Boarded-up early 1900s house at Trafalgar Road and Derry Road retains echoes of bygone days

Jaan Pill photo

I stopped at this house, at the southeast corner of Trafalgar Road and Derry Road, while driving from Milton to Oakville, on my way to Toronto from Stratford.

Given that it’s a boarded-up heritage house, with a sign on it that suggests it was built in 1905, it has occurred to me that many cliches abound, in our collective imagination, regarding abandoned houses. I’m also aware that we as human beings get sentimental, or consciously chose not to get sentimental, about all manner of things.

Jaan Pill photo

At times I’ve come across websites that celebrate visual imagery associated with abandoned buildings in places like Detroit, Michigan, or in other places around the world. At times I’ve also come across situations where people get sentimental, or pointedly refuse to get sentimental, about things in life that are lost or destroyed.

The sight of the building brings to mind a previous post entitled:

Curated Decay (2017) argues that things are worth preserving, whereas some things can’t be preserved; better by far to watch them rot

Jaan Pill photo

The house in question looks to be in a state where it is being preserved, in a manner of speaking. That is, it has been boarded up and there’s a sign in place, indicating that if there’s a need to call some entity connected to the property, a phone number is available. If any site visitor knows details about the house, please let us know. Who knows: The house may yet have a future, as a repurposed building serving some new and novel function.

I’m reminded of the homestead of Colonel Samuel Smith, in the neighbourhood of Long Branch in South Etobicoke where we used to live. As I’ve noted at a post about a presentation made in 2011 at the Long Branch Library, for many years the homestead was a farm out in the middle of the countryside. Then, one day it dawned upon the occupants, of the farm, that a city had grown up all around it.

View from near house looking west toward Trafalgar Road. Jaan Pill photo

Whoever last lived at the house at Trafalgar Road and Derry Road has or have been gone for a long time. There are other houses from the same era, that are still occupied, still well looked after, in farmland along Trafalgar Road as you head toward Oakville. Possibly the location close to a busy intersection played a role in abandonment of this building.

In Stratford, where we live, you can find several neighbourhoods whose well-kept houses date from the same era, as the era of the house along Trafalgar Road. The Stratford houses, as with similar neighbourhoods across Southwestern Ontario, remain occupied and in good shape. In the summertime, it’s a delight to just wander up and down the streets, as visitors are wont to do, marvelling at the houses and their gardens. A pronounced absence of heavy traffic and noise is also a typical feature of such settings. Instead of roar of traffic, what you hear is birds singing, dogs barking, and people talking.

Local history, in a city such as Stratford, has given rise to an economic profile, which has encouraged preservation and upkeep of heritage houses, in quiet settings with extensive tree canopies. Such a profile would tend to be absent, or at any rate of a different nature, for a lone house at a busy intersection in the countryside.

View from house looking east toward farmers’ fields on horizon. Jaan Pill photo

Farmers’ fields

The corner of Trafalgar Road and Derry Road has farmers’ fields stretching off in all directions, as I recall. The role of farmers’ fields in history of urban development brings to mind two previous posts:

Toronto and Montreal wiped out their farmsteads

Farmers’ fields north of Montreal is where the City of Laval was built

The latter post deals with institutionalized corruption as it relates to a municipality north of Montreal among other places. The topic of corruption brings to mind another previous post, entitled, “History and Social Theory (2005) by Peter Burke and Two Cheers for Anarchism (2012) by James C. Scott warrant a close read,” in which I refer to studies by James C. Scott including:

Comparative Political Corruption (1972)

A partial description (in the author’s own words, which end at mid-sentence) at Google Scholar reads:

The perspective of this book is that corruption, like violence, must be understood as a regular, repetitive, integral part of the operation of most political systems. In practice, this simply means that an analysis of who in a society gets what, when, where, and how that relies exclusively upon an examination of those political acts open to public view would seldom provide an accurate picture of political reality. Recurring acts of violence and corruption are thus more successfully analyzed as normal channels of political activity than as cases of deviant pathology requiring incarceration and/or moral instruction for the perpetrator (s). Just as social banditry and piracy must be viewed as integral parts of many agrarian and maritime economies, so, for example, must vote-buying and “rake-offs” be seen as an integral part of United States urban politics at the turn of the twentieth century. Far from being pathological, patterns of corruption and violence may actually represent channels of political demands without which formal societal arrangements could scarcely survive.

In keeping with this perspective, I have consistently tried to show how patterns of access and exclusion in the formal political apparatus help determine which groups will most likely resort to corruption or violence.

Since corruption is a violation of certain rules, the amount and nature of corruption is, in part, determined by those rules. If the rules permit large campaign contributions, they often simply institutionalize a transaction between wealth and power that occurs illegally under a more restrictive set of rules. Given the importance of the existing set of rules to any examination of corruption, I have …


The topic of abandoned buildings brings to mind a May 28, 2019 Guardian article entitled: “Italy’s new ruins: heritage sites being lost to neglect and looting.”

