THE DUKE “The Duke of York” 1225 Queen Street East
“The Duke of York … is the oldest continuous business in the east-end Toronto neighborhood of Leslieville. A former stagecoach stop and hotel, the watering hole sits at the heart of an area that has remained determinedly working class – one of the last enclaves to resist yuppification”. (Kelly Toughill, Leslieville street signs recall proud… in the Column People & Places. The Toronto Star, November 9, 1987)
There were about 300 licenses during the 1860s when the population of the City of Toronto was from 45,000 to 55,000 or about one to every 166 persons. That’s a lot of taverns and a lot of competition. Even out in Leslieville there were a number of taverns, but one stood out as bigger, bolder and it was made of brick. That tavern was the Morin House Hotel which became the Duke of York and is known now simply as “The Duke”.
To serve liquor, an inn needed a license. The City of Toronto granted taverns licenses on a
yearly basis. The innkeeper had to show that he had the number of rooms required for travelers. In the mid nineteenth century Ogle Gowan was the Grand Master of the Orange Lodge. He was also the City of Toronto’s License Inspector. Gowan visited the inns along the south side of the Kingston Road. It is fair to assume that Orangemen had an easier time getting and keeping a license than Catholics.In the back of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, one of the other taverns clustered around the toll booth at Leslie and Queen Street was the Gowan Lodge, an Orange Hall. It was named after Ogle Gowan. Uncle Tom’s Cabin had no problems getting a liquor license.
However, lack of a license did not stop many from serving (or making) liquor. Leslieville’s Irish Catholic turned to rough drinking places in barns or shacks, called shebeens.
Sometime before 1866 Leslieville grocer, James Morin (c.1835-1882), went into the brick business. In 1869 he bought a brick machine and began advertising that his Leslieville bricks were machine-made pressed bricks:
BRICK! BRICKS! THE LESLIEVILLE BRICK COMPANY ARE MAKING EXTENSIVE PREPARATIONS FOR THE MANUFACTURE OF MACHINE MADE PRESSED BRICKS, And are now open to receive orders for 5,600,000 of red brick@ at $8 50 PER THOUSAND! June or July delivery. And can fill orders for large quantities during the season. Address, James Morin, Leslieville. (Globe, May 6, 1869)
In 1870 Irish Catholic competition opened next door to the Protestant Uncle Tom’s Cabin when James Morin put up an imposing big hotel made with his owned pressed bricks. Groups had their favourite bars then as now. The Morin House was the drinking hole of the Green; Uncle Tom’s Cabin was Protestant and Orange. In the nineteenth century rivalry between teams might float on an undertow of religious animosity:
A story of the old days, when there was a battle royal every Saturday night between the adherents of the Orange and Green or a mixup betwixt the volunteer firemen and the bluecoats, will earn a footing quicker than an invitation to the house to lubricate.” (W. H. Pearson, Recollections and Records of Toronto of Old. (Toronto, William Briggs, 1914), p. 234)
By the 1870s and 1880s Leslieville’s brickyards were no longer strictly family affairs and had some degree of mechanization, using horse power. They usually employed a gang of about ten hands to make about a million bricks a year. It was not enough to have good machinery, good clay and a cheap workforce. Brick manufacturing took skill and knowledge and was not for everyone. Morin was the first in Leslieville to make pressed brick, but he could not make his yard pay. In the next year his brickyard was auctioned off and he lost the hotel and everything he had. Reduced to poverty he had to apply to the Township of York for welfare. Local people believed that he then skipped town leaving his debts behind him. However, he later opened another hotel in the west end of Toronto, but did not venture into brickmaking again.
Insolvent Estate of James Morin, of Leslieville, Auction Sale of Bricks on Wednesday next, the 13th inst., There will be sold by public auction on the presences at Leslieville, all the bricks belonging to the above insolvent estate, contained in nine lots (complete and incomplete,) supposed to number about TWO MILLIONS OF BRICKS. Each kiln as it stands will be sold separately. Sale at 1 o’clock. TERMS: … and under cash; over that same …cash and balance in three months secured by the approved endorse note with bank interest added. …Andrew Henderson Auctioneer. John Kerr, Assignee. Toronto, March 8th, 1872 (Globe, March 8, 1872)
John Mulvey and John McCracken, fellow grocers, bought out James Morin’s bankrupt brickyard.
