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Historic Sites Committee

London Transportation Commission

17

Location

149 Dundas Street, London, Ontario (at the southwest corner of Dundas and Richmond streets, present site of Market Tower), inside the entrance by McDonald's London, ON
Canada
42° 59' 1.2228" N, 81° 14' 59.6652" W
29 March 1974
History: 

Transit service in London was first supplied by the privately-owned London Street Railway Company (LSR), which was incorporated in 1873 and began operation in 1875.  The city’s population of 18,500 was served by horse-drawn cars traveling on three miles of track on Dundas Street, employing six horses and four drivers.

In the first year of operations the line was extended east to Salter’s Grove (now Queen’s Park), and north on Richmond Street from Dundas Street to Oxford Street.  Service continued to expand, and when the system was changed to electric-powered streetcars in 1895 (five years after electric lights came into use), track length totaled almost twenty-four miles.  Electric power was supplied by the General Electric Company until 1896, when the LSR began operating its own steam-powered, electricitygenerating plant on Bathurst Street.

In 1923, the first gasoline-powered bus was introduced on the Quebec Street route. The changeover to an all-bus system was gradual, and was planned so that the final streetcar line (on Dundas Street) would cease operating on December 1, 1940.  A heavy snowstorm that damaged many power lines advanced this date to November 29, 1940.

In 1950, the city acquired the system from the London Street Railway for $1,000,000, after a rate-payers’ referendum had turned down the previous asking price of $1,325,000.  An earlier referendum had rejected the idea of an entirely new system at a cost of $1, 895,000 in favour of purchasing the London Street Railway system. In 1951, the City of London Act, Chapter 107, establishing a city-owned system, was passed by the Ontario Legislature.

The transit system, under the name of the London Transportation Commission, has continued to operate under this Act.

In 1972, municipal and provincial subsidies were implemented to maintain reasonable fares and assist municipalities with urban traffic problems.

London Normal School

7

Location

165 Elmwood Avenue East, London, Ontario London, ON
Canada
42° 58' 15.8268" N, 81° 15' 3.2472" W
5 August 1971
History: 

On February 1, 1900, the first class of prospective teachers began their studies in the new London Normal School. Coming from diverse backgrounds and communities in southwestern Ontario, they were attending what was considered to be the most modern teacher-training school in Canada. The faculty consisted of Principal Francis Walter Merchant, Vice-Principal John Dearness, and four teachers.

The decision to locate this new school in London was influenced by Premier G.W. Ross, local MPP Colonel F. B. Leys, and Dr. C.T. Campbell, chair of the London Board of Education. They had promoted London as a desirable site owing to its excellent educational facilities, location and size.

In 1898, ground was broken in South London for the third normal school in Ontario. The structure is trimmed with cut stone, and its now weathered brick was once red-orange in colour. A tower dominates its facade. Rising from the roof (originally of slate) are several miniature cupolas, typical of Victorian architecture. The grand staircase is the most striking feature of the building’s interior. Several rare varieties of trees were planted on the grounds, and oaks and maples were later added in memory of deceased members of the faculty, including John Dearness.

By 1958, the London Normal School was no longer adequate, and a new teachers’ college was built on Western Road. The old building functioned briefly as a junior high school. It became the administrative centre of the London Board of Education in 1963, and of the separate school board in 1986. In 2005, the London District Catholic School Board will move to new quarters, and the future of the former London Normal School is uncertain.

Arthur Stringer House

48

Location

64 Elmwood Avenue East, London, Ontario London, ON
Canada
42° 58' 13.548" N, 81° 15' 30.132" W
1 October 2000
History: 

Future writer Arthur Stringer was born in Chatham, Ontario, on February 26, 1874, a descendant of a fugitive of the 1837 Rebellion.

The Stringer family moved to this house in 1884, and Arthur attended London Collegiate Institute. He later studied at the University of Toronto and briefly at Oxford University.

