Chorley Park was his most renowned work. 

THEN : Francis Heakes also designed the East Block (now known as the Whitney Block) of the Legislative Assembly.  The building was put up in two phases.  The first phase began in 1926 and is shown here in 1928.

THEN : The original phase of the East (Whitney) Block in 1928.

NOW : The looming tower of the Whitney Block was part of the 1932 phase of the building.
THEN : Chorley Park in 1928.
All in all, a total of five lieutenant governors took up residence within the walls of Chorley Park.  The house hosted guests here on State visits, and the residents of Toronto gathered here to attend soirees, levees and charity events.  Inevitably, when the house was destroyed, it wouldn't just mean the loss of yet another historic building in Toronto.  A way of life, a segment of society, and an element of grace and grandeur fell to the wrecking ball when Chorley Park was demolished.  Chorley Park became an icon not only of splendour but of extravagance in an election held during the Great Depression.  Hepburn won the election of 1936, became premier, and kept his promise.  He saw that Chorley Park was closed the next year, in 1937.   The contents were auctioned off at a profit of $18,000.  Ontario became the first province in Canada without an official residence for its lieutenant governor, and today, most Canadian provinces still retain a functioning Government House. 
THEN : Mitch Hepburn, the man who destroyed Chorley Park.  He detested Toryism, and once, while campaigning, jumped on a manure spreader in order to use it as a sort of podium from which he could speak.  He apologized to the crowd for speaking from a Tory platform, but a heckler got the better of Hepburn's wit by shouting out, "Well, wind 'er up, Mitch, because she's never had a bigger load!"  Because I like to have something nice to say about everyone, I will add that Hepburn broke with his Liberal predecessors and loosened laws regarding the prohibition of liquor.  He permitted hotels to sell beer and wine, therefore making booze more readily available.  He was Premier of Ontario from 1934 to 1942, and I'm sure that the sale of liquor boomed in those eight years.

THEN : Lieutenant Governor Dr. Herbert Bruce is seen here with his staff at Chorley Park in 1936.  Bruce would often clash with Hepburn, over Hepburn's attempts to curtail the viceregal office.

Chorley Park was eventually bought by the Canadian government.  It served a variety of purposes, including a military hospital, headquarters for the RCMP, and a home for refugees fleeing the Hungarian uprising of 1956.  That uprising saw a revolt by the Hungarian people against their own government and the greater control of the Soviet Union.  Although the revolt was quickly put down, it was a turning point in the Cold War.  One wonders what those who were able to flee to Canada, and who were housed at Chorley Park, made of their new lodgings.

THEN : A rather enigmatic photograph of Chorley Park from 1951.


Closed up and mostly neglected, Chorley Park had become threadbare through the 1950s.  The grand old house - which wasn't actually that old - was bought by the City of Toronto in 1960, and it was demolished the following year.  It was the start of the 1960s, and the casual culling of thousands of old buildings in Toronto had begun.  Chorley Park was one of the biggest and earliest victims.   The formal gardens went wild, and the area was left to grow out into the municipal park that Chorley Park is today.  The only clues that whisper out the memories of Ontario's last Government House are the bridge that once led to the forecourt, and a few depressions that outline the approximate foundations of the house.
NOW : The bridge to nowhere ... well, not quite.  While I fully endorse municipal parks it's hard to forget what once lay on the other side.

Every so often, there are rumours that some old house or another in Toronto will be turned into an official viceregal residence, and the institution of a Government House will be revitalized.  A few years ago, when the Sisters of St. Joseph declared that they were selling off their residence at the northeast corner of Wellesley Street and Queen's Park Crescent, this sort of rumour resurfaced.  The old house, which had formerly belonged to the Christie family (of Christie cookie fame) would be ideally situated, right across the corner from Ontario's Legislative Assembly.  But if there was ever any truth to the rumour, which was probably just idle wishful thinking anyway, nothing ever came to fruition, and now the building is occupied by the Jesuits and Regis College.

