Category Archives: Cawthra House Toronto

Toronto’s heritage buildings and sites on


Below are links to posts about Toronto’s heritage sites that have appeared on the blog,, since it commenced in 2011.

Toronto’s Maple Leaf Baseball Stadium

Brunswick House on Bloor Street West, now closed

Centre Island’s lost village

Demolition of the Westinghouse building on King Street West

Walker House Hotel at Front and York Streets, demolished 1976

Cyclorama on Front Street, demolished 1976

The Toronto Star Building on King Street West

Fond Memories of A&A Records on Yonge Street

Memories of Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street

Toronto’s old Land Registry Building (demolished)

The Gordon House on Clarence Square, one of Toronto’s lost mansions

Old Toronto Star Building on King Street West.

The Grand Opera House on Adelaide St. West

The High Park Mineral Baths

The old Dufferin Gates at the CNE

Toronto’s first brick house, built by Quetton St. George

Toronto’s Old Registry Office Building

Centre Island’s Lost Village

Arcadian Court Restaurant in Simpsons

Toronto’s Old Customs Houses

Grand Opera House on Adelaide St. West

Palace Pier Ballroom and Amusement Centre on Lakeshore, on West bank of the Humber River

Cawthra House—Toronto’s most historic mansion at Bay and King Streets (demolished)

Ford Hotel at Bay and Dundas (demolished)

Dufferin Gates of the CNE (demolished)

Quetton St. George’s mansion on King Street, now demolished

Mineral Baths (swimming pools) on Bloor Street opposite High Park

Upper Canada College’s first campus on Russell Square on King Street West

Upper Canada College’s former boarding house at Duncan and Adelaide Street

St. Patrick’s Market on Queen West – the first market buildings

Armouries on University Avenue (demolished)

Trinity College that once existed in Trinity Bellwoods Park

Hanlan’s Hotel on the Toronto Islands (Hanlan’s Point) now demolished

The Palace, the mansion of John Strachan (demolished)

Holland House—one of Toronto’s lost mansions (demolished)

Crystal Palace of the CNE (demolished) —now the site of the Muzik nightclub

Queen’s Hotel (demolished) —historic hotel on Front Street

CNE Grandstand (demolished) —History of

Maple Leaf Stadium (demolished) at Bathurst and Front Streets

Eaton’s old Queen Street Store at Queen and Yonge Streets (demolished)

Bank –Toronto’s First—Bank of Upper Canada (demolished)

Post Office—Toronto’s First

Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on Dundas Street.

Ontario’s Fourth Legislative Assembly

Ontario’s First and Second Legislative Buildings

Old Mill Restaurant in the Humber Valley

Montgomery’s Inn at Dundas West and Islington Avenue

Cecil Street Community Centre near Spadina Avenue and Cecil Street

Former Ryerson Press Building (now Bell Media) at 299 Queen Street, at Queen and John Streets

Former Bank of Toronto Building at 205 Yonge Street, opposite the Eaton Centre

Buildings at 441-443 Queen Street, west of Spadina Avenue

History of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

Boer War monument at Queen West and University Avenue

History of Toronto’s CN Tower

Gurney Stove Foundry at King West and Brant Streets

Historic Royal Alexandra Theatre on King Street

Former Bank of Montreal at Queen and Yonge Streets, now a subway entrance and coffee shop

Fairmont Royal York Hotel

Toronto’s Union Station of today that opened in 1927

Old Fort York

19th-century Bay and Gable house at 64 Spadina Avenue

Old houses hidden behind 58-60 Spadina Avenue 

Historic Gale Building at 24-30 Spadina Avenue

Commercial block at 654-672 Queen West containing shops

Warehouse loft at 80 Spadina Avenue

The Systems Building at 40-46 Spadina Avenue

The Steele Briggs Warehouse at 49 Spadina Avenue

The building at Queen and Portland Streets, which once was a bank of Montreal

The 1850s buildings at 150-154 King Street East and Jarvis Streets

The Manufacturers Building at 312 Adelaide St. West

The old Eaton’s College Street (College Park and the Carlu)

The John Kay (Wood Gundy) Building at 11 Adelaide St. West

The Grange (AGO)

The Eclipse Building at 322 King Street West

The Toronto Normal School on Gould Street

The Capitol Building at 366 Adelaide Street West, near Spadina

The Reid Building at 266-270 King Street West

Mackenzie House on Bond Street

Colborne Lodge in High Park

The Church of the Redeemer at Bloor West and Avenue Road

The Anderson Building at 284 King Street West

The Lumsden Building at Yonge and Adelaide Street East

The Gooderham (Flatiron) Building at Wellington and Front Streets East

The Sick Children’s Hospital on University Avenue

St. James Cathedral at King St. East and Church St.