During these years, his poems were published in Toronto’s Canadian Magazine and Saturday Night. In 1895, he took a position at the Montreal Herald. He later moved to New York where he became friends with such literary figures as Bliss Carman and Charles G. D. Roberts and wrote for Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s Magazine.

In 1903 his first novel, The Silver Poppy, was published and he married Jobyna Howland, an actress. They spent several summers at a fruit farm on Lake Erie and wintered in Europe and North Africa. After they divorced in 1914, Stringer married his cousin, Margaret Arbuthnott.

By this time, he had published several other books, including The Prairie Wife and The Wire Tappers. In 1918, Stringer spent a year in Hollywood, where he wrote screenplays. Some thirty of his stories were made into films.

In 1921, he and his wife moved to Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, where he continued to write. He spent time leading camping expeditions in the woods, and traveled extensively in Canada, Europe and the United States. An eclectic personality, Stringer was equally comfortable as backwoodsman, bohemian, journalist, novelist, poet and screen-writer. Actress Mary Pickford (about whom he had written a book) once aptly called him “Chameleon Arthur.”

Stringer published fifteen volumes of poetry, 45 works of fiction, and countless articles. He died at Mountain Lakes on September 13, 1950.

London Armouries

42

Location

325 Dundas Street, London, Ontario (present site of Delta London Armouries Hotel) London, ON
Canada
42° 59' 8.6712" N, 81° 14' 33.63" W
7 April 1997
History: 

London Armouries and Victoria Park are reminders of London’s military history.

In response to the Rebellion of 1837-38, the Imperial government stationed a military garrison in London, which was strategically located. Part of the site chosen later became Victoria Park.

It was used until the British withdrew most of their troops from Canada in 1869, leaving the defense of the country to the Canadian militia. When the former garrison building was destroyed by fire, the local militia required a drill shed.

When this became inadequate, an armouries was built at Dundas and Waterloo streets, and opened with great fanfare on February 1, 1905. Attending this event were Mayor Adam Beck, Sir John Carling and Colonel Peters, militia commandant.

Constructed by Sullivan and Langdon, the Armouries cost about $135,000. Distinctive features included two massive, three-storey, crenelated towers at the entranceway, smaller corner towers, octagonal chimneys, and large, arched windows. 

Architecturally, the London Armouries was similar to others built during this period, such as the Toronto Armouries (now demolished.)

The London Armouries served as the headquarters of militia units from nearly every land forces branch: artillery, cavalry (later armoured regiments), engineers, infantry and units of the medical and service corps.

In 1976, the Department of National Defence closed the Armouries and its demolition seemed certain. But in 1988, a developer converted it into a luxury hotel, adding a twenty storey tower in the centre of the building, and leaving its exterior walls intact.

Locust Mount

9

Location

661 Talbot Street, London, Ontario London, ON
Canada
42° 59' 28.0248" N, 81° 15' 21.4092" W
30 September 1971
History: 

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 Junior 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.

Lilley's Corners

24

Location

609 Dundas Street, London, Ontario (southeast corner of Adelaide and Dundas streets) London, ON
Canada
42° 59' 20.1336" N, 81° 13' 53.5332" W
15 November 1980
History: 

Adelaide Street was the eastern boundary of London until 1885. Beyond this lay London East, an industrial community that had its origins in a foundry established in 1856 by Murray Anderson (London’s first mayor). Anderson’s foundry was located on the west side of Adelaide across from Lilley’s Corners, and its presence stimulated further industrial development in the area.

Charles Lilley moved to London as a young man and worked as a telegraph operator before becoming a grocer. Around 1869 he moved his business to the southeast corner of Dundas and Adelaide streets, where he also ran the Crown Hotel. In 1871, he built a two-storey block on the corner, and by 1873, five brick stores on Adelaide Street. It is a mystery that the inscription on the corner of the Lilley Block reads “1867,” since there were no buildings on the site at that date.

