Farr House/John Cornell House/Queen West
I’ve decided to re-post this piece due to a chance encounter with someone also interested in Toronto’s history who has generously contributed some old photographs as well as some new detailed information about the property.
905 Queen Street West, this is from a 1991 report by the Conservation Review Board:
The property located at 905 Queen Street West is recommended for designation for architectural and historical reasons. The house was constructed in 1847 for John Farr, who established the Farr Brewery on the adjacent site in 1819. While the business was sold in 1858, the house was occupied by Farr’s daughter, Mary E. Farr, until 1905. The buildings at 899 and 905 Queen Street West are operated as a community centre by the Polish National Union.
899 Queen West as it was in it’s final days.
JOHN FARR’S BREWERY, YORK (TORONTO), 1819— On the
south side of Queen street west, just west of Bellwoods avenue, in the
valley of the Garrison Creek, which at this point was called Gore Vale
Brook. It was a long, low, dingy-looking building of hewn logs, built about
1817 by John Farr, a widely-respected Englishman, who, after having con-
ducted the business for many years, retired, transferring his interests to
Wallis & Moss. Moss died in 1866, and in his stead John Wallis, who once
represented West Toronto in the Dominion Parliament, took into partner-
ship John Cornell. Wallis’ death occurred in 1872, but his partner con-
tinued to conduct the business until his decease in 1879. The building,
which had, some time subsequent to its erection, been rebuilt of brick, was
left vacant and was demolished in 1887-8. The site is now (1917) occupied
by a row of brick stores. To the left of the picture is seen the residence
of Mr. Cornell. The Farr descendants live in Guelph. Water color.
Below, another view.
There was another house immediately to the east that mysteriously burned to the ground shortly after the report was issued making room for the condos that now occupy the site.
This poloroid of the house was taken by Andrew Dziedziola who was kind enough to share it with me (and you).
Again, from the 1991 report:
The John Cornell House
The house is located on the south side of Queen Street, facing toward the park, former site of Trinity College. It is set fairly close to the street and approximately 5’ above the sidewalk.
The exterior is rough cast plaster over wood lath, 1” boards and undressed stud framing. The rear wing appeared to have pre-dated – or been added to – the late Gothic Revival main house. This section was reported to be older. At the north west junction, the exterior stucco of the rear section and adjacent house wall had fallen away. Both walls were constructed of stucco over wood lath nailed to wood studs. On the rear wing, the lath was hand split undressed wood nailed horizontally with square hand wrought nails to the wood boards. The main house had sawn lath nailed at 45 degrees to the wall studs.
The above indicated that the rear section probably pre-dated the 1870s main house, but by only 10 to 20 years.
The house appears to be quite original, inside and out. The bell shaped roof of the front porch, the heavy wood window and door trim, the “french doors” from the front parlour to porch are all original. The interior base board, trim and stair are all original and even the interior room divisions have been little altered, allowing the original room forms to be easily assessed. Much of the upper floor rooms show serious water damage and the roof and roof boards are in very poor condition.
Another couple of poloroids from Andrew Dziedziola of the backyard looking towards Queen.
A somewhat current view.
He was also able to supply a copy of the original report prepared by the Toronto Historical Board in 1990.
You can see on this plan just how big the properties were for these two houses and why the condo developers were so keen to get their hands on them.
905 Queen is the Farr House and 899 is the Cornell house.
Another map below (1842) shows the brewery marked as Clark’s Brewery on the banks of Garrison Creek.
John Farr (1782-1874, a native of Hertfordshire, England), established a brewery on the south side of Lot (now Queen) Street. west of the present Niagara St. on the west bank of Garrison Creek, in 1820. He built the brewery out of logs and later replaced it with one built of bricks. It was later opperated by a number of owners and leesees including: Owen Staples, Wallis & Moss, and John Cornell. In 1893, a commercial block was built on the site.
Farr’s Bewery c1888
Apparently in 1820, when when Farr got his original lease on the land, there was only one other brewery in York. After this, the number of breweries and distilleries in York grew at an astonishing rate with an even more astonishing annual production volume. Farr’s Brewery served the community from the earliest years and also played a role in the 1837 Rebellion as a meeting place. Its existence also encouraged westward settlement in the Garrison lands. Information from “A Glimpse of Toronto’s History” the Toronto Historical Society and the Maps Project. MPLS #184
Below an extract from book Between The Bridge and the Brewery by Jon Harstone.