McCracken, John, of Mulvey & McCracken are listed in Cherrier, Kirwin & McGown’s Toronto city directory for 1873 as brick manufacturers, but it was not long before they too went bankrupt. (Cherrier, Kirwin & McGown’s Toronto city directory for 1873) In 1873, the Long Depression” began. The brick manufacturing plant and clayfield in Leslieville, formerly owned by James Morin was sold off. John Mulvey lost almost everything except his handsome white brick home (built in 1869), now known as Mulvey House, on Bathurst Street, home to the Factory Theatre. (Globe, May 21, 1873) In 1874 John McCracken, Thomas Mulvey’s partner, was working again as grocer on Kingston Road, having given up the brick business. (Fisher & Taylor’s Toronto directory for 1874)
In 1881 Elias A. Jones leased the Morin House. Jones was born in Vermont. His grandfather was killed in the Revolutionary War. When he was 13, his mother died, and he was left alone in the world. He moved around from town to town and drove a stage for about 14 years. He came to Canada in 1855 and became a horse trainer. He began a bus company but, in 1857, unscrupulous rivals raided and burned out his business at Duke and George Streets. He lost his vehicles, but hung onto his business until he was out competed by the street railways. He moved to Leslieville where he trained horses and did odd jobs. He died in 1891. For a Baptist, he was remarkably successful as a bar owner.
A. JONES, proprietor of the “Morin House,” 483 Kingston Road, is one of the few individuals, who, in spite of all obstacles that misfortune places before them, have by resolution, courage and energy, emerged from times of difficulty and failure that would have disheartened most men. He was born in Vermont, his people having originally come from Wales. His grandfather was killed in the “Revolutionary War;” and when he was thirteen years of age his mother died, and he at once started out to face the trials and discomforts of the world alone. He went to Livonia, N.J., and remained there five years; from thence to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he was engaged in an hotel; then return to New York State, and drove a stage about fourteen years. He came to Canada in 1855, and commenced as omnibus proprietor, owning twelve ‘busses and twenty-four horses, but about two years afterwards was burned out, and raided on the corner of Duke and George Streets by cabmen and carters. By this outrage he lost the whole of his vehicles. He managed, however, to continue his business until the introduction of Street Railways, but on their advent he found his occupation in this direction gone, and from that time forward until 1881 he was variously engaged, subsequently renting his present place of business. (G. Mercer Adam and Charles Pelham Mulvany Adam, G. Mercer, History of Toronto and County of York, 1885, p. 479)
By 1887 the Young Women’s Christian Temperance Union had a branch in Leslieville and held social events as well as meetings. (Globe, January 22, 1887) The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was also active in Leslieville. Temperance became a very popular campaign and swept through the churches of Leslieville. It gave women a sense of power in their lives at a time when they were still disenfranchised politically.
A fight occurred in Jones’ hotel [E. A. Jones hotel, formerly Morin House], on the Kingston road, Monday night, during which a Leslieville bricklayer named Allcock was badly kicked about the face. Constable Patterson, one of the mounted policemen, arrested Gus Hamilton as the guilty party yesterday morning. (Globe, September 21, 1887)
In 1889 Leslieville’s hoteliers included: Charles Ayres, Eastern Ave.; Henry Callender (Leslieville Hotel), 1211 Queen St. E.; E. A. Jones, 1225 Queen St E (The Morin House); and Richard O’Leary, 1366 Queen St. E. (the former Puritan Inn). (Toronto Business Directory with Telephone Guide, 1889 p. 205-207),
“E. A. Jones, hotel, Leslieville, died.” (The Commercial [Vol. 9, no. 26] (Mar. 16, 1891)] p 662)
Hard drinking was central to pioneer life in Ontario. Binge-drinking and chronic alcoholism devastated families, particularly women and children. Many women came to see drinking as an assault on their families, robbing the family of the husband’s pay and health. Women drank too, but it became unacceptable for women to drink in public. Women who did so were seen as prostitutes. There were many restaurants and unlicensed taverns and saloons in the East End by the 1890s, just as the licensed ones were being closed down by temperance reformers. They expressed horror at bars:
They are the resorts of fallen and degraded women and men that have almost by their acts severed themselves from the human race. In these holes the frequenters of the police court are found in numbers. There are, of course, grades in these places, but the highest grade of these liquor dives is altogether too low for a city that lays claim to morality as does Toronto.
