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Mackenzie House—Toronto

11 Feb

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                           Mackenzie House at 82 Bond St., Toronto      

William Lyon Mackenzie was born in Scotland in 1795. He arrived in Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1820, and settled in the town of Dundas. He relocated to Queenston, located  beside the Niagara River in May 1824, and commenced publishing a newspaper, the Colonial Advocate. He agitated through his editorials for political reform. His main purpose was to establish Responsible Government in Upper Canada. This meant that the Governor and his advisors would be required to obey the wishes of the elected representatives of the people. At this time, the royal governor and his unelected advisors (the executive council) passed whatever laws they deemed necessary, disregarding the member of the assembly, which was elected. The member of the governor’s executive council were chosen from among a group of influential and wealthy families, known as the Family Compact.  

In the autumn of 1824, Mackenzie moved to the town of York, the provincial capital, to be closer to the heart of the political scene. He possessed a strong personality and was a colourful character. In York, continuing to publish the Colonial Advocate, through his fiery editorials he gathered a large following, particularly among those who were discontented with the present system of government.  In this same year, he advocated a union of the British American colonies, an idea that was eventually followed and became known as confederation. In 1832 he travelled to Britain to present to the imperial government the grievances of the citizens of Upper Canada against the political system. Back in York, when the reformers won a majority on the city council in 1834, he  was elected mayor, the city’s first. 

In 1836, Mackenzie was defeated in the elections. Governor Bond Head had actively participated in the process and through bribery and threats managed to prevail. Mackenzie became increasingly frustrated with the situation and the lack of democracy in the colonial government. He began to ferment rebellious ideas, and it the autumn of 1837, with a group of followers took up arms against the government. It became known as the Rebellion of 1837. Although most of Upper Canada agreed with Mackenzie, they failed to support him in open rebellion. The rebellion was crushed.

Mackenzie fled to the United States, where he lived in exile for twelve years. During his absence, the ideas he fought for were implemented and Upper Canada achieved Responsible Government. In 1849 the Government granted an amnesty to those who had participated in the rebellion, and in 1850, Mackenzie returned to Toronto. In 1851, he was re-elected to Assembly, retiring from politics in 1858. However, he continued to publish his newspaper.

In 1859, the house on Bond Street was given to him by the grateful citizens of Toronto in recognition of the role he had played in reforming the Canadian political system. The house can be visited today. It is a two-storey, yellow-brick townhouse in the Greek Revival style. Originally, there were other houses attached to it on either side. Under the eaves is a pattern referred to as the Greek key. There is a gable window in the roof that provides light for the attic of the home. Tall chimneys are positioned on the north and south ends of the roof. The kitchen is in the basement, so the basement windows are partially above ground. Ceiling-fixtures with gas provide lighting in the rooms.

Mackenzie and his wife, Isabella Baxter, had thirteen children, seven of whom survived childhood. After Mackenzie died in 1861, his family continued to live in the house on Bond Street and remained there until 1871, when they leased the house. They sold it in 1877. The home had various owners in the years ahead, one of whom discovered a musket buried in the back garden. He contacted Mackenzie’s grandson, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, thinking that the weapon might have been owned by the rebel leader of the 1837 Rebellion.

The house was opened as an historic site in 1950, and in 1967 an addition was built on it that contains an 1860s print shop and gift shop. Today, the house has been furnished to reflect the lifestyle of the Mackenzie family. Viewing its cozy rooms provides an intimate look into the lives of the family. It is reported to be one of the few documented haunted houses in Toronto. An historic site, it is fascinating to visit, its location only a few blocks from the Eaton’s Centre.

Fonds 1244, Item 9077

Ruins of Mackenzie’s printing shop in Queenston, photographed in 1911. City of Toronto Archives Series 1244, It. 9077

Mack.'s desk, of 1837, photo 1915, York Pineers --f1548_s0393_it12463[1]

Mackenzie’s desk of 1837, photographed in 1911. Photo from the York Pioneers, City of Toronto Archives Series 393, S0393, S.0393, Id. 12463.

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Bond Street, gazing south from Dundas Street, May 9, 1919. Mackenzie House is among the row of houses on the right-hand side of the photo, four or five houses from the corner. It is to the south of the home with the large porch that has support pillars. The church spire farther down the street is that of St. Michael’s Cathedral. 

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Mackenzie House before 1938, when the houses on either side of it had not been demolished. Photo from the collection of Heritage Toronto.

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Mackenzie House in the 1950s, before the print shop and gift shop were added. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, F. 1257, Id.0741. 

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                Greek key pattern under the eaves of Mackenzie House

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                  Parlour windows on the first floor, facing Bond Street.

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Doorway of Mackenzie House, with transom windows above the doors.

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        Gazing into the dining room of Mackenzie House from the parlour.

 

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                           Dining room of the the house on Bond Street.

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                                  Treats on the table at Mackenzie House

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Gateway on the north side of the house that today leads to the visitors’ entrance and the addition that contains the print shop and gift shop. 

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                         Mackenzie House in the spring of 2013.

Visiting Mackenzie House is an opportunity to learn about the lifestyle of Canadians in the 19th-century Toronto. The guided tours are excellent, the staff friendly and knowledgeable.

For information on visiting this historic home : http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=33e5909d6fd70410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD

For a link to Colborne Lodge, another historic property under the auspices of Heritage Toronto:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/torontos-architectural-gemscolborne-lodge-in-high-park/

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

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   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), thePhotodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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