100 John West Way, Aurora, Ontario, Canada, L4G 6J1

 


Horton Place

Ontario Heritage Act Designations

Horton Place     -     15342 Yonge Street

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Horton Place - South-east Corner (2004)

Prepared for Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee .. 2004

Historical Background

Horton Place is historically significant as the residence of two families who are identified with service to their community. Dr. Alfred Robinson's dental surgery in Horton Place served the community until shortly before his death in 1896. In 1901, Charles Webster, businessman and community leader, purchased the property. The Webster family and its descendents continue to own the property to the present day, preserving the historical and architectural continuity of the site.

In 1797, the Crown granted 210 acres of land to Thomas Phillips. Thomas Hind acquired the land from Thomas Phillips by deed poll in1803. Mr. Hind sold the township lot to Jacob Hollingshead in the same year. Robert Penrose Irwin purchased 140 acres from the Hollingshead Family in 1853, and proceeded to subdivide the land.

In 1874 Dr. Alfred Robinson, a local dentist, bought 5/8 of an acre of Irwin's land on Yonge Street. Dr. Robinson was born in England in 1831. On coming to Canada he settled first in Bond Head before establishing his dental practice in Aurora in the mid1860's. He purchased the commercial property on the south-west corner of Yonge and Wellington Streets (2 Yonge Street South) for use as his surgery and moved his family into a house on Mosley. According to a notice in the Aurora Banner on August 28, 1868, Dr. Robinson was in his office in Aurora on the 1st and the 16th of each month. On other days he made his services available to other communities such as Newmarket, Stouffville, Richmond Hill and Nobleton. Dr. Robinson decided to purchase the land on Yonge Street just south of The Manor, at that time the residence and medical practice of Dr. Frederick Strange. Dr. Robinson's intention was to build a house on this land that would serve as both a residence and a dental surgery.

It is likely that the house and barn were constructed in 1875, as the Robinson family moved from their house on Mosley in February of 1876. It is interesting to note that families who were fortunate enough to have sufficient property and the proper facilities kept their own livestock. The Aurora Banner of January 8, 1886 tells us that Dr. Robinson has secured "one of the celebrated Jersey cows from the herd of Capt. Rolph, Glen Roche Farm." The family named their new home Horton Place, after the Robinson family's ancestral home in Yorkshire, England.

Dr. Robinson and his wife, Mary Martin, raised six children in Horton Place. Two of their daughters, probably Mary Henrietta and Ellen Louisa, ran a private school in the 1880's and 1890's. They also taught French and dancing. The Robinson's youngest, Roy, was sickly as a child and was schooled at home, probably by his sisters. Dr. W. John McIntyre, the current owner of Horton Place and local historian, advises that it was not uncommon for unmarried women to operate private schools at that time, often in their own homes. The blackboard used in the school is still in the house. Their daughter Annie married the manager of the Aurora branch of the Federal Bank, William H. Nelson, in 1886.

In 1884, Dr. Robinson changed the ownership of the house from his name to his wife Mary's. Dr. Robinson retained his office at Horton Place until his death after a year-long illness in 1896. He was buried in the Aurora Cemetery. Following Dr. Robinson's death, the dental facilities were leased to Dr. C. J. Rodgers. By 1897 he rented the residence as well until 1901, when the property was sold to Charles Webster.

Charles Webster was born in 1873 in Thornhill, on a farm on Yonge Street. After his father's death, the family moved to Aurora. In 1899 he married Della Petch, born in 1875 in Aurora. The Aurora Banner of February 22, 1967 tells us that when Della Webster was a little girl she "dreamed of living in the 'house on the hill', owned then by Dr. Robinson the district dentist. Her dream came true and the gingerbread decked brick house was her home for over 60 years." Charles Webster notes in his diary that on November 2, 1901 they had their first meal and spent their first night in Horton Place. Charles and Della Webster had two children: Elinor Elizabeth, born in 1909 and Mary Margaret Adele, born in 1916.

