This little wooden cabin is the oldest existing structure in Toronto
The small two-storied, square timbered Scadding Cabin conjures up images of Toronto’s past as it sits on the grounds of Exhibition Place in stark reminder as to the humble beginnings of today’s huge metropolis. It is the oldest home and is in fact the oldest building in Toronto as it dates from 1794.
Originally constructed by the Queen’s Rangers on the east bank of the Don River near present day Queen Street, it was the home of John Scadding, overseer of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe’s properties. Scadding was the manager of Simcoe’s Wolford Estate in Devonshire England and accompanied him to Upper Canada in 1792.
After Simcoe’s arrival he immediately began to reorganize the Province and one of his fist moves was to shift the capital from the vulnerable Newark (today’s Niagara-On-The –Lake) to the more defensible York (Toronto) in 1793. In order to entice government officials to make the move with him he awarded generous grants of land. Scadding made the move and was awarded 101 hectares (250 acres) along the east bank of the Don River down to the shores of Lake Ontario.
The small, hastily constructed one room cabin was built of white pine logs that were squared and fastened together by dovetailed corners. With a low ceiling designed to retain heat larger people such as the 1.8 metre (6 foot) tall Simcoe, had to stoop to enter. Scadding lived in the cabin until 1796 at which time he returned to England with his close friend Simcoe.
He returned to York in 1818 with his family to manage some of Simcoe’s properties on the west bank of the Don River and instead of moving back into the small home, sold some of his properties including the small cabin, to a Mr. William Smith.
Scadding Cabin remained in the Smith family for many years but it was mainly utilized as an out building for their farms. Its history became somewhat clouded and it began to be referred to locally as the “Simcoe Cabin” or “Governor Simcoe Cabin” as it was erroneously thought to be a former home of the famed Lieutenant Governor.
Location of Scadding Cabin
Getting to the cabin:
By the late 1800’s the community of York had expanded significantly and had since been renamed Toronto. In 1879 the burgeoning city was celebrating its growing stature by hosting the Toronto Industrial Exhibition (forerunner to today’s Canadian National Exhibition (aka CNE)). John Smith, son of William Smith, decided to donate the small cabin to the city’s first preservationist group: the York Pioneers, who in conjunction with the Exhibition’s governing council, decided to move the historic building to its present location just west of the Fort Rouille monument on the grounds of Exhibition Place.
It was in fact this relocation that led to the last vestiges of the burnt out remains of Fort Rouille being covered over forever. The land was graded and on one fine summer day the volunteers of the York Pioneer and Historical Society (YPHS) disassembled the squared timbers from their original location and reassembled them where they stand today.
Open for public viewing every year during the running of the Toronto Industrial Exhibition it was erroneously called the “Governor Simcoe Cabin”. In the late 1800’s Henry Scadding, youngest son of John, founding member and past president of the York Pioneers and one of the first eminent historians of Toronto, wrote an early history of York and set the record straight as to who was the original owner of the cabin.
In 1901 the York Pioneers honored their past president who had just passed away by renaming the building after him and it has ever since been known as the Scadding Cabin.
Scadding Cabin today stands almost exactly as it has for over 200 years. While some timbers have been replaced and the cabin has been remounted on a foundation of stones it is for all intents and purposes the exact same building originally constructed for John Scadding so many years ago.
It is open to the public for free admission during the running of the CNE and also the CHIN Picnic and Doors Open Toronto events. Still operated by the York Pioneers visitors who enter the dimly lit interior are greeted by volunteers dressed in period piece costumes who demonstrate activities and techniques of yesteryear such as spinning and baking while also tending to a 19th century styled garden on the grounds immediately surrounding the cabin. The interior of the cabin is furnished with artifacts dating from the 1790’s to the 1850’s including a few that belonged to Lieutenant Governor Simcoe himself.
While the Scadding Cabin is most likely not on your itinerary of things to visit when in Toronto t does make for a nice little break from the regular tourist stops and does give you a chance to get a glimpse into the city’s earliest beginnings. As most you will spend 20 minutes visiting the small attraction and the nearby Fort Rouille monument.
Please note that for most of the year you will only be able to view Scadding Cabin from the outside as it is closed except for the above mentioned times. For more information visit: www.yorkpioneers.org