Tag Archives: Queen’s Hotel Toronto

Toronto’s lost mansion—Holland House

Holland House is one of Toronto’s lost mansions of the past. Built in 1831, it survived into the 20th century, but was demolished about the year 1905. The photograph below (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 3257) was taken from the roof of the Queen’s Hotel on Front Street, after the disastrous fire of 1904. Holland House is the castle-like structure in the centre of the photo, surrounded by the surviving walls of the buildings gutted by the fire. It was this photo that captured my interest in the lost mansion of Holland House. Because the entire site is today occupied by the Royal York Hotel, for the first time I was able to envision exactly where the mansion once stood. The far (north) side of the mansion was on today’s Wellington Street West.

View from hotel, 1904-- f1568_it0357[1]

Holland House hearkens back to the early days of Toronto’s history, when the town centred on the area around King Street East and Jarvis Street. The mansion was built by Henry John Boulton, born in 1790 in Little Holland House in Kensington, London. His family had close connections with the immensely wealthy Fox family, which resided in the larger and more palatial estate home of Holland House, constructed in the 1600s by the first Earl of Holland. By contrast, “Little” Holland House was a more modest structure, situated on the same estate. Henry John Boulton’s boyhood home was the inspiration for the name of the home that he was to build in later years in the town of York (Toronto).

About the year 1800, the family of Henry John Boulton immigrated to North America, settling in Renssekaer County, in the Hudson River Valley in New York State. Henry John was about 12 or 13 years of age at the time. In 1802, seeking better prospects for advancement, the family relocated o Upper Canada (Ontario), settling in Augusta Township in the eastern part of Upper Canada, near Ogdensburg. It is thought that he attended the school of John Strachan in Cornwall. His father petitioned the government for a land grant and received 200 acres, as well as an additional 200 acres for each of his three children. However, in 1804 Henry John Boulton’s father, a lawyer, was called to the bar and shortly after became part of the government of Sir Peregrine Maitland. The family now moved to the town of York.

Henry John Boulton was the second-oldest son in a family that eventually included eight children. At 17 years of age, he commenced studying law at York (Toronto). His education continued until 1811, when he journeyed to England for further studies. He returned to Upper Canada in 1816 and commenced practising law. He was readily accepted into prominent social circles and became a member of the influential group that became known as the Family Compact. In 1818 he was appointed the solicitor general and in 1829 became attorney general for the province.

Being financially secure, he purchased a large lot on the west side of Bay Street to construct a family home. The lot extended from Wellington Street to Front Street, an area that in the those years was considered suburban, as York was clustered around the east end of the harbour. Holland House was erected in 1831, in a style similar to the Grange, which his older brother had built in 1818. Both houses were Georgian in design, with plain symmetrical facades. Holland House faced Front Street, but was set back a distance from the roadway, possessing a circular carriageway with well-maintained gardens on either side. In that decade, the shoreline of the lake was on the south side of Front Street. During the years ahead, landfill pushed the water’s edge further south.

In 1832, Boulton contracted John G. Howard, who built Colborne Lodge in High Park, to implement extensive renovations to the mansion’s south facade, which faced the lake. Henry John Boulton was an admirer of the Regency style, becoming familiar with it during his student days in London. After his return to Canada, he kept in touch with the latest fashion trends in Britain, even his attire reflecting the style. Colborne Lodge in High Park and Dundurn Castle in Hamilton are two examples of the Regency style of architecture.

The term Regency refers to the styles that were popular during the early half of the 19th century. It began during the years 1811 to 1820, when Britain was under the “regency” of George, Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV. Regency architecture, extravagant and whimsical, was much favoured by the king-in-waiting. Regency’s height of popularity was between the years 1820-1860.

Regency architecture originated with Britain’s ex-colonial officials and military officers. When these men returned to England from warmer climates, they attempted to replicate the homes they had possessed during their privileged lifestyles abroad. Thus, motifs from the Far East and Middle East were favoured, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton an excellent example as it resembled an Indian palace. Symmetry was important, and those who built in this style sought locations with a commanding view of their surroundings. The location chosen for Holland House was typical, as it possessed an unobstructed and expansive view of Toronto Harbour.