Both the Websters were civic-minded people. Charles Webster served on town council, the Library Board, the Public School Board, and the Board of Trade. Della Webster was a prominent Liberal Party organizer for many years

Charles Webster was manager of the Underhill Shoe Factory for a short time. However, his longest association was as manager of the Fleury Agricultural Implement Works on Wellington Street from the 1890's to his death in 1938. James Johnston in Aurora: Its Early Beginnings tells us that the Fleury plow works, founded in 1859, was the most important industry in early Aurora, and was responsible to a large degree for the growth of the community. At the height of its success, it employed 200 men in its buildings located on Wellington Street West. The village fathers, grateful for the contribution the company made to Aurora business and development, honoured the company by including a Fleury plow as part of the Village crest. Joseph Fleury the founder, born in King Township of French-Canadian descent, came to Aurora in 1859. Working as a blacksmith, he set up business in partnership with Thomas Pearson. Together they developed the cast-beam plow, but when the partnership broke up, Fleury built his own shop. His father, Alex Fleury sold his farm and put the proceeds into his son's business. Joseph's brother Milton also came into what would become largely a family business. By 1900, Fleury plows were competitive on a world basis. Many families moved to Aurora in order to work in the foundry. The company operated in Aurora until 1939, when it merged operations with Fleury-Bissell, and moved to Elora.

Charles Webster owned the property until his death at 65 in 1938. He was killed while crossing the street in front of his home by a car travelling northbound on Yonge Street. Mr. Webster was buried in the Aurora Cemetery. Della Webster, his widow, assumed ownership of the property.

In 1950, Mary Margaret Adele, Charles and Della Webster's daughter, married William Ogilvie McIntyre, and along with Della Webster, lived together in Horton Place. Mary Margaret and William McIntyre had two children, William John (known as John) born in 1951 and Mary Elizabeth (known as Mary Beth) born in 1956. William McIntyre died in1974 and was buried in the Aurora Cemetery. Mary Beth lived in Horton Place until her marriage in 1983.

In 1984, Mary Margaret McIntyre, finding the house too much to care for on her own, moved out of Horton Place into a condominium nearby. Her son, Dr. W. John McIntyre moved back to his family home in the same year.

The Webster family and its descendents continue to own Horton Place to the present day. Following the death of Mary Margaret McIntyre in December 2000, Margaret's son, Dr. W. John McIntyre, assumed ownership of the residence and continues to live in the house.

Dr. McIntyre continues the Webster tradition of service to his community. He has served on the Aurora heritage committee (Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee) for about 15 years. The history of Aurora has been the subject of several books written by Dr. McIntyre. He has served on the Aurora Historical Society since about 1967, including several terms as president. Since 1985 he has been the archivist for Trinity Church, Aurora. While not involved in community service Dr. McIntyre is Chair of the Department of English and General Education, Faculty of Technology, at Seneca College.

On March 4 1987, Horton Place was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act for its historical and architectural significance.

Architectural Background

Horton Place represents the finest and most complete example in Aurora of the Italianate style, fashionable in Ontario in the 1860's and 1870's. The building's Italianate features include: a symmetrical appearance reflected in multiples of twos as in two storeys, two bay windows with two windows above; a square plan with a central main entrance; round-headed openings; wide projecting eaves with heavy, ornamental brackets supporting a hipped roof.

Horton Place is a two-storey brick residence. Putty-coloured brick, common in Southern Ontario in 1875, is set in Common bond, with a single stringcourse separating the upper and lower storeys. Projecting brick arches with keystones crown the upper windows. The upper windows include large, four-paned sash and adjustable louvered shutters. The bay windows are ornamented with decorative brackets, similar to those under the main eaves. A porch with wooden columns ornamented with pilasters, pendants, brackets and iron cresting protects the front entrance. An open verandah and a small, enclosed conservatory flank the south wall. A second story balcony, with two sets of French doors, covers the verandah and conservatory on the south side. A double-leaf door in the front entrance features a round-headed window in the upper portion of each panel and a recessed two-pane transom above. A large chimney divides the south wall of the main house. Above the entrance French doors open onto a balcony. The house rests on a course stone foundation.

Horton Place exhibits few changes from the original structure. Original to the house are the cast iron balcony railings, the doors, ornate machine-made brackets, adjustable louvered shutters, and the putty-coloured brick siding. All window sash are original to the house. The original tongue-and-groove barn still stands. Parts of the original decorative iron fence are still present.