The post office took the name “Lilley’s Corners” when it was opened in 1872, with Charles Lilley as postmaster. Two years later, a telegraph office was established in the same building.

Lilley was also active in local politics and was elected a London East councillor in 1875, and a deputy reeve in 1880. In 1884, he became London East’s first mayor and helped negotiate its amalgamation with the City of London in 1885, after which he served as an alderman. In 1886, Lilley retired as postmaster and opened the Crown Livery on Marshall Street at the rear of the building. Charles Lilley died in 1927 at the age of 94 and was buried in Woodland Cemetery.

Kingsmill's Limited

32

Location

130 Dundas Street, London, Ontario London, ON
Canada
42° 59' 0.1428" N, 81° 15' 3.4416" W
5 July 1988
History: 

Sometime before 1840 in the town of Templemore in Tipperary, Ireland, Thomas Kingsmill opened a dry goods business. It failed ten years later, a casualty of economic hardship, famine, and epidemic. Kingsmill and three of his children died soon after. His oldest son, Thomas Frazer, was apprenticed to a store owned by the family of his mother, Mary Frazer. He married a widow, Anne Ardagh Buriss, and emigrated to New York and then briefly to Georgia.

The poor import trade resulting from the American Civil War forced the Kingsmills to move again, this time to Toronto, where Thomas’ uncle, George Kingsmill, and a niece of Anne’s had settled. After working for a Toronto company and considering various locations, Kingsmill established his store in London in 1865, chosen because of its growing prominence as an educational, industrial and military centre.

The Kingsmills’ three daughters attended Hellmuth Ladies College, and their eldest son, Thomas Frazer Kingsmill Junior, graduated from Huron College, but left the ministry to work in the store. Another son was a graduate in medicine from Western University’s Medical School.

In its early years, Kingsmill’s specialized in the sale of imported carpets, cashmeres and linens as well as embroidered gloves and handkerchiefs. Its range of retail goods was later expanded to include china, furniture, housewares and lamps. In addition to their role as local merchants, members of the Kingsmill family are well known for their contribution of time and resources to charities, church functions, community events and service clubs.

The original Kingsmill building was demolished except for the facade in 2016.  A new 6 storey building was constructed on the site  beginning in 2016 and is now occupied by Fanshawe College.

Hall's Mills (Byron)

20

Location

1295 Commissioners Road West, London, Ontario London, ON
Canada
42° 57' 38.0448" N, 81° 20' 4.0992" W
13 June 1975
History: 

In February 1819, Archibald McMillan received the Crown grant for Lot 45, Concession B of Westminster Township.

Anson Simons and John Preffer built a carding and fulling mill on part of the property, and then McMillan sold the land to Burleigh Hunt in 1831. Hunt built a gristmill and a dam across the Thames to increase his water power. Two years later he sold his whole business to Cyrenius Hall.

Hall was born in New Hampshire in 1788 and came to Upper Canada in 1810. He contracted for the British forces during the War of 1812, and then developed a forwarding and retail business in Fort Erie. Moving to Westminster Township, Hall added a distillery and tannery to the mill complex, and employed three of his sons in the growing business. The small settlement became known as Hall’s Mills owing to his many enterprises, and later became Byron.

Hall sold the gristmill to William Denning in 1848. Severe flooding on the Thames damaged the mill and dam in 1851, and little business was done that summer “owing to a deficient supply of water”.

Local miller William Binn bought the mill in 1852, and sold it in 1858 to Robert Summers.

An Irish settler, Frederick H. Kenney, bought it in 1870. The Middlesex County directory for 1871-1872 describes Kenney’s mill as “a frame two storeys high; his custom work averages 100 bushels daily.”

The Thames flood of 1883 severely damaged Kenney’s mill. It was repaired and sold to William Griffith in 1886. Isaac Crouse, a local builder, bought the mill in 1889 and replaced the millstones with iron rollers.

