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Visiting 363 Adelaide Street East, Toronto, Ontario: historic, Georgian property with macabre associations

Updated on June 14, 2013
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
SE corner of Sherbourne and Adelaide Streets in 1885
SE corner of Sherbourne and Adelaide Streets in 1885 | Source
363 Adelaide St E in Toronto, Canada
363 Adelaide St E in Toronto, Canada | Source

The United Empire Loyalist background to the Jarvis family

Firstly let me state that I don't believe in ghosts, in the accepted sense of the word. But this historic property in Toronto, Ontario, situated at 363 (also 365) Adelaide Street East (sometimes known as Paul Bishop's House), at its intersection with Sherbourne Street, has regularly given rise to suggestions that it is haunted.

At the very least, it has been the focal point of discussion about many historical associations with both prominent, early Torontonians and also with the tragic deaths of various people in some way connected with the property.

Some background. William Jarvis (1756-1817) was a United Empire Loyalist who moved to Upper Canada and in due course served as Provincial Secretary. from 1791 until 1817. During some of this time, the future of the status of York (as Toronto was then known) was uncertain, and a house which William Jarvis built at the location of this property was made of wood; its lack of permanence reflecting the possibility that William Jarvis would be required to move elsewhere in Upper Canada in pursuit of his duties.

While the house was completely rebuilt in 1848 in Georgian style, some of the cellar area of the original property which belonged to the Jarvis family is thought to have been retained. It is interesting also that the Jarvis family (and also the neighbouring Ridout family) is known to have maintained burial plots in the vicinity of the old property.

Portrait of Samuel Peters Jarvis, 1850s
Portrait of Samuel Peters Jarvis, 1850s | Source
Map location of Toronto, Ontario
Map location of Toronto, Ontario | Source

A dueling killer, the victims of suicide and cholera, and ghost stories

One member of this Jarvis family was Samuel Peters Jarvis (1792-1857; see photo, right) who, like his father Wiliam Jarvis was a prominent, local official. As well as being an official in his own right, however (as a lawyer he was Clerk of the Crown in Chancery and later Superintendent of Indian Affairs), he is known to have harboured a strong sense of entitlement. He it was, for example, who led a mob to destroy the printing press of outspoken newspaperman William Lyon Mackenzie in 1826.

An action of Samuel Peters Jarvis more immediately relevant to 363 Adelaide Street East, however, was the fact that in 1817 he killed John Ridout, a son of a neighbouring family. He and John Ridout had a serious disagreement, and in accordance with the custom of the time the staged a duel in order to satisfy their honour (as the theory went). The result of this event was that John Ridout, whose family had a burial plot close to this property — as did also the Jarvises — ended up dead of a gunshot wound.

It is also believed that in the 19th century a number of people committed suicide at the house. It is also known that some residents at the house died of cholera in the 1830s; and it was after this period also that people would report that unusual sounds had been heard seemingly emanating from supposedly empty rooms in the house and that strange shadows had been seen.

Who was Paul Bishop, and where did he go?

In 1842 the property came into the possession of someone whose Anglicized name is in a title sometimes given to the house: Paul Bishop. He it was who in 1848 largely rebuilt it, but in 1860 he disappeared.

Where did he go? and who was he?

It is not known where the landlord known as Paul Bishop went, but it is more certain that a Francophone man called Paul L'Eveque came to Toronto, and lived there for a number of decades and on arrival started calling himself Paul Bishop (1), pursuing various professions; this is how the house at 363 Adelaide Street East came to be known as Paul Bishop's House. (He was also known to have what would today be called as 'a short fuse'.) Regarding his disappearance in 1860, it is thought that this was related in some way to Paul Bishop/L'Eveque having got into debt.

The four walls of 393 Adelaide Street East, could certainly tell a lot of stories and even solve a few mysteries.

June 14, 2013


(1) Paul Bishop is known to have been son-in-law to a former owner of the house, after the Jarvis connection had ceased.

For more information, see also:

Also worth seeing

In Downtown Toronto itself, visitor attractions include: Old City Hall, Osgoode Hall, Campbell House, the Ontario Legislative Assembly Building at Queen's Park, Fort York, Union Station, the CN Tower, and many others.


How to get there: Porter Airlines, flies to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, with wide North American connections. Car rental is available at Union Station. Air Canada flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available, but visitors to Downtown Toronto will find many sights to be easily walkable. TTC Streetcar 75 passes the intersection of Sherbourne and Adelaide Streets, Toronto and nearby Queen Street is well served by east-west streetcar lines. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. For any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities, you are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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