Visiting Campbell House, Toronto, Ontario: remembering an Upper Canada Chief Justice in a house dating from 1822
Former home of Sir William Campbell
This gracious house In Toronto, dating from 1822, provides an engaging cameo into pre-Confederation Ontario, which used to be known as Upper Canada (1).
Some history and features
The former residence of the Sir William Campbell (1758-1834), it had its location in Duke Street for the first 150 years of its existence. Subsequently the house was moved in 1972 and officially opened by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother at its present location in Queen Street West, at this street's intersection with University Avenue.
Born in Scotland, William Campbell served in the British army during the American Revolution and later qualified as an attorney in Nova Scotia, being returned to that colony's House of Assembly in 1799. He later fulfilled legal positions, including Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Upper Canada, to which he was appointed in 1825, serving in that capacity until 1829, the year he was also knighted.
After her husband's death in 1834, Hannah, Lady Campbell continued to live in the house until her death in 1844. Later, the property passed to a succession of owners.
The house is built in Palladian Georgian style. This is a style which was popular in its day, but is now one of the few examples in Toronto.
Ownership by the Advocates' Society of Ontario
Being also a near Queen Street neighbour of Osgoode Hall, seat of the Law Society of Upper Canada, Campbell House retains legal associations in that it is owned by the Advocates' Society of Ontario. The Society maintains the house as a museum, which I found very interesting to tour. It is also a regular venue for member dinners and professional meetings under the Advocates' auspices.
The upper level of the property has been maintained in a period-specific state with artifacts and exhibits, while the basement has been refurbished with banquet and meeting facilities.
Efforts to preserve Toronto's architectural and historical heritage have thus given considerable significance to Campbell House and there are ongoing volunteer opportunities at the House for area residents wishing to participate in their enhancement.
Also worth seeing
In Toronto itself, sights within walking distance of Campbell House include Osgoode Hall (see above), the Legislative Assembly of Ontario at Queen's Park, the United Metropolitan Church, St James's Cathedral and St Michael's Cathedral, Old City Hall and many other historic properties.
(1) In the years immediately prior to Confederation in 1867, Ontario was known as Canada West, within the short-lived Province of Canada.
How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. However, visitors to Downtown Toronto will find many sights to be easily walkable. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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