1904  TRL. pictures-r-2100[1] 

Holland House in 1904, photo from the collection of the Toronto Public Library r-2100

John G. Howard renovated Holland House to resemble a small castle, adding a tower to the south facade that overlooked the garden. It appeared as if the tower were cylindrical, but its north side was embedded in the roof. The tower was topped with battlements, the second-floor level containing Gothic windows, and a rounded balcony with more battlements. The house was of brick, covered with stucco on which lines were etched to imitate stone blocks. Four pepper-pot chimneys, as Boulton referred to them, accommodated the large fireplaces within. The north side of Holland House was also altered. Because a new entrance was built on the east side, its facade was no longer symmetrical. During the renovations, a pedestrian gate and a carriage entrance were constructed on the west side of the mansion.  

Boulton lived in the house for only two years, as he was removed from office by the colonial secretary for criticizing the British government. To clear his name and petition against the arbitrary decision, he journeyed to England. He was successful in his quest but it was little comfort, as his successor had already departed for Canada. Instead, Boulton was appointed chief justice for Newfoundland. He arrived in Newfoundland in 1833, but in 1838, he returned to Holland House in Upper Canada. Shortly afterward, he was elected to the legislature representing Norfolk, but remained in residence in his house.

It was around the year 1838 that Boulton sold a portion of his holdings on Front Street to Captain Thomas Dick, who erected four townhouses on the property. In the years ahead, Boulton sold more of his land to allow the townhouses to be converted into the Sword’s Hotel, which later became the Queen’s. Further land sales allowed the hotel to expand, and part of the garden of Holland House became the garden of the Queen’s.

1880  pictures-r-6689[1]

People relaxing in the garden of the Queen’s Hotel in 1880. Holland House is visible in the background. In this photo, it almost resembles Windsor Castle in Britain. Toronto Public Library, r-6689.

1912-  pictures-r-2130[1]

A watercolour of the north facade of Holland House c. 1890. Toronto Public Library, r-2122

1890,  pictures-r-2122[1]

The north facade of Holland House in 1890, Toronto Public Library r-2122

As Holland House became increasingly isolated from Front Street, its north side on Wellington Street became its main entrance. Land surrounding the house was sold and warehouses erected on the properties. The land sales and investments allowed Boulton to live comfortably in his retirement. He died in 1870 and the house was sold to Alexander Manning, a Toronto alderman. In 1872, the Earl and Countess of Dufferin resided in the home for a few weeks and entertained lavishly. The house was later occupied by the Ontario Reform Club.

Holland House was not damaged during the Great Fire of 1904, but during the reconstruction of the area it was demolished. Warehouses were built on the site. 

1885.  pictures-r-6761[1]

The north facade of Holland House on Wellington Street in 1885. The large pepper-pot chimneys are visible on its east side. The chimneys resemble defensive structure built on Spanish fortifications in the 16th and 17th centuries. Toronto Public Library, r-6761 

1912- pictures-r-2123[1]

Sketch of the north facade of Holland House, dated 1912, depicting the entrance of the left (east side) and a carriageway on the right (west side). Toronto Public Library, r-2123.

1912- pictures-r-2129[1]

                Watercolour dated 1912, Toronto Public Library, r-2129

Map of 61 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5J

The address where Holland House was located is today 61 Wellington Street West.

I am grateful to the following sources for information for this post:

“Toronto of Old,” Henry Scadding, Toronto Oxford University Press, Toronto, published 1873

“The Ancestral Roof, Domestic Architecture of Upper Canada,” Marion MacRae and Anthony Adamson, Clark Irwin and Company, Toronto, 1963

“Toronto, Romance of a Great City,”Katherine Hale, Cassell and Company Toronto, 1956

“Toronto, No Mean City,” Eric Arthur, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1964.

Lost Toronto,” William Dendy, Oxford University Press, Toronto, 1978

To view the Home Page for this blog:

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

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

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 130 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.






Tags: , , , , ,

Stories from old Toronto postcards


Old Toronto postcards sometimes reveal lovers’ quarrels and family squabbles, as well as mundane messages. It was necessary to be discreet, since the cards were seen by postal employees, including the local mailman. When viewing the material written on postcards of yesteryear, they appear similar to those sent in emails, or posted on Facebook and Twitter. Some of the messages are like the texts of today, though texts use more abbreviations.

I have been collecting old postcards of Toronto for many years; the postcard shown above is from my collection. It contains a view of Queen Street West, looking east from James Street, toward Yonge Street, about the year 1910. It was produced by Valentine and Sons’ Publishing Company, the most prolific marketer of postcards in the city during the first two decades of the 20th century. In the photo, on the left-hand side, to the east of the Adam’s Furniture Store, is the old Eaton’s Queen Street store, which was demolished to create the south section of the Eaton Centre of today. On the right-hand side of the photograph is the former Simpson’s Department store, which is now the Bay, at Queen and Yonge. The streetcar is a wooden car operated by the Toronto Street Railway Company, which provided city public transit until the TTC was created in 1921.


