Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Mimico Beach Estates

This is the story of the Mimico Beach Estates. Growing up in Mimico I was often amazed and astonished by the remnants of the many large estates that used to line the waterfront of this former town. There was little information available on these estates and the people who lived in them. Some information was available in Harvey Currell's The Mimico Story published as a history of the town at the same time as it was being forced to amalgamate with the Borough of Etobicoke in 1967, but it was very brief. I had the appetite for more. So over the last 20 years I have been researching the fascinating people and their estates.  The ultimate goal is to create a richly illustrated book on the Mimico Beach Estates.

The Pioneers

Mimico began to look attractive to city dwellers as early as the mid 1870s when a nucleus of suburban cottage development began. These early pioneers occupied large lakefront estates south of the Lake Shore Road. The first three estates were established in 1875 by William Irving, a prominent Toronto architect, W.H. Sparrow and William Hewitt, successful Toronto merchants. John Kay followed a few years later.  However, with the construction of the streetcar line along the Lake Shore Road in the early 1890s the area became more accessible to Toronto. Many wealthy families began to move into the area to establish large lakefront estates. The area became a popular location and developers moved in to purchase farmland and subdivide it into new residential communities. In 1904 the Grand Trunk Railway established its westerly marshalling yards nearby and the area boomed.  By 1905 the population reached over 300 and Mimico gained status as a Police Village, giving the population limited autonomy from the Township of Etobicoke. The population rose to over 800 by 1911 when the community gained independence from Etobicoke Township as a full fledged Village, and then a Town in 1917. The community remained independent until 1967 when the provincial government forced it to amalgamate with the Borough of Etobicoke. Though many of the former lakefront estates were demolished and replaced by apartment developments in the 1950s and 1960s, a few of the grand houses remain.

Continued Threats

However many of them are vulnerable to loss. In the 1990s the Jessie Applegath House was demolished. Others are currently vacant and their future uncertain. 

The Charles Ring House was demolished in May 2011, and the John McBride House was demolished in December 2013.

Some of the homes have been listed by the former Etobicoke Historical Board but most have not been designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. Those which are listed are still vulnerable. Many of these homes deserve the additional protections that come from being designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. Many are architecturally and historically significant. 

Consideration could also be given to including what is left of the estates as part of a Heritage Conservation District. The creation of one of more Heritage Conservation District(s) in Mimico would follow the example of other well known residential areas in Toronto such as Cabbagetown, Wynchwood Park, Rosedale, Riverdale, Yorkville and others.  Each has a deep history.  

Designation as one or more Heritage Conservation Districts would provide protection of the heritage resource and certainty for existing owners that the homes on neighbouring lots would remain and not be developed with townhouses or condominiums.

In 2012, the city of Toronto undertook a heritage study as part of the Mimico by-the-lake Secondary Plan which included a good chunk of the Mimico Beach area.  It was an excellent start and many important heritage buildings were identified that require further study.  However the study area did not include the area west of Miles Road and so did not look at the majority of the Mimico Beach estate homes still standing.  As already noted there have been a number of losses in this area over the last few years.  

There have also been some successes.  The Fetherstonhaugh Gardener's Cottage was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act in 2011 and will be with us for many years to come, and the highly significant Ormsby/Franceschini Estate was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act in the fall of 2013. 

Do you have information or photos of the Mimico Beach Estates? If so I would love to hear from you. 

Are you interested in keeping up to date on heritage issues in Mimico by being added to a heritage email list?

I can be reached at mimicohistory at
All information and photographs on this site are copyrighted and may not be used without my permission.
© Copyright Michael Harrison 2010. All rights reserved.
(originally posted April 23, 2010)

William Common Estate - 2635 Lake Shore Blvd. West.

William Common House - 2635 Lake Shore Blvd West
© Michael Harrison 2010

This large home at 2635 Lake Shore Blvd West was built for William Belmont Common in 1938.  It had a major addition to it in the 1990s which seems to have obliterated many of the original features of the house except for a bit of the front facade.

William Belmont Common was the son of William Common and Lucy Lang and was born in London, England in 1899.  This family immigrated to Canada in 1905.

