The Crookshank Lands and Houses

George Crookshank was born in New York City of Scottish parents in 1763. His father was owner and captain of a trading vessel and immigrated to New Brunswick after the American Revolution. George first went to work aboard his uncle’s merchant ships trading to Jamaica. A sister, Catherine Crookshank, married John McGill, who was appointed commissary of stores and provisions at York in 1792. George and another sister, Rachel, followed Mrs. McGill to York in December 1796.

George served with the commissariat of supplies for Fort York and other garrisons in the area. A series of promotions followed: Assistant Commissary General in 1814, He was next Receiver General of Public Accounts (1819-1820). then served as a member of the Legislative Council (1821-1841). He was Director of the Bank of Upper Canada from 1822 to 1827.

As a United Empire Loyalist, George received a grant of twelve hundred acres on his arrival in Upper Canada. His first house, built about 1800, on the lakeshore near Peter Street, was a colonial cottage with a central section 15’ wide and two wings of about 20’ each. It had a central porch, over which a small window illuminated an attic room. Its white clapboard was relieved by vines around the porch. This was destroyed in the War of 1812 and was rebuilt. In 1821, he built a two-story addition. The house had a large central hall leading to large, airy rooms and was well appointed for its time. This house was demolished in 1841.

He also acquired the western half of park lot 18 and lots 19 and 20, where he constructed a large farm home halfway between Queen St. and Bloor Street. (The location on the map is only approximate.) He then built Crookshank’s Lane to connect the farm to town. This lane became Bathurst Street eventually. The Crookshank house was one of the few buildings in that section of York Township prior to 1812, and when York fell to the Americans during the war, the home was looted and commandeered by the Americans for headquarters.

In 1821,George married Sarah Lambert of New York and acquired property in the United States through his wife’s family. The Crookshanks had one daughter and two sons and enjoyed a privileged life on their country estate. A staff of eight servants kept the household running smoothly. The residence was later enlarged. By 1850, Crookshank’s health was failing and the city was starting to encroach, so he sold the property to developers. The closing sale of Crookshank Estate lots was held in June 1855. Two years later, some of them were further divided into small lots for workingclass buyers.

The Honourable George Crookshank died in 1859, leaving a considerable fortune to his daughter. In 1864, Philip Brown purchased the farm house, moved it east, and renovated it. Nothing remains today. Even Crookshank’s Lane was renamed shortly after George’s death; it became part of Bathurst Street in 1870.

This information on George Crookshank and his houses came from “The Estates of Old Toronto” by Liz Lundell and “A Glimpse of Toronto’s History, Opportunities For The Commemoration Of Lost Historic Sites,” Toronto Historical Society, Maps Project and Partners.