The Gaiety of the 1890s
June 8th, 1892.
At Wesanford, Willian E. and Harriet Sanford hosted 1,000 guests to welcome home their son from his European honeymoon.
Horse drawn carriages lined the streets, awaiting to enter the mansion’s portico covered side entrance on Caroline Street (near the cul de sac Wesanford Place). Guests, dressed in their finest, were greeted graciously by Mrs. Sanford, who was decked out in her diamonds and wearing a grey silk dress with an embroidered chiffon train.
The oak and mahogany front foyer was dominated by two bronze statues in the porticos on either side of Mrs. Sanford. In the alcove, at the back, stood a statue of Atlas holding a globe with a clock in the middle.
Refreshments were served in the billiard room, while food was laid out on the 33foot long table in the cavernous oak and mahogany lined dining room. A large delegation of liveried waiters and staff attended to every minute detail.
Outside, an orchestra played on the lawn, while fairy lights embedded in the shrubbery twinkled. All the electric and gas lights blazed through the many windows of the north facing mansion. The fragrance from hundreds of bouquets of fresh flowers permeated the evening air.
Residents from other neighbourhoods packed the streets, their faces pressed against the high wrought iron fences of the estate that enclosed the grounds.
They listened to the music in the open air and watched Hamilton high society at play.
The pages of The Spectator recorded this night for posterity (1).
The few years before and after 1900 were filled with excitement. The future was bright. Opportunity stood on every street corner. They city grew. Fortunes were made.
The Canadian Westinghouse Company, Otis Elevator and International Harvester established plants and prepared to make Hamilton home. The foundation for the Golden Mile of Industry was about to be set.
John Moodie founded the Hamilton Auto Club. Sir John M. Gibson would serve as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1908-1914. Billy Sherring would win an Olympic Gold Medal in Athens. Tom Longboat (Cogwagee) won the Around the Bay Road Race in 1906 and the Boston Marathon in 1907.
Hamilton was on the cusp. Change was occurring. No more would it be the Birmingham of Canada. Hamilton would be known as the Electric City.
THE EARLY YEARS
Park Street South and Oak Bank
Alan Vernon Young was 6 years of age at the time of the Sanfords’ grand party. His parents, James M. and Georgina commissioned a portrait of young Alan. The famous Canadian portrait artist, John Wycliffe Lowes Forster, completed the portrait.
James Mason Young had established the Hamilton Cotton Company in 1880. He was the first president of the company. Recently, in 1900, he had opened the Imperial Cotton Mills Ltd. on Sherman Avenue in the east end of the city.
They resided at 194 Park Street South. Their friends and colleagues lived nearby, as the rise just southwest of Gore Park became very fashionable and desirable. Families with means had built their estates and mansions or hired architects to design their homes.
William Southam lived nearby, having purchased Pinehurst on Jackson Street in 1892. Directly across the street, Mr. and Mrs. S.O. Greening resided at Fonthill. Across Caroline Street, occupying the most prominent location, was the home of Mr. and Mrs. W.E. Sanford, Wesanford.
The neighbourhood would become known as Nob Hill to some.
In 1907, Alan V. entered into the family business.
When Oak Bank, which was located at 301 James Street South, was put on the market, James M. Young purchased it. Land Registry information and deeds indicate that John Stinson and William Patterson McLean, separately, had owned it. Old photos reveal a huge oak tree dominating the front lawn.
The Young family enjoyed Oak Bank and the Undermount neighbourhood. The rooms became home to many memories; dinners and conversations, guests on Fridays, and all of the small details which make life so interesting.
Each year, as spring gave way to summer, the Young family “seasoned” at their Summer Residence on Vernon Island, on Milford Bay, near Beaumaris. They would stay until late September and return when the hint of autumn filled the air. Other Hamilton families, including the Greening and Frost families, also summered in the area.
Across the street from Oak Bank, Henry Frost commissioned Charles Mills and George Hutton, Architects, to draw plans for a new home, 1 Markland. Currently, Mr. and Mrs. Frost resided at 378 Hess Street South.
When war broke out in Europe in 1914, Alan’s brother, James Vernon, enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. One year later, in 1915, he was wounded during the Battle of Ypres. En route to visit their son in England, James M. and Georgina A. Young perished when the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U Boat.
The halls and rooms of Oak Bank would add the Lusitania to its history; along side the previous owners, and the Royal Visit of Edward, Prince of Wales, who stayed at Oak Bank in 1860.
What became of Oak Bank? Did it remain within the Young family after 1915? Did Kathleen or Elsie Georgina take up residence there temporarily? What happened during the next 32 years?
