Each neighbourhood has its own interesting history – local characters who have shaped it, buildings that gave it character and events that many seniors will remember.
Each of these entertaining presentations explores a different neighbourhood, tells stories from its history and relates them to the present day.
A New History of the Old Mill
This is a look at one of Toronto’s iconic landmarks – an old grist mill that overlooked the Humber River and became the focal point of the Old Mill complex, which today consists of a tea room and restaurant, a banquet hall and event space … and an inn and spa that has been built into the footprint of the old grist mill. We start with Indigenous peoples, travel through the era of exploration and settlement and see how the Old Mill remains a vital part of the Kingsway neighbourhood of Toronto.
Clockwise from top left: The ruins of the original old grist mill became a centre for boating and recreation on the Humber River. The Old Mill Tea Garden was opened by developer Home Smith in 1914 to entertain clients looking at his building lots in the Kingsway. Home Smith’s motto “A Little Bit of England far From England” is incorporated in the modern Old Mill logo. The Old Mill is now a top-ranked entertainment and event venue in the west end of Toronto.
The historic neighbourhood of Cooksville, at the intersection of Dundas and Hurontario Streets, has been at the centre of much of Mississauga’s history. A stage-coach stop on the Dundas highway, Cooksville became home to Ontario’s first vineyards and first winery. Natural gas was discovered here more than 100 years ago and supplied, via pipeline, to locations as far away as Hamilton. Whole neighbourhoods have been constructed with bricks from the Cooksville brickyards. Then, the polluted brickyard site was successfully remediated to permit the construction of housing and beautiful parks. Come take a pleasant tour with us (via vintage photographs) around this lovely neighbourhood and hear stories about the people and places of Historic Cooksville.
The photo shows the Cooksville House hotel. Built after Cooksville’s Great Fire of 1852, by pioneer settler Jacob Cook, the hotel stood at the north east corner of Hurontario and Dundas Streets. It was torn down in 1953 and replaced by a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce building in 1955. (Photo courtesy of Heritage Mississauga https://heritagemississauga.com)
Etobicoke’s Historic Lakeshore
Etobicoke’s three lakeshore communities, Mimico, New Toronto and Long Branch, share many things, including the streetcars of Lake Shore Boulevard West and the beautiful shores of Lake Ontario, but they have very different histories. Mimico is an older town, once the home of palatial estates. New Toronto had its start as a gritty industrial suburb. And Long Branch began as a gated, upper class cottage community and resort in Victorian times. Come take a pleasant journey with us along the lake and hear stories about the people and neighborhoods of Etobicoke’s Historic Lakeshore.
The photo shows a row of ‘Baxter Houses’ on Eighth Street in New Toronto. Their large cottage-style roofs show the influence of the 1920s Arts and Crafts movement. Built with government assistance and meant to provide inexpensive accommodations for working families, most of the houses still exist today. In fact, we will be visiting them in our presentation.(Photo courtesy of the Etobicoke Historical Society – http://www.etobicokehistorical.com)
The Villages of Dundas Street
As Ontario’s oldest road, Dundas Street has many stories to tell, as do the communities it passes through in the old Township of Etobicoke. Come take a pleasant journey with us (via vintage photographs) to meet some interesting characters and see the sights as they were more than a century ago. We begin on the Humber River at Lambton Mills and travel west through the village of Islington, past the Six Points to the vanished hamlet of Summerville. Along the way we’ll talk about the people who lived and worked here, including some who left their mark on Canadian history.
The photo shows Dundas Street in Islington Village looking east. Montgomery’s Inn is the white building just to the right of the road in the distance. The Methodist Church on the right became the Islington United Church and the site is now a row of stores. But the solid brick manse beside it still exists today as a store on Dundas Street. (Photo courtesy of the Etobicoke Historical Society – http://www.etobicokehistorical.com)
Brampton started as a tiny backwoods settlement known as Buffy’s Corners, named after a popular tavern. Located far from the more prosperous communities along Lake Ontario and Dundas Street, Brampton didn’t become an important regional centre until the arrival of the railway in the 1850s and local government buildings in the 1860s. Then commerce and industry blossomed and Brampton became known as “Flowertown” due to its greenhouse and nursery business. This will be a tour of the town via vintage photos.
The picture shows the Peel County Court House as it appeared in the 1877 Historical Atlas of Peel County. The court house still exists and is now part of the Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives. We will visit the complex via vintage and modern photographs during the presentation.
One of Canada’s premier neighbourhoods, The Kingsway was the vision of one man, Robert Home Smith. A lawyer by training but a natural-born town planner and architect, Home Smith took 3,100 acres of ordinary Etobicoke farmland and turned it into an elegant series of subdivisions that were deemed “A bit of England far from England”. Centered around the Old Mill, they offered not only a new vision of town planning but of upper middle class life in Toronto.
The photo shows a newspaper ad from 1914 for his Humber Valley Surveys. What Home Smith started more than 100 years ago is now a series of elegant neighbourhoods that includes Baby Point, the South Kingsway, Kingsway Park, and Humber Valley Village.
The Mighty Humber
This is a tour (via vintage photographs) circling the Humber River between Dundas Street and Bloor. We will be visiting four mills, Toronto’s first shipyard, a Seneca village and some colourful taverns among other sites. We’ll talk about the millers’ two great enemies, fire and flood, as well as the massive destruction on the river caused by Hurricane Hazel in 1954. We’ll also visit the exclusive Kingsway and Baby Point neighbourhoods.
This photo shows the Howland and Elliott General Store and Mill Office at Lambton Mills on Dundas Street near the Lambton House Tavern. Sir William Pearce Howland, the only American-born Father of Confederation once owned the mill and went on to become the Lt. Governor of Ontario. (Photo courtesy of the Etobicoke Historical Society – http://www.etobicokehistorical.com)