56 Toronto Street, Colborne

((mid to late 1800s)
Roll No. 1411-012-010-06800 – Cramahe Township Ontario

Second Empire w/Mansard Roof

The property at 56 Toronto Street is one of a very few with a mansard roof in the village of Colborne. That style roof is usually associated with the Second Empire period of Architecture (1852-1870), though this house is a much more modest version of that flamboyant style.

The mansard roof (also called a French roof or curb roof) is a four- sided gambrel-style hip. A roof characterized by two slopes on each of its sides with the lower slope, punctured by dormer windows, at a steeper angle than the upper. The steep roof with windows creates an additional floor of habitable space, (a garret), and reduces the overall height of the roof for a given number of habitable stories. The pyramid shaped upper slope of the roof may not be visible from street level when viewed from close proximity to the building.

This may be another example of function dictating form. In the 19th century, property taxes depended on how many stories, how many fireplaces etc. and home builders and owners became expert at creating trompe l’oeil. Consider the Regency cottages that appear to be one or one and a half stories but are actually two full stories with high ceilings! (see 7 King Street West Colborne).

The Second Empire is an architectural style, so named for the architectural elements in vogue during the era of the Second French Empire, that is the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870. As the Second Empire style evolved from its 17th century Renaissance foundations, it acquired an eclectic mix of earlier European styles, most notably the Baroque. It was often combined with “Mansard” roofs and low, square based domes.

This house has the roof, dormers (with their tudor hood molds) and the square footprint usually associated with Second Empire, but the over the top decoration is absent perhaps in keeping with the modest, middle class of Upper Canada in the mid 19th century.

History or Associative Value

The ownership history of this property is convoluted and complicated, and may be illustrative of money transfer between and among families of the 19th century. Through trusteeships and land transfers, the properties shifted around within families sometimes in a matter of days. Based on the incorporation of the village of Colborne, the earliest post Keeler transaction, the era of Second Empire and the build dates of others, the house was built in the late 19th c.

Additional Historical and Genealogical Information

56 Toronto Street, Colborne Ontario Cramahe Township, Concession 2, Lot 32, Reid Lot 30

Nathaniel Gaffield (ca. 1755-ca. 1838) was the first owner of Concession 2, Lot 32, a 200 acre parcel part of which would later become Reid Lot 30. To read more about Nathaniel Gaffield, … (LINK). Lot 32 is bounded on the south by King Street West, and on the north by Orchard and Purdy Roads. On the east it is bounded by the undeveloped road allowance running north from Ontario Street. On the west the southern half of the Lot is bounded by Percy Street. Percy Street angles northwestward in the northern half of Lot 32, and the western edge of the lot is along the line Percy would have taken if it had headed straight north.

Although he had probably lived there since at least 1797, Gaffield wasn’t officially granted Lot 32 until 13 May 1804. He sold it to Joseph Keeler (1763-1839) on 23 January 1806. For more on the Keeler family… (LINK).

Keeler transferred the southern third of Concession 2, Lot 32 to his son Joseph Abbott Keeler (1788-1855) on 1 January 1824. This was the area now bounded by Ontario Street on the west, Percy Street on the east, and King Street on the south. The northern limit was along the backs of the modern properties along the north side of Park Street.

Over the next 30 years Joseph Abbott Keeler sold off bits and pieces of this land to a variety of people. On 28 September 1854 he transferred most of what was left of his property in this area to his son Joseph Keeler III (1824-1881).

Joseph Keeler III continued his father’s tradition of selling off lots. On 17 June 1876 he sold Reid Lot 30 to Maria Campbell (ca. 1848-?), wife of John Jamieson Campbell (ca. 1836-?), a tanner. Unfortunately, “John Campbell” and “Maria Campbell” are quite common names and several people with those names can be found in Northumberland County records. It is difficult to determine which are the John and Maria Campbell of interest here. The only records that can be pinned to them with any certainty are the record of the purchase of Lot 30 in 1876 and the 1871 Colborne census. There are three children listed with them in 1871: Alexander (ca. 1858-?), John (ca. 1869-?), and Margaret (ca. 1862-?). If the ages listed in the census are accurate, Maria couldn’t have been the mother of Alexander and probably wasn’t the mother of Margaret. She was 10 and 14 years old, respectively, when they were born.

James and Margaret Campbell mortgaged the property in 1877 with Colborne attorney William Lazarus Payne (1847-1928). They appear to have defaulted on the loan because Payne sold the property to James Scougale (ca. 1824-1890), carriage maker on 26 August 1879. There was some sort of manipulation going on here, because Scougale sold it back to Payne five days later (1 September 1879).