The E.W. Gillett Building at 276 Queen King St. West

The Oddfellows Temple at the corner of Yonge and College Streets

The Birkbeck Building at 8-18 Adelaide Street East

The Toronto Seventh Post Office at 10 Toronto St.

Former hotel at Bay and Elm streets

The 1881 block of shops on Queen near Spadina

The stone archway on Yonge Street, south of Carlton Street

The former St. Patrick’s Market on Queen West, now the City Market

The Brooke Building (three shops) at King East and Jarvis streets.

The old Work House at 87 Elm Street, an historic structure from the 19th century.

The building on the northwest corner of Yonge and Queen Street.

The former student residence of Upper Canada College, built in 1833, at 22 Duncan Street, at the corner of Adelaide streets.

Church of the Holy Trinity beside the Eaton Centre

The former site of the “Silver Snail” comic store at 367 Queen Street West.

The Toronto Club at 107 Wellington, built 1888,  at the corner of York Street. 

The YMCA at 18 Elm Street, built in 1890, now the Elmwood Club.

The old St. George’s Hall at 14 Elm Street, now the Arts and Letters Club.

The 1860s houses on Elm St. (now Barbarian’s Steak House)

The old “Silver Snail” shop on Queen St. West

The north building at the St. Lawrence Market, which is slated to be demolished

The Ellis Building on Adelaide Street near Spadina Ave.

The Heintzman Building on Yonge Street, next to the Elgin Theatre

The tall narrow building at 242 Yonge Street, south of Dundas

Toronto’s first Reference Library at College and St. George Streets.

The Commodore Building at 315-317 Adelaide St. West

The Graphic Arts Building (condo) on Richmond Street

The Art Deco Victory Building on Richmond Street

The Concourse Building on Adelaide Street

The old Bank of Commerce at 197 Yonge Street

The Traders Bank on Yonge Street—the city’s second skyscraper

Toronto’s old Union Station on Front Street, built in 1884

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at King and Simcoe Streets.

The row houses on Glasgow Street, near Spadina and College Streets

The bank at Queen and Simcoe that resembles a Greek temple

The cenotaph at Toronto’s Old City Hall

The magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral at King East and Church Streets

St. Stanislaus Koska RC Church on Denison Avenue, north of Queen West

The historical St. Mary’s Church at Adelaide and Bathurst Streets

The Bishop’s (St, Michael’s) Palace on Church Street, Toronto

The Union Building at Simcoe and King Street West

The Ed Mirvish (Pantages, Imperial, Canon) Theatre, a true architectural gem on Toronto’s Yonge Street

The Waverly Hotel on Spadina near College Street.

The Art Deco Bank of Commerce building on King Street West.

The Postal Delivery Building, now the Air Canada Centre (ACC)

The Bellevue Fire Station on College Street

The Bank of Nova Scotia at King and Bay Streets

Toronto’s old Sunnyside Beach

Toronto’s architectural gems—the Runnymede Library

Spadina Avenue – sinful, spicy and diverse

The Reading Building, a warehouse loft building on Spadina Avenue

The Darling Building on Spadina Avenue

The amazing Fashion Building on Spadina Avenue

Toronto’s architectural gems – the Tower Building at Spadina and Adelaide Street

The Balfour Building at 119 Spadina Avenue

The Robertson Building at 215 Spadina that houses the Dark Horse Espresso Bar

An architectural gem – Grossman’s Tavern at Spadina and Cecil Streets

History of the house that contains the Paul Magder Fur Shop at 202 Spadina

An important historic building that disappeared from the northeast corner of Spadina and College

Historic bank building on northeast corner of Spadina and Queen West

History of the Backpackers’ Hotel at King and Spadina

Hamburger corner – Spadina and Queen Streets

Lord Lansdowne Public School on Spadina Crescent

The Dragon City Mall on the southwest corner of Dundas and Spadina

Buildings on the west side of Spadina a short distance north of Queen Street.