The Rosehill Reservoir Park is located southeast of the intersection of Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue East (part of David Balfour Park). This card was mailed on July 27, 1906, to Mr. Norman Pascoe, who address was simply, “Lake Front at Kew Beach.” On the card the sender wrote: “ Dear Norman. We will meet you at Kippen Avenue at seven p.m. Wednesday next, if convenient. If not, please let us know. Yours truly, “Moonlight” 27/7/06.” Note: A hint of mystery is attached to this message, since the names of the senders are disguised. Why were they meeting?


This postcard was mailed on June 1, 1939 to Miss Darling of Stockwell London, England. View looks north on Bay Street from King Street. A woman named Marjorie sent it from West Toronto. She writes: “Having a wonderful time. Have met Ivy, Doris, Fred, Uncle Eddie, and Aunt Annie and other friends in Toronto. We are on the boat on Lake Ontario and going to Niagara. Weather very hot.” The card was signed, “Love from Marjorie.” Note: Shorten this message slightly and it could be a text.


On the reverse side of Marjory’s postcard, sent in 1939, are postage stamps depicting Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. The cost of postage was 2 cents.


This view of Toronto harbour is on a postcard mailed on August 2, 1908. Written on the card is: “Had a fine ride on the Lake this morning. It is beautiful. Hope all are well and getting a long all right.” The card was signed, “Lillie.” In the picture, on the right-hand side of the skyline is the spire of St. James Cathedral on King Street East. On the reverse side of the card is a one-cent postage stamp commemorating the 300th anniversary of the founding of Quebec—1608-1908.


This card was mailed from Toronto on June 14, 1909, by a young woman named Sarah, who sent it to Mrs. C. Everingham at Parry Harbour Ontario. She wrote: “Dear Mother, am well, hope you are the same. Mother could you send me $1.00 right away so I could get it Saturday. Well I am so home sick to see yous all again. I can hardly write Mother. Send me the price to go if you want me but send me the dollar for I need it badly.” The card was signed, “From Sarah xxx.” Note: The wording of the message is rather confusing but Sarah’s needs are quite clear.

The view on the card depicts Centre Island, likely from the shoreline of Long Pond looking west as there is a wooden bridge in the background. This bridge was later replaced by one constructed of stone.


Sarah of Toronto sent this card on July 31, 1911. She wrote: “Dear cousin, We had a nice trip home, had dinner and tea at Mrs. Shepphard’s and then came down on the 7 o’clock boat. Found all well at home. Sister wants you to arrive, she wants to see you. Hope that Mr. Wossack is still getting on fine. Remember us to all with best. Kindness and Friendship.” The card was signed, “Yours, Sarah.” The view on the card looks westward across the picnic grounds at Hanlan’s point toward the lake.


This exceptionally fine view of Toronto Street looks north from near King Street East toward Adelaide Street East. The Toronto Seventh Post Office, with its columned portico is visible on the left-hand side (west side) of the street. It is one of the few buildings on the street that still exists today. The card was mailed by Nellie from Toronto on February 25, 1908 to Mrs. Fred Battle in Bowmanville, Ont.  It reads: “Dear Mildred, would you cut me a pattern of a skirt for me. Will pay you for it, 22 waist, medium 38 length, a plain full skirt print for the house. I like them pretty full and if you would pin the seams together as I don’t know any other patterns putting them together unless they are put together. I can make them then.” The card was signed, “Nellie.” Note: I hope that Mrs. Battle understood the card’s instructions better than I did.


This postcard shows the Amusement Park at the famous Sunnyside Beach, often referred to as “The poor man’s Riviera.” It was where each spring Toronto’s Easter Parade was held on the boardwalk, visible on the left-hand side of the photo. The view faces west, the waters of the lake to the south (left) of the boardwalk (not visible in the photo). The large structure in the photo with the red domed roof is the merry-go-round (carousel). When Sunnyside amusement park was demolished in the 1950s, the ride was shipped to Disneyland in California. In the foreground is Lakeshore Boulevard. The postcard was mailed on August 27, 1927, sent to “Master Elmer Morley, Sub. P.O. Ford City, Ontario.” The card reads: “ We arrived in Toronto all right and found Millers all well. We expect to go to exhibition on Monday.” The card is unsigned.


