The Wheat Sheaf at the southwest corner of Bathurst and King Streets
The Wheat Sheaf Tavern on the southwest corner of King and Bathurst is one of the oldest drinking spots in the city. The sign above its door states that is has been “A Toronto tradition since 1849.” The earliest reference to the establishment that I was able to find in the Toronto Directories was for the year 1856, when Bernard Short opened a tavern on the southwest corner of Bathurst and King Streets and named it the Wheat Sheaf. He remained the owner until 1866. When he died, his wife took over and operated the tavern until 1872.
I suspect that the the building was smaller than the one that exists on the site today, as extensions were built on the south side to extend the premises. The tavern proved a success, as it became a favourite “watering hole” for the troops from the garrison at Fort York. It did not hurt that the parish of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic had erected a church a short distance to the north of the tavern, on the west side of Bathurst Street. In 1856, the church was on the north side of McDonnell Square, rather than its present-day location on the square itself. Perhaps the local priest, Father J. O’Neil enjoyed the odd pint of ale in the Wheat Sheaf on a hot summer day.
The tavern changed hands many times during the decades ahead, but the records indicate that all the proprietors retained the name The Wheat Sheaf.
In 1873, Moses Furlong took over the operation the tavern, and rented rooms to seven labourers. In 1874, Mr. Furlong rented rooms in the tavern to two labourers, on a permanent basis. Their names were William Monday and James Crammer. Between the years 1876 and 1881, Michael O’Hearn became the proprietor, and the Toronto Directory states that the premises also operated it as a hotel. In 1882 and 1883, Mrs. Furlong, the wife of Moses, took over. Then, in 1884 John Beer became the proprietor. In 1894, Hugh Sullivan operated the tavern, and his name remains in the Toronto Directories until 1898. From this year onward, the Directories simply state that there was a hotel on the site, but do not list the proprietor.
The Wheat Sheaf has been restored to its former glory. The bricks were cleaned and its ornate Mansard roof repaired. Mansard roofs did not become fashionable until the 1870s and 1880s, so it is likely not the original roof from the year 1848 or 1856. However, with its dormer windows and impressive turret above the door, it is indeed a handsome building. The large chimney on the east side speaks of the days when the only source of heat within the drinking room was a roaring fire in a spacious fireplace.
The Mansard roof, the gable windows and the turret. It is likely that the the original roof tiles were slate. Under the the cornice below the roof are modillions that support the heavy wood trim.
The Wheat Sheaf on a hot summer night during August of 2012.
I have spent much of my adult life researching Toronto. Despite the traffic jams and daily congestion, I find Toronto an exciting and vibrant city in which to live. I enjoy exploring its past through my writing. One of the books, “The Villages Within”, was nominated for the Toronto Heritage Awards. If interested in novels with a Toronto setting, descriptions of the books are available by following the link: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/toronto-author-publishes-seventh-novel/
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