History of the site of the Mcdonalds on northwest corner of Queen and Spadina

A former mansion at 235 Spadina that is now almost hidden from view.


Military hero of the War of 1812 lived near corner of Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West.

The Art Deco bus terminal at Bay and Dundas Streets.

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

The old Dominion Bank Building at King and Yonge Street

The Canada Life Building on University and Queen Street West.

Campbell House at the corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue

A study of Osgoode Hall

Toronto’s first City Hall, now a part of the St. Lawrence Market

Toronto’s Draper Street, a time-tunnel into the 19th century

The Black Bull Tavern at Queen and Soho Streets, established in 1822

History of the 1867 fence around Osgoode Hall on Queen Street West, near York Street

Gathering around the radio as a child in the 1940s

The opening of the University Theatre on Bloor Street, west of Bay St.

122 persons perish in the Noronic Disaster on Toronto’s waterfront in 1949

Historic Victoria Memorial Square where Toronto’s first cemetery was located, now hidden amid the Entertainment District

Visiting one of Toronto’s best preserved 19th-century streets-Willcocks Avenue

The 1930s Water Maintenance Building on Brant Street, north of St. Andrew’s Park

Toronto’s architectural gems-photos of the Old City from a book published by the city in 1912

Toronto’s architectural gems in 1912

Toronto’s architectural gems – the bank on the northeast corner of Queen West and Spadina

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

The St. Lawrence Hall on King Street

Toronto’s streetcars through the past decades

History of Trinity Bellwoods Park

A history of Toronto’s famous ferry boats to the Toronto Islands

To view the Home Page for this blog:

To view the post that contains a list of Toronto’s old movie houses and information about them:


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Toronto’s greatest lost mansion—Cawthra House

1897,  pictures-r-2138[1]

The Cawthra House in 1897, on the northeast corner of King and Bay Streets. The view depicts the west facade on Bay Street. Photo from Toronto Public Library, r-2138

The Cawthra Family immigrated from from Geysley, Yorkshire, England and arrived in Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1803. They lived in a brick house on the northwest corner of King and Caroline (Sherbourne) Streets. The following year Joseph Cawthra, head of the family, was granted land in Port Credit, but remained there only until 1806, when he relocated to York (Toronto) the provincial capital. He had once aspired to be a doctor, and because of his interest in medicines, he established an apothecary shop that he expanded into a general store. It is reputed to be the first store of its type established in York (Toronto).

When the War of 1812 was declared, he sold medical supplies to the British army and amassed a considerable fortune, which he invested in acquiring properties in York. Joseph’s son, William, inherited the business when his father died in 1842. He closed the shop and concentrated on developing the plots of land in downtown Toronto that had been part of his inheritance. He lived in a brick cottage near Bloor and Jarvis Streets, which at the time was outside the city, in the village of Yorkville.

In 1849, William married  Sarah Crowther, seventeen years younger than he was. She considered Yorkville too far north of the city, and urged William to build a home near the commercial heart of downtown Toronto. She wanted a grand mansion that would be their home, and contain an office where her husband could conduct his business transactions.

In 1851, William purchased a lot on the northeast corner of King Street and Bay Streets. It possessed 56’ on King Street and extended 146’ north on Bay Street. William was aware that the area west of Yonge Street was developing commercially and that his new house would increase greatly in value. Construction began in 1851, but was not completed until 1853.

Though Cawthra was thrifty by nature, he acceded to his wife’s wishes and built a residence that reflected his wealth and prominence within the city. Twice he had been elected an alderman on City Council and had also served on the Board of Trustees for the Common Schools. To design his home, he selected an aspiring architect, Joseph Sheard, who at the time was earning his living mostly as a carpenter. However, the structure was completed by a younger partner in the firm, William Irving.

