At home on The Avenues: Second in a three-part series about the history and architecture of one Peterborough neighbourhood

Published in the Peterborough Examiner 06/27/2015

As the city has invested in a study with a view to creating a Heritage Conservation District on the Avenues, and a block or so south of King, some comments upon the emerging scenario are in order. These observations are based on a close look at who was tied to the Avenues in the first years of the Edwardian residential suburb, from about 1900 to 1940. This is the second of a three part series.

In order to assess who was living in the Avenues, I used four sources: the 1914 assessment roll, the 1921 census, and the city directories for 1927 and 1937. This made it possible to consider the continuity of who was living in the houses. Many families were in their house for the full quarter century. On some streets, nearly every family owned their house, and across the period to 1940 over half the houses on every street was owned by the occupants.

There were some very interesting people living on the Avenues.

There was always a high concentration of people tied to the building trades. In a city that is doubling its population every 20 years, it is usual to expect 20% of the work force to be tied to the building trades.

A significant proportion was people working in the downtown, including owners of stores and businesses. Traditionally, business owners lived above or very near their businesses, but the trend was changing after 1905, when Peterborough became a city, mainly because fire and police services were considered professional and effective.

There were quite a few people who worked in industry. The Avenues attracted skilled labour and white collar employees and senior management from several industrial firms, including CGE. Those who were unskilled blue collar workers at CGE and elsewhere tended to be living with their parents.

The Avenues attracted professional people, such as lawyers, dentists and accountants. There were also several commercial travelers.

Along Park Street, which developed from the late 1890s, there were several interesting people. The lawyer, Sydney Medd, was on the north-west corner of Charlotte and Park. This large house is a good example of a Queen Anne inspired house; it was converted after 1930 to apartments and then offices. South from Charlotte, the houses were occupied by Andrew Brown, realtor; Morley W. Lyle, co-owner of Canadian Canoe Company; McGregor Scott, a commercial traveler; Mrs. Helen Rogers and her brother Henry A. Wallis; Alex Webber, foreman at Canada Packers; Charles H. J. Mitchell, a journalist (self-described as a bookmaker and newspaper man); and John E. Emmerson, a toolmaker who rose to be a foreman with Peterborough Lock.

The rowhousing south of King was owned by John E. Hayes, and his noteworthy tenants included Richard J. Devey, the organist at St. John’s Anglican Church, and organizer of major musical events.

In the houses along King Street near Boswell and Pearl the owners included Charles J. Gadd; Harry J. Boyle, a local grocer; and H. C. Huffman, contractor, in 1914.

Boswell Avenue had several people tied to the building trades: Charles Huffman (at 297), contractor; George Jobbitt, contractor (at 299); Peter J. Tavern, carpenter (at 304); William Thorn, carpenter (at 308). Lawyers included John R. Corkery in 1921 (at 303) and E. L. Goodwill and John Goodwill (at 309). The interesting house at 311 may be the oldest in the Avenues, as it seems to be part of the villa estate of lawyer A.P. Pousette.

Other noteworthy people who lived on Boswell included R. F. Downey (teacher and school inspector for whom a city school is named); Edward Humpage, accountant (at 318); William Henry Stock (owner of a bakery and bread delivery) (at 320) and J. H. Vernor, the long-time superintendent at Westclox (also at 320, by 1937). Charles McClelland and his son, both downtown jewelers, lived at 301 Boswell; three generations of the family were jewelers.

On the eastern stretch of Charlotte Street there are some notable houses that do not fit the description of main styles noted earlier. The house at 484 Charlotte is a splendid and large example of a four square house. In the 1920s, it was the home of Douglas J. Lawrie, who was a good friend of Stanley Thompson, Canada’s most famous golf course architect; Lawrie was best man at Thompson’s wedding, and Thompson held the record for the Peterborough Golf Club as a nine-hole course and he designed the makeover to 18 holes, both here and at Kawartha Golf Club.

William A. Whitcroft, the superintendent of the Harness Department at B. F. Ackerman’s lived at 490 Charlotte. Other long-time residents on this part of Charlotte Street included the McKee family at 492 and the Begley family at 512.

Although the houses along this stretch were built from the late 1890s to about 1910, one house seems much older and deserves more research. One house has the appearance of a side gable Georgian home with an octagonal gable added at a later date. Such houses had the second floor windows on the side as property taxes were assessed by windows on the front; this changed around 1867 and many updates included second floor gables to let in more light. Hutchison House Museum on Brock Street is a good example of this.

There are three delightful Arts and Crafts bungalows at 520, 522 and 524 Charlotte. Such styles are not found elsewhere in the city. The first two have gambrel roofs, and the third is characterized by a carousel wrap-around verandah. The main floor is brick construction but the upper floors have generous use of shingle.

Some notable names are associated with Pearl Avenue, where most of the houses are the full front gable style. Walter Wood’s family was living at 300 Pearl throughout this quarter century. In 1921, the house was home to Walter Wood (b. 1852, emigrated 1870 from Scotland), his wife, their grandson, and three lodgers, two described as engineers and the third as a draftsman. Joseph Ingram (b. 1864) at 304 Pearl was a carpenter. John L. McCoy was a contractor (at 320 Pearl) while George Dartmell (at 312), who emigrated in 1871 at age 13, was a bricklayer. The Breakenridges, at 315 Pearl, included engineers at CGE and William Roger was a tool box maker. A. L. Killaly, superintendent of the Trent Canal was living at the splendid house at 317 Pearl by 1927 to the end of the period.

One of the developers linked to several lots on Maitland Avenue was living at 315 Maitland in its early years. Charles R. Banks, a very interesting pioneer in automobile and bicycle sales, who operated Peterborough’s first gasoline pump in front of the Market Hall, and his family were at 314 Maitland until after 1927. One son, Marlow Banks, was an avid historian, a leading Petes fan, and the long-time owner of Banks’ Bicycles, always near Aylmer and Charlotte.

The two houses at Charlotte Street had interesting owners. John A. McIntyre (b. 1873) was a travelling salesman who lived with his wife and five children at 319 Maitland during the 1920s. Living at 320 Maitland, William G. Underhays (b. 1869) was the wainwright at Peterborough Cereal which was located on the south side of Simcoe St. east of Queen St.