Campbell House

This historic house is now located on the NW corner of University Avenue and Queen Street, but was originally built by Chief Justice William Campbell on two acres of land north of Duke Street (now Adelaide Street) in 1822. This neo-classical, red brick house faced down Frederick Street. Much of the land around it was sold off; the western lots to the Bank of Upper Canada and James Scott Howard for the York Post Office.

William Campbell, who was born in Scotland in 1758, came to Upper Canada to be a judge in 1811. He was Chief Justice from 1825 to 1829 and was knighted on retirement. After his death,1834 the house was for many years the home of Hon. James Gordon and then John Strathy, a barrister. By 1890 it was the only house in a commercial area and became a warehouse for a succession of firms. Incredibly, while the interior was much changed, the facade was never altered. In 1962, the house was bought by the Coutts Hallmark Co. with the objective of demolishing it and using the site.

The Advocates’ Society, a group of heritage conscious lawyers, were able to persuade that firm to donate to them if they would remove it quickly. Canada Life Insurance Co. had a choice vacant south of their head office at the northwest corner of Queen Street and University Avenue, which they would donate, if the city would forego the taxes. The city agreed, and on Good Friday morning, April 1, 1972, the house began its mile long journey. Traffic lights, signs, telephone poles and transit cables were removed, manhole corners were shored up, streetcars were re-routed; everyone co-operated. Enthusiastic crowds accompanied this survivor of early York. The writer remembers seeing this even on a visit to Toronto from the northern town where he was then living. The Ontario Heritage Foundation gave the Advocates a grant for restoration, and the building was opened as a private club in 1974 by the Queen Mother Elizabeth. Much of this information came from “Original Toronto.”