Earlier this week I drove to Hamilton and took my granddaughter to the Children’s Museum. Housed in an 1875 farmhouse in beautiful Gage Park, the museum was once home to Hamilton’s Gage Family. It has been providing family-friendly learning opportunities to the public for more than 30 years.
Unfortunately we went on a Tuesday and in the winter the museum is closed on Tuesdays. I half expected Winnie to have a meltdown but she surprised me and started to run around on the grounds through the leaves and climbed on top of the giant anchor that is prominently displayed in the gardens.
When she got tired of doing that she wanted to sit in the car and play with the buttons on the console. I finally convinced her to go back into her car seat and we drove to Denninger’s Fine Foods.
Denninger’s is a wonderful family owned deli that sells delicious European delights. Winnie loved the samples and she was intrigued with the very large Nutcracker that guarded the front door.
Lately I’ve been exploring and walking through my neighbourhood looking for interesting doors. I usually walk east or west from my house but last week I decided to venture north. I live on Sixth Street but I rarely go north of Lakeshore Blvd. I discovered some lovely homes, two churches and a Japanese temple. I took a closer look at St. Margaret’s Church.
St. Margaret’s has serviced the community of New Toronto for over 100 years. The cornerstone was laid in 1910 and the building was completed in 1911. It has numerous outreach programs, such as Out of the Cold, community dinners and the Boy Scouts.
Most of the homes are typical New Toronto homes, compact and situated on small lots but many owners clearly take pride in their places and numerous homes in the neighbourhood are undergoing extensive renovations.
Last week I wrote about Dundurn Castle and the Cockpit Theatre in Hamilton. Both places were originally owned by Allan MacNab. Yesterday I came across Castle Doune while walking with my granddaughter. As I came to the end of Locke St. N I spied this impressive structure through the trees. Apart from the historical plaque at the front of the property and the Private Property sign it appeared to be occupied. I was fascinated by the trees on the property and a very old bust made of stone looking over the driveway that led onto the property.
When I too a photo of the bust a very attractive middle aged woman walked toward me from the back of the driveway. I asked her if it was alright to take photos of the stone head. She was more than happy to oblige me and she started to talk about the history of the sculpture. It seems that it was originally guarding the original gravesite of Sir Allan MacNab before his remains were removed and placed in another cemetery. She was pretty confident that the head was not a likeness of MacNab but some deity that she couldn’t remember the name of.
Again the history of this place is somewhat sketchy. The historical society claims that MacNab built it for his gardener but the present owner thinks that it was MacNab’s first home. Apparently, according to her, he found the place too small for his liking and he built Dundurn Castle.
I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to this charming woman. When she bought the place 10 years ago she justified living in this large home because in her words, ‘every princess deserves a castle’.
If it’s true that MacNab needed larger quarters to live in he certainly made sure that his new home met those requirements. Here are a couple of photos of Dundurn Castle.
Yesterday my granddaughter and I walked over to the park at Dundurn Castle in Hamilton. She no longer calls it the dinosaur park but now uses its actual name ‘Dundurn Castle’.
On the grounds there sits a beautiful small white building with large columns at the entrance. I never gave much thought to what the building was originally used for but when I found out what it might have been potentially used for I was quite shocked. It is referred to as the Cockpit Theatre but according to Wikipedia there is no proof that it was ever used for cockfighting. It is also referred to as a folly, which I had to look up.
a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park.
a theatrical revue, typically with glamorous female performers:
“the Ziegfeld Follies”
According the Tourism Hamilton, “The Cockpit Theatre is the small Neo-classical building overlooking Burlington Bay on the edge of the escarpment estate. It was built by Sir Allan MacNab as a place to entertain business and political friends in an era two hundred years before action films and reality television. No archaeological evidence has actually shown that the building was ever used for the activity its name suggests.”
Another source gives this description of its original purpose: One of Dundurn Castle’s favored buildings it is actually a folly as its true purpose will forever remain unknown. Most locals refer to it as housing MacNab’s cockfighting ring as he was an avid participant in this long since banned sport. Local lore has underground tunnels leading from it to the main mansion.
Other uses being designated to it include:
A laundry house
A chapel for his wife
It is confusing to me that all accounts try to deny the use of this beautiful building as a cockfighting pit yet its official name is The Cockpit Theatre and as I peaked inside there were placards describing ‘cockfighting’. In fairness to Dundurn Castle I wasn’t able to read the information through the window so maybe they were debunking the myth. Anyway it makes for an interesting story.