ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Visiting Ontario's Gibson House at Willowdale: local roots and memories of exile

Updated on February 23, 2016
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Gibson House, Willowdale
Gibson House, Willowdale | Source
Historical panel re. David Gibson (1804-1864)
Historical panel re. David Gibson (1804-1864) | Source
Map location of Willowdale, Toronto
Map location of Willowdale, Toronto | Source

Tracing Toronto's history

Once a quiet country area close to historic Yonge Street, Willowdale is now part of Toronto, following the incorporation in recent years of North York into Toronto's Metropolitan area.

When David Gibson built the house which is now a local museum, however, it was hardly at a landmark location, but, rather, a farmhouse. Indeed, Gibson later had to lobby the authorities for a post office to be established in order to improve services and communications in the district.

Gibson House, completed in its basic, present form in 1851, has become established as one of Toronto's more important historical structures and museums which the City maintains. It is a somewhat typical Victorian farmhouse structure with two stories. An adjoining interpretive centre and gift store complement the actual house, in which costumed guides provide fascinating commentaries and insights into conditions at Gibson House during the lifetime of David Gibson. I was impressed by the narrowness and steepness of the stairs leading to the upper level of the house. The kitchen, with its large hearth area, was evidently once a hive of activity for a resourceful and prosperous 19th century family and its employees; various Victorian-era implements, unusual today, are displayed here.

Born in Scotland, David Gibson emigrated to Upper Canada at a young age and by 1825 was a Deputy Land Surveyor. His association with William Lyon Mackenzie meant that after the failure of Mackenzie's Rebellion in 1837, he was compelled to go into exile in the United States. Not until 1848 was he able to return, pardoned, and free to resume his surveying work.

Indeed, David Gibson was later to become quite closely identified with the Crown authorities against which he had once rebelled. He was appointed Inspector of Crown Land Agencies and Superintendent of Colonization Roads. David Gibson died at the age of 59 while on a visit to Quebec.

Also worth seeing

The visitor attractions and cultural sites of the Greater Toronto Area are rather too numerous to summarize adequately here; a mere few of these include the following:

In Downtown Toronto , (distance: approx. 13.2 kilometres) the monumental Richardson Romanesque Parliament of Ontario building in Queen's Park and the adjacent University of Toronto area attract many visitors. Impressive church architecture includes that of three close neighbours: the United Metropolitan Church , St Michael's Roman Catholic Cathedral and St James's Anglican Cathedral . The second and third of which have tall spires which serve as local landmarks. Almost opposite St Michael's Cathedral at #82 Bond Street is Mackenzie House , now a museum, the former home of William Lyon Mackenzie (with whom David Gibson was associated; see above). On Queen Street East, and adjacent to the Eaton Centre , renowned for shopping is Old City Hall , dating from 1899. On Queen Street West are both the imposing Osgoode Hall and the historic Campbell House . The CN Tower , off Front Street, is of course a must-see attraction to which very large numbers of visitors find their way.

The Ashbridge Estate (distance: 25.8 kilometres), further east along Queen Street East, has a centrepiece building dating from 1854. This estate was associated for over 200 years with the family whose name the property bears.

The Thomson Settlement and Scarborough Historical Museum (distance: 16.6 kilometres) situated in the Thomson Memorial Park, Scarborough. This complex comprises Cornell House and the McCowan Log House.

Fort York (distance: 18.9 kilometres) is a museum located in the former British fort, which was originally established in 1793. It saw action in the War of 1812. The adjacent Fort York Armoury, is still used by the Canadian Forces.


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 Willowdale: approx. 23.4 kilometres). Highway 401 and Yonge Street give access to Willowdale. Alternatively, travellers may wish to travel by public transit, via Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) services. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please 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.

For your visit, these items may be of interest


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)