An excerpt reads:

“It started as a hobby,” Limongelli said. “These are places that have a certain allure, and telling their stories using photography was also a way to draw attention to their abandonment. Many people have begun following us and posting on our page their own explorations of Italy’s abandoned treasures. Often it was not a question of buildings or churches; sometimes it was entire ghost towns.”

The Italian national institute of statistics has counted nearly 6,000 ghost towns in Italy, many of which are medieval villages that succumbed to earthquakes or landslides. Some continue to attract visitors and tourists, despite being covered in vegetation. Others have ended up on eBay.

In 2012, the 25 homes comprising the abandoned medieval village of Patraricca, located at the source of the Arno river, were auctioned off with a €2.5m opening bid.

A Dec. 3, 2023 CBC article is entitled: “As old barns disappear from rural landscapes, Ontario group launches census to track them: ‘At the rate they’re disappearing, we need to be acting very fast,’ says founding director.”

An excerpt reads:

Old rustic barns have long been a key part of the rural landscape in Ontario, and some advocates say they’re disappearing at a concerning rate.

A non-profit group aimed at preserving old barns across Ontario has launched a census called Your Old Barn Study to track them as part of efforts to document and protect them.

“There used to be hundreds of thousands of barns, believe it or not, out there,” said Hugh Fraser, president of Ontario Barn Preservation who is leading the study. “There’s not nearly as many as there were, especially near urban centres — they’ve fallen to development.”

Determining how many old barns are still out there is key to knowing how many they need to protect, said Fraser, who lives in St. Catharines.

18 replies
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Wonderful to know, William. Would you be interested in writing a post for my website about the house and memories associated with it?

    The house has a story but even more interesting is the house in interaction with people who built it, and the story of which families lived there and what led to the closing of it. Any information would be of interest as would photos or scans of documents.

    A lot of people have read the post. I’m so pleased I stopped to have a look and take photos one day.

    • Jaan Pill
      Jaan Pill says:

      I don’t have any details about the story related to the house. I’m hoping that evidence may be shared by site visitors that will enable us to know such details. So far, all we have is what I’ve posted to date after spending some time observing the house and the surrounding property.

  2. Dan Nadler
    Dan Nadler says:

    Hey William. My wife and I pass this house daily on commute and almost every time comment about how we love the house and property. And chance of selling it or know who to contact regarding selling it?


  3. Sandra Bach
    Sandra Bach says:

    As a 40 year resident of Milton I can share that this property has been vacant for over 10 years now. It was previously lived in by a family and I recall driving by and seeing children playing in the backyard. There uses to be a feed/seed store directly across from it that closed close to 20 years ago now.

    • Jaan Pill
      Jaan Pill says:

      That is most interesting, Sandra. Your comment actually adds hugely to the story. Thank you for taking the time to write. If you can add any more details regarding recollections, for posting as a comment or as an addition to this post, that would be most interesting also. I much like the picture that comes to mind: children playing in the backyard. That is an evocative picture. Children at play in a backyard of long ago at a house that thousands of people driving by in cars have viewed and thought about for many decades now.

      I note that Dan Nadler (see previous comment) has asked about whether the house is for sale. Any information along those lines would also be of interest, by way of rounding out the picture.

      Some months ago on the way to Toronto from Stratford, I stopped once again at this house (it looked ever so slightly more tired and run down) and at another abandoned old house in the vicinity. So much history would be connected with these houses. The question is, will they be preserved, repurposed, in some way or are they destined to be a fading memory, of which we retain but traces?

      A person who previously lived at the house has mentioned he would write something but that has not yet come to pass.

      • Dave Hall
        Dave Hall says:

        I grew up in this house. It was a great. We had a pool. Had apple and pear trees. A big sand box surrounded by pine trees. We built a driving range on the land. There was 3 houses on the property. Aunts Uncles and my Grama. She made wedding cakes. And after school we would go to her place and she would have rose buds for us. We had corn and pig roast. There was a barn we played in. It was the biggest club house. There was my parents Sonny Betty and 5 of us.

        • Jaan Pill
          Jaan Pill says:

          This is wonderful to know, Dave. Your description of life at the house brings the story to life. So many people know of the house because they’ve been driving by the house for many years. It’s really good to get a glimpse, through your message, of great times at the house during the years you were growing up. Your comments are of tremendous value. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Lana
    Lana says:

    I noticed this week that someone has removed the date stone from the house. Any word yet on what is happening with this once beautiful home?

    • Jaan Pill
      Jaan Pill says:

      Like you, Lana, I’m interested in news from any source regarding what is happening to this house.

