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The Beach Triangle Residents Association, Toronto, Ontario

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Home History: 118 Rainsford Road - A Pioneer's Home

By John Ellis

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(This is an updated version of a story that first appeared in the Winter 2005 edition of the Triangle Topics newsletter.

For the grand sum of $5,450 Lillian and Wesley Rowe bought 118 Rainsford Road in 1948 from her brother and his wife, George and Gladys Hanna, although they couldn't move in until 1950. Sadly, Wes died in 1996, but Lil lived on there for sixty years – until April 2014!

The house was built in 1913, a year in which a good deal of development in the Triangle occurred.

Wes was born in Toronto and Lil came from Bushmills, Ireland, as a baby (some whiskey drinkers may identify her birthplace). Wes worked for 36 years at the Post Office at Queen and Salter (near Pape) as an inside clerk. Before marriage, Lil worked at a cosmetics firm at King and Dufferin and then at the Bank of Commerce (now CIBC) at Broadview and Danforth. Married in 1946, they lived in a flat on Gerrard opposite the present location of Gerrard Square (then a paper box plant) until 1950.

Lil and Wes had three children. The first, a boy, was about six months old when they moved to 118 Rainsford, and their two girls were born while they lived there. All three have done well in their careers. Their son is now married with a family of his own and lives in Guelph. One daughter is a school principal, married with a family and lives in Etobicoke. Their other daughter, Secretary to the Chief of Staff at East General Hospital, lost her husband some years ago and was re-married at St. John's Norway Church in November 2005.

I had the pleasure of visiting Lil at home, first in 2005 and again in 2014 as her daughter and son-in-law worked with her in packing. She's moving to a retirement home that's smaller and easier to care for, while she's still fit enough to enjoy it. And fit she is – a familiar figure walking down Rainsford Road to do her shopping.

If you walk around the Triangle, you will know 118 Rainsford Road instantly. It is the semidetached house just at the bend below Kingston Road, on a pie-shaped lot, with a handsome brick garage attached (the only one in the block). The garage has an ornate gable end with brick pillars crowned with cement tops on either side. Lil tells me it originally had a door into the basement of the house.

Inside, there is a vestibule with the stairway to the second floor on the left and a hallway to the kitchen on the right. The original handrails, newel posts and bannisters were replaced with wrought iron.

The house has gleaming original oak trim and floor, broadloom and area rugs, with several attractive pieces of antique furniture completing the picture.

The original wood-burning fireplace in the living room (also in the upstairs front bedroom) was covered over but Lil missed it and so had a gas burner installed. She then was very pleased to find an oak mantel, almost identical to the original, at the Door Store.

Having the unusual advantage of distance from the house next door, the bay window in the dining room casts rich light. Part of the wall between the dining and living rooms was removed to open up the interior, and several pocket doors were sealed.

The compact, but serviceable kitchen is at the back, with good afternoon sunlight. The kitchen window looks out to a compact back garden.

The addition at the back off the kitchen contains steps down to a landing and the back door, and steps down to the basement.

On the second floor there are three bedrooms, a washroom and toilet, and a cozy sunroom off the back bedroom, over the addition.

It is a real treat to find a Triangle home so lovingly preserved.

The Triangle Neighbourhood in the Fifties

Lil Rowe also speaks of the neighbourhood in the fifties – there was a butcher shop at the corner of Rainsford and Queen (now Sauvignon) run by Mr. Goodwin, and a bowling alley and pool hall on Queen in the block between Rainsford and Brookmount.

The convenience store at the corner of Rainsford Road and Kingston Road was then a grocery run by Gordon Cane. A dry goods store was next door (today part of the fitness gym). There were many stores on Kingston Road, east of Woodbine, including Knowles Barber Shop (operated by Jack and Art), a butcher shop and a hardware store.

Woodbine Avenue was paved with bricks north of Kingston Road, to help the horses get up the hills when the streets were slippery. Lil recalls the visit of King George and Queen Elizabeth at Woodbine Racetrack on in 1939 for the King's Plate event.

She also remembers the visit of Queen Elizabeth II for the 1959 Queen's Plate race.

Further afield, Lil points out that Shopper's World on the Danforth was previously a farmer's market and later a Nash plant (for those of you too young to remember, Nash was a very popular automobile).

Abstract of Title for 118 Rainsford Road

Lil Rowe let me copy the Abstract of Title for 118 Rainsford Road. This document, issued in 1948 by N.S. Sorenzetti at a cost of $9.50, contains some fascinating information.

First of all, if you think flipping of properties is a recent phenomenon look at this (all dates are Date of Registration):

122 Rainsford Road

Lil Rowe also revealed some research of her own! Lil tells us that 122 Rainsford was also built in 1913, bought in October 1950 by Mr. and Mrs. Bulger, and Audrey Bulger lived there until she passed away in August 2005. The Bulgers had photos of their property from about 1915, one from the backyard that showed no houses on Kingston Road in the block between Rainsford and Columbine. Lil says she spoke to the folks at 199 Kingston Road and they believe their house was built in 1922.

This is surprising because one would have thought that Kingston Road would have been one of the first parts of the Triangle to be developed, being on a main road and near the already-established town of Norway, east of Woodbine. Our research so far suggests that there were only a few homes on Queen or the lower reaches of the Triangle north-south streets until 1911-1912, and perhaps not on much of Kingston Road until the twenties. There were homes on Woodbine as early as 1907. We know that 42 Lark was built in 1925, 39 Brookmount in 1929, and 29 Lockwood in 1917.

116 Rainsford Road

Lil Rowe tells us that Mr. and Mrs. Archie Wilson bought 116 Rainsford Road the year it was built, in 1913, and lived there until about 1968. Mr. Wilson died in 1969. Mrs. Wilson went to live in a nursing home, where she lived until she died in 1975. The house was then rented for a time, followed by a succession of seven owners to the present day.

102 Rainsford Road

Lil Rowe also has a "Six Degrees of Separation" experience. She went to Kew Beach School with Gwen Kirk, who was one of five children who lived with their parents at 102 Rainsford Road. One of these children, Dorothy, grew up, married, and had a family of her own. Lil learned that Dorothy Davies lived in an apartment on Queen Street.

Special thanks to Brendan Morissey, a founding member of the Beach Triangle Residents Association and Lil Rowe's neighbour, for setting up the interviews, and thanks to Lil for all the additional research.