… The women, some young, some older, for the most part were of that class that has fallen as low as it is possible to fall. Without reputation, shame, or honor, they assemble in such places as this to gather what pleasure they can out of brutal pastime. (Toronto Star, October 20, 1894)
Henry Callendar died at his hotel at 1211 Queen Street East (just west of the Duke of York) on February 15, 1895. (Toronto Star, February 15, 1895) He left two daughters; one was married to Charles Phair, a well-known jockey and trainer. After Callender died, Phair ran his horse business out of the hotel stables. Many jockeys, grooms and other horsemen lived in Leslieville. The Woodbine race track was important to the local economy. It attracted visitors from out of town and filled the hotels from summer to fall, but particularly before important races, such as the King’s Plate [now the Queen’s Plate]:
One section of the community which is greatly benefited is the hotelmen. The hotels in the east end from the Don to the Woodbine, have felt the impulse for over a month, these suburban hostelries being occupied for the last month with stablemen, trainers, grooms and the miscellaneous entourage of the race horse. (Toronto Star, May 19, 1899)
By 1898 the Morin House was sometimes called Stone’s Hotel after Richard Stone, its new owner.
Shebeens still flourished. In 1901 a judge sentenced Frank Duffy to three months in Central Prison for keeping a common gaming house. Duffy’s shebeen, was in a shed was on Dagmar Avenue. In 1901 there were 150 licensed hotels in Toronto. There were only five hotels left “over the Don”. The Toronto Star published an article on April 6, 1901 on these taverns. By that time, there was only one liquor store left “across the Don”, but there was always beer – or so they thought: Beer is the favorite beverage over the Don. Whiskey has a good run, too, but beer is the work-a-day man’s solace after a busy day. Leslieville’s bars were not ornate: the customers prefer surroundings as plain as their drinks.
The law required each hotel to have at least six fully-furnished rooms for rent. Some owners did not rent the rooms, but made money only from the bar. Sometimes customers used the rooms for illicit purposes. Leslieville’s bars held illegal cockfights and dogfights, as well as poker games and bare knuckle boxing matches. As well, Leslieville men had a reputation for fighting with their feet and kicking a man when he was down. Brickmakers wore steel-toed, lugged work boots. (Toronto Star, April 6, 1901)
In 1902 police charged Charles Wagstaff, Albert Anderson, John Anderson, John Holland, William Heward and George J. Smith with assaulting Constable Ward. (This was an ecumenical attack. The Catholic Holland and Protestant Wagstaff had no problem joining forces to assault the constable.) Stone’s Hotel (The Duke of York) was a favourite watering hole. On Dominion Day, July 1, Constable Ward told a group of loitering men to move on. They declined. Anderson punched the policeman in the stomach and Ward tried to arrest him. The group piled on him, kicking and punching. They claimed in court that Ward had no right to interfere with them. The judge gave the local boys light sentences, saying, “I don’t want to hit these men too hard, but I want them to understand that they shouldn’t interfere with the police” (Toronto Star, July 8, 1902)
In 1905 John Holland and three other young East Enders, punched Constable Drury to the ground and then kicked him, four on one. This was near Holland’s home on Curzon Street sometime after midnight. They had been drinking in Drollery’s barn, a shebeen. The mother of one of the men had called the police because the men were so rowdy and foul-mouthed. Another patrolman came to Drury’s aide. Holland pulled a picket from a fence and went after Patrol-Sergeant Roe with it. The two policemen swung their batons and their attackers fled. Holland had two previous convictions. He and three others were convicted of assaulted Constable Drury. Later in 1905 John Holland was again charged with assaulting a policeman, Constable Dixon this time. In 1906 Holland was found guilty of smashing a beer bottle over Constable Hawthorne’s skull. This was in front of the Duke of York Hotel. It had became a place for thugs to wait and “roll a drunk”.