Oak Bank was purchased by the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1947. Like the Undermount nearby, Oak Bank was used as a nurses’ residence until 1960 when both homes were demolished.
There is no marker, nor plaque for Oak Bank. It resides with the storytellers who keep the memories alive and those family members and friends with the keepsakes.
Marriage and Family Bonds
The Edwardian Era brought with it changes. Some welcomed. Some threatening. The Hamilton of 1911 clung to its Victorian attitudes but was willing to charge into the advancements of the Edwardian years.
Social visits were formalized and structured. Ladies and Gentlemen left calling cards, inquiring as when to visit. At home, Miss Elsie Young received friends and visitors at Oak Bank on Fridays. Miss Edna Greening and Miss Hattie Greening received at Fonthill on the 1st and 3rd Monday. Mr.& Mrs. N.S. Braden (Mabel Greening) received on Wednesday as did Mr. and Mrs. F. Forster Dalley of Arlo House.
Mr. and Mrs. H. Frost received guests on Wednesday. Miss H.E.J. Buchanan (Elsie) of Auchmare House, Claremont Park, Mountain, received on Thursdays as did Mr. and Mrs. J. Eldon Bull and Miss Ida Harcourt Bull, Mountain.
The National Club in Toronto had been reserved. The tables had been laid out in one of the private dining rooms. Liveried butlers and staff checked the seating arrangements as they awaited the arrival of the guests. Colleagues, friends, family and business leaders gathered at the club to enjoy a fine meal and drinks, as they feted Alan V. Young and celebrated his upcoming wedding to Miss Edna Muriel Greening of Hamilton. Perhaps, the McColl brothers were in attendance.
It would be one of many weddings for the Young and Greening families since 1900 and the current decade.
The families sat front and centre. Mr. and Mrs. James M. Young, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Price Lindsay (Kathleen Young), Mr. and Mrs. Wilfred J. Watson (Elsie Georgina Young), Mr. James Vernon Young and Miss Willmot Maude Holton. On the bride’s family side sat Mrs. Rosa Herald Greening, Mr. and Mrs. Norman Braden (Mabel Greening), Miss Hattie Greening and Mr. Charles E. Bull, and Mr. and Mrs. Harry B. Greening. Honoured guests, good friends, community and business leaders were in attendance for a society wedding.
Mr. Alan Vernon Young married Miss Edna Muriel Greening on November 29, 1911.
Alan Vernon Young and Harry Benjamin Greening would have a life long friendship as brothers-in-law. They had similar business interests, contributed to the same causes, and kept summer residences in the Lake Muskoka area.
Both men, at a relatively young age (compared to today), became leaders of their respective family firms. When Samuel Owen Greening passed away in August 1911, Harry became President of B. Greening Wire Co. Four years later, when the Lusitania was torpedoed, Alan became President of the Hamilton Cotton Company. He kept the family interest in the Imperial Cotton Mills Ltd.
The Enclave: Chedoke Mountain
The Incline Railways moved people up and down the hill. Strongman Road and Beckett Drive were in use. The Lookout Inn provided a wonderful view of the bay and harbour. Fennell Avenue was a dirt road. Mohawk Road was little more than a well worn trail and Barton Township was a vast open space populated by farms.
Neighbourhoods slowly grew on the mountain. A letter posted to a friend on the hill was addressed as Mount Hamilton instead of Hamilton.
In 1912, The Spectator hired its first female journalist, Ella Reynolds. She covered the business office stories and society news. She was editor of the popular column, “Wren’s Nest” written under the pen name of Jennie Wren.
When the Titanic sank, did she comment on the well attended memorial service for Dr. Alfred Pain at Centenary Methodist Church? What thoughts were recorded in diaries and journals, what words were put down on papers by the Young, Greening, Buchanan and Braden families?
On the city’s edge, overlooking the bay and Dundas Valley, the Balfour Southam family resided at Chedoke House. Harry and Gladys Greening would have Reigate built. Alan and Edna Greening would reside at Edgecliffe. The enclave was taking form.
It would become known as Chedoke Mountain to distinguish itself from Mount Hamilton. The venerable and accurate Vernon’s Directory gave no street addresses. It only listed the residences as Chedoke Mtn. or Chedoke Park. To the east, was the Buchanan Estate, Auchmar. A little farther along, if you walked Bulls Lane to Belvedere, Bellevue sat, overlooking the city.
The Great War disrupted the decade. Tens of thousands enlisted in the name of duty, others for a lark, and more to escape the monotony and drudgery of everyday life. Across the ocean, in the trenches and fields of Belgium and France, a generation was lost.
