661 Talbot Street
Locust Mount was one of London’s finest homes, an example of the suburban estates built during the prosperous period between 1849 and the panic of 1857. Its builder, Elijah Leonard, Jr., was a London businessman who became a major figure in southwestern Ontario’s economy in the late nineteenth century.
The Leonard family emigrated to Massachusetts from Wales in 1652 and became iron founders. After moving to Upper Canada in the 1830s, Elijah established a foundry in St. Thomas in 1834. During the 1837 Rebellion he fell under suspicion after purchasing some surplus cannon balls to melt down. Leonard moved to London in 1838 and built a foundry on Ridout Street. He converted his industry to coal use and replaced horse power with steam engines, which he eventually produced himself. In 1853, he purchased three lots on the west side of Talbot Street where he built his home, naming it Locust Mount, for the black locust trees on the property. Leonard entered municipal politics, serving as an alderman and then as mayor in 1857 during an economic crisis in which he almost went bankrupt. Prosperous times returned during the American Civil War.
In 1861, he was elected to the Malahide Division of the Legislative Council of Canada and became a senator after Confederation in 1867. In 1884, he was a founder of the Huron and Erie Savings and Loan Society (later Canada Trust) and saw his other businesses flourish. By 1890, Leonard and his sons employed 140 men. He died in 1891 and Locust Mount remained the home of his wife, Emmeline Woodman, until her death in 1895. The house has since been occupied by several residents, most notably George Tyler Brown, of Beddome and Brown General Insurance Agents, for a time one of the largest insurance companies in London. The building was most recently a fraternity house and suffered a calamitous fire in 2000.