In 1906 contractors tore down an older Duke of York tavern, on Queen Street near Bond, downtown. Shortly after the Morin House became the Duke of York.
By 1908 the temperance movement was eliminating liquor licenses across Ontario. They were well organized and financed. They divided Ward One into seven districts. Charles Bully was in charge of Gerrard Street, east of the Don and north to city limits; E. O. Weston – Don River to Logan Avenue, between Gerrard and Queen Streets; Walter Davidson – Logan Avenue to Greenwood Avenue, between Gerrard and Queen Streets; and Henry Radcliffe – Don to Greenwood Avenue, south of Queen Street. They were highly successful.
With the growth of the temperance movement taverns began to close, driven out of business. In 1911, with a population of about 450,000, there were only 110 taverns, 50 shop and 11 wholesale, and no vessel licenses, or only one tavern license to every 4,091 persons.
Bootlegging was common in Toronto before Prohibition (and even more common during). A. D. Simon, owner of the Duke of York Hotel, and two of his bartenders, E. B. Stone and William Harrison, were arrested for selling bottles of more than a quart for consumption away from the bar. At that time, it was legal to sell a quarter of liquor for take-away, but not more. The Duke of York lost its liquor license in the fall of 1912 for bootlegging. Magistrate Denison let the owner, A.D. Simon off, but convicted the two barkeeps and fined them $100 each.
HOTEL SOLD LIQUOR LICENSE TO BE TAKEN AWAY
CASES IN POLICE COURT
Selling liquor in larger quantities than the law allows to be carried away from the premises of licensed hotels was charged in the morning Police Court against A. D. Simon, proprietor of the Duke of York Hotel, Queen east, and two of his bartenders, E. B. Stone and William Harrison. The case was …by Inspector Gregory, of No….police division, who stated that on…different occasions customers had been seen leaving the hotel with bottles of…which would come to more than …one-quart legal limit of liquor…which is not consumed in the building.
“In short, it is a case of a licensed hotel doing a retail business,” he informed Magistrate Denison.
None of the defendants made any attempt to content the case in court, the pleas being guilty.
“But you can’t fine both proprietor and bartender,” the Crown Attorney reminded the magistrate, “otherwise it is like any other case of illegal liquor sales and the fine is the same.”
Stone and Harrison were fine $100 and costs each, and were allowed time to pay. (Toronto Star, November 8, 1912)
25-Cent Theft is Costly.
Found guilty of stealing 25 cents from Tom Falconer during an argument at the Duke of York Hotel, William Howard was sentenced by Judge Morson in the Criminal Court to five days in jail. (Toronto Star, September 2, 1914)
In 1916 Ontario prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages except Ontario’s own wine (then considered vile stuff). People could drink only medicinal or scientific purposes. Doctors began writing prescriptions for liquor. Patients carried their “medicine” home in brown paper bags.
In 1919 there was a referendum on prohibition. The area east of Greenwood over to Coxwell, full of returned veterans, voted wet while the older area of Leslieville to the west, mostly Methodist and Presbyterian old Leslieville residents, voted dry. The voters of one Midway street voted 110 to three against prohibition. They did not just vote against prohibition. The voters in the area to the east strongly supported “returning soldier candidates” and labour candidates. This was not the Leslieville of old. This was now a trade union area, urban not rural, English not Scots-Irish. One street had eight trade union carpenters, three union shoemakers, three union bricklayers and many union men from various trades. The Toronto World commented:
Old England is also a large factor in the vote. It was stated yesterday afternoon that Earlscourt and Riverdale are large British centres in the city. Toronto World, Oct. 24, 1919.