This card is likely from around the year 1920. There is no date or message on it as it was never sent to anyone. The view faces east toward the pedestrian bridge over Long Pond. The women seated on the bench in the foreground are formally attired, the usual custom until the late 1940s, when men wore shirts and ties when attending picnics, the CNE or an evening stroll.


This postcard depicts the ruins of a grist mill on the west bank of the Humber River. The card was mailed on July 12, 1907, prior to building the Old Mill Tea Garden and Restaurant, which was constructed beside the ruins in 1914. The card was sent to Miss Arrabel Ellis of Fenelon Falls. Ontario. It reads: “Dear Belle, I hear you are having quite a holiday this summer. You certainly had a nerve coming to Toronto and not the Junction. They wouldn’t give me your message.” It was signed, “Gerald.” Note: There seems to be some frustration and disappointment expressed on the part of Gerald. Lovers’ quarrel?


This card with the delightful scene of Toronto harbour was mailed from the city on October 3, 1906. It was sent to Daisy Alberta Shepp at 929 E. King Street, York, Pennsylvania. U.S. A. There was no message on the card and it was unsigned.


The view on this card faces south on Sherbourne Street. Sherbourne and Church Streets were among the first in the city to have electrically-powered streetcars. The card was mailed on June 7, 1905 to Miss A. B. Ellis, MacDonald Hall, Guelph, Ont. It reads: “Am sorry you will not be at my tea. We will miss you. Do not get lonesome.” It was signed, “May.”


The first buildings on the site shown above was in 1838, when Captain Dick, a wealthy steamboat captain, constructed four brick townhouses. In 1856, Mr. Sword bought the houses and converted them into a hotel. In 1859, Captain Dick reappeared on the scene, bought the hotel, and renamed it the Queen’s. It became the city’s most elite hostelry and dining establishment. The future King George V, when he was the Prince of Wales, stayed at the Queen’s, as did several American presidents. The closing of the Queen’s in 1927 was the end of an era and the beginning of a new. The Royal York Hotel was built on the site by Canadian Pacific Hotels, a division of the Canadian Pacific Railways. 

The postcard was mailed on May 25, 1907 to Johann Laemmersamn of 2 Front Street, Watertown N. Y. It reads: “I am pleased with the pretty cards you sent.” It was signed, “Mr. Young.”


This lithograph of Union Station on Front Street was mailed from Niagara Falls N. Y. on July 15, 1922. The station did not open until 1927, so the card was likely based on the architect’s sketches. The card was sent by Lottie to Miss Irma Chaplin of Jefferson, Ohio. It reads: “Toronto, Canada, July 14, 1922—Here today and there tomorrow. And it’s all wonderful. You ought to see it for yourself.” The card was signed, “Lottie” 


This card was mailed from Hamilton, Ontario, on October 3, 1908. It was sent to Miss M. Eubank of Willoro Grove, Ontario. It reads: “Received letter but it was a long time in coming. Send me a card when you are coming down so I can go down to see you. Bring me some apples and beech nuts. I wish I was there to gather some. Miss H. will be down Friday, down to see her Sunday afternoon and Miss G. for tea. To church twice. Am going to write to Aunt Mary tonight.”


This card depicts the Prince George Hotel on the northwest corner of King Street West and York Street. The card was mailed on February 4, 1913 to Mr. Floyd Gage, at 63 Penn Avenue, Binghamton N. Y. It reads: “Friend Floyd: I have been here a long time working with the Bowles Ltd., a large lunch concern and I am now receiving good pay. Am well and hope you are the same.” It is signed, “Your old friend, Samuel B. Wishart, 98 Mutual Street.” Perhaps the “Bowles Ltd.” that Samuel refers to was Bowles Lunch (restaurant) on the southeast corner of Bay and Queen Street West, across from today’s Old City Hall. 



This card depicts the boardwalk along the south shore of Centre Island that leads to Ward’s Island. The card was never mailed, but written in pencil on the back is: “November 30, 1908—to William from Grandpa.” Little William likely was handed the card as there are child’s scribbles in pencil all over the back of the card.  


This card was mailed from Portsmouth, England on November 13, 1915. It was sent to Miss Coles of 14 Craubury Avenue, Southhampton. It reads: “Saturday—M. D. A. We are leaving Portsmouth by the 8:55 train Sun. and look forward to seeing you all.” It is signed, “With love, Nellie.” It is assumed that Nellie or someone she knew had visited Toronto and purchased the card. The street in the upper right-hand corner is identified as “Pembroke Street. In the bottom right-hand corner is Wilton Street. The other streets are not named.


