Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum – A Historic Toronto Gem, Built in 1835

2022 - Looking northwest towards The Tollkeeper's Cottage Museum at 750 Davenport Rd and Bathurst St
2022 – Looking northwest towards The Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum at 750 Davenport Rd and Bathurst St

The Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum is located at 750 Davenport Rd (at Bathurst St on the northwest corner) in the Wychwood neighbourhood of Toronto.

The Trail & Davenport Rd

Davenport Rd’s history can be traced back to the Ice Ages when the First Nations people travelled it as a foot trail between what we know today as Niagara to Montreal. In the 1600s, the path was also used by French fur traders than in the late 1700s by European settlers. In the 1800s, the trail was gradually converted into a road.

Taking Bids to Build Roads

In 1833, the government of Upper Canada gave winning bidders the authority to build, maintain and control specific sections of road. Those companies were also responsible for improving the road, and to recoup their investment, they collected tolls.

The Tollkeeper’s Cottage

The section of Davenport Rd between the Humber and Don Rivers had five tollgates. Tollgate #3 had this historic cottage to house the tollkeeper and his family. The cottage is a rare example of vertical plank construction. It dates back to 1835 and is believed to be the only surviving tollgate cottage in Canada. One painting dating back to 1875 has the cottage on the east side of Davenport Rd, while a later sketch shows it on the west side without the front porch but a rear portion added.

In 1895, the cottage became a residence when it was moved to Howland Ave. In 1996, that land was going to be redeveloped. To save the treasure, the Community History Project or CHP, a local history group, purchased the cottage from the developer for $1. They had 30 days to remove it from the lot. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) allowed CHP to keep the cottage at the Wychwood Street Barns site, and in the meantime, the history group started raising funds to restore the cottage.

Start of the Renovation

2001 - The many layers of roofing and siding are removed to lighten the load on the ancient structure before the cottage can be moved again
2001 – The many layers of roofing and siding are removed to lighten the load on the ancient structure before the cottage can be moved again (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)

Historical records are usually consulted for restorations; however, The Tollkeeper’s Cottage documents were lost in a fire at the York Township Hall (on Yonge St) in 1881. So, the group would have to let the building reveal its construction history during the renovation. The CHP needed artisans with the proper skills, architects, historical materials and volunteers.

Since the cottage was so fragile, volunteers removed several layers of shingles, drywall and siding to reduce the weight on the structure. In doing so, they discovered both the original location of the front door and the tollkeeper’s window.

The Move & Restoration

The City of Toronto gave consent for The Tollkeeper’s Cottage to be permanently located where it is today, which is as close as possible to its original location. In July 2002, the cottage was carefully moved in a parade to its new home at Davenport Square Park. Much of the restoration work was done there.

1996 - The Tollkeeper's Cottage being transported along Davenport Rd to its temporary resting place
1996 – The Tollkeeper’s Cottage being transported along Davenport Rd to its temporary resting place (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)

Due to the age of the structure, many pieces had to be replaced. The group began slowly and carefully reconstructing the historic gem to its original condition. The process included volunteers making cedar shakes for the roof by hand, searching for stones to recreate the foundation wall, replacing the clapboard siding, making handmade nails, making mortar as it was in the 1830s, and replacing floor joists and more. The original floorboards were numbered, removed and cleaned to be later reinstalled. In 2004, the cottage received heritage status from the City.

A classroom was added to the rear of the structure to accommodate school groups. The beautifully and meticulously restored cottage officially opened in July 2008, and the green space was renamed The Tollkeeper’s Park.

Visiting the Historical Museum

The cottage is open to the public on Saturdays, ‪from 11 am to 5 pm (to 4 pm in winter)—admission by donation. There are classes available to school groups (for a fee) that illustrate life in the 1800s and include: Children’s Victorian Outdoor Games, Victorian Domestic Arts and a Victorian Tea Party. Adult tours are also available. Be sure to check The Tollkeeper’s Cottage website for complete details.

Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum Photos

2021 - The Tollkeeper's Cottage Museum with the classroom addition at 750 Davenport Rd
2021 – The Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum with the classroom addition at 750 Davenport Rd
2001 - The many layers of roofing and siding are removed to lighten the load on the ancient structure before the cottage can be moved again
2001 – The many layers of roofing and siding are removed to lighten the load on the ancient structure before the cottage can be moved again (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
1996 - The cottage is carefully severed from the later structure and removed
1996 – The cottage is carefully severed from the later structure and removed (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
1923 - Davenport Rd & Bathurst St looking west - The Tollkeeper's Park now resides on the land in the upper right corner of the photo
1923 – Davenport Rd & Bathurst St looking west – The Tollkeeper’s Park now resides on the land in the upper right corner of the photo (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 2617)
2021 - The Tollkeeper's Cottage & Park at Davenport Rd & Bathurst St, northwest corner
2021 – The Tollkeeper’s Cottage & Park at Davenport Rd & Bathurst St, northwest corner
1915 - Davenport Rd & Bathurst St looking southeast - The Tollkeeper's Park now resides on the land in the lower mid/left corner of the photo
1915 – Davenport Rd & Bathurst St looking southeast – The Tollkeeper’s Park now resides on the land in the lower mid/left corner of the photo (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 2000)
2022 - Looking southwest from Bathurst St, just north of Davenport Rd towards the Tollkeeper's Cottage Museum
2022 – Looking southwest from Bathurst St, just north of Davenport Rd towards The Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum
2022 - The main room at The Tollkeeper's Cottage Museum with the dining area, butter churn, stove, front door, spinning wheel, desk and toll collection window
2022 – The main room at The Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum with the dining area, butter churn, stove, front door, spinning wheel, desk and toll collection window
2022 - A desk and chairs at the toll collection window at Tollkeeper's Cottage Museum. Behind the chair is a cup attached to a stick. The tollkeeper would hold it outside the window to collect the toll
2022 – A desk and chairs at the toll collection window at Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum. Behind the chair is a cup attached to a stick. The tollkeeper would hold it outside the window to collect the toll
2022 - A bedroom at Tollkeeper's Cottage Museum. The beds' straw-filled mattresses are supported by a lattice of rope and topped with quilts
2022 – A bedroom at Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum. The beds’ straw-filled mattresses are supported by a lattice of rope and topped with quilts
2022 - One of two bedrooms at The Tollkeeper's Cottage Museum. Notice the cradle, chamber pot, wash basin and pitcher
2022 – One of two bedrooms at The Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum. Notice the cradle, chamber pot, wash basin and pitcher
2022 - Photo of Ann Bulman, daughter of Mr & Mrs John Bulman, Tollkeepers 1860
2022 – Photo of Ann Bulman, daughter of Mr & Mrs John Bulman, Tollkeepers 1860
2022 - Laundry tools at The Tollkeeper's Cottage Museum, including sock blockers, clothes pegs, sadirons (from an old meaning of the word sad as heavy) and hammer
2022 – Laundry tools at The Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum, including sock blockers, clothes pegs, sadirons (from an old meaning of the word sad as heavy) and hammer
2022 - An open section of wall showing the hand-split lathing and horse-hair mortar at The Tollkeeper's Cottage Museum
2022 – An open section of wall showing the hand-split lathing and horse-hair mortar at The Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum
2021 - The Tollkeeper's Park & Cottage Museum sign at 750 Davenport Rd
2021 – The Tollkeeper’s Park & Cottage Museum sign at 750 Davenport Rd
2008 - A Mississauga Elder making a dedication in honour of the first land owners
2008 – A Mississauga Elder making a dedication in honour of the first landowners (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
2008 - Opening day ceremonies
2008 – Opening day ceremonies (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
2008 - Inside the main room of the cottage
2008 – Inside the main room of the cottage (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
2008 - A desk inside the cottage
2008 – A desk inside the cottage (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
2006 - Interior of the cottage showing the extent of the original hand-split lathing and horse-hair mortar
2006 – Interior of the cottage showing the extent of the original hand-split lathing and horse-hair mortar (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
2006 - Exterior wall of the cottage showing vertical plank construction under the clapboard siding
2006 – Exterior wall of the cottage showing vertical plank construction under the clapboard siding (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
2003 - The cottage with its new roof, new siding and its original door and window openings restored
2003 – The cottage with its new roof, new siding and its original door and window openings restored (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
2003 - The original floorboards are numbered, cleaned and saved
2003 – The original floorboards are numbered, cleaned and saved (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
2003 - Stones salvaged from a house of the same vintage have been donated by the Town of Caledon for the new foundation
2003 – Stones salvaged from a house of the same vintage have been donated by the Town of Caledon for the new foundation (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
2002 - The new sills are in place, and the vertical plank construction is revealed
2002 – The new sills are in place, and the vertical plank construction is revealed (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
2002 - Volunteers place new wooden rabbeted sills under the cottage to replace the rotten original sills
2002 – Volunteers place new wooden rabbeted sills under the cottage to replace the rotten original sills (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
2002 - A parade, starting on Christie St., accompanies the cottage to its new home
2002 – A parade, starting on Christie St., accompanies the cottage to its new home (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
2002 - The cottage is placed on its prepared foundation in the park at Bathurst and Davenport, near where it was first built
2002 – The cottage is placed on its prepared foundation in the park at Bathurst and Davenport, near where it was first built (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
1996 - The Tollkeeper's Cottage being transported along Davenport Rd to its temporary resting place
1996 – The Tollkeeper’s Cottage being transported along Davenport Rd to its temporary resting place (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
Date unknown - Stefan and Betty Zatko, the previous owners of The Tollkeeper's Cottage
Date unknown – Stefan and Betty Zatko, the previous owners of The Tollkeeper’s Cottage (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
2020 - The Tollkeeper's Cottage at Davenport Rd & Bathurst St, looking west
2020 – The Tollkeeper’s Cottage at Davenport Rd & Bathurst St, looking west
2021 - The Tollkeeper's Cottage & Park at Davenport Rd & Bathurst St, looking west
2021 – The Tollkeeper’s Cottage and Park at Davenport Rd & Bathurst St, looking west
1932 - Where the Tollkeeper's Cottage is today at Davenport Rd & Bathurst St, northwest corner
1932 – Where the Tollkeeper’s Cottage is today at Davenport Rd and Bathurst St, northwest corner (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1658)
2021 - The Tollkeeper's Park & Cottage at Davenport Rd & Bathurst St, northwest corner
2021 – The Tollkeeper’s Park and Cottage at Davenport Rd and Bathurst St, northwest corner
2022 - Looking northwest towards The Tollkeeper's Cottage Museum at 750 Davenport Rd and Bathurst St
2022 – Looking northwest towards The Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum at 750 Davenport Rd and Bathurst St
1908 - A toll road fare/rate sign
1908 – A toll road fare/rate sign (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1279)
1851 - A toll gate sign for Gore and Vaughan Plank Road
1851 – A tollgate sign for Gore and Vaughan Plank Road (The Tollkeeper’s Cottage/CHP)
1890's - The last toll gate on Yonge St
1890’s – The last toll gate on Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail Fonds, File 1266, Item 2327)
2022 - Davenport Road heritage plaque at The Tollkeeper's Park
2022 – Davenport Road heritage plaque at The Tollkeeper’s Park
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