THEN : The home of the Christie family, at the northeast corner of Wellesley Street and Queen's Park Circle, is seen here in 1919.  The Sisters of St. Joseph had occupied the house for several years, and when they left, there was an unsubstantiated rumour that the building might become Government House.

Contrary to popular belief, Casa Loma has never served as any kind of official residence for any government official, though it has received public support to serve as a Government House from certain quarters, from time to time.  Sir Henry Pellatt had hoped to entertain royalty at his home, and had a particular bedchamber - dubbed the "Windsor Room" - set aside for this purpose.  After Pellatt was obliged to leave Casa Loma in 1923, the building served as a hotel for a while, but was eventually opened as a public attraction.  By pure coincidence, it was Lieutenant Governor Herbert Alexander Bruce who presided over the ceremony that officially opened up Casa Loma to the public - and he did it 1937, the same year that Chorley Park was closed.  One wonders if he cast a wistful eye on Casa Loma, and pondered its merits as a viceregal residence.

THEN : Lieutenant Governor Dr. Herbert Bruce officially opens Casa Loma as a public attraction in 1937.

THEN : Casa Loma and gardens in 1914.

Today, Ontario's lieutenant governor is given use of a number of rooms at the provincial legislative assembly (colloquially called "Queen's Park").  It is this space that is used for receptions, for entertaining, and for the day to day work of our lieutenant governor.  In cases where a regnant lieutenant governor already has a private home in Toronto, this is what is used as their residence.  If a lieutenant governor has no home in Ontario's capital, one is rented out by the provincial government.

NOW : The foyer of the viceregal suite at Ontario's Legislative Assembly, with doorways leading to the lounge, drawing room and dining room.  Artifacts from Chorley Park are scattered throughout the building but there is a concentration of them to be found here.  A number of pieces of furniture in the lieutenant governor's suite came from Chorley Park, as did the chandelier seen here.  I should point out that I "pirated" this image, with little in the way of shame, from the official website of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.  You can take your own virtual tour here :
THEN : Princess Elizabeth leaves the lieutenant governor's suite in the Autumn of 1951.  A few months later, in February of 1952, she would begin her long reign as Queen Elizabeth II.
THEN : Queen Elizabeth II returns to the viceregal suite during her most recent visit in the Summer of 2010.

For years, various heritage groups in Toronto have discussed the idea of a "Toronto Museum", dedicated to telling the story of our city.  Casa Loma has been suggested as a venue for this, too, as has our 1899 City Hall, St. Lawrence Hall at King and Jarvis streets, and various other locations.  Except for the fact that it wasn't centrally located in what is now downtown Toronto, Chorley Park might have made an idyllic venue, if only there had been foresight to allow it to survive demolition and the brutalism of the 1960s.
Fortunately, Chorley Park was well documented in photographs, and I include a number of worthwhile pictures here.  As usual with what I post on here, the majority of historic photographs come from either the City of Toronto Archives, or the Toronto Public Library Archives.  They are all in the Public Domain.

THEN : A reception lets out of Chorley Park in 1930.

THEN : The Great Hall of Chorley Park.

THEN : The dining room, with portraits of former lieutenant governors of Ontario lining the walls.  These same portraits had once been displayed at the former Government House on King Street West at Simcoe Street (See Post # 42 ~ 21 January 2014), and many of them are now on display at the Legislative Assembly building at Queen's Park.  Also, note the coat of arms of the Province of Ontario displayed over the fireplace.

THEN : First floor bedroom.
THEN : Billiards Room.
THEN : Ground Floor hallway.
THEN : The Drawing Room, looking north.
THEN : Reception Room.
THEN : Ground Floor Hall.
THEN : Morning Room.
THEN : Chorley Park, 1925.
THEN : Leaving Chorley Park, 1933.
Archival photographs from almost a century ago show an interesting process for enhancing pictures.  Black and white photographs were tinted with watercolours, with the result that we have photographs from the First World War era that appear to have been rendered in colour.  A number of these "colourised" photographs were made of Chorley Park, and I include them here.

