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Lost Treasures

   In addition to the many beautiful century homes surviving around Scugog Township, there are a few notable homes which although no longer with us, are worthy of mention. These homes, either destroyed by fire or neglect, were some of the finest of the period and the pictures and stories are the only record of homes that no longer exist.


THOMAS PAXTON'S 'BEUNA VISTA'
Beech Street - Port Perry

   This majestic home was one of the largest and most elegant in town when it was built at the north end of Port Perry in the mid-1870s. The full two-storey home, including a tower and covered entry, was constructed of red brick with yellow quoining. It had a large front porch with ornate trim and was located on a scenic 14 acre lot. The property fronted on both Lilla Street (now Simcoe St.) and Beech Street, with the entrance to the property, which became known as Beuna Vista, from Beech Street.
   The impressive home was built by Thomas C. Paxton, an important Port Perry industrialist and businessman who had moved to the area from Whitby in 1821 as a young man. In 1846 Thomas and his brother George built a sawmill near Lake Scugog, and later partnered with Joseph Bigelow in a flouring mill. He was also a partner in the Paxton, Tate Foundry located on Perry Street.


Thomas Paxton

   Mr. Paxton led an extremely busy business career and paralleled it with an equally extensive and devoted time to public life. He held every position on the municipal council of Reach Township in it's early days and was the second man to serve as Reeve of Reach Township following its formation in 1853.
   Mr Paxton was elected with a large majority to the seat for North Ontario in the Ontario Assembly, and re-elected many times. His political career ended in January 1881 when he resigned to accept the position of Sheriff of Ontario County. A few years after becoming Sheriff, Mr. Paxton and his family left their beautiful home in Port Perry to take up residence in Whitby.
   The next notable person to own the large estate home was William McGill.
   Mr. McGill was a prosperous Ontario County farmer who had devoted his entire life to agricultural pursuits. He was also involved in the community, serving on the Pine Grove Cemetery Bd., the Board of Education and the Reach, Port Perry and Scugog Ploughing Association.
   He purchased the house from Sheriff Thos. Paxton about 1885 with the intention of making it his permanent family residence. He had plans to build extensive gardens, no doubt encouraged by Beuna Vista's proximity to the magnificent Beechenhurst property of Dr. John H. Sangster, which abutted the property east to the shoreline of Lake Scugog. The exact date Mr. McGill and his family moved into Buena Vista is not known but due to financial problems he never did develop the attractive gardens he had planned.
   Shortly after moving onto his suburban property he began to encounter investment problems. Mr. McGill became a shareholder in the Central Bank of Port Perry, losing about $1,000 when the bank closed in 1887. When the bank re-opened as the Western Bank in January 1888, Mr. McGill became the branch manager, a position he held until June 1896 when he ran into more financial problems with the announced bankruptcy of the Paxton, Tate & Co. Foundry. At the time of its fall, Mr. McGill was the largest investor in the company, losing $17,500. It wasn't long after this bad turn of events that he announced his intention to move to California. Whether or not he ever did move is unclear.
   Mr. McGill was sued by the Western Bank for $30,000 of debt incurred when the Paxton, Tate Foundry ceased business, and following a long trial at the Court House in Whitby, the jury returned an unanimous verdict for Mr. McGill over the bank. This was June 1898. One year later, on July 31, 1899, at the age of 55 years, Wm. McGill died. There is some speculation that he may have taken his own life due to his financial woes.
   Silas E. VanCamp was the next owner of this property and it is believed he rented it out to a number of tenants while in his ownership.
   Mr. VanCamp sold the 14 acre property in June 1915 to his neighbour Frederick Kent, who had recently purchased the Sangster property. It is reported Mr. Kent purchased the 14 acre property and house for $6,650.
   Mr. Kent went on to build beautiful flowered gardens on the Sangster property, (see Beechenhurst page 153) but the Beuna Vista property was never developed to its potential and the once stately estate home began to deteriorate. Some reports suggest the Kent family began using what was left of it for keeping chickens and other small livestock. Over the years the house continued to deteriorate until it became unsafe and was finally torn down about 1960.
   Long time Port Perry residents Bob Archer and Ted Griffen, remember playing in the ruins of the old building when they were young boys. Ironically Ted Griffen later became one of the owners of the property and helped developed it into the residential subdivision now known as Kent Estates. Mr. Griffen remembered the old foundation was still in the ground when they began building homes on the property in the early 1970s, and had to be removed.
   A unfortunate ending for this once magnificent property, which was the home of one of Port Perry's most industrious and well respected men, Thomas C. Paxton.



