Wellesley Street, Toronto, Ontario
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
Frederic Thomas Nicholls
Frederic T. Nicholls, Founder of the Canadian General Electric Co., Toronto
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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