Some changes to the original structure are inevitable given the pressures of time and the needs of the owners. Three entries on the north elevation that lead to the former office, kitchen stairs and woodshed are now sealed. A small porch leading to Dr. Robinson's office was removed. The conservatory was shortened and galvanized sheet metal was applied over the balcony floor. The balcony floor over the conservatory was sloped to provide better drainage. A dropped ceiling was installed on the south verandah and conservatory, probably to conceal water damage. The posts supporting the balconies have been repaired. The iron cresting over the bay windows, as well as the north and rear chimneys were removed. Asphalt shingles replaced the cedar shingles. The wooden cresting at the peak of the roof has been replaced with a reproduction based on surviving fragments of the original. The shutters on the French doors leading to the south balcony are no longer present. A picket fence at the front of the house has been removed.

The main house is extended by two tails, added at the same time or soon after the construction of the main building. A two-storey addition on the west side of the house contains the kitchen with additional chambers above. An open porch protects the south wall. A single storey tail facing west served as a woodshed and privy. Both wings were rebuilt or extended at some point.

The widening and elevation of Yonge Street along with the addition of a concrete retaining wall and a pipe railing in front of Horton Place in 1968 altered somewhat the appearance of the site. However, part of the pipe railing in front of the iron fence was removed about 1980. The southern part of the pipe railing and the retaining wall were removed in 1999. The south lawn was also re-graded so that it slopes towards the street, returning to some degree the original appearance of the site.

In 1987, an Ontario designated property grant financially assisted with the conservation and restoration of all the verandahs, the front and side balconies, as well as repairs to the barn. The main carrying beam of the south balcony was replaced. The glass enclosure around the front verandah was retrieved from storage in the barn and reinstalled in its original location. A surviving section of the original latticework from the south verandah was repaired and reinstalled. In 1990, the original chimney on the south side was repaired and rebuilt to its original design and dimension using an early photograph, also with the financial assistance of an Ontario designated property grant. Salvaged, original bricks were used in the reconstruction.

The painted graining of the front door was reproduced in the summer of 2001. In November 2001, the entire house was in the process of being rewired. Dr. McIntyre intends to continue to maintain and restore the property to its original form as need arises.

Contextual Background

Horton Place has always been occupied by people who were active in the professional and social life of the community. The house has remained in the possession of the Webster family and its descendents since 1901, providing historical continuity and a sustained effort to maintain Horton Place in its original state. It continues in its original use as a single family dwelling, unlike many other large homes on Yonge Street. Its elegance and fine Italianate detailing reflect middle class prosperity of the late Victorian period in Aurora. The landscaping with its spacious lawns and mature trees helps to preserve the original beauty of the property. Located on the west side of Yonge Street, just south of Hillary House and north of Aurora's early business district, it occupies part of the only landscaped residential block of the late Victorian period surviving on Yonge Street in Aurora.

Site Location

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Identification

Property: Horton Place
15342 Yonge Street
Legal Description: Plan 246 PTLT 14
Owners: Dr. W. John McIntyre
Assessment Roll No: 1946 000 010 05500 0000
Date of Construction: c.1875
Style of Architecture: Italianate
Type of Structure: Residential
Number of Storeys: 2
Exterior Wall Material: Brick
Special Features: Hipped roof, broad overhanging eaves,
ornamental brackets, round arches,
bay windows, cast iron cresting

Photographs

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Horton Place - Northeast Corner (2002)

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Horton Place - South Elevation - West corner (2002)

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Horton Place - West Elevation (2002)

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Horton Place - South Elevation - East corner (2002)

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Horton Place - The Barn (2002)

Sources of Information:

(1) Current Assessment Roll

(2) Land Registry Office Records, York County (Newmarket)

(3) LACAC file for the Town of Aurora for 15342 Yonge St (Horton Place)

(4) Johnston, James. Aurora: Its Early Beginnings. Aurora: Aurora and District Historical Society, 1972

(5) LACAC File for 15342 Yonge St. (Horton Place), Aurora Historical Society / Hillary House National Historic Site

    Aurora Banner article, August 28, 1868
    Aurora Banner article, September 9, 1938 - death notice Charles Webster
    Aurora Banner article, February 22, 1967
    Aurora Banner article January 8, 1886
    Aurora Banner article, December 17, 1886
    Aurora Banner article, July 3, 1896 death notice

(6) Aurora History Notes (Aurora Banner articles) to 1887 by W. John McIntyre - Aurora Historical Society / Hillary House National Historic Site

(7) Personal files and reminiscences of W. John McIntyre.

(T-DC, P-DC)

Updated 20/09/04 - BBD


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