In 1919 The Volstead Act passed in the U.S. and the rum-running era began. Many Canadians smuggled liquor across the Great Lakes at night. (Al Capone is rumoured to have had a late night rendezvous with local rum runners at Cherry Beach. I talked to a Capone relative in the summer of 2015 and he confirmed that this was true.)
From about 1920 to 1930 George and Ellen Chisholm ran the Duke of York. They were prominent in the Conservative Associations and Roman Catholics active in St. Joseph’s Parish. Ellen McDonald Chisholm came from a family of publicans.
In 1925 hotels were allowed to sell “Fergie’s Foam” a light beer with 4.4 per cent alcohol, stronger than the 2.5 per cent allowed previously under the Ontario Temperance Act, but not as strong as the “strong beer” people had before prohibition. Before Prohibition most beer was about 5.5 per cent alcohol while strong beer could be 9 per cent alcohol or even more.
Duke of York Busy
The Duke of York Hotel at 1227 Queen street east, near the Woodbine race track, was a scene of excitement. In a room almost ninety feet long and forty-five or fifty feet wide well over two hundred men and youths were trying out Ferguson’s beer. Many more were unable to find seats and crowded around the doorways with an eagle eye watching for some person to vacate a chair. “What have they done,” asked a new arrival about nine thirty, “turned this place into an aquarium or something? I didn’t think that there were this many men in the city wanting to try out four point four.”
Later in the evening some of the men procured chairs and placed them beside a wide window sill which they used as their table. The waiter was rather adverse to serving them on this improvised stand but was convinced that he would not be arrested.
Standers Not Served
About ten o’clock a wagon drove up to the side of the hotel. Four dust covered men shouldered their way through the crowd. “Eight glasses” was their curt demand. “Sorry, sir,” answered the waiter, “but you will have to wait for a table.” After standing for ten minutes one of them indignantly declared, “Here we are like four fools standing around waiting to try some beer. Not only that but we drive nineteen miles to have this privilege.” Another man standing nearby said, “Well, I’ve been down in this corner for two hours. Every time I see a seat and make for it I’m beaten out. Guess I had better go home.” Two visitors from the United States were testing out the Nickle beer with apparent gusto. “I think I’m getting drunk,” one of them said after two glasses. “What!” exclaimed another drinker, “get drunk on this stuff. Say, you must be from the States to get the idea that this stuff will give you a jag. No kick at all, I’ve been trying to get jingled all day. Bunk. (Toronto Star, May 22, 1925)
Fergies’ foam tempted many to bend the rules and make a little money on the side. In 1926 James Neilly, O’Keefe’s truck driver, was delivering to the Duke of York. His truck concealed several unmarked barrels of strong beer, among their marked O’Keefe’s barrels of 4.4% Fergie’s foam. Police charged O’Keefe’s Beverages Ltd. and Neilly with having liquor in an illegal location: the delivery truck! Neilly claimed that he unloaded the mystery barrels off a boat at Cherry Beach when a stranger told him he could make three dollars a barrel on the strong beer. He took the blame; his employer took none.
Money on the Side.
O’Keefe’s beverages, Limited, pleaded not guilty, through Counsel James Haverson, K.C., to having liquor in an illegal place, namely a truck on Queen street east. Provincial officers narrated finding strong beer on the truck, the barrels being labeled with O’Keefe’s marks, as far as those containing legal beer were concerned, and no marks on those containing the strong beer.
“Where was the truck?” asked James Haverson, K.C. “In the rear of the Duke of York hotel, sir.”
“Who was the driver?” asked the bench. “An employe of O’Keefe’s Beverages, Limited,” replied the officer.
James Neilly, the truck driver, said that the strong beer barrels came off a boat at the foot of Cherry street. A man had asked him to get them and had told him he could make $3 a barrel, by taking them off. Witness absolutely denied that the brewery had anything whatever to do with the barrels seized by the police.
