Joseph Hill lawrence
Joseph Lawrence also briefly published a competing newspaper of his own known as the Collingwood Journal. It was published for 12 1/2 cents a month at the office of Joseph Lawrence situated on Huron Street. In its first issue of February 20, 1858, notably before the incorporation of Collingwood as a town, Joseph wrote a letter of congratulation to the editor of his paper.
We have before us the first number of a neatly printed sheet which hails from the town of Collingwood. Mr. J.H. Lawrence is the publisher. It is liberal in politics and its editorial columns give evidence that a practical hand is at the helm. The name of the Collingwood Journal contemporaneously with the incorporation of their “clearing” shows that the people of the forest town are determined to go ahead.
Local middle-aged and elderly people usually refer our home as the Stephenson House rather than as the Joseph Lawrence House. We attribute this to the fact that theirs is a living memory of the building. The Stephenson family purchased it from the Fair Family. Two generations lived in it from 1911 to 1974 when it was purchased by Ian McKay. The Stephenson family was highly respected in the community, especially by the many people who visited it frequently as piano students of Muriel Stephenson, a legally blind concert pianist. We recently were gifted two of Muriel’s academic diplomas by her nephew who stayed in the family home many times during his childhood. During a recent visit, he gave us several photographs of Muriel, one showing her seated at her grand piano. This piano, now owned by one of Muriel’s students who also teaches piano, is now back in Collingood. Muriel’s nephew informed us that his grandparents owned and operated two hotels in Collingwood including the Arlington Hotel. Significantly to us, after his grandfather died, his grandmother operated a ‘B&B’ in her home. Muriel is fondly remembered by her former students many of whom we have met. Many of them visit us from time to time to inspect our continuing renovation and restoration efforts. With great emotion and nostalgia they have expressed fond appreciation that the house of their childhood memories has been restored and renovated to its present condition. A great deal of the credit for beginning this must be attributed to Barbara and Patrick Kelly who, no doubt, rescued the deteriorating old house from the wrecking ball of certain demolition. When they purchased it in 1999 under power of sale from the Toronto Dominion Bank, it had been vacant for nearly two years, and was in a sorry state of disrepair.
Neighbours continue to share their interesting recollections of this remarkable old home. We invite anyone who has information to share about the Joseph Lawrence House and its generations of residents to contact us. Recently, we received old photographs faintly showing part of the original frame farmhouse and also its carriage house. During an early fire in downtown Collingwood, the buildings of the Foley Furniture Company were destroyed. The old carriage house was subsequently used as a furniture assembly and storage facility for several years.
During the May 24th weekend in 1974, several members of a local motorcycle group were renting rooms from Ian McKay, the owner at the time until 1987. As recounted to us by a neighbour in 2004, one of the female residents apparently had offended a female associate of a rival group in Wasaga Beach. Members of that group subsequently attempted to avenge the slight by entering the house uninvited during a party one evening. A noisy brawl ensued during which several people were injured. One was thrown out a second floor window. A local resident of Collingwood recently commented to us that “he still doesn’t walk right”. Police surrounded the house and restored order. No arrests were made. A local glazier, who later also replaced some windows for us shortly after we began renovations, recalled that he had been called in the next day to repair broken windows. Ian McKay recently confirmed this event and recalled that most of the damage was not inflicted on the house itself, but to his personal and family possessions.
Hopefully, the Joseph Lawrence House will continue to accrue an interesting history. We welcome additional information about Joseph Lawrence and his home. We will very much appreciate receiving photographs of the Lawrence Family, especially of Joseph and Sarah Lawrence. Our guests enjoy this Heritage Building, and enrich us with their perspectives drawn from their own rich and varied life experience. Conversation at the breakfast table is informative, lively, and often provocative. We usually manage a good attempt at solving most of the world’s problems. Come and join the fun with us!