Monday, January 30, 2006

backstreets of toronto: littlehayes lane

The cans of worms one opens when they start researching the background of local street names.

The laneway was named in 2000, according to this city notice (PDF - I have not found a copy of attachment #2 online). According to the document, the name derived from Major E.B. Littlehayes, "an aide to John Graves Simcoe, who owned land in the area". I've poured through half-a-dozen library books about the Simcoe era in Upper Canada and found no references to "Major E.B. Littlehayes".

"Major E.B. Littlehales" is a different story.

Edward Baker Littlehales (?-1825) was military secretary to Simcoe during the latter's tenure as governor of Upper Canada. His main accomplishment appears to have been a survey of the land between Detroit and Niagara in February-March 1793, which resulted in the recommendation of the site for London. Quoted in Henry Scadding's book Toronto of Old (1873), Littlehales found that site to be "a situation eminently calculated for the metropolis of all Canada", due to its central location, access of the Thames into the Great Lakes, fertile land and decent climate. He preferred the name Georgina for the site, which Scadding feels "posterity would have been saved some confusion. To this hour, the name of our Canadian London gives trouble in the post-office and elsewhere." (257-258).

Littlehales is mentioned several times in the diary of the governor's wife, Elizabeth (published in 1965 as, crazily enough, Mrs. Simcoe's Diary). Among the details about Littlehales:

* He spent the latter part of 1792 on government business in Philadelphia, getting lost near Lake Onondaga "and was without provisions for 30 hours".
* He was briefly lost in the woods by the Don River in October 1793, on the way home from a survey.
* Spent Valentine's Day 1795 in Prescott with the Simcoes. The boys promised Elizabeth "turkey and venison every day".

Scadding provides a vague description of how large Littlehales' plot of land was - the western boundary was near Bathurst, the southern along Lot (now Queen West). After his death, the land was purchased by the Denison family, who will loom large in our next installment.

My theories for the discrepency: 1) a spelling mistake either way, or 2) everyone who knew Littlehales/Littlehayes had poor penmanship and made their "i"s and "y"s in a similar fashion. I suspect I need to take a vacation day to dive into the city archives to find the answer...

Here's the map: Littlehayes lies in the heart of the market, off Baldwin between Kensington and Augusta.

To the east of Littlehayes lies a fish market... the west, a Latin bulk store...

...and above, this interesting home, like a Lego holding together the pieces beneath it. A friend of mine is dying to know what goes on here. On a recent walk, all we determined is that the occupants own funky boots and leaf through the Canadian Tire flyer.

An old salt at the side of Coral.

Starting down Littlehayes, only to find a truck occupying most of the roadway. Pity anyone who attempts two-way traffic down here.

Which fish is Uncle's favourite? Market staples like snapper and tilapia?

Coke lovers.

Cue the crying child denied their Coca-Cola.

And the lane comes to a dead stop at a gated car barn.

.Looking back onto Baldwin and another fishmonger. The typical Baldwin St seafood merchant has a lovely display of fish in the window, while carts of lemons, limes and garlic sit outside.

Note the sign. Note the vehicle in the previous picture. It doesn't add up. Does Doc Pickles approve?

NEXT: One last kick at the Kensington can. - JB

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