The home was in the Greek Revival style, the walls constructed of large blocks of light-coloured Ohio sandstone, fitted together to form smooth facades. The frame and roof of the house were of hand-hewn-timbers, held together with wooden pegs. The windows and main doorway on Bay Street were surrounded by carved detailing that was richly ornate. The heavy cornice above the second storey protruded over the street, created a solid and impressive appearance. The triangular pediment above the cornice added to its resemblance to a Greek temple, with both the cornice and pediment displaying large dentils. These were designs from ancient Greece that were highly popular throughout most of the 19th century. The facades on King and also on Bay were divided into three sections by pilasters (three-sided columns), topped with Corinthian capitals. 

The house was essentially rectangular, with a service wing extending on the north side where the brick stable was  located. The mansion was surrounded by a high brick wall. William Cawthra lived in his sumptuous residence until he passed away in 1880. Despite it being one of Toronto’s grandest mansions, no photographs survive of its interior. There is an unconfirmed story that the front door of the house possessed a gold doorknob, that the butler removed each night before dark to prevent it being stolen.

His widow remain in the house until about the year 1885 and then, moved to a more luxurious home on Jarvis Street, opposite a small park that was named after the family. She rented her former residence. By this year, the land on King Street, where the house stood was among the most desirable commercial locations in the city, too valuable to remain as a residential property. From 1885 until 1907 it was a branch of the Molson’s Bank and from 1908 to 1925, the head offices of the Stirling Bank. The rich detailing on the exterior and the marble-trimmed interior reflected the image that the banks wished to portray. However, the Canada Life Assurance Company, whose head office was next door on King Street, eventually purchased the property and then, rented it to the banks.

In 1929, the insurance company relocated to a new art deco building on University Avenue, north of Queen Street. The sites of the old Cawthra House and the Canada Life building were purchased by the Bank of Nova Scotia, which wanted to build a 27-storey office tower at King and Bay Streets. Unfortunately, the plans for the bank were shelved because of the Depression. In the late-1940s, the plans for the building were revived.

Every effort was explored to preserve the Cawthra House because of its architectural merits and historical importance. A member of the Cawthra family offered to pay the cost of dismantling the building and re-erecting on the property of the Royal Ontario Museum. However, the museum refused the offer. The house was demolished, though the mantel from the drawing room and the stone columns on ether side of the doorway were eventually saved and placed in the garden of Joseph Cawthra’s estate in Port Credit. Other architectural parts of the house was rescued by a descendant of William Cawthra, and placed in the backyard of his home in Rosedale. 

After the demolition of Cawthra House, the cornerstone for the 24-storey Bank of Nova Scotia was laid in 1949, and the building was completed in 1951.

Sources; William Dendy, “Lost Toronto”———

1910-  pictures-r-6527[1]

The Front door of the Cawthra House in 1910, when the building was a branch of the Stirling Bank, Toronto Public Library, r- 6227.

The Molson Bank, Cawthra House, King Street and Bay Street – [1913]

The Cawthra House in 1913 when it was the Molson’s Bank. The view is of the building’s south facade on King Street, with Bay Street on the left-hand side of the photo. The building to the east of the bank (right-hand side) is the Canada Life Assurance Company. Toronto Archives, S 0409, Item 0060. 


A sentimental Christmas card of the Cawthra House, printed  in 1922, depicting the house when it was occupied by the Cawthra family. Toronto Public Library, r- 2132.

1926 as Stirling Bank  I0001651[1]

The Cawthra House in 1926, after it had been purchased by the Canada Life Assurance Company. Ontario Archives, 10001651.

Fonds 1244, Item 7098

The northeast corner of Bay and King Streets c. 1926. The Cawthra House and the Canada Life Assurance Company dominate the scene. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item. 7098.

1931 - f1548_s0393_it23370[1]

The Cawthra House in 1931 when used for offices. Toronto Archives, F1548, Item 23370.


The Bank of Nova Scotia on the northeast corner of King and Bay Streets, which occupies the site where the Cawthra mansion once stood.

To view the Home Page for this blog:

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

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


   To place an order for this book: .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.












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