Amidst the backdrop of the Great War, Henry Frost’s dreams were fulfilled. His new home, 1 Markland was completed and the family moved in. His vision of a Grand Hotel for Hamilton reached fruition. The Royal Connaught Hotel opened in 1916. A Charter Ball was planned.
After the war ended, the soldiers returned home. In 1919, while on a business trip to New York City, Henry Frost passed away. He succumbed to influenza. The Spanish Flu epidemic devastated civilian populations with a vengeance.
The Canadian Westinghouse Company came to Hamilton in 1897. Norman Short Braden arrived a few years later in the capacity of Sales Manager. This was the first step in a meteoric rise to the executive suites. Mr. Braden was a company man his entire career. In 1919, with the decade closing out, he was Vice President of the company.
The Bradens, Norman and Mabel, had three children. They had just moved from Duke Street to 181 Jackson Street near Pinehurst and Fonthill. Their children attended Central Public School. The next move would be to 15 Westmount and the enclave.
THE ROARING 20’s
Charting the Course: Auchmar
The people attended the Pantages Theatre, cheered for the Hamilton Tigers Hockey Club and they looked skyward 18 floors when the Pigott Building, the city’s first skyscraper, was completed in 1929. They are three touchstone stories among many about Hamilton during the Roaring 20’s.
The automobile was available to more people including the everyman. Fashion shed the dour Victorian influences. Flapper dresses and fascinators were all the rage. Ragtime music gave way to the music they called Jazz. The Great Gatsby was published. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald held all night parties in New York.
Fine establishments carried lines from Tiffany Co. and Limoges. Art Nouveau waned and Art Deco gained influence.
In Toronto, the seminal group of artists which included A.Y. Jackson and Lawren Harris, embarked on the “Box Car Years”, painting the shorelines, rivers, forests and mountains of Lake Superior.
The Toronto dailies published the obituary of Charles Vance Millar, a self made millionaire, who left a most unusual will.
The Canadian Westinghouse Company promoted Mr. Norman Braden in 1926. He served as a Director on the company board.
In 1926, A.V. Young purchased Auchmar, the Buchanan family estate, from Elsie Buchanan. The estate and surrounding grounds were well suited for the business and social interests of the couple. Edna’s interest in riding and top pedigree horses flourished on the estate. Their three children, James, Gwyneth and Suzanne would make the grounds their own.
Elsie Buchanan did not give up the views of the city which she enjoyed at Auchmar. Upon selling the estate, she would lease Bellevue for a least 2 years.
For Auchmar, in 1927, A.V. Young commissioned Lester Birky Husband, Architects to design renovations and look at restoration of the manor house.
Alan V. Young had numerous and varied business interests which enabled the family to live in comfort when the stock market crash of 1929 decimated wealth, shook the economy, and brought in the bleak years of the dirty thirties.
He strengthened the company board with the appointments of Mr. H.R. Tudhope of Hamilton and Mr. Hugh L McCulloch, President of Goldie and McCulloch, of Galt Ontario.
A private man, he contributed to many causes in Hamilton. The Hamilton Sanatorium Annual Report of 1926, lists Mr. A.V. Young as a sustaining member and voting member. The Hamilton Sanatorium was overseen by the Hamilton Health Association. Mr. Wm. Southam, Mr. J.P. Bell, and Col. W. H. Bruce served on the Board of Directors.
In the business community, he held several directorships. Among the list of company boards which he sat on, are Cosmos Imperial Mills Ltd, J. Spencer Turner Co. Durox Aluminum Co. and B. Greening Wire Co.
He kept memberships and privileges at The Hamilton Club, The Tamahaac Club and The Hamilton Golf and Country Club.
A good education, one that prepared young men and ladies, and a military education and service had been important to his father, James M. Alan and his brother, James V. would pass down these values and make significant contributions to enhance the City of Hamilton.
At the time, there was no private day school for girls in Hamilton. Strathallan School was founded in 1923 on Robinson Street. The founding patrons included Lady Gibson, Lady Hendrie, Mrs. J.P. Bell and Mrs. S.O. Greening.
In 1929, the new private day school for boys in Hamilton, Hillfield opened. It replaced the Hillcrest School which itself had replaced Highfield which was destroyed by fire.
The sons and daughters and nieces and nephews of the family would attend these schools.
THE HARD DECADE 1930-1939
It was a decade of misery and hardship for so many, a time when having a job meant that you were still somebody, and that meant you didn’t have to apply for relief. It was a decade when new politics gained favour, in the face of adversity, and challenged the established ways. Change was on the way, but it took a long, long time to arrive.
