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
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.
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
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
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.
East end of Beech Street on Lake Scugog
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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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