On 20 October 1880 William Payne sold the lot to his brother George A. Payne (1860-1945) and it was immediately (the same day) placed in the trusteeship of William Payne and Thomas Maitland Grover (1847-1909), the latter originally from Colborne but now working as a barrister in Norwood, Peterborough County. Available records are unclear on the details of this transaction. Although George Payne was listed as a Colborne “gentleman” on this land sales record, he was a resident of Cobourg in both 1871 and 1881. He was 11 years old in 1871 and a 21 year old law student in 1881.

There is next some confusion about ownership. There is a land office record dated 14 March 1890 involving the transfer of the property from John James Newton Boyer (1861-1890) to his mother Grace Mary Boyer (née Newton, 1829-1912) and the next record (10 April 1891) is a lawsuit between William Lazarus and John Boyer. The source of Boyer’s claim to the property is unclear, but he won the case. On 31 December 1895, in a Certificate of Trust, Payne and Grover turned the property over to Percival Frederick Ridout (1856-1846) and Alice Ridout (1859-?). Alice was born Alice Boyer, and was John Boyer’s sister. She had married Walter Lionel Ridout (1858-1890), a Toronto architect, in 1881. Percival Ridout was her deceased husband’s brother. Like Payne and Grover, Percival and Alice Ridout were trustees, but trustees for whom is obscure.

On 1 March 1899, Percival and Alice Ridout sold Lot 30 to George Edward Rowcliffe Wilson (ca. 1854-?), a Colborne insurance agent, and on 9 April 1908 Wilson passed it on to Dwight Harvey Williams (1878-?), a native of Kansas, but employed as a carpenter in Colborne in 1908. Williams and his wife Lena May Perry (1877-?) sold the property to Nancy Williams (1846-1922) a few months later on 7 December 1908. Nancy Williams was Dwight Williams’ mother and had been born Nancy Huyck in Castleton.

On 2 September 1911 Nancy Williams sold Lot 30 to Thomas Padgington (1866-1932) and his wife Mary Annette Clark (1868-1933). Thomas was the brother of long-time Colborne postmistress Eliza Jane Padgington (1862-1961). Thomas himself was a master mariner. Thomas and Mary Annette sold the property to retired farmer William McNeill (1846-1929) on 30 March 1914. McNeill sold it to Walter Albert Fenson (?-?), a Montreal manufacturer, on 23 May 1919.

The lives and families of the people outlined above have not been detailed here because it appears that few if any of them actually lived on Reid Lot 30. Maria Campbell purchased the lot for $315 in 1876 and lost it to William Payne between 1877 and 1879. The Campbells might have lived on the lot, but if so, probably not in the house that is currently there because $315 is not the sort of price one would have expected for an improved lot in those days. The next series of “owners” were all trustees and almost certainly lived elsewhere: William Payne, Thomas Grover, Percival Ridout, and Alice Ridout. James Scougale owned the property for only 5 days during this period and is known to have lived elsewhere in Colborne. George Payne owned it for less than a day and was a law student in Cobourg by the next year. George Wilson was involved in land transactions all over Cramahe Township. Dwight Williams owned the property for only a few months before he transferred it to his mother. She transferred it to Thomas Padgington in 1911. Significantly, neither Nancy Williams nor Thomas Padgington is listed as a resident of Toronto Street in the 1911 census. No evidence is available one way or the other about the residence of William McNeill between 1914 and 1919. Finally, Walter Fenson was a resident of Montreal.

Because so much of the history of ownership of this lot involved trusteeships and transfers among relatives, land sales prices are of limited use in determining when the current house was built. Maria Campbell bought the lot for $315 in 1877. It was transferred from William Payne to James Scougale and back again in 1879 for $575. William Payne transferred it to his brother George in 1880 for $1200, a significant jump in price, but there is no way to tell if this was because significant improvements (e.g., a house) had been made or if it was just a mechanism for shifting money around within the family. The next series of transactions (John Boyer to Grace Boyer in 1890, Payne and Grover to Ridout and Ridout in 1894, and the Ridouts to George Wilson in 1899) all involved minimal money transfers (usually $1). Wilson sold lot 30 to Dwight Williams for $2000, but this purchase also involved land in nearby Reid lots. Nancy Williams also paid $2000 and she sold the lot (without other properties this time) in 1911 for $1700. The transfer from the Padgingtons to William McNeill involved the exchange of properties and Walter Fenson obtained Lot 30 in 1919 for $1.

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