Scadding Cabin

Exhibition Place is home to many grand structures and buildings that have shaped Toronto’s history, but sometimes, it is the most modest and smallest of structures that hold the greatest treasures. In 1879, a small log cabin built in 1794 by John Scadding, was moved to the grounds of Exhibition Place by the York Pioneer and Historical Society and remains the oldest building at Exhibition Place.

This small log cabin, later named Scadding Cabin, is Toronto’s oldest known surviving house.  It was constructed for John Scadding in 1794 during the first years of British settlement in Upper Canada.  John Scadding came to Canada in 1792 with the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe.  Scadding was a government clerk and close friend of Simcoe.  The cabin stood on the east side of the Don River on a 253 acre land grant that stretched north from Lake Ontario to present-day Danforth Avenue.  In 1796 Lieutenant Governor Simcoe returned to England and John Scadding followed suit.  When John Scadding returned to Toronto in 1818, he sold the cabin and its property to a farmer named William Smith.  In 1879, the Smith family offered the cabin to the York Pioneers Association.  John Scadding’s son Henry, a prominent Toronto historian, was one of the association’s founding members.

In the summer of 1879, the York Pioneers dismantled the cabin and reconstructed it at the west end of the grounds of Exhibition Place.  The move was part of the celebrations marking the inauguration of the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, now the Canadian National Exhibition. 

The York Pioneer and Historical Society have owned and maintained Scadding Cabin since its relocation to Exhibition Place in 1879.  The cabin was opened as a museum and furnished with artifacts donated by the Pioneers and descendants of other local families. The York Pioneer and Historical Society organized special programs and demonstrations during the annual fair that illustrated skills and crafts that settlers in early Toronto would have utilized.

In 1989, the City of Toronto designated Scadding Cabin as a heritage building under the Ontario Heritage Act.  The City of Toronto cited the following reasons for heritage designation: “The property at 2 Strachan Avenue (Scadding Cabin) is designated on architectural and historical grounds. The simple, small log cabin with carefully dovetailed corners was built by John Scadding, a friend and employee of Governor John Graves Simcoe. Scadding’s Cabin, now the oldest structure remaining in the City, is representative of the first generation of Toronto buildings, being made of rough-hewn timbers and wooden shingles with a large stone fireplace. The cabin was moved to its present location west of the Fort Rouille monument by the York Pioneer and Historical Society in 1879.”

The cabin has undergone many renovations over the years, both structural and cosmetic.  In 1909 the logs of the cabin were whitewashed, both inside and outside.  This practice was discontinued in the 1950s, however the interior logs are still painted white.  In 1959, the whole building was raised, a cement sub-floor poured, concrete blocks placed for a foundation, and iron grates set in for ventilation.  In 1969, the present split rail fence was erected defining the space around the Cabin.  

Today, Scadding Cabin is open every day during the Canadian National Exhibition.  It is furnished as a pioneer home from the 1830s to the early 1840s.  Some of the artefacts displayed include two spinning wheels and a wool winder, equipment for making bread and butter, a candle mold and utensils for cooking on an open hearth.   For more information on Scadding Cabin please visit the York Pioneer and Historical Society’s website: www.yorkpioneers.com.

Sources:

Avigdor, Jeanine C. John Scadding’s Cabin, The York Pioneer, 1988, p. 2 – 8 

Reed, T. A. The Scadding Log Cabin Toronto’s Oldest House, York Pioneer and Historical Society

Scadding Cabin Condition Assessment, prepared by E.R.A Architects Inc., Toronto, January 11, 2013

York Pioneer and Historical Society’s website: www.yorkpioneers.com