I wonder how many in our neighbourhood have Red Seal builders in their family trees?
There is a small clue in this rather mundane article from the Toronto Star of October 25, 1917.
Lewis Rootham was a contractor who built many of the houses on the lower of Woodfield, Connaught and neighbouring streets. But he wasn’t just any old kind of contractor: he was a Red Seal builder. (see article below)
Some years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with one of his descendants and here is a transcript of part of that conversation:
“Lewis Rootham built the house in the early 1900s. He talked about the area being like old English countryside at first with grass and creek that ran into Ashbridges Bay. His dad and uncle used to swim there. He talked about Ashbridge who were said to be United Empire Loyalists with connections to royalty. The Ashbridges were deeded a lot of land, but my dad thought Jesse Ashbridge a bit odd because he cut the grass in the rain. My dad said the whole atmosphere of the neighbourhood changed with the relentless advance of civilization. He cited three major steps in the area’s development. First, stores opening on the south side of Queen Street, bringing more people to the street. Next, came the building of the TTC car barns and yard. That changed the atmosphere from that of the English countryside to mechanical. Then, the building of the big school north of the Ashbridges place, the Duke of Connaught, started a building boom. The Ashbridges kept 200 feet of frontage [on Queen Street]. He described the houses on one side of Woodfield Road (the Rootham house is at 42 Woodfield Road) as being low-class row houses, but said the other side had pretty good houses. He said his grandfather’s house was big, but unique in design because it had multiple levels. Master, living and front hall were on one level, but you went down two steps to dining and kitchen; up to bath and two bedrooms and up again to two more bedrooms. It was a great big house with only one bathroom. He remembers the fireplace as marvellous and the wood panelling and brickwork, all in classic English styling. He said times were tough later and his grandfather replaced the backyard with garages he could rent out to people with automobiles to have some money. He said the driveway was cinder and he was always getting hurt on it.”