For the past two weeks, we have been focused on some of the historical happenings that have occurred in Mount Albert. For this week’s local history post, we are going to shift our focus to one of the oldest buildings in Queensville which is almost 200 years old: the Harrison – Holborn house!
When East Gwillimbury was first being surveyed in the early 1800’s, Lot 25, Concession 3 was originally designated as a Clergy Reserve. When the land was being parceled out to settlers in early Ontario towns, certain lots within a township were specifically set aside as a method of generating income for the English Crown. On January 21st, 1824, a yeoman named Hiram Harrison purchased the two-hundred-acre lot from the government. On the south-west corner of this property, he built a single-story log cabin with cedar logs, a basic dwelling with a dirt floor and a primitive sloped roof. Over the course of twenty-three years, this house changed hands approximately five times.
When George Holborn purchased the part of the lot on which the log cabin stood on March 6, 1847, the house had gone through several alterations. The owners of the log house had built a second half-story above the sloped roof, a stone foundation, and wood flooring. It is stated on census records that he was a “gentleman” from England; he assumed ownership of the Crown grant on April 12, 1847. In about 1855 he constructed a large two-story brick house which he attached to the front of the log cabin. This house was built in the Gothic architectural style, with steep gables and contrasting brick detailing over windows and other important elements of the house.
Figure 1: Lengthwise view of the house showing the brick portion of the house with contrasting brick details, windows to the sitting room, as well as the original log cabin with stone chimney. Photo use courtesy of Pat and Bruce Newland.
Many members of the Holborn family were active in the political life of East Gwillimbury, where George Holborn and later his son John Holborn were municipal councillors for the Township of East Gwillimbury. George Holborn helped to establish the Hillside school on lot 28, concession 3; as a trustee, he was responsible for procuring a builder, furnishing the interior, and the hiring of teachers.
The owner, George Holborn, died in 1881 who left the west half of lot 25, concession 3 to his eldest son, George Holborn, Jr. It remained in the family until 1917, when it was sold by Walker Holborn, who was employed as a hardware merchant in Sutton, to Norman Lee Eves in 1917. From that time until about 1991, the property changed hands approximately thirteen times.
The house has retained many of its unique features, notwithstanding the many times in which it changed hands. For example, the house still stands on its original stone foundation, which “includes a separate root cellar accessible by a hinged lid in the floor.” In the log cabin, many layers of walls were removed to expose the interior features, including the original open-hearth fireplace (see figure 2 below). The brick portion retains many interesting features, such as paneled doors, wainscoting, ornate door and window trim, and original pine flooring. In the 1990’s, the house was designated by Heritage East Gwillimbury as a “Property of Historical Significance”.
Figure 2: Interior view of the original log cabin fireplace, with modern fittings and kitchen utensils. Photo use courtesy of Pat and Bruce Newland.
Keep an eye out for this house the next time you drive north on Leslie Street, so you can catch a glimpse of the oldest house in Queensville!
 Marita & Charlie Waddell (April 1995). “Cover Story: The Harrison – Holborn House” Around Our Town, East Gwillimbury. 5.