BEECHENHURST
East end of Beech Street on Lake Scugog

   Beechenhurst, later to become known as Kent Estates, was the most magnificent property in and around Port Perry for more than sixty years. A full story about this estate property is featured on page 121 of this book, but it's early history includes two large, expensive homes which were both destroyed by fire during the late 1800s. Both these homes, were owned by respected physician, Dr. J.H. Sangster who had moved to Port Perry towards the end of his illustrious career.


Dr. J. H. Sangster

   Dr. J. H. Sangster arrived in Port Perry in November 1874, opening up an office for the practice of medicine at the corner of Queen and Perry St.
   Not long after arriving in the village, Dr. Sangster purchased an attractive piece of property on the west side of Lake Scugog north of Port Perry. It was here, nestled among the trees on the slope of a hill, he built a large beautiful home overlooking the lake and the village of Port Perry to the south. He also commenced work on creating beautiful floral gardens, installing fountains and building walkways throughout the property stretching from his home all the way to the shoreline of the lake.
   He named his new residence "Beechenhurst," due to the large concentration of Beech trees on the property. Access to his home was inconvenient, being located north of the property along the seventh concession of Reach, so Dr. Sangster petitioned the village council to build a new street. To his delight, in May 1877 Beech Street was opened. (see map page 153)
   Dr. Sangster continued to manicure and improve his property until disaster struck. About 4 a.m. on March 7, 1881 his house was found to be on fire and all efforts to extinguish the roaring blaze failed. Within four hours the house and its contents were completely destroyed.
   After his home was burned to the ground, Dr. Sangster began plans to build a new house, larger and more elegant than his previous residence. The result was a magnificent home. A picture of the house, (see page 155) accompanied by a detailed description was published in the 1886 Toronto Globe newspaper. The description follows....
   "The residence of Dr. J.H. Sangster is beautifully located on the west bank of Lake Scugog, within the corporation of Port Perry. The house, built by the present owner, is of white brick and is surrounded by very extensive environmental grounds which besides the groves of beeches on the western shore, include several acres of primitive forest, fully improved and detailed.
   The residence with its ample and well-stocked conservatory is said to be one of the finest in the province - its grape and hot houses and grounds form a lovely picture from the lake, and constitute one of the stateliest and choicest houses in the land.
   Dr. Sangster is at present engaged in a very large and lucrative medical practice. He was formerly principal of the Toronto Normal School, and is well known as an author of the school books in exclusive use from 1860 to 1870.
   He was for twelve years professor of chemistry and botany in the Medical Department of the University of Victoria College, and for the seven years immediately prior to his removal to Port Perry in 1874 he was a member of the Board of Examiners of the Medical Council. He has thus been most intimately connected with both the general and medical education of the province."
   Dr. Sangster was twice married, in 1851 to Miss Mary Price, and in 1871 to Miss Caroline Elizabeth McCausland, both of Toronto.
   The respected physician and educator passed away at the King Edward Hotel, Toronto on January 27, 1904, after suffering from a serious heart attack. At the time of his death he left his widow, Caroline, three sons Dr. W.A., Selwyn and Beverly, and one daughter Mrs. S.C. Corbett. He was a member of the Church of England, and was buried at Pine Grove Cemetery, Prince Albert.
   His wife, Caroline Sangster passed away on April 1, 1916, at 86 years.
   This huge yellow brick house took on the form of a rambling gothic baronial mansion. But the dominating elaborate four-storey tower with its crowning ironwork, the verandahs, the glass conservatory and the tall sturdy ornamentally capped chimneys, the decorated brackets to the roof with its low pitched gables, the relief like caps to the curved topped windows with their shutters, these were all features of an Italianate villa belonging to an extremely wealthy family. If this house had survived, it would have been one of the most elaborate in the province. Unfortunately in the early morning hours of February 28, 1893, a fire broke out and the home was totally destroyed. A report in the North Ontario Observer described the loss:
   "The whole structure was enveloped in flames so that the building and contents were in a short time destroyed by the devouring element. Only a few articles were saved. This was one of the most magnificent and best appointed residences in the province and was furnished in a manner rarely excelled anywhere. The loss is a heavy one, there being only an insurance of $3,500 on the building and $3,000 on the contents."
   Not long after losing his second home to fire, Dr. Sangster sold what remained of his Beechenhurst property to Johnathan Blong, a local businessman. Mr. Blong purchased the property in January 1895, erected a stately new residence that summer and moved in the following January. The home erected by Mr. Blong still stands today at 434 Lakeshore Drive.



CURTS LAKEVIEW LODGE
North-east corner of Water & Scugog St.

