Chestnut Park

On the east side of Yonge Street, between present-day Roxborough and Rowanwood, was the villa and estate of Senator David Macpherson. Macpherson, born in Scotland, came to Upper Canada in 1835. He first joined his brother’s shipping firm, but later went into railway contracting with Casimir Gzowski and with him made a fortune from the construction of the Grand Trunk Railway. Macpherson bought his estate in 1855 and renovated it to accommodate his large family. The architectural firm of Cumberland and Storm was engaged to build a grand brick residence facing Yonge Street. Along the front a row of horse chestnuts was planted. Farmlands lay to the east. The family of nine hosted numerous social functions.

In 1864, Macpherson entered politics, winning a seat on the Legislative Council of Canada. Three years later, he was among the first appointees to the Canadian Senate, and in 1880 he was made Speaker of the Senate. He retired from politics in 1885 because of ill health and criticism over his handling of the Northwest Rebellion. After Macpherson’s death in 1896, the family sold the estate to developers. St. Andrews College occupied the Chestnut Park house from 1899 to 1904. After the college moved to their campus north of the city, the house was demolished.

Architect S. H. Townsend laid out the Chestnut Park subdivision with winding paved streets, brick sidewalks, telephone and gas service to the rear, and classic lamp posts with globe lights served by underground wiring. He explained, “Automobile speeding is not desirable in a residential district and the roads need not be designed to suit its requirements.” Chestnut Park and Macpherson Avenue remind us of the earlier estate. (For more about Chestnut Park and Senator Macpherson, see “The Estates of Old Toronto” by Liz Lundell and “Rosedale” by Bess Crawford).