THEN : The bridge that led to the forecourt, shown earlier above in a more modern photograph.
THEN : Sir John Strathearn Hendrie was Ontario's lieutenant governor from 1914 until 1919, and was the first vice regal representative to call Chorley Park home.
THEN : A colourised photograph of the fireplace in the dining room.  I would once again draw the reader's attention to the coat of arms above the fireplace.
THEN : The Writing Room.
THEN : Interior hall.

THEN : These two photographs show a first floor bedroom that was used by the Duchess of Connaught, the wife of the Governor General, on a visit to Chorley Park.
THEN : Lady Hendrie's bedchamber.
THEN : The Breakfast Room.
THEN : The Palm Room.
THEN : The Blue Parlour.
THEN : The Ballroom.  One can only imagine the graceful steps that trod these boards back when Chorley Park was alive with music and laughter.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

# 42 ~ Toronto's Early Viceregal Homes, Then and Now

These days, Toronto is a pretty modern urban centre.  The last decade has seen some very contemporary architectural alterations to some of our most celebrated landmarks.  The Art Gallery of Ontario, which actually grew out of a home constructed in 1817, got a face lift by Toronto born architect Frank Gehry.  The Royal Ontario Museum got a similar treatment at the hands of Daniel Libeskind.  For a generation, at least, we've been constructing soaring towers of glass and steel that have changed our skyline dramatically.
The fact that we've lost so many graceful old buildings around the city is something that is much lamented by those of us that are more heritage minded.  It's a story that many are aware of.  Beginning in the early 1960s, the bulldozes swept through Toronto for about a decade.  Many old theatres, banks, public buildings and homes were buried under concrete.  Modernism was the goal of the day, and any old fa├žade that was considered even slightly threadbare was at risk of being sacrificed to the new gods of concrete splendour.  Most would agree that the altar to this modernism is our "New" City Hall.  Officially opened in 1965, and replacing that great late Victorian building next door as city hall (which had itself been "new" in 1899), the "Soviet Chic" architectural style of the building is a testimony to the love of concrete that our urban planners must have had, fifty years ago.
THEN : Opening night celebrations for Toronto's City Hall, in 1965.
So many of Toronto's old buildings were destroyed that the list would provide hundreds of websites with thousands of articles.  Most of them were lamentable, and the contemplation of lost grace and wonder would just break your heart.  But, here in the fourth largest city (by population) in North America, we once had a series of viceregal homes that were set aside to house none other than the Imperial representative sent out to govern us.  In the last eighty years, the role of the Crown in Canada has been gradually muted.  It has also become increasingly misunderstood.  Despite the fact that, for many, any references to the Crown seem to hearken back to some long lost colonial era, Canada does remain a constitutional Monarchy, complete separate and devoid of any ties to the British government.  To some, this is an essential part of Canadian identity.  To others, the Crown is an anachronism to be done away with.  Say what you will, but the Crown and its representatives have left us with plenty of interesting history scattered throughout the country.
When Ontario was established as the Province of Upper Canada, all the way back in 1791, there was a provision that the province would provide a residence for whomever was currently serving as lieutenant governor at any given time.  These viceregal residences were each known as "Government House" while they stood in operation.  There were several in the province's history, until the tradition was obliterated nearly 80 years ago. 
Since Government House was, by definition, simply wherever the lieutenant governor happened to live, its earliest forms in Ontario were pretty basic.  John Graves Simcoe occupied a variety of homes during his term as our first lieutenant governor.  These included one of the buildings at Navy Hall, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and the canvas tent in which he lived when he established York in 1793.
THEN : A man who needs little introduction, John Graves Simcoe.  As the first lieutenant governor of the newly created Province of Upper Canada, he began many legacies here.  One of them was the use of a viceregal residence, or "Government House".

