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Tollkeeper's cottages in Ontario

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tollkeeper's cottage, Davenport and Bathurst, Toronto, 1875.[1]
Tollkeeper's cottage, Davenport and Bathurst, Toronto, 1875.[1]

In the 19th century small tollkeeper's cottages were built to house tollkeepers who collected tolls on the roads that lead into the city later known as Toronto, Ontario.[1][2][3][4][5] Private companies were licensed to maintain the province's roads, and they were allowed to levy tolls from those traveling on the road to pay for that maintenance.[6] Tollkeepers were provided with cottages, so they could work from home.

The first tollkeeper's cottage was built in 1820, at the corner of Yonge and King streets, when that intersection was on the outskirts of York, Upper Canada.[3][7] The tollkeeper system was retired in 1896.

Tollhouse Park

Tollkeeper's cottage, Davenport and Bathurst, after restoration.
Tollkeeper's cottage, Davenport and Bathurst, after restoration.

In 1993 what had been tollhouse number 3, one of five tollhouses on Davenport Road was rediscovered. It had been moved, and repurposed, and was about to be demolished.[6] After a long period of restoration it was turned into a museum, and turned into the centerpiece of a park, near its original location, at the corner of Davenport Road and Bathurst Street.

John Allemang, writing in The Globe and Mail, contrasted the poverty of working class citizens, as documented by the cottage, to the luxury of the rich, as documented by two nearby former mansions, Casa Loma and Spadina House, now open to the public.[8] Allemang wrote:

For visitors not entranced by the history of tolls or roads, by the lost stories of the city's French roots, or the shameful betrayals of the Mississauga Indians who once lived here, the cottage can offer up a revealing picture of lower-class existence in 19th-century Toronto. If Casa Loma and Spadina House on the brow of the escarpment represent the aristocratic Upstairs, the tollkeeper's three-room house, with unheated bedrooms where children would sleep three to a bed, is all too clearly Downstairs."[8]


  1. ^ a b "The Tollkeepers Cottage and Early Roads". Lost Rivers. Archived from the original on October 29, 2018. Retrieved November 4, 2018. To finance the early roads the Government and private firms collected tolls.
  2. ^ "Tollkeeper's Cottage: Background". Tollkeeper's Cottage. Archived from the original on August 14, 2011. Retrieved November 4, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Adam Bunch (May 14, 2013). "Torontonians have been fighting over road tolls for nearly 200 years". Spacing magazine. Archived from the original on November 5, 2018. Retrieved November 4, 2018. Still, there would be tollhouses in Toronto for nearly a hundred years. They helped to fuel our growth from that tiny town of a thousand into a thriving metropolis of a quarter of a million.
  4. ^ Chris Bateman (December 7, 2013). "That time road tolls were abolished in Toronto". Blog TO. Archived from the original on November 5, 2018. Retrieved November 4, 2018. In the 1800s, toll booths were positioned on every major route out of town. At various times, little wooden cottages with a large gate blocking the road could be found at King and Yonge, Queen and Bathurst (then part of Dundas,) Dundas and Bloor, and Broadview and Danforth, to name a few.
  5. ^ Valerie Hauch (January 18, 2018). "Canada's oldest surviving tollkeeper's cottage provides a glimpse into the history of a toll collector". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on November 5, 2018. Retrieved November 4, 2018. Records from 1851 show the fee for a wagon drawn by two horses was six pence, a one-horse or one mule-led wagon was three pence, a single horse two pence, those travelling on foot with 20 cattle or sheep paid a penny. Pedestrians weren’t charged.
  6. ^ a b "Canada's oldest tollkeeper cottage opens in T.O." CTV News. July 1, 2008. Archived from the original on November 4, 2018. Retrieved November 4, 2018. During the early 1800s, private companies were contracted to build, improve and maintain roads. In return, the companies were allowed to collect tolls from those who used the roads.
  7. ^ "Remembering the Abolition of the Toll Gates of York County". Toronto Public Library. December 31, 2016. Archived from the original on November 5, 2018. Retrieved November 4, 2018.
  8. ^ a b John Allemang (September 3, 2005). "A historic cottage takes its toll". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved November 4, 2018. Drivers racing through the Bathurst-Davenport intersection see only a tiny white cottage that barely hints at its antiquity and an unassuming modern annex designed as the interpretative centre for inquiring schoolchildren. But the humble building that is causing the commotion -- and has cost its rescuers $500,000 to date -- is just the starting point for a larger story about Toronto's more extensively neglected past.
This page was last edited on 3 March 2021, at 16:15
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