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Home History: 13 Dixon Avenue – A Difficult Search

By John Ellis

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"This one should take no time at all", I optimistically thought as I began my search through the Toronto Archives files. I expected the home to have been built in the 1911-1914 period typical of many Triangle homes and therefore ended up reviewing every Assessment Role from 1911 until it was finally found in 1923!

13 Dixon Avenue

I had forgotten evidence that Kingston Road homes were among the last to be built in the Triangle. Seeing that the lot was made up of the North part of Lot 12 and the South part of Lot 13, I should have caught on – these were wide lots on Kingston Road that later became lots on Dixon Avenue.

13 Dixon Avenue Original Lot Plan

I also hadn't factored in the possibility of changes in ward or division boundaries, or that archive's staff wouldn't know exactly when they happened, or how they changed. Then there was the transition from a convenient listing of Building Permits for records prior to 1920 to a ‘hunt and peck' micro fiche search afterward. Finally, the actual building date was so long after the last published Census of Canada (1911) that greater searching was needed for the history of the first owners.

Mail and Empire from 1923

And all along the exact date of construction was in a cabinet at 13 Dixon, waiting to be discovered! When I met with Larissa and A.J. Greco in autumn, 2012, I was shown a yellowing, tattered couple of pages of the Mail and Empire (predecessor to the Globe and Mail) dated October 23, 1923, that A.J. had found in his son's upstairs bedroom wall when the lath and plaster was replaced with drywall. It was common practice for builders of this time period to place in a wall a few pages of a current daily newspaper as a sort of time capsule memento.

After a good deal of wasted time searching in the wrong time period and location, the house was found in the Assessment Roles for 1923, with George R. Nightscales as the first owner and Thomas S. Williams, Printer, as the first resident. A lot more searching failed to find the Building Permit but a search on the Internet revealed a George Louis Nightscales, born in Selby, Yorkshire, England 15 March 1881, married 5 August 1907, and his Marriage Registration indicates that he was a "Builder".

Marriage Record Home History… the first owners

After a good deal of searching, the house was found in the Assessment Roles for 1923, with George R. Nightscales as the first owner and Thomas S. Williams, Printer, as the first resident. A lot more searching failed to find the Building Permit but a search on the Internet revealed a George Louis Nightscales, born in Selby, Yorkshire, England 15 March 1881, married 5 August 1907, and his Marriage Registration indicates that he was a "Builder".

The 1911 Census of Canada reveals a Thomas S. Williams, born in Cornwall, England, December 1863 to William and Elizabeth Williams (neé Coad). Thomas immigrated in 1875. On 17 February 1886, at age 23, he married Helena Hague, age 19, born in Toronto to William and Mary Ann Hague, at the "English Church" (presumably Anglican). Thomas's and Helena's parents acted as witnesses.

In 1911, Thomas and Helena lived at 197 Palmerston Avenue, and had children: Clare (24), a stenographer; Henry (20), a Book Binder; Florence (17); and Evelyn (13). While there is no immediate means to ascertain that this "Thomas S. Williams" is the purchaser of 13 Dixon in 1923, some confidence can be taken from the fact that he is the only person with that name in Toronto in 1911 and he is a "Printer", as indicated on the 1923 Assessment Role. Some assurance might also be taken that their son, Henry, is a "Book Binder" – perhaps father and son worked together at the book printing firm originally on Gerrard Street East.

Thus, we come to an early end to our search for the history of 13 Dixon Avenue, with another chapter to be written when the next one (or two) Censuses of Canada are published.

13 Dixon today...

13 Dixon Avenue is a well-cared-for, handsome, two-storey left half of a semi-detached house on the south-west side of Dixon, on a 20' x 114' lot. The property originally had a shared driveway to the back of the lot where there was a brick garage (subsequently demolished). A.J. and Larissa added a front yard parking pad and lovely landscaping in the front yard.

The home interior was originally renovated in the 1980's, and again since the Greco's moved in four years ago.

The original ground floor layout can be inferred, based on typical designs of the time. From the vestibule, the stairway to the second floor is straight ahead. Originally, there would have been a hallway from the front door to the kitchen with entrances to the left into a living room and to a dining room further down the hall.

Somewhat uncertain is where the basement stairs would have been – they may have been in their present position, under the stairway to the second floor, or more likely from the back of the kitchen. The kitchen would have been similar to the present design – across the full width of the home.

The Ground Floor

A.J. and Larissa added new handrails, banisters, and newell posts, as well as custom crown, door, and window moldings to retain a feel for the historic tradition of the home.

The galley kitchen is totally and beautifully renovated.

Back Deck and Back Yard

French patio doors add much light to the kitchen and provide a great view of the back deck. The deck boasts all-weather outdoor furniture.

The Second Floor

The layout of the second floor is probably exactly as it was 98 years ago – a hallway from the bathroom to the master bedroom.

13 Dixon Avenue has seen a lot of history, and A.J. and Larissa Greco (with the help of 15-months-going-on-2-year-old Adam) have renewed this home for future generations.

Bibliography

Beach Living, Beach Metro News, Beach Triangle Residents Association, Corpus Christie Church, Gene Domagala, Fox Cinema, The Beach in Pictures, Three Cedars Enterprises, Toronto Archives, Toronto District School Board, Town Crier, and Wikipedia.