Sunday, 13 July 2008
My Town Monday - Campbell House (Toronto)
Campbell House, built in 1822, is the oldest remaining house from the original site of the Town of York. Chief Justice William Campbell and his wife Hannah designed the home for entertaining and comfort once their children had grown to adulthood.
Campbell House was constructed in a style in vogue during the late Georgian era known as Palladian architecture. This style was Italian in origin, and based upon elements of classical Greek and Roman architecture, which emphasized symmetry features of the windows, fireplaces and doors, as well as the grandiose proportions to exhibit wealth.
In 1814, Justice William Campbell assisted Chief Justice Thomas Scott by presiding over several of a series of trials known as the "Bloody Assize", which were held at Ancaster to prosecute those charged with treason during the War of 1812. He retired in 1829 due to failing health; and was knighted in April 1829.
After Sir William's death in 1834, the house was willed to his wife, Lady Hannah, for her use. After her death in 1844 the property and contents of the house were auctioned off and the proceeds were distributed amongst their heirs.
For most of the 19th century the house was maintained as a private residence. After the turn of the 20th century the building was used by several businesses as office space and as a factory, including a horseshoe nail company and an elevator company, and the house fell into disrepair.
The last owners of the property (Coutts-Hallmark Greeting Cards) wanted to demolish the house to extend their parking lot. At this time the house was offered to anyone who could remove it from the property. A professional association of Trial Lawyers known as the Advocates' Society intervened to save the house, move the building and restore it to its present appearance. The house was moved from Frederick Street on Adelaide Street to its present location at the corner of Queen and University on Friday, March 31st, 1972. Weighing 300 tons it took the movers six and a half hours to move the house over 5,000 feet at 500 feet per hour.
The Sir William Campbell Foundation is a non-profit organization charged with the preservation and interpretation of Campbell House and related histories. The Foundation maintains the house and operates a museum within the building for the purposes of educating the local and tourist community, including thousands of school children annually. The museum endeavours to make history come alive through the use of innovative hands-on approaches to history while still preserving important artefacts from Toronto's early heritage.
The house has been plagued with poltergeists since Campbell’s death in 1834. Shortly after the move, Marion McCrae, an architect and member of the restoration committee, returned to the house’s old location to examine the site at dusk while the sun was setting. “She claimed to see an apparition of an elderly man wearing 19th century gentleman’s clothing, staring into the empty hole where the basement had been,” says curator Elka Weinstein. Minus the odd bump noise and eerie rustling, the reports stopped after the 1991 renovations, when the last intact area of the house was modernized.
Research: campbellhousefoundation.ca; Wikipedia
Photo Credits: cameraphone
My Town Monday is the brain child of Travis Erwin, but this week check out Barrie Summy's blogsite at barriesummy.blogspot.com for other stories this week.