      I talked about the house with some friends early in September as I’ve noted at a recent post:

      On Sept. 2, 2021, we met for a high school picnic at an apartment parking lot with a great view of Lake Ontario. We learned how Bois-de-Saraguay in Montreal was saved from destruction.

      Here’s an excerpt from the post:

      House at Derry and Trafalgar near Milton

      At our Sept. 2, 2021 picnic, we spoke as well of an abandoned house near Milton west of Toronto, at the corner of Derry and Trafalgar Roads, that you can see from when driving south from Milton toward Oakville. I’ve devoted a previous post, which many people have read and some have commented upon, regarding the house, which appears to have been built in 1905. [8]

      Whether the house warrants designation for its historic value, I have no idea. Whether people in the Milton area have been working together, now or in the past, seeking to preserve the building and repurpose it to some new use, I have no idea. What I know is that many people have been thinking about the building, as they drive by on their journeys to and fro over the years.

      Dan McPhail commented:

      Dan: It’s a nice house. When we first moved there [to Milton], there was people – when we first moved to Milton, there was a family in there.

      Jaan: What year was that?

      Dan: That would have been somewhere around – from 2004 to maybe 2007.

      Jaan: That’s amazing.

      Dan: And, if I can recall, they put in a swimming pool – like one of the above-ground swimming pools.

      Jaan: Oh, yeah, that’s neat.

      Dan: So, it wasn’t dormant that long and then, it just – and it was up for sale a couple of times.

      Jaan: That’s really interesting. I looked around. There’s a few others off the main road, you know, that, again, are abandoned. But they’re beautiful houses, and you think of all the history.

      What does the future hold for these abandoned houses?

      Who knows what the future holds for the house at Derry and Trafalgar and other abandoned houses in the area. We can enjoy the houses just as they are; it’s of interest to contemplate their past and to experience their presence in the present moment.

      It’s of interest to ponder the views looking east (toward the busy traffic on nearby Trafalgar Road) and west from the porch (toward farmers’ fields) of the house at Derry and Trafalgar. I can picture in my mind the backyard above-ground swimming pool (as described by Dan McPhail) of some years ago. I can picture the children at play outside the house. As Bob Carswell has said, a person can imagine that in a sense in every house the words are written: “Goodbye ol’ house.”

      I also look forward to taking a road trip from Milton as Dan McPhail has suggested:

      Dan: Jaan, if you have the chance, okay, go, drive along Britannia from Milton; go east along Britannia to 8th Line. Then make a right, and from Britannia Road down to Middle Road or something, it’s like driving – you can’t believe you’re in an urban area. It’s a road that’s been lost in time, almost, and it’s like driving in the country, and all the farms on the left, the farms on the right, and barns; it’s like a time out of history, you know.

      Jaan: I’ll do that, for sure.

      Dan: Because, what makes it so amazing its that it’s so close to industry, and building – you know, like subdivisions and things like that; it’s all by itself.

  5. TootsieLoo
    TootsieLoo says:

    The house was bought by an oil company quite a number of years ago from a family who had lived there over multiple generations. Then as the development approval for the area slowed down Esso put it back up for sale. I’m unsure who bought it after Esso. The area surrounding the house is designated to be employment use and housing as Milton grows. A GO bus terminal is also on the books for the area possibly for that very site. It’s been sad to watch it deteriorate first the barn and now seeing illegal videos of people having broken into the house and walking around inside for amusement and showing what vandals have done. I’m sure those videos are painful for the family to see. People need to have respect. The family sold the house but they still have memories of their home there.

    • Jaan Pill
      Jaan Pill says:

      We owe you any thanks for the update, TootsieLoo. The one thing we have available to us in the circumstances is the kind of information that you have shared. As you aptly note: People need to have respect. I much appreciate the update.

  6. Heather
    Heather says:

    I always pass by this house. I’ve always wondered. It’s boarded up but beautiful Victorian house. I just love old houses. Wonder if I can ever purchase it. But sounds like it can either turn into dust by developers, as North side of trafalgar road from Oakville is gradually expanding ever since. Who know in 10 years the house site turns into another condo :/
    I hope I can or the others can save this house;;;

    • Jaan Pill
      Jaan Pill says:

      It would be wonderful to see this house saved. I’ve been involved in years past in working with others to save some buildings in Toronto that were on the verge of being torn down. Those buildings are still going strong! The key thing in my experience is that people living close by need to take the initiative; people need to come together to organize the community in a process of community self-organizing. If the ingredients are there for a successful effort, spectacular things can get done.

      If some person or group steps forward, I will of course be very keen to publicize their work. In the meantime, we do not know what direction this story will go. It depends on people living in the local and regional community, in the general region where this house is located.


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