Robert Lansdale has shared a historic photo, from April 24, 1953, of the Colonel Samuel Smith homestead site in Long Branch, Ontario
A previous post is entitled:
Two earlier posts about Long Branch include:
An excerpt from the latter post reads:
Colonel Samuel Smith
After military service with the Queen’s Rangers in the American Revolutionary Wars, Colonel Samuel Smith was granted a large tract of land in 1793, which included all of what is now called Long Branch.
Originally a log cabin to which extensions and siding were added, the colonel’s house near Forty First Street and Lake Shore Blvd. West in Long Branch, was in continuous use for about 152 years, from 1797 until around 1949, before it was bulldozed in 1955.
Occasionally the date 1952 appears, especially online, and on captions on some archival photographs at Montgomery’s Inn, as the purported date of the latter demolition.
The available evidence, however, points definitively to 1955, as is evident from a Feb. 19, 1955 Toronto Star article, accessible at the Toronto Public Library website. From the latter article, it is clear that early in 1955, the Samuel Smith homestead house was still standing, awaiting its imminent demolition. Similarly, a Sept. 9, 1954 article in The Advertiser, about the same house, is entitled “Rare Historical Site Faces Demolition.”
Col. Samual Smith homestead, April 24, 1953
Robert Lansdale has shared this photo from April 24, 1953.
Robert Lansdale has noted:
This photo shows Lake Shore Blvd just east of the Etobicoke Creek on April 24, 1953. In particular, it shows Col. Samuel Smith’s homestead and Dominion, the former demolished 2 years later in 1955.
Copyright RC Lansdale and Jack Marshall.
The school, located at 85 Forty First St. in Long Branch, is now named École élémentaire Micheline-Saint-Cyr.
The two photos – the November 1949 Ontario Archives aerial view and 1905 survey map – are from a post entitled:
At the post I refer to a draft of a memoir that Bernice Law was working on before she passed away.
One of my ongoing projects involves editing a memoir that Bernice Law wrote during a project that she initiated with a letter to the Toronto Star over twenty years ago. An excerpt from the above-noted post reads:
We owe thanks to Bernice Law for organizing this great local history project.
First-person accounts of life along the Lakeshore in earlier times are of tremendous value. They bring to life what otherwise would remain unknown for many of us. Often when I read such memoirs, images that I like to call “word pictures” come to mind. I much enjoy imagining what is being described in the passages that I read.
Many of the memoirs or life stories that Bernice Law has brought together are available in a local history collection at the Long Branch Library.
The following text is from a draft of Bernice Law’s own memoir, which was not included in the above-noted collection. An aerial photo and several maps are included below to provide context for the text.
As you will see on the subdivision map [two such maps can be viewed below], the remnants of the original farm remained and were surrounded by building lots. On the north side of James Street, where several apartments now stand, not far back from the road, stood a large weathered but unpainted barn. The barn on James Street was for storage of forage and hay. It was fenced in with a wire fence and occasionally the horses were there as we walked by on our “back” way to school. But the largest part of the old farm fronted on Lakeshore Road [now Lake Shore Blvd. West] consisting of two large fields divided by the farm lane leading to the houses and farm buildings. The Eastwoods still kept about four large farm horses, beautiful animals that consistently won prizes when entered into competitions at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. In good weather, they regularly pastured in these fields.
In the westernmost field several hundred yards back from the highway was a small orchard, what was left of a much larger one, I suspect, from times past. When I was a young child, perhaps six or seven years old [in the early 1930s], I was occasionally dispatched to the farm with a six-quart fruit basket and a dime to pick windfalls from under the apple trees.
I was given strict instructions on opening and closing the farm gates and knocking at the house door to ask permission to go into the orchard. In those days, the house was still occupied by two very elderly members of the Eastwood family, a brother and a sister who had never married. Eventually the old lady contracted cancer in her jaw and had a large open wound on the side of her face which must have given her great discomfort but she still looked after her brother and I remember her fondly as a sweet, gentle person. When I first went she came with me to the orchard to instruct me on the various varieties – Snows and Russetts – and on selecting only the most wholesome windfalls.
It is hard now to visualize all the farm buildings surrounding the yard but it is my impression that there were at least two residential buildings on the south west and, on the east, buildings which housed the animals, carriages and equipment.