They lived in Quebec and later in Peterborough before moving to Toronto.  William Belmont Common joined the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War.  After the war he attended Osgoode Law School, graduating in 1923.

In 1925 he married Eunice Watt in Toronto and had two children.

He practices law for a number of year before joining the Ontario Attorney General's department in 1926.

His first wife died in 1931 and he married his second wife Mona Margaret Shirley in 1935.

In 1957 he was appointed as Deputy Attorney General in Ontario and held the position until 1964.

In 1963 as Chairman of the Joint Committee on Legal Aid he proposed a system of legal aid for Ontario, thus becoming the father of Ontario's legal aid system.

He retired in 1964 but instead of living a quiet life on his estate he took on new challenges as the Chief Election Officer of Ontario and was appointed the Clerk of the Ontario Legislature.  He finally retired in 1971.

He died on April 3, 1984 at the age of 84 and is buried in Orangeville.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Herbert P. Ritchie Estate - 10 Miles Road

Hebert P. Ritchie House - 10 Miles Road
 © Michael Harrison 2012

This fine home was built circa 1910 for Herbert P. Ritchie and his wife Mary Hay.  It was originally at the end of a long 77 foot wide lot which extended down from the Lake Shore Road.

Herbert P. Ritchie was born in Ontario in 1881.  His father John Ritchie Jr. was born in Scotland in 1849, immigrated to Canada, and was a real estate agent in Toronto.  He was married to Lilliam Dunn.  Both parents died young.  Lillian died in 1890 of tuberculosis.  John died in 1891 of pneumonia.  This left their five children as orphans.  The eldest John was 15 years old in 1891.  Herbert was only 10 years of age and Edith, the youngest, was 8.

In the 1901 census Herbert and his sisters Irene and Edith are boarding in a house owned by Mary Lowery.

On November 17, 1909 Herbert married Mary Elizabeth Hay, daughter of Robert Hay, grain buyer, in Toronto.

According to the 1914 Toronto City directory, Ritchie owned H.P. Ritchie and Company, a lace importing and manufacturing company at 38-42 Clifford Street (now part of Richmond Street West).  His city home was nearby at 185 Crawford Street.  Later he moved to a more substantial home at 56 Health Street West.

The Ritchies continued to own their Mimico Beach estate until 1926 when they sold it to Arthur W. Miles for $6000 who then incorporated into Miles Park. 

In 1952 the property was acquired by Peter Del Greco who built apartments on the majority of the lot.  The portion of the lot containing the house was severed from the main lot and access was provided from Miles Road.  The address then became 10 Miles Road.

The house is listed under the Ontario Heritage Act, and remains one of the few remaining original homes in this portion of the Mimico Beach estates. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

John McBride Estate - 2621 Lake Shore Blvd West - DEMOLISHED

John McBride House - 2621 Lake Shore Blvd West
© Michael Harrison 2008

The large house at 2621 Lake Shore Blvd West was built circa 1927 for John McBride.

John McBride was the son of John McBride and Hannah Cuttell and was born in 1872.  On June 17, 1896 he was married to Ada Grace Libby and they would have three children:  Harold (b. 1897), Maud (b. 1898) and Ada (b. 1900).  His wife Ada died in 1916 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

He was a first cousin of Sam McBride, a two time Mayor of Toronto serving his first term in 1928-1929 and his second in 1936.  Sam McBride died on November 10, 1936, becoming the first sitting Toronto mayor to die in office.

John McBride ran a successful fruit importing business on Church Street in Toronto.

In 1927 he purchased a lakefront lot on the Lake Shore Road and built the home that he would live in for the rest of his life.  He died there on August 5, 1953 at the age of 82 years.  He is buried in Prospect Cemetery.

In 1955 the house was sold by his estate to Arthur and Margaret Mercer.  I had the opportunity to talk to Mrs. Mercer in the mid 1990s.

She must have passed away a few years ago as the house was sold.  A demolition permit was approved by the Etobicoke-York Community Council in 2008.  The future of the house is uncertain.  Hopefully the owners will see the value in renovating this handsome and impressive house.

Update - December 18, 2013

City staff just confirmed that the John McBride House has been demolished.  Another loss of a historic Mimico Beach estate home.