Gore Vale

Gore Vale was named after Francis Gore, Lieutenant-Governor from 1806 to 1817. Duncan Cameron, who purchased Park Lot 22 in 1819, was born in Scotland. He was both a merchant and member of the militia. In 1812, he commanded the York Volunteers at the battle of Queenston Heights. He was made a member of the Legislative Council in 1820. Reformers, such as Dr. William Warren Baldwin, did not think well of this member of the “Family Compact.” In Baldwin’s words “Mr. D. Cameron a bird of ill omen is again flapping about the Government House … the old bird lime is still adhesive to the branches of the Administration.”

Cameron built his house in 1817, at Gore Vale and Queen and lived there with his unmarried sister, Janet. Gore Vale was a substantial redbrick, three- storey house. When built, Gore Vale did not have the mansard roof shown in later pictures. In fact, the original Gore Vale looked very much like Sir William Campbell’s house. It had a regular transverse roofline like the other Georgian style houses in York/Toronto. The house changed in the Bickford era, for he ripped off the original roof and added the mansard which was very fashionable at the time. With a lot of new porches, a port cochere, solarium and “Italian” gardens with curving stone walls, it was turned into an Italianate style mansion.

The Camerons had a lovely view to the lake from their estate and Garrison Creek flowed through a ravine just west of the house. Cameron died in 1838 without having married and left Gore Vale to his sister. When the Reform Government ruled that the University of Toronto would be secular, Bishop Strachan obtained a royal charter, bought twenty acres from Janet Cameron and, in 1851, built the original Trinity University.

About 1870, Edward Oscar Bickford, a wealthy railway contractor, bought the house and surrounding fifty-four acres. He opened two streets running north from Dundas on either side of the house and named them after his daughters, Grace and Beatrice. In 1904, Trinity University purchased the remaining property. The Keeley Institute for alcohol rehabilitation occupied the house for a time and it was also used as a student residence. After the city bought the grounds in 1912, the house served as a hospital for a while. In the mid 1920s, Gore Vale, by then a dilapidated and vandalized ruin, was demolished.

For more about Gore Vale and its owners, see “The Estates of Old Toronto” by Liz Lundell. Also thanks to Karolyn Smardz Frost for interesting information about the roof.