This intriguing postcard was mailed on September 9, 1918 by Royal Air Force Cadet #171953 #4 Div. Toronto. It was sent to Mrs. Georgette R. Prince, Suite 25, Arlington Block, Edmonton, Alberta. The message on the card was written in French. I wish I were able to translate it as war-time messages are particularly important in preserving the memories of difficult times in Canada’s history.

The churches depicted on the card are: clockwise from the left-hand corner, St. James Cathedral on King Street east, Holy Blossom Synagogue on Bathurst Street, Metropolitan United on Queen Street East, St. Michael’s on Bond Street, Jarvis Street Baptist, Knox Presbyterian on Spadina, and the Bond Street Congregational Church at Bond and Dundas Street East (now demolished).  


The card was mailed from Orillia, Ontario on November 10, 1955. It was sent to Miss Margaret Henry, 30 Annendale, Apt. 3, Kingston, Ontario. The picture is of Sick Children’s Hospital on University Avenue. The card reads: “ Dear Margaret, I have just returned home from Toronto. The David Scott’s address is 9809 19th Avenue North East, Seattle, Washington U. S. A. If Stanley would care to call on them? And do you still want Grey Squirrel for your coat?” The card is signed, “From E. Buchauau.” Note: A grey squirrel coat?

The cards that follow were never mailed so they have no messages or postage stamps on them to determine when they were purchased.


Toronto’s Old City Hall, after the gargoyles had been removed from the tower as they were in danger of falling into the street below.


          Children’s Playground on the west side of the Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion


Yonge Street in 1915, gazing north toward the College and Carlton Street intersection. The building on the left-hand side, with the rounded flat-topped towers, is the Odd Fellows Hall, built between 1891 and 1892. The streetcar in the distance that is making a right-hand turn from College Street, to proceed south on Yonge, is negotiating a jog in the roadway. This jog was eliminated when Eaton’s College Street was built in 1929, and Yonge Street was straightened. The clock tower of the old St. Charles Tavern is visible in the distance, on the west side of Yonge. The streetcar is a wooden car operated by the Toronto Railway Company. The TTC took over the system in 1921. The buildings on the west side of Yonge street, south of College, were demolished to erect the Eaton’s College Street Store. 


When the Royal York opened on June 11, 1929, it was the tallest building in the city. The hotel’s architects were Ross and Macdonald, with the firm of Sproat and Rolph. They chose the “Chateau Style, reflecting the latest Art Deco trends of the 1920s. The Royal York possesses a copper roof and touches of the Romanesque in the many arched windows in its podium. The 28-storey building originally had 1048 rooms.


The Royal Ontario Museum when its main entrance was on Queen’s Park. The Park Plaza Hotel is in the background, to the north of the museum.


Construction on the Eaton’s College Street store commenced in 1928 and it opened on October 30, 1930. The magnificent structure, the jewel in the crown of the retail empire of the T. Eaton Company, was designed in the Stripped Classical design that reflected Italian Art Deco styles of the period. The building’s architects were the firm of Ross and Macdonald, in association with Sproatt and Rolph. The store was intended to appeal to affluent customers. Unfortunately, by the time the Eaton’s College store opened, the Great Depression had descended across the nation.


Church street, where electric streetcar first appeared in 1891.  The view is looking south.


This view of the Humber Valley was taken after 1914, as in this year a stone bridge was built over the river to replace the former wooden structure destroyed by an ice storm. The Old Mill Tea Garden (the Old Mill Restaurant of today) opened in 1914, prior to the stone bridge being constructed. It is in the photo, but is barely visible as it was a small structure compared to the vast complex of today’s Old Mill Restaurant. 


In this view, the Royal York Hotel and the Bank of Commerce dominate the skyline. On the far left-hand side is the Terminal Building, now the Queen’s Quay Terminal. The cannon in the foreground remains at Centre Island but is now located near the ferry terminal.


This photo of the Ford Hotel may create memories for a few people. This hostelry was once among the finest in the city. Some may also remember the Murray Restaurants that were in several locations throughout the city. The Ford Hotel was located at Bay and Dundas Streets, across from the bus terminal. Unfortunately it eventually became rather shabby. It was finally closed and demolished.

A link to a previous post that explores the history of postcards in Canada:

To view the Home Page for this blog:

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

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

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 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 130 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. 










Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,