  The residence of Joshua W. Curts was not as large or impressive as Dr. J.H. Sangster's home, but it boasted many of the same features, including an atrium. The impressive three storey red brick home was located along the shoreline of Lake Scugog, just three blocks south of Queen St. It had a turret, wrap around verandah and a green house. The home was a prominent feature on the north-east corner of Water and Scugog Streets (7A Highway).
   The property, originally owned by Joseph Bigelow, was purchased by Mr. Curts about 1890 at which time he consructed "Lakeview Lodge." The chosen name was fitting as the home looked east over the water of Lake Scugog towards Scugog Island.
   The home was conveniently located at the west end of the Scugog Bridge and only two blocks from the railway station. The Curts family lived in the home for more than 30 years, until it was destroyed by fire on the afternoon of November 4, 1930.
   Due to it's location at the far end of Water St. there was no supply of water to fight the fire, although the local fire brigade did all that was possible to save the property. An alarm was sent to the Brooklin Fire Department and firefighters came with a chemical fire engine, but the fire had gained too great a headway. The cause of the fire was never determined, and although Mr. Curts had some insurance, it was not enough to cover the loss.


Joshua W. Curts

   Joshua W. Curts came to Port Perry in 1875 as an employee of the Port Perry & Port Whitby Railway, first as baggage handler and freight checker, and later he became the railway's agent. He was a veteran of the Fenian Raids and while living in Toronto, before moving to Port Perry was a member of the Queen's Own Rifles.
   A congenial man, Mr. Curts character and business habits won him many friends. He was actively interested in public affairs, holding positions on the Board of Education, and Port Perry Council. His popularity as a public spirited citizen resulted in his being elected Reeve three consecutive years from 1886 to 1888, and once again by a large majority in both 1894 and 1895.
   On the business front, Mr. Curts entered into the produce business with C.R. Henderson, forming the company Curts & Henderson. They erected two refrigerated warehouses capable of holding up to 25,000 dozen eggs. The largest warehouse burned with its contents in November 1892. The business prospered for a number of years, as Mr. Curts sent two teams out on the road gathering eggs and butter. In later years he busied himself with his farm located at the west end of the Scugog Bridge.
    Mr. Curts died at 74 years of age, on February 17, 1921. His wife, Melinda May Abbot, two sisters and a half brother survived him. Melinda Curts passed away in Port Perry on March 31, 1933, at 67 years of age.


DR. GEORGE CLEMENS RESIDENCE
305 Queen St.
Plan 2, Part Lot 162, 163

  The roots of this pretty downtown Port Perry property go back to 1875 when Joseph Bigelow purchased it from John Dryden. Located on the north west corner of Queen St., the property was conveniently situated just west of the commercial district. Joseph Bigelow kept the property for two years before selling it to Addison Richardson, owner of Richardson's Planing Mill, in 1877. In August of 1881, the newspaper reported that Mr. Richardson's handsome new residence opposite the town hall was nearing completion and it would prove very much of an ornament to that portion of the town.
   Mr. Richardson owned the property for seven years before selling it to Dr. George H. Clemens in March 1885. When Dr. Clemens purchased the residence, there were only a few acres of cleared land around his property.
   Dr. Clemens was born in Waterloo County in 1857. After earning his degree in medicine he began the practice of his profession in Berlin, Ont. (Kitchener) in 1880.
   In January 1883 Dr. G.H. Clemens moved to Port Perry where he became successor to Dr. J.D. Anderson purchasing his home which was located on the north side of Queen St., three doors east of Port Perry's Union School.
   Later that year Dr. Clemens moved to a brick building on the south side of Queen St., east of the Methodist Episcopal Church, near the corner of Queen and Caleb St. In an effort to combine his residence and office in one location, the doctor moved a third time, in April 1885 to the fine brick house owned by Mr. Richardson opposite the Town Hall.
   In October of 1890 he began advertising that he had a telephone in his office and a few years later in partnership with Dr. E.L. Proctor, they extended the telephone lines from Manchester to Utica.


