The Homewood

Wellesley Street, Toronto, Ontario

Built in 1848, for The Hon. George W. Allan (1822-1901) and his first wife, Louisa Matilda Robinson (1825-1852). Situated on what today would be the northwest corner of Wellesley and Sherbourne, backing onto Lourdes Lane. It was designed by Henry Bowyer Lane (1817-1878) who at the time had recently completed Toronto City Hall and is perhaps best remembered for his design of Osgoode Hall. It was a private home to some of Toronto's leading families but lesser known is that it once housed one of the finest collections of arms and armour in all of Canada. It was converted into the Wellesley Hospital in 1912 and was eventually demolished in 1964 as the hospital expanded....

This house is best associated with...

George William Allan

The Hon. George Allan, P.C., F.R.G.S., Speaker of the Senate of Canada


Louisa (Robinson) Allan

Mrs Louisa Matilda (Robinson) Allan


Thomas Schreiber

Rev. Thomas Schreiber, of Ipswich, Suffolk


Sarah (Bingham) Schreiber

Mrs Sarah Maria (Bingham) Schreiber


Benjamin Homer Dixon

B. Homer Dixon, K.N.L., Consul-General of the Netherlands, Toronto


Catherine (Macaulay) Dixon

Mrs "Kate" McGill (Macaulay) Dixon


Frances (Heward) Dixon

Mrs Frances Caroline (Heward) Dixon


Emilie (Caston) Dixon

Mrs Emilie Henrietta Maud (Caston) Dixon


Frederic Thomas Nicholls

Frederic T. Nicholls, Founder of the Canadian General Electric Co., Toronto


Florence (Graburn) Nicholls

Mrs Florence Theresa Mary (Graburn) Nicholls


George W. Allan was the only surviving child of the eleven children of William Allan. After graduating from Upper Canada College, he travelled throughout Europe, down the Nile River, through Syria, the Holy Land, Turkey and Greece. Returning to Toronto, in the same year that he was called to the Bar of Upper Canada (1846), he married Louisa, daughter of Chief Justice Sir John Beverley Robinson 1st Bt., and his father gifted him the densely wooded 50-acres immediately north of his childhood home, Moss Park.

Commissioning Henry Bowyer Lane, the Allans built a house that they named "Home Wood" of red brick with a sandstone trim in the Gothic-Revival style with tracery, spiral chimneys, and stained-glass windows. Just under four-acres of land was cleared for the house and gardens and the gate lodge was built at the foot of the winding drive, on Carlton Street. Sadly, no children were forthcoming to the young couple and just four years after their house was finished, Louisa succumbed to tuberculosis in Italy. Her death was followed by that of his father's just the following year (1855) and in the same year he was elected Mayor of Toronto he moved into Moss Park with his widowed mother.

"Home Is Where the Heart Is"

Allan now leased Home Wood to Thomas Schreiber who arrived from Essex in England in 1850 and whose eldest son, Weymouth, had purchased Elmsley House. He came from a wealthy, well-connected family (his grandfather made a fortune selling furs in London from the Hudson's Bay Company among other importers) but according to his friend the author William H.G. Kingston, "though able to live in the most perfect luxury in England... (Schreiber) wanted to find society for his elder children, education for the younger, and a variety of occupations for his sons, while he might not be without objects of interest himself". Although "completely successful" in his quest, after Mrs Schreiber died here in 1856 Thomas returned to Essex to be close to his large, extended family.

Among Thomas' children to return with him was the 21-year old Adelaide Harriet Schreiber, and in hot pursuit of her was none other than her father's former landlord, George Allan. George and Adelaide were married in May, 1857, at St. James' Church in Piccadilly and after their honeymoon returned to Canada where they lived at Moss Park.

A Collection Few Could "Anticipate on the Shores of Lake Ontario"

From 1855, while serving as Mayor, George Allan laid out four new streets with 46-lots on the northern portion of what was now referred to as the "Homewood" estate. In addition to developing the land, as the President of the Horticultural Society of Toronto, he also donated five acres to the city that became today's Allan Gardens.

In 1858, Allan sold the main house and its remaining acreage to B. Homer Dixon (1819-1899), the Dutch-born American son of the Consul-General of the Netherlands at Boston who himself then became the Consul-General of the Netherlands at Toronto. Homer Dixon was the brother of Mrs Harriet Boulton of The Grange and the brother-in-law of Catherine Chew (Dallas) Dixon, daughter of U.S. Vice-President George Mifflin Dallas

Homer Dixon referred to his new home as "The Homewood" and here grazed his herd of prize-winning Ayrshire cattle. But it was what he collected and displayed within the house that drew many admirers. In Sir Daniel Wilson's Prehistoric Annals of Scotland (1863) he wrote: "Mr B. Homer Dixon of the Homewood, Toronto, has collected there an extensive and valuable armory, such as the tourist looks upon with interest at Abbotsford, but could little anticipate on the shores of Lake Ontario". George Taylor Denison was given the, "opportunity of studying in (Homer Dixon's) splendid collection of arms and armour, the system of armament during the period of chivalry". This collection at the Homewood almost certainly inspired Homer Dixon's nephew, Fitz Eugene Dixon, to amass his unrivalled collection of Heraldic Stained-Glass windows at Ronaele Manor.

Homer Dixon's collection of arms at the Homewood included a two-handed sword from the Alcázar de Segovia at Madrid and another that measured seven feet in length with a blade of five-foot-two inches. This second sword weighed fifteen pounds alone and was made by the famous late 15th/early 16th Century Moorish armourer Julian del Rey of Toledo and Zaragoza who was in the service of King Fernando. Indeed, Dixon's collection included four further swords bearing del Rey's mark, the El Perillo (The Dog).

The pictures on the walls of The Homewood during Dixon's era included an aquatint entitled, "York from Gibraltar Point, 1823" by James Gray of London; and, another written of in Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto: "Mr Dixon in his travels through France came across another interesting picture. When he visited Paris, he walked into his room in a quiet hotel, near the Rue Saint-Honoré, and to his surprise saw hanging over the mantel one picture of a scene that seemed rather familiar ("Sleigh Scene, Toronto, Canada West, 1853" by G.T. Downman)... Mr Dixon secured the picture, and has it at 'The Homewood'".

From Home to Hospital

B. Homer Dixon died here in 1899 and the following year his widow sold the property to Frederic Nicholls, a native of London (England) who became a leading pioneer of hydroelectric power in Canada and the founder of the Canadian General Electric Company. His tenure here was cut short in 1909 by the premature death of his wife, Mrs Florence Nicholls. In 1911, he sold the house to Dr Herbert A. Bruce, Professor of Surgery at the University of Toronto and a future Member of Parliament and Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, who opened it in 1912 as the Wellesley Hospital, a private 72-bed facility.

When the Wellesley Hospital was expanded in 1964, the 116-year old Homewood house was eventually demolished although some of its original stained-glass windows were salvaged and retrofitted into the new hospital. However, all the other original features such as the wrought iron gates seemingly ended up at the wrecker's yard. Today, Homewood Avenue north of the Allan Gardens is all that remains to reminds us of the thoroughfare that once connected the historic Allan properties of Moss Park and The Homewood.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 06/12/2021 and last updated on 08/12/2021.
The Life, Work and Influence of William Henry Giles Kingston (1947) by Maurice Rooke Kingsford; Toronto Historical Association; Wellesley Hospital Archives


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