Stories about the Eastwood Farm bring to mind the Eastwood Hotel; a previous post is entitled:
An excerpt (with accompanying photos taken with a vintage Nikon 35mm camera – which I had originally acquired when it was an all-new, state of the art product ) reads:
A March 27, 2008 Etobicoke Guardian article, entitled “Bittersweet moment as historic Etobicoke hotel is demolished,” highlights the hotel’s history.
Air thick with smoke
I will not try to recount details, aside from the air being thick with smoke, that I remember from interviews or conversations I’ve recorded regarding the Eastwood Hotel. Instead, I’ll wait until I’ve transcribed the recordings before I post the details.
What I can share right now, however, are a couple of my own stories. I will also share thoughts about the Eastwood Hotel and Norse mythology.
The first story concerns how far a bad reputation can travel. In this case it travelled from Kipling Ave. just east of the eastern border of Long Branch to just west of Fortieth St., almost all the way to the western border of the Long Branch neighbourhood. It goes back to 1997.
We bought a house in 1997 on Villa Road, a 10-minute walk from the hotel. Around that time, we got word that living that close to the Eastwood Hotel was possibly not the best idea. The source of the helpful commentary was an institution of secondary education, located at Kipling Ave. and Birmingham. [That is, teachers at a local high school would talk about the reputation attached to the hotel, and some of those tales came our way when we were in the process of buying a house.]
Fortunately, things turned out well for us, despite the proximity to the Eastwood Hotel. Indeed, over time it was established that the proximity to the hotel had no bearing on the value of our house, or on our well-being as residents of Long Branch.
Driving under the influence
The second story concerns an occasion, perhaps around the late 1990s, when I was walking home one evening on the south side of Lake Shore Blvd. West just west of Thirty Seventh St.
As I was walking, I noticed an older-model car parked in front of the Eastwood Hotel. I also noticed a bar patron stepping forward from the hotel. Unsteady on his feet, being from what I could gather under the influence, the person in question opened the door of the parked car that I had just noticed and drove off. I noted the license plate and called 911 on our landline phone when I got home.
Norse mythology refers to Valhalla, where warriors who have died in battle relive their days of glory
And now for my essay, regarding what comes to mind, when I think about stories that I’ve heard, about days and nights of brawling and drinking at the Eastwood Hotel.
The brawling and drinking occurred in a setting so thick with cigarette smoke, that you could take out a knife, and cut the smoke with it.
That’s what I heard recently, from Garry Burke who paid a brief visit to the hotel on an errand, many years ago when he was an adolescent. The smoke was so heavy you could cut it with a knife. Garry Burke said, and I paraphrase, “Talk about second-hand smoke!”
After we sold our house in Long Branch in July 2018 and before we bought a house in Stratford, we stayed at short-term rentals across Ontario and hotels across Europe, as I’ve noted at a previous post.
On the way back to Canada in September 2018, I picked up several books at the Amsterdam airport including a paperback copy of Norse Mythology (2018) by Neil Gaiman. The book features Gaiman’s retelling of Norse legends.
When I think of the brawling and drinking at the Eastwood Hotel of long ago, I think of the story of Valhalla, which is prominently featured in Norse mythology.
When I think of Valhalla, I also think about the Valhalla Inn, which used to be in place until 2009 where a condo now stands, along the 427 as you’re travelling north toward Burnamthorpe.
Often when I’ve driven by that location, I’ve thought about a remark, by a lawyer friend named Michael Niven who lives in Calgary.
He and I were both members of a board of directors of a national nonprofit organization that we both had been involved in founding at a conference in Banff, Alberta, in 1991. Some years later, we had an annual meeting for the organization, at our family’s home on Villa Road. On that occasion, Michael rented a room at the Valhalla Inn.
On the way to the airport after the board meeting, or on some other occasion during his visit to Toronto, I asked Michael Niven how his stay at the Valhalla Inn had turned out. “Oh,” he said, and I paraphrase, “it’s a good place to stay. It’s a place that’s in keeping with my station in life.” (Michael has a sense of humour.)
I liked the expression – “my station in life.” From time to time I’ve been reading extensively about the history of the British empire, and Michaels’ remark reminded me of how, in the mythology related to the British empire, each person was assigned to a particular station in life, and everybody (from highest to lowest) was expected to affirm contentment with being an integral player in the vast expanses, and vast populations, of the empire.