Lawrence Family

The Lawrence family had a long associations with the area around Lawrence Avenue and Yonge Street: In 1800, Jacob Lawrence operated a tannery at the south west corner. Peter Lawrence bought the farm northeast of Yonge and Lawrence in 1829. Later he built the first Methodist church in Toronto (at Glengrove and Yonge). In 1865, William Lawrence bought the lot south east of Yonge and Lawrence. His house looked down a pine-lined drive to Yonge. Henry Scadding mentioned the Lawrence home as “an English looking mansion of bricks with circular ends.” Other Lawrence relations owned the lot on the northwest corner of Yonge and Lawrence. The William Lawrence family farmed their property until after his death.

The original farm lots in this area fronted on Yonge Street and were one quarter mile in width and stretched back to Bayview Avenue. The land which became Lawrence Park Estates was mostly lots 4 and 5 in the first Concession east of Yonge Street. These lots were 190 acres each. Lot 4 ran from just north of Blythwood Road to about St. Leonard’s Avenue. It was first granted to William Weekes in 1803. After he was killed in a duel in 1806. Two years later, his executors Lot 4 was sold to William Allan, a prominent York merchant. Lot 5 extends from just north of St. Leonard’s Avenue to Lawrence Avenue and was granted to William Cooper in 1797. Cooper ran a tavern, taught school, acted as an auctioneer, constructed a grist and saw mill on the Humber in 1806, and built a wharf at the foot of Church Street in 1817.

Jonathan Hale purchased Lot 5 in 1808 and Lot 4 in 1811, to use in his farming operations. In 1803 he married Margaret Carey and bought the southern 95 acres of her father’s farm on Lot 6, just north of Lawrence Avenue. Hale eventually divided and sold his Yonge Street holdings. Lot 4 was sold in 1817 to Benjamin Carey. Lot 5 was sold in 1833 to David Graham. The south and north parts of Lot 6 were acquired by Peter Lawrence. In 1836, Samuel Ames Huson bought Lot 5 for £1,500. He had an estate home, Kingsland, designed by John Howard, built on the property near the end of what is now Lympstone Avenue. Huson died before 1845, but Lot 5 remained in the family until 1861, when it was sold to James Metcalfe, who sold it in 1865 to John Lawrence, a farmer, and his wife, Sarah. The future Lawrence Park Estates would be named for this family. During the Lawrences’ tenure there, only 12 acres of the original 190-acres were sold.

Lot 4 was purchased by Jesse Ketchum in 1830. He built a handsome new home on the north side of today’s Strathgowan opposite St. Hilda’s Avenue. It was reached by a long drive, bordered by trees on either side. He had purchased a tannery in York in 1812 , and became a wealthy businessman. After he moved to Buffalo, the property was taken over by his daughter, Fidelia and her husband, Rev. James Harris. The farm remained in the Harris family for many years. The southern portion of Lot 4 (about 85 acres) was bought in 1877 by a Toronto banker, John R. Strathy. He named the farm, Strath Gowan, combining his name and his wife’s maiden name of Gowan.

In 1907, a development company bought the 190-acre Lawrence farm and planned a subdivision aimed at the upper-middle-class, with 50 by 150 foot lots, ravines, landscaped gardens, terraces, curving streets and a five-acre park in Lawrence Crescent. The first six homes were built by 1914, but most of the eastern lots were not built on until after the Second World War. The Lawrence house and its surrounding park gave way to Mount Pleasant Road in the late 1930s. Lawrence Avenue, Lawrence Park, and Lawrence Crescent remind us of these early owners. (Liz Lundell in “The Estates of Old Toronto” tells more about The Lawrences and other landowners in this area. Another good preference for this area is Historical Walking tour of Lawrence Park by Linda Moon, Barbara Myrvold and Elizabeth Ridler).