Everyone; businesses, churches, farms, retail shops, and more felt the mood change, and saw the men and women on the streets. Hamilton was no different than Toronto, and Winnipeg fared no better than Regina. All were effected, some more than others. It was only a matter of degree.
Companies in Hamilton scaled back their workforces. The Hamilton Cotton Company managed to operate at 60% – to 80% capacity on average throughout the decade.
The situation was not good at Canadian Westinghouse. There were few new orders on the books, workers were let go and those who remained, became more militant in their talk about unions.
Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw created controversy when she counselled women about birth control. She thought it much better, than leaving them without the knowledge, for many had endured unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
The Annual Report of the Canadian Bank of Commerce dated November 30, 1934, reflected the year’s performance. The report listed the officers of the bank and its directors. Mr. A.V. Young, Esquire, served as a director. Did the bank discuss the Government of Canada’s idea to create a Central Bank?
Perhaps, Mr. Young spoke about this privately with Mr. J.P. Bell, Manager-in-Chief, Hamilton, at one of the clubs or Auchmar?
William Lyon MacKenzie King defeated R. B. Bennett in the federal election and became the prime minister again. World events in Europe and Great Britain, foreboding and appalling respectively, would challenge and amaze the population.
When news flashed across the wires and the daily papers announced that King Edward VIII had given up the Throne of England for love and Wallis Simpson, there were not words to describe it. Those who listened to the Abdication Speech on short wave radio were aghast. What had become of the Monarchy?
Did the widow Mrs. Greening invite the widow Mrs. Sanford for tea at Fonthill? Did they talk about the King? Did they write in their diaries?
In 1936, The Toronto Daily Star announced The Stork Derby. Mr. Charles Vance Millar, an eccentric millionaire, in his will, left an unusual bequest; a large cash prize for the family with the most children. It was contentious to say the least. None the less, the contest ran.
At their Summer Residence at Winona Beach, what opinions did the Dalley family have about the derby?
As the decade drew to a close, all signs pointed to conflict in Europe. War clouds loomed.
At home, Mrs. Harriet Sanford passed away in 1938. The Estate removed the furnishings. Wesanford was demolished the following year.
Edna Greening Young’s brother-in-law, Norman Braden, received another promotion. He became Vice Chairman of the Canadian Westinghouse Company.
The Royal Tour of Canada in 1939, by King George VI and Elizabeth was a breath of crisp air. Everywhere the Royal Couple travelled, they were heralded and welcomed by crowds thronging the streets.
The mood of the country had changed.
Once More into Battle
Halifax Harbour bustled with maritime shipping and military preparations during the cold December days. The transatlantic luxury liners, Empress of Britain, Empress of Australia and the Aquitania, once the flagships of oceanic travel, now sported a livery of battleship grey and camouflage.
Their decks were filled with men who had enlisted in the navy, the regiments and the Royal Canadian Artillery. All settled into a rhythm of choreographed activity. They came from every corner of the country.
The Young families as well as the Greening, Bull, Braden and McColl families, watched as their sons would deploy overseas and then await their letters.
The war time years would have their own rhythm. Six years later, they would not recognize their home towns and cities.
In 1943, A.V. Young leased Auchmar to the Royal Canadian Air Force for use as a Convalescent Hospital for the duration of the war.
Did the family move back to Edgecliffe or Oak Bank for the remainder of war years?
The Grand Homes
The family homes mentioned in the 1920s and 1930s have by and large disappeared into the pages of history and nostalgia. The survivors stand out in plain view.
Ravenscliffe was the home of Sir John M. Gibson, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. Its presence still commands a second or third look. Most of its grounds have been sold and developed.
Fonthill remains on Nob Hill. After the Greening family, The Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (I.O.D.E.), Hamilton Chapter occupied it. Currently, it is home to a wealth management company.
Pinehurst, William Southam’s home, still stands across the street from Fonthill. It is currently home to CHCH TV.
Wesanford, Wm. and Harriet Sanford’s grand estate, though demolished, is home to the houses of Wesanford Place.
Henry Frost’s home, 1 Markland, is a survivor. After the Frost family, the home would continue to be an address of distinction.
Chedoke Mountain and the enclave would be assigned a street address eventually. Chedoke House is now 1 Balfour Street.
The Park Street South home of James M. Young and the Jackson Street home of Norman S. Braden are gone. Apartment towers stand on those properties.
Oak Bank has been gone for almost 60 years. Look for the parking garage at Fontbonne Hall. Oak Bank stood there at St. Josephs Drive and James Street South.
What about the homes of Alan Vernon Young, James Vernon Young, Elsie Georgina (Young) Watson, and Kathleen Douglas (Young) Lindsay and their children?
They are standing.