Style in a Rural Setting: The George Haigh House (1884)
Have you ever noticed a stately house on Mount Albert road that rises up at the top of the hill and is visible as you enter the town from the east side? This house is one of the oldest buildings in Mount Albert! It is known as the "George Haigh House" because it was built for George Haigh. He was one of the wealthiest people in Mount Albert in the late nineteenth century, as he was the owner and operator of the woolen mills at the "Hollow", close to the river near Centre Street in Mount Albert. His sons William, Corbett, and Edward were also employed at the mill; their primary job was to go around and gather the sheep's wool from the farmers around the Mount Albert area to turn into finished goods.
Figure 1: Detail of the properties owned by George Haigh in Mount Albert. From the 1894 fire insurance plan for Mount Albert, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.
Such a fine house fits in with the type of lifestyle that a prosperous middle class merchant could aspire to have. An imposing two-story house made of yellow brick on a stone foundation, it resembles the bay-and-gable houses that were being constructed in Toronto during the 1870's and 1880's. The house sports a five-bay front façade of brick stretcher bond, which is accentuated with semi-circular and elliptical window openings incorporating keystones and shutters original to the house. The four picturesque gables are decorated with attractively carved bargeboard, and carved cupolas may be seen on each gable end. The returned eaves have a moulded soffit and decorated fascia and carved wooden brackets at the corners. The main entrance, by contrast, has a very plain entrance with undecorated side lights.
Figure 2: Pencil drawing of the George Haigh House. From the East Gwillimbury Historical Society's publication "Time Lines" (1995).
Furthermore, there is an original two-story barn with a fieldstone foundation which stands at the rear of the house. It is constructed of board-and-batten siding with a wooden shingle roof. The barn itself was built by Allen Theaker, another prominent Mount Albert businessman; he became a partner with George Haigh in his woolen business, and later purchased a furniture and undertaking business in Mount Albert. One interesting detail about the barn is that Allen Theaker's signature is still visible on one of the floorboards on the second floor of the building. What is also interesting to note is how much upkeep was needed to keep the property around the house looking neat and tidy. For example, George Haigh was required to pay the East Gwillimbury council for installing a gravel driveway, for the sum of $9.88! (Newmarket Era, July 15, 1910, page 6).
Figure 3: Advertisement for George Haigh's woolen business, as well as Allen Theaker's furniture store in Mount Albert. In The Newmarket Era, March 1st, 1901, page 6.
In 1990, Paul Cule, the first President of the East Gwillimbury Historical Society and then-owner of the property, petitioned the Town to designate the property as historic by virtue of its architectural and historic value. He succeeded and the by-law designation was passed on May 23rd, 1990.
Be sure to keep a close eye out for this historic house the next time you are driving down Mount Albert Road!