When Simcoe returned to England in 1796, Peter Russell became the provincial administrator, but was never given the full title of lieutenant governor.  Simcoe's official replacement was Peter Hunter, who became lieutenant governor in 1799.  Hunter would have lived in the viceregal home that was built in 1800, on the grounds of Fort York.  It was a single storey building, built in a "U" shape.  Viceroys who lived in this Government House included Peter Hunter, Alexander Grant, Francis Gore, Sir Isaac Brock, and Roger Hale Sheaffe.  It would have been Sheaffe's official residence when it was destroyed during the American invasion of York in April of 1813.
THEN : A sketch of the Government House, or viceregal residence, that once stood on the grounds of the garrison at York.  It was destroyed in the American invasion of April, 1813.

THEN : A sketched floor plan of the viceregal residence built at the garrison at York.
Following the War of 1812, Elmsley House was purchased by the government and used as the next Government House.  Elmsley House was built in 1798 at the southwest corner of King and Simcoe streets.  Originally, it was the home of Chief Justice and Speaker of the House, John Elmsley.  As Elmsley was a government official, his residence was "fair game" during the American invasion of York.  American troops plundered and damaged the home, but not to the point of rendering it uninhabitable.  For many years after it became Government House, the residence was still known by the name of its former owner, with correspondence from the lieutenant-governor typically dated from "Elmsley Housse".

Elmsley House served as the colony's Government House from 1815 until 1841, and then intermittently from 1841 until 1858, during those times that Toronto served as the capital of the Province of Canada.  This was the period in which the capital moved between Toronto, Montreal, Quebec and Kingston, before finally settling in Ottawa.
THEN : A painting of Elmsley House, which stood at the southwest corner of King and Simcoe streets, from 1798 to 1862.

THEN : Party at the viceregal palace ~ celebrations for Queen Victoria's birthday on the front lawn of Elmsley House in 1854. 
Another brief intermission to the use of Elmsley House as the viceregal residence came between 1849 and 1851, when Lord Elgin, the Governor General of the Province of Canada, lived in the similarly named Elmsley Villa.  This villa, which stood at the corner of present day Bay and Grosvenor streets, was also a home for John Elmsley.  The villa was built in 1837, and was eventually donated to serve as a home for Knox College.  It served as such from 1855 until 1875, when it was demolished.  Emlsely House, on King Street, was destroyed by fire in 1862, leading to the search for a new residence suitable enough to house a viceregal governor. 
THEN : Elmsley Villa, Bay and Grosvenor streets.
Four years after Elmsley House was destroyed by fire, plans were drawn up to build a new Government House on the same location.  Construction began in 1868, and in 1870, a new three storey home, built in the Second Empire Style, was completed.  The house featured a tower, steeply sloped mansard roofs, and large windows.  The main entrance and carriage porch faced Simcoe Street, while the first floor drawing room and the state bedrooms on the second floor looked out over a landscaped garden towards Lake Ontario.

THEN : Ontario's first grand Government House, built at the southwest corner of King and Simcoe streets and opened in 1870.

THEN : The southern exterior of Government House, showing the conservatory in the foreground and the southern tower of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in the background.

THEN : Lord Grey, the Governor General of Canada (seated at centre), and his wife, Lady Grey, visiting Sir Mortimer Clark (seated next to Lord Grey), the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, at Government House in 1905.

THEN : This photograph from 1901 shows a Royal Visit from the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York.  Less than a decade later, they would ascend to the throne as Their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary.  They are standing at far right in this photograph.  The Lieutenant Governor, Sir Oliver Mowat, is seated on the stairs at the centre of the photograph.

In the Autumn of 1901, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall on York paid a Royal Visit to Canada, stopping in Toronto.  Engagements included attending a show at Massey Hall, and unveiling the Alexandra Gates, which originally stood at Avenue Road and Bloor Street but have since been moved to the top of Philosopher's Walk.  In 1910, the Duke and Duchess became King George V and Queen Mary.  It is profoundly lamentable that there is no centrally located official building, residential or otherwise, to host such grand diplomatic events in Ontario's capital today.  Official visitors to Toronto come from around the world and are whisked away from location to location.  There is no single established where they can mingle with the people of Ontario, or be seen to do so.

