While the four western blocks of Lyall Avenue have been designated as a Heritage Conservation District (HCD) since 2006, there has been nothing—other than the stately homes themselves—to signify to the average person walking down the street that the area is one with a distinct history and character.
That’s why Deborah and David Livingston-Lowe opted to pay for a plaque to be installed on their own home at 28 Lyall Ave., officially commemorated as the Andrew Taylor House.
“I’ve always been interested in historic houses,” said Deborah.
The couple moved to the home from their previous location in North York, and have been enjoying the ability to walk everywhere they need to go.
“We sought out a neighbourhood that we could treat like a village,” said David.
They ended up on Lyall specifically because the street is in an HCD, but were surprised to find that not much had been done since the designation became official. In fact, many of their new neighbours seemed unaware of the HCD or what it actually means.
“We’d love to see it be more active, just so there’s a greater awareness of the history,” said David.
Deborah spent some time researching the house, after graduating with a masters degree in history last year. She found that the home was built by Andrew Taylor, a bricklayer in what was then the Village of East Toronto. Taylor moved out in 1909, and as his wife is not listed in the census of 1911, Deborah speculates that she may have died.
In 1909 Benjamin Fieldhouse, a locomotive engineer with the Grand Trunk Railway moved to the home from nearby Swanwick Avenue, but in 1913 he moved to Belleville. After renting the home for four years, he sold it to the Leith family in 1917, which stayed until 1934 under the guidance of the family matriarch. In 1935 the Horners purchased the home, which stayed in the family until the Livingston-Lowes purchased the house in 2010.
The homes on Lyall were mostly built in the first few years of the 1900s. The lots are much wider than most in the East End, and the vast majority of the original homes are still standing—it was the demolition of a home that prompted the process of applying for designation as an HCD.
“Not a lot of things were changed along this street, so it was worth preserving,” said Deborah.
While the application was a success, the Livingston-Lowes said it appears that the designation was announced and promptly forgotten. They are hoping for some sort of plaque at the western entrance to the street, perhaps explaining some of the history of the area, its relation to the railway and when most of the houses were built. Deborah is also planning to do some research on the demographics and employment in the area during its early years of development.
Deborah and David are pleased their antique collection finally has a worthy home, and hope their plaque may do its small part to spread the word of the history in the area.