Dr. George Clemens, left and Dr. E. L. Proctor

   The stately residence which Dr. Clemens called both home and office was sadly the victim of fire just 10 years after he had purchased it. At 4 a.m. on Saturday, August 24, 1895 the doctor was awkened by smoke, only to discover that his house was engulfed in flames. Fortunately Mrs. Clemens and his son, Louie, were away at Niagara at the time of the fire
   The flames spread so rapidly that Dr. Clemens had barely enough time to escape, and within minutes the entire structure and its valuable contents were nothing but a heap of debris.
   The origin of the fire was never determined, although it was speculated to have started in the cellar. Loss from the fire was $11,000, an extremely large sum at this time. Dr. Clemens is reported to have been insured for $6,000 on the house, and $3,000 on the contents.
   It was speculated the doctor would rebuild at once, although an article in the newspaper later that year said he would not start until the following spring. Dr. Clemens never did rebuild the house and the last we hear of him was in December 1896 when his good friend Mr. J.W. Meharry hosted a gathering of 75 guests at a party given as a farewell to the popular doctor and his wife.
   Before leaving Port Perry, Dr. Clemens sold the vacant property to Dr. E.L. Proctor, his partner of many years. Dr. Proctor took over ownership in January 1897, rebuilt on the site and practiced medicine there until 1908 when he retired and sold the property to Dr. John D. Berry.
   Dr. Berry sold the property in October 1918 to Wm. M. Real and his wife Mina who made the attractive property their home until 1942. Mr. Real served on Reach Twp. council for a number of years during the 1890s, before retiring to Port Perry, where he again held office on a number of occasions. The Reals lived in the large white house until Mr. Real's death.
   The property is owned today by local businessman, Irwin Smith (see Proctor residence page 47) owner of Ocala Orchards Winery, although he does not occupy in the building.



WILLIAM S. SEXTON RESIDENCE
Water Street

  This attractive two storey frame house, conveniently located near the south-west corner of Water St. and North St., overlooking Lake Scugog, was the home of William S. Sexton and his wife Amanda. The house was located on one of three lots owned by the Sextons behind the Port Perry House hotel, also known as the Sebert House, which is today the location of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Mr. Sexton purchased the property in 1855 and about ten years later, in November 1866, he took out a $6,000 mortgage, presumably to build this house, and another one on property he owned on North St. for his brother Allan.
   William S. Sexton purchased the saw mill of Thomas and George Paxton in the early 1850s, located just south of the village dock on the waterfront. This dock became known as Sexton's Wharf. He carried on the lumbering business until the pine forests around Scugog Lake became exhausted.

Mr. and Mrs. William Sexton

   Mr. Sexton served as a member of Scugog Township council for many years before being elected as Reeve for seven consecutive years, from 1867 to 1873. The highlight of his political career was his election as Warden of Ontario County. He also served as a school trustee for the Port Perry Grammar and Common School during 1860s and 1870s, and was one of the moving forces behind the building of the Port Whitby & Port Perry Railway.
   It was Reeve Sexton who introduced the by-law to incorporate the Village of Port Perry at a session of Ontario County Council in June 1871. While a member of the County Council, he worked diligently to ensure improvements to the old wooden floating Scugog Bridge and successfully lobbied for it to be reconstructed as a solid roadway.
   In December 1873, Mr. Sexton announced that having been requested by a large number of ratepayers, he would run for the the office of Reeve of Port Perry, but lost in his bid to Joseph Bigelow. In November 1874 he sold 800 acres of his Springwater Farm on Scugog Island, to Reach Twp. Reeve James Graham, and moved to Port Perry. Just a few years later, in 1877, he sold his lakefront saw mill property to Joshua Wright.
   Mr. Sexton lived in his commodious house on Water St., behind the Sebert Hotel until 1877, when due to financial problems it was take over by the Ontario Bank. He continued to live in Port Perry for a number of years, but in 1883 he and his wife moved to Brooklyn, New York. Before leaving he was honored at banquet, and was presented a fine gold headed cane and an expensive pipe by his many friends.
   The town was saddened to learn that W.S. Sexton, passed away in Brooklyn, N. Y., on September 3, 1893. His body was returned by train to Port Perry, and was laid to rest in Pine Grove Cemetery.
   About 1879 the Ontario Bank sold Mr. Sexton's former properties and homes to Louis A. McLean. It appears Mr. McLean also ran into financial problems, as he offered the properties for sale on the market by auction in February 1882 and described them as being a "valuable property for sale with three houses and lots on Water St., within a few rods of the Port Perry Station and the railway. The property consists of three fine lots with the late Sexton family residence and two smaller dwellings. The location is healthful convenient and pleasant."
   Mr. McLean was unsuccessful in selling the properties and in July 1883 his buildings were destroyed by a devastating fire which swept along the north side of Queen St. In July 1884, as the town was rebuilding, he sold the property to Mary A. Thompson, whose husband James V. Thompson operated the Port Perry House hotel just to the south of the Sexton properties. The hotel was also destroyed by the fire of 1883. Over the next few years there were many changes in ownership of the properties. Some of these owners included Jacob Brooks, James Carnegie and Louis Sebert.
   Mr. Sebert sold the Sebert House Hotel, along with the adjoining former Sexton properties to Robt. John Weir in July 1923 and the next change didn't take place until August 1949, when the Sexton property was sold to the Village of Port Perry.
   In 1950 plans got underway for building a new arena and recreation centre on the property and on January 12, 1951 Premier Leslie Frost cut a ribbon to officially open the Port Perry Memorial Gardens Arena. Other dignitaries on hand for the gala celebration were Maple Leafs Captain Tedder Kennedy and teammate Sid Smith. The arena operated on the site until 1980, when it was torn down and the former Sexton property has since that time been used as a municipal parking lot.



