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Visiting Cornell House in Thomson Memorial Park: remembering early settlers in Scarborough, Ontario

Updated on September 29, 2015
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Cornell House, Scarborough Historical Museum
Cornell House, Scarborough Historical Museum
Plaque at Cornell House, Scarborough
Plaque at Cornell House, Scarborough | Source
Map location of Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario
Map location of Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario | Source

William Cornell came to Canada from Rhode Island in 1799

Early settlers, the Thomson brothers, David and Andrew, came to Scarborough in 1796. Thomson Memorial Park, in which a number of historic buildings are found, are thus named for this early settler family.

Cornell House, which houses the Scarborough Historical Museum, Toronto, is one of the properties at this site. Originally located a few kilometres away on the Markham Road, the house was moved here in 1962. The Cornell family, for which it is named, descend from William Cornell, who originally came to Canada from Rhode Island in 1799. New Yorkers and others familiar with Lewiston, New York, will remember that there is also a Cornell House in that locality's the Historic District and the name indeed refers to the same family for which this historic property, also Cornell House, is named (1).

Cornell House was inhabited by members of the Cornell family for over 80 years. After the structure was brought to its present location, it was refurbished in accordance with local wishes, expressed through the Scarborough Historical Society, which operates Cornell House as a museum, to represent a late 19th century rural dwelling.

There is also a plaque at Cornell House to Rhoda Skinner who had very many children even by the standards of the 19th century.

Visitors may explore the interior of Cornell House, with the guidance of costumed interpreters. A number of the furnishings bear witness to the identification of 19th century Ontarians with Victorian Great Britain.

Near Cornell House stands the McCowan Log House, also open to the house, the name of which also recalls an early settler family in Scarborough.


(1) Ezra Cornell, a relative of the Lewiston Cornells, was the founder of Cornell University.

Also worth seeing

The visitor attractions and cultural sites of the Greater Toronto Area are rather too numerous to summarize adequately here. But a few, more closely located, noted properties include the following:

Ashbridge Estate , Toronto (distance: 13.9 kilometres), situated on Queen Street, East, recalls over 200 years of associations with the Ashbridges, who were another, early, settler family. The gracious property which stands at the centre of the estate dates from the mid-19th century.

Gibson House , Willowdale , Toronto (distance: 16.8 kilometres), which dates from 1851, is a local, historic property, now also a museum.

Erskine Church , Pickering (distance: approx. 18.4 kilometres); this church building dates from 1854. In its vicinity is a Pioneer Memorial Cairn, containing some interesting 19th century inscriptions.


How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson Airport to Thomson Memorial Park: 35.6 kilometres). However, visitors may prefer to use the TTC public transit: the Brimley #21 bus from Kennedy Subway Station accesses the vicinity of Thomson Memorial Park, at 1007 Brimley Road, Scarborough. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

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

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