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Historic Tollkeeper’s House is one of Toronto’s oldest homes

March 2021

At the corner of Davenport Road and Bathurst Street in Toronto, Ontario, sits a small, white clapboard cottage, with a modern addition on the west side. This historic three room cottage, 20 feet by 30 feet in size, is listed by the City of Toronto as being the twelfth oldest residence remaining in Toronto.

Built around 1833, it served as the residence for the tollkeeper of tollgate #3, along Davenport Road. That year, thirteen kilometres of Davenport Road, which until then was a dirt road, was paved with planks. Five small cottages were built by the plank road company along Davenport Road to house the men who were hired to collect the tolls, along with their families.

Plank roads were roads with cut boards laid on the ground, a way of making dirt roads passable during the warm seasons, when rain would turn them into muddy bogs.

The cottage for tollgate #3 originally stood on the south-east corner of Davenport and Bathurst, and was originally heated with a single fireplace. A pot-bellied stove later replaced the fireplace, which heated only the main room, leaving the bedroom rather cold in the winter.

Davenport Road runs along the bottom of the escarpment that marks the abandoned shoreline of Glacial Lake Iroquois. The first home along Davenport was built by John McGill, who named the road after Major Davenport, an officer who served at nearby Fort York, in 1797.

The road tolls were discontinued in 1896, when the City of Toronto assumed responsibility for road maintenance of city roads. The cottage was sold and moved to a property near Howland and Bathurst, for use as a private residence.

One hundred years later, the small cottage was in danger of demolition to make way for a new development, but a heritage group, the Community History Project, was able to buy it. After moving it to the the Toronto Transit Commission’s Wynchwood Streetcar Barn property, the Community History Project restored it and in 2002, the former tollkeeper’s cottage was moved back to Davenport and Bathurst, to a small park on the north-west corner.

The historic tollkeeper’s cottage now operates as a museum, which opened on 1 July 1 2003. A small addition was added to house an interpretive centre. It has been furnished and decorated to represent 1860, when a family of nine lived in the tiny cottage.  Original elements of the restored cottage include floorboards and woodworking around the windows and doors.

It’s believed to be Canada’s only surviving tollgate cottage from the 1800s.

Sources: https://hikingthegta.com/2021/02/06/the-tollkeeper/?fbclid=IwAR2t_40WXgpemguKlJ2XT_YvzIol3ZOj7-eV5idOuDA-iWIvAju0Pzv7O1U, The Tollkeeper’s Cottage, Gore and Vaughan Plank Road | Hiking the GTA, Tollkeeper’s Cottage | Hiking the GTA.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/historic-tollkeepers-house-is-one-of-torontos-oldest-homes/

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