The gristmill was destroyed by fire in 1907 while owned by Neil Galbraith and Dr. Cecil Clarkson Ross. Ross rebuilt it and operated it well into the twentieth century. Partially dismantled in the 1930s, the remains of the Byron gristmill were carried away in the Thames flood of 1937.

Idlewyld

30

Location

36 Grand Avenue, London, Ontario London, ON
Canada
42° 58' 17.49" N, 81° 14' 43.9332" W
25 August 1987
History: 

Charles Smith Hyman, Idlewyld’s builder, was born in London in 1854, son of Ellis Walton Hyman and Annie Maria Niles. Educated at Hellmuth College, Charles worked for John Birrell and Co. until 1874 when he became a junior partner in his father’s tanning business.

In 1876, he married Elizabeth Birrell and built the original Idlewyld, a large brick home, in 1879 on land purchased for $4,000 from Elizabeth’s sister.

Two years later, Hyman commissioned the architectural firm of Tracy and Durand to design an addition and alterations that would cost more than the original house and outbuildings. The architects integrated the picturesque roof line and heavily ornamented gables of the 1879 Queen Anne design with a simpler addition featuring parapet gables at each end. Inside, identical Eastlake molding unified the two early parts of the house. In 1912, a ballroom was added to the eastern wing.

After his father’s death in 1878, Charles took over the tannery, entered municipal politics, and became mayor in 1884.

Elected M.P. for London in 1900, Hyman became Minister of Public Works in 1905. He had close ties with Sir Wilfrid Laurier who stayed at Idlewyld when he visited London.

Charles was also a noted sportsman. Seven times in a row he was the Canadian Men’s Singles tennis champion. He was also captain of the Canadian champion cricket team and a member of the London Tecumsehs baseball team. Hyman was exceedingly generous and loyal to his friends. He was known to have given away $1,000,000, including $100,000 to sporting and social clubs.

After the death of Elizabeth in 1917 he married Alexandra Rechnitzer, becoming stepfather to her four sons, who took over Hyman Tannery when Charles died in 1926. In the last years of his life, Charles took an extensive world tour including several months in China.

Today, Hyman is remembered by the street named after him and this house which later became a luxurious inn.

Grosvenor Lodge

2

Location

1017 Western Road, London, Ontario London, ON
Canada
42° 59' 47.8284" N, 81° 16' 29.3124" W
8 May 1970
History: 

Samuel Peters and his wife, Ann Philips, the builders of Grosvenor Lodge, left Devon, England, in 1835, and arrived in Quebec City after a six-week crossing.

They traveled to London by riverboat, barge, and wagon. The family first lived on Ridout Street, where Peters built a house and an abattoir. He acted as a surveyor in London and elsewhere for the Canada Company.

In 1850, Peters purchased a brewery west of Blackfriar’s Bridge, in an area he had surveyed and subdivided. It was known as Petersville.

Peters was an active and respected citizen. A founding member of London’s first Masonic lodge, he helped lay the cornerstone of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1844.

In 1853, Peters employed his architect-surveyor nephew, Samuel Peters, Jr., to prepare designs for his house. The Tudor Gothic style of architecture chosen was influenced by a manor house in Merton, Devonshire, England, that Mrs. Peters knew. Among the house’s notable features are its locally crafted stained-glass windows encasing “S.P.” for Samuel Peters, and “A.P.” for his wife Ann Philips, in the design of the sidelights and the entwined “S” (Samuel) and “A” (Ann) in the fanlight.

Also of note is the stonework of the gables and windows. The plaques in the matching front elevation gables encase “S.P.” on one side and the construction date “1853” on the other. Among the interior features are wide-planked pine floors and individually carved marble fireplaces. The Gothic Revival fireplace in the dining room is of particular merit.

Grosvenor Lodge is now home to the London Regional Resource Centre for Heritage and the Environment.