Colborne Lodge in Toronto

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Colborne Lodge is a historical museum located in an 1836s home in Toronto's High Park. John George Howard, an architect, engineer, and prominent Toronto citizen built this house, which became the property of the city following his death in 1890.


Built in 1836 by City Surveyor John George Howard to house himself and his wife Jemima Frances Meikle, it is perched on the top of a hill overlooking Lake Ontario. When built, the area was considerably to the west of the city. The house is a classic example of the Regency cottage style, and one of the first such buildings in the city. The small house tries to blend in with the landscape around it, in sharp contrast to the rigid formalism of Georgian architecture that was then the standard Toronto style. It was originally one storey, but Howard later expanded it by adding the upper level. The house was named after Sir John Colborne, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada from 1828 to 1836 and first Canadian patron of Howard's architecture.

The cottage sat on 165 acre of land owned by Howard. His original intent was to start a farm on the property. Later, he attempted to subdivide his holdings and sell off small lots to create a new neighbourhood. At the time the area was still a considerable distance west of the city, and a difficult commute to town. Howard himself maintained a second home in the city. The landscape of the property with its steep hills, wetlands and sandy soils would have been difficult to develop in any event.

Howard and Jemima had no children and thus deeded the park to city in 1873, in exchange for a permanent pension. He continued to live in his home until his death in 1890. John Howard and his wife are buried in the Howard Tomb, a stone monument which overlooks Grenadier Pond. The cairn was designed by Howard, and the fence gate for the cairn is originally from St. Paul's Cathedral in London and was originally designed by the famous architect Christopher Wren. Additional land was purchased by the city in 1873 and 1930, thereby expanding the park to the current 399 acre. Next to the home are the Colborne Lodge Gardens, first created by the Howards.

The home is now a museum run by the City of Toronto. The museum displays the house and furnishings of the 1800s, using much of the Howard's own furnishings and Howard art works. The museum holds an annual Harvest Festival, plus summer and march break camps for children. Annually at Hallowe'en, guides put on a "Haunted Walk" discussing legends of ghost appearances at the Lodge.

See also

  • List of oldest buildings and structures in Toronto
  • Cruikshank, Tom. Old Toronto Houses. Toronto: Firefly Books, 2003.
  • Denby William and William Kilbourn. Toronto Observed. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1986.

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