“It was my own fault, I am to blame,” he said, “I was trying to make a little money on the side.”
“I want you to understand I am not simple, and I do not believe you,” said magistrate Browne to Neilly, however you accept responsibility, you are fined $600 and costs or three months.(Toronto Star, August 21, 1926)
By the time Prohibition was repealed in Ontario at the end of 1926, only 15 breweries remained. The new Liquor Control Act placed the sale of alcoholic beverages under government control. Liquor was and is sold in government liquor stores while the large brewers founded the Brewers Retail to sell beer.
George Chisholm, proprietor of the Duke of York hotel, Queen St. E., died suddenly yesterday at St. Michael’s hospital, to which he had been admitted a few days previously. He was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, 48 years ago, and came to Toronto in 1907. He was a prominent member of Ward One Conservative Association and was a Roman Catholic. Surviving are his widow, one brother in Winnipeg, his parents, two sisters and another brother in England.(Toronto Star, September 25, 1930)
CHISHOLM—On Wednesday, December 17, 1930, Ellen McDonald, widow of the late George Chisholm.
Funeral Friday, December 19th, from her home, Duke of York hotel, Queen and Leslie streets, at 9 a.m. to St. Joseph’s church. Interment Mount Hope Cemetery. (Toronto Star December 17, 1930)
SOON FOLLOWED HUSBAND
Mrs. Chisholm of the Duke of York Hotel is Dead.
Mrs. Ellen McDonald Chisholm, for the past ten years proprietress of the Duke of York hotel at Queen and Leslie Sts., died yesterday after an illness of about three months. She was born in Middlesex county 64 years ago, and came to Toronto in 1897. For ten years her husband, who predeceased her last September, conducted the Duke of York hotel. Mrs. Chisholm, who was a member of St. Joseph’s church, is survived by one sister, Mrs. M. Strumbert; and two brothers, M. McDonald, proprietor of Parkdale hotel, Toronto, and Wm. McDonald of Flint, Mich. The funeral takes place on Friday to St. Joseph’s church and thence to Mount Hope cemetery. (Toronto Star, December 18, 1930)
In 1934 strong beer was again allowed in hotels and taverns. The Duke of York was ready.
OLD HOTEL READY FOR BEER DEMAND
Duke of York Is Veteran Hostelry in Its Section
Alterations are going on in the Duke of York hotel, Queen and Leslie sts., to meet anticipated demands under the new beer bill. This is the first report of hotel alteration.
A sitting room and office on the main floor is being changed to make way for a beverage room, which will be 23 feet by 62 feet and will have accommodation for 100. There will be from 25 to 30 tables.
Haymer [Fred Hammer], manager, informed The Star that the hotel had engaged six men as waiters. There would be additional help taken on for dining room service, he said.
“The alterations for the beverage room are being rushed so that we will be able to open for business as soon as we received the authority,” Mr. Haymer [Fred Hammer]stated. “We are having all new equipment.”
Mr. Haymer [Fred Hammer]pointed out that the Duke of York was one of the oldest hotels in the east end. Toronto Star, July 20, 1934
In 1952 David Henderson, 41 was sentenced to five years in Kingston penitentiary. He wept when he heard his sentence. He had posed as a liquor license inspector to gain entrance to the Duke of York’s Office where he pulled out a gun and order the manager to hand over the cash receipts. He got more than $600. (Toronto Star, December 2, 1952)
The Duke of York is a Heritage Building. In the 1980s the wall dividing “Male” and “Ladies and Escorts” came down. A major fire damaged the building in late 1999.
On October 25, 2008, a group of quarrelling men “took it outside” the Duke of York Tavern. One of the men pulled out an automatic pistol and fired off about 15 rounds injuring four people and killing 23-year-old Bailey Zaveda. Bailey Zaveda was standing in the doorway, having a smoke. The beloved mural of John Wayne, the Duke, was painted over and The Duke of York continued as “The Duke”. For more about the Duke go to: