Saturday, April 16, 2011

Farr House/John Cornell House/Queen West Update

I've decided to re post this piece due to a chance encounter with someone also interested in Toronto's history who has generously contributed some old photographs.
905 Queen Street West, this is from a 1991 report by the Conservation Review Board:
The property located at 905 Queen Street West is recommended for designation for architectural and historical reasons. The house was constructed in 1847 for John Farr, who established the Farr Brewery on the adjacent site in 1819. While the business was sold in 1858, the house was occupied by Farr's daughter, Mary E. Farr, until 1905. The buildings at 899 and 905 Queen Street West are operated as a community centre by the Polish National Union.

The John Cornell House
899 Queen West as it was in it's final days.
 An early watercolour of the house and the brewery to the east.
The smame corner in 2010.

There was another house immediately to the east that mysteriously burned to the ground shortly after the report was issued making room for the condos that now occupy the site.
This poloroid of the house was taken by Andrew Dziedziola who was kind enough to share it with me (and you).
Again, from the 1991 report:
The John Cornell House

The house is located on the south side of Queen Street, facing toward the park, former site of Trinity College. It is set fairly close to the street and approximately 5’ above the sidewalk.
The exterior is rough cast plaster over wood lath, 1” boards and undressed stud framing. The rear wing appeared to have pre-dated - or been added to - the late Gothic Revival main house. This section was reported to be older. At the north west junction, the exterior stucco of the rear section and adjacent house wall had fallen away. Both walls were constructed of stucco over wood lath nailed to wood studs. On the rear wing, the lath was hand split undressed wood nailed horizontally with square hand wrought nails to the wood boards. The main house had sawn lath nailed at 45 degrees to the wall studs.
The above indicated that the rear section probably pre-dated the 1870s main house, but by only 10 to 20 years.
The house appears to be quite original, inside and out. The bell shaped roof of the front porch, the heavy wood window and door trim, the "french doors" from the front parlour to porch are all original. The interior base board, trim and stair are all original and even the interior room divisions have been little altered, allowing the original room forms to be easily assessed. Much of the upper floor rooms show serious water damage and the roof and roof boards are in very poor condition.
Another poloroid from Andrew Dziedziola of the backyard looking towards Queen.
Another image of the two houses from the 1980's supplied by Andrew Dziedziola.
A somewhat current view.

He was also able to supply a copy of the original report prepared by the Toronto Historical Board in 1990.

You can see on this plan just how big the properties were for these two houses and why the condo developers were so keen to get their hands on them.
905 Queen is the Farr House and 899 is the Cornell house.


  1. Thank you for this. I fondly remember attending Polish night school classes at 901 queen durning the 70's. Back then there were no condos and we entered the building by the door to the left which led to the basement where we changed from outdoor shoes to indoor so as to not ruin the beautiful floors. The Polish school was run by a dedicated husband and wife team, mr. And mrs. Kowalski along with a team of teachers. The Polish school was named Adam Mickiewicz, one of Polands greatest heroes and writers. I so fondly remember the building from the outside and in and am happy that it is still standing. I also remember these grand beautiful chestnut trees that towered in front of the building and the mass of squirrels feasting on the nuts in the fall. I could go on about the beauty of this building and appreciate that it is still standing. It is such a shame that the one next to it is gone....thank you so much for you blog!

    1. I also went to that Polish night school 2x a week Tuesday and Thursday, and I grew up next door at 899 as my father was the superintendent in that building... The upper floors and 2 rooms on the main floor (west wing) were for renters, there was a big black bell by the door and a brass chemical (vinegar water and baking soda)fire extinguisher standing on the floor, the coal bunkers were in the basement under the living room floor and were loaded through the front porch which had a trap door and chute under the middle of the porch floor. The coal delivery guys (which were giants with muscles to match) used to park in the front on Queen street and walk up the front walkway with like 150 lbs of coal in burlap bags on their shoulders, they were black from head to toe from the coal dust, my dad had to make sure that the basement doors were closed and all the windows otherwise the coal dust was all over the house, if you wanted a hot bath you had to heat your own water in a small coal fired boiler in the basement that you stoked yourself.. The front (east wing)was our living room and the rear addition was the kitchen with a side door to the side/back yard, there was a trellis with a grape vine that ran along the west side from the door to a porch in the back that nobody used as it was just a dilapidated floor, there were garages at the back for some of the renters that drove cars, one of which was my dearest friend, my mentor!.. He died in the Bluejay restaurant next to the KFC on Queen and Dennison around 1987 from choking on his food because no one helped him and nobody called for help as it was bad for business... RIP my friend.

  2. Thank you so much for your comments.

  3. Hello Greg, I found another Polariod of the rear Cornell House - Great picture! Please send me your email and I'll send it. Thanks Andrew

  4. I am 99% sure the illuminati now occupy this place. Someone should set up cameras across the street to document their late night antics. :)

    1. Yes, that would be nice to believe. In fact, the old Farr House is occupied by the man who developed Trinity Park Lofts (next door), a Paul Anisman. It's his office and (perhaps) his home.