The Original Sunnyside Villa
This house, part of St. Joeseph’s Hospital is the original Sunnyside Villa built by John Howard in 1853 which he named Sunnyside. Howard never lived in this house but built it on spec and sold it to an American, George Cheney. The house became part of St. Joe’s in 1876 when it was an orphanage.
A surveyor and architect who is woven into much of Toronto’s 19th century history is John George Howard. He had built himself a home, Colborne Lodge, in what is now High Park, and continued to look around at other properties. In 1844, he and one partner purchased Park Lot 25, consisting of 100 acres. Four years later he was sole owner and decided to build a house near the lake, which he named Sunny-side. This is the name used later to define an amusement park and, even later, to define a host of small business enterprises. Howard intended the building as an attraction among the many building lots he laid out on the Park Lot, and called the house a “marine villa” as it looked out to the lake. From the house, he watched a famous ship founder in a storm and engaged in the rescue of its crew, but he did not live in the house. Howard was also selling off timber cut from his land. Eventually, all of the building lots were sold and by this time the area was known as Sunnyside. The last sale made by Howard was of the house and the 9-acre lot on which it stood. George Cheney purchased it and converted it into a picnic area. There were subsequent owners, the last of whom became aware of the space crisis at the House of Providence on Power Street and its problems in accommo-dating children. At first, Sunnyside was loaned to the Sisters of St. Joseph, who used it as a boys’ orphanage. In 1881, the Roman Catholic Diocese purchased the property and the institution became Sacred Heart Children’s Orphanage, still run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, but accommodating both boys and girls. The original four-storey house had many additions, but the basic structure was octagonal in shape and Romanesque in style. It soon disappeared as the work expanded. In typical fashion, the City of Toronto decided to expropriate the property for use as a school in the growing residential area. To prevent the expropriation, the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Diocese decided to convert the property into a hospital, which could not be expropriated. The hospital opened in 1921. During successive expansions, Howard’s house was demolished in 1945.