The History Of The Joseph Lawrence House

The Joseph Lawrence House has a long and interesting history associated with its namesake and his family, and also with subsequent owners and residents from its early days. Visitors to our home who have the interest to persevere in reading what follows, will learn the findings of our research since June 2004. More recently, local townspeople have been sharing their memories of it with us. Other contributors are also duly noted.

On October 27, 2008, the Corporation of the Town of Collingwood enacted By-Law No. 2008-142 which designated the Joseph Lawrence House a Heritage Building under Section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act, R.S.O. 1990 c.18. A Heritage Designation Report submitted to the Collingwood Heritage Committee in June 2008 by Su Murdock of Su Murdock Historical Consulting established eligibility for this designation. This report notes the arrival of Joseph Lawrence to the area in 1853, his acquisition and development of the property, its eventual sale, and the various subsequent owners until Barbara and Patrick Kelly purchased it for development as a Bed and Breakfast in 1999. Her report stated:

Based on the documentary and physical research, it is the conclusion of this Heritage Designation Report that the property known as 492 Hurontario Street, Town of Collingwood, has sufficient cultural heritage value or interest to warrant protection under s.29 of the Ontario Heritage Act. The property is first associated with the long-serving Town Clerk, Joseph Hill Lawrence. A remnant of his 1866 frame dwelling forms part of the large, brick addition erected in 1877 for local general merchants, Thomas and Elizabeth Fair. The next owners of the property were Richard and Mary Stephenson, whose daughter Muriel is remembered by area residents as a piano teacher. Although some components are reproductions, this structure has maintained its historic integrity as a fashionable residence influenced by Italianate and Queen Anne styles of architecture. This property at one time had extensive gardens and was a landmark at the southern boundary of the town. It contributes to the residential character of this section of Hurontario Street.

Schedule B of By-Law 2008-142 of the Town of Collingwood is a Statement of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest. It reads as follows:

Regarding its Historical or Associative Value, the property at 492 Hurontario Street was associated from 1862 to 1876 with Joseph Hill Lawrence and his wife Sarah Drown Bliss. Lawrence had a successful career in the printing trade of Upper Canada before arriving in Collingwood about 1853. In 1858, he was appointed Clerk of the Council for the newly incorporated town. He served in this capacity until his death in 1877. The frame dwelling built for Lawrence in 1866 is no longer visible, but its presence is reflected in the unusual roofline at the west end of the existing brick structure, and the character of the window openings on the north and south facades.

It was Thomas Fair and his wife Elizabeth who in 1877-1878 had a large brick dwelling erected as an east addition to the Lawrence dwelling. Thomas Fair arrived in Collingwood about 1853 to join a successful partnership in the dry goods business known by various names in its history, including Melville, Fair & Co. When Thomas died in 1885, his wife and sons operated the business under the name of E. Fair & Co. Elizabeth died in 1908. During their ownership of the subject property this was a landmark estate with extensive gardens.

Richard and Mary Stephenson and their children owned the property from 1911 to 1974. Their daughter Muriel is remembered as a noted concert pianist and music instructor.

Regarding its Design or Physical Value, this property contains an attractive example of a fashionable, third quarter 19th century dwelling influenced by Italianate and Queen Anne styling. It is somewhat peculiar in that the Fairs, who had the financial means and acreage to do otherwise, chose to incorporate an earlier frame dwelling on site, into their substantial brick addition. The outcome was still a symmetrical, square plan structure. The well-crafted brickwork may be that of Collingwood mason John Chamberlain.

Regarding its Contextual Value, this property, with its dwelling and picturesque setting, enhances the residential character of the streetscape. It still presents a sense of having been a landmark.

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