THEN : These two photographs, above, show the main staircase and front hall at the main entrance to Government House, located on the eastern end of the building, at Simcoe Street.  One can imagine being greeted by such splendour and how highly an invitation to a viceregal reception must have been sought after.

THEN : The dining facilities within the conservatory.
THEN : Another view of the Drawing Room.
THEN : The Morning Room, on the upstairs level of the house.  While the drawing room would be used for receiving visitors and serving afternoon tea, the morning room would be used for morning meetings or luncheon.  Usually, a drawing room and a morning room would be on opposite ends of the house, to take advantage of natural daylight.  So, the morning room faced east and the drawing room faced west.

THEN : The viceregal bedroom, located upstairs.

THEN : Above, two photographs of the lieutenant governor's office.
THEN : The dining room at Government House.  The walls were lined with portraits of past lieutenant governors and provincial administrators.  Many of these images have become iconic to those who study our provincial past, and many of the same portraits now hang in the hallways of the legislative assembly at Queen's Park.

Only a few decades after this Government House opened in 1870, the development of railways and industry in the surrounding area prompted the provincial government to search for a more gentile location for Government House.  The house was sold to the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1912 and demolished in 1915.  It's an unspeakable tragedy that this mansion, which was purpose built to house Ontario's representative of the King or Queen, and to entertain diplomats from across the world as well as the leaders of business, industry, culture and education here at home, didn't even last to see fifty years.  Instead, it fell victim to the industrial urban sprawl that had spread around it.
THEN : In this photography you can see the rise of the industry area that soon swamped Government House, looming in the background like some malevolent, untidy shadow.  As Government House fell prey to the industrialization of the local neighbourhood, it was deemed more and more unworthy, until it was finally demolished in 1915.  It ceased to exist after only a scant 45 years.

THEN : This photography from 1911 shows one of the last garden parties held on the front lawn of Government House.  The estate would close the next year.

THEN : This dinner party was held on April 29, 1912.  It was the last state dinner to be held at this Government House, before it was demolished.
NOW : Today, Roy Thomson Hall stands on the site formerly occupied by both Elmsley House, and then, the Government House that stood here from 1870 to 1915.
After the King Street Government House was closed, and while the government sought out a location to build a new home, a temporary solution was found by leasing a house at 33 St. George Street, just north of College Street. This house served as Government House for only three years, from the 1912 closure of the old residence, until a new one was completed in 1915. 

This St. George Street estate was dubbed "Pendarves" by its original owner, Frederick William Cumberland, although today it is more commonly known as "Cumberland House".  Cumberland was a senior partner in the renowned Toronto architectural firm of Cumberland & Storm.  He designed the home himself, and it was completed in 1860.  The Italianate style villa faced east, towards the University of Toronto campus.  When he moved into this house, Cumberland had just completed his work as principal architect for University College, which is now one of the oldest surviving buildings on the campus. 


THEN : "Pemdarves", or Cumberland House, 33 St. George Street.

Although it was only meant to be used as a temporary home for Government House, Cumberland House did serve for a few years as another link in the chain of viceregal residences, dating back to those basic barracks that housed Simcoe in the last decade of the 18th century.

THEN : Ontario's Lieutenant Governor, Sir John Morison Gibson, with American President William Howard Taft, on the steps of the St. George Street Government House in 1912.

Cumberland died in 1881, and his home was substantially redesigned in 1883 by his old partner, William Storm.  After the home's tenure as Government House, from 1912 until 1915, the house was eventually bought up by the University of Toronto, in 1923.  It now serves as the University's International Students Centre.

NOW : Cumberland House today, as the University of Toronto's International Student Centre.
The location for a new Government House was finally secured in Toronto's Rosedale neighbourhood.  A new house called "Chorley Park" was constructed between 1911 and 1915.  This new home would outshine even the old Government House at King and Simcoe streets, and bring all the Continental architectural styles of Versailles or Paris to early 20th Century Toronto.  It would go on to become one of  the most beautiful - and one of the most notoriously and tragically lost - old estates of Toronto.
But perhaps I will wait and give it is own article, in a "Part Two", coming up next.