ALLAN SEXTON RESIDENCE
289 North St.

  This attractive home was located at the corner of North and Simcoe St., Port Perry and featured a unique mansard style roofline, which gave the large house a full third floor. It was one of only two houses built with this style of roof in the village during the 1870s. The convenient corner property was purchased in 1854 by W.S. Sexton who took out a large mortgage in 1869 to build this large, attractive home. The house was described as being "well and substantially built and consisting of eight rooms and a kitchen." The largest section, facing onto North St., was about 25'x30' in size, with an addition on the north which was the kitchen and pantry area. Compared with some of the larger homes along Cochrane St., the house was not as elaborate, but the wrap around porch, decorative posts and trim, arched windows, and the special attention to the window trim along the mansard roof, made the home look very striking and large.
   William Sexton built this home for his brother Allan, who assumed ownership in November 1871. Very little is known about Alan Sexton, although when the new municipality of Port Perry was formed in January 1872, he served with Reeve Joseph Bigelow as one of the village's first councillors.
   Allan's brother William ran into financial troubles in the mid 1870s and since he was holding a $6,000 mortgage on his two properties, the house was taken over by the Ontario Bank in 1877, and Allan had to leave. The house was rented out for about five years and then in December 1881, the Ontario Bank of Port Perry ran a large advertisement in the Ontario Observer offering the former Sexton home for sale.
   In October 1882, the Ontario Bank transferred ownership of the home to Louisa McMurtry whose husband W.J. McMurtry was appointed manager of the Ontario Bank about eight months later. Mr. McMurtry had the reputation of being a shrewd man of business and was a most unassuming gentleman. In January 1888 he resigned as manager of the Ontario Bank and moved to Clinton, Iowa, where he entered into the produce business.
   The next owner of the house was Sara Paterson, wife of well known lawyer Norman F. Paterson, who also held the position of clerk of the Village of Port Perry.
   The Patersons purchased the house from the McMurtry family in October 1888 for $1,500 and lived there until it burned to the ground in November 1890. Following is an account of the fire from the Ontario Observer:
   "On the morning of Tuesday, November 4, 1890, Port Perry was again visited by the unwelcome intruder, fire, by which the palatial residence of Mr. N.F. Paterson, Q.C., on North St. was burned to the ground.
   The fire originated outside the northern addition, It was discovered about 3:30 a.m. by a party coming to town for medical aid. He drove directly to the burning building and gave the alarm.
   The fire brigade was soon at the scene and on short notice a stream of water directed where it would effect the most good and very soon had the flames under control, when it was ascertained that the water tanks within reach were exhausted so that the services of the engine could not be made further available. and the fire soon advanced so far that nothing could be done but save the contents.
   Willing hands soon removed a large quantity of furniture."
   N.F. Paterson practiced law in Beaverton for almost 12 years, before moving to Port Perry in 1878, setting up his practice as a barrister and attorney at law in offices over the store of Brown and Currie. He acquired a high reputation and became well respected for his work throughout Ontario County. While living in Port Perry he also served in the County Council, was Clerk for the Village of Port Perry for 12 years, was an energetic and longtime member of the School Board, serving as Chairman a number of times. He tendered his resignation as solicitor and clerk for the village in November 1892.
   Following the fire, the Patersons took out a mortgage and built a new brick home on the property. They lived there for only a few years before selling it to James and Hannah Swan (Sr.) in April 1893. The Patersons move to a home at 62 Ella St which they had purchased a few years earlier (see Gordon page 66).
   Mr Swan was a blacksmith who had arrived in Port Perry about 1850 and opened a blacksmithing shop at the corner of Queen and Silver Streets. He later expanded the business on John St. and brought his sons, John and James Jr. in as partners. By the late 1800s Swan's Carriage Shop was one of the best equipped and respected carriage manufacturers in the entire county.
   When he was 84 years old, James Swan and his wife Hannah sold the house. They had lived there for about nine years before transferring ownership to their son James Swan Jr. in March 1902.

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