Piccadilly Area History

Residential development of Piccadilly Area was rather slow to start: the British garrison occupied the land to the south-west, and only quitted it gradually after 1865.

Between Waterloo St. and Richmond St., the Military Reserve extended north from today’s Victoria Park to as far as 30 m south of Piccadilly, a line now occupied by Kenneth St.

Carling Creek ran diagonally across the southern boundaries of Piccadilly and had been dammed by the military to make Lake Horn (Piccadilly Park today). It was used by the garrison for swimming and recreation.

Until 1888, Carling’s Brewery occupied the site of the Siskind’s Law Firm building on Waterloo, with scattered buildings occupying the land up to Oxford St.

The following year, Colborne Street Methodist (now United) Church was the first building to be erected on the former brewery grounds. Carling’s had moved down the creek to west of Richmond St, where there were other industrial concerns, such as Hyman’s Tannery. The church was designed by George F. Durand, the most important High Victorian architect in Southwestern Ontario.

In 1887, the CPR rail tracks were laid out alongside the creek, acting as a further barrier against development pressure from the south.

One of the oldest houses on Piccadilly Street is #301, built about 1872 for James H. Metcalfe. It was occupied from 1875 by a military figure: Colonel James Shanley, a barrister and the first commanding officer of the London Field Battery. At that time, only one or two other houses were to be found here, one of which may have been the cottage at #447.

You can see evidence of changing styles and fashions in domestic architecture in the area. Look at roofs: notice that the earlier styles of Ontario cottages and Italianate townhouses had a shallow hipped roof, while the end-of-the-century Queen Anne houses exhibited a complex roofline and decorations with patterns in different coloured slates, and later, the modern bungalow was topped with a simple sweep of asphalt shingles.

Many original features survive: there are a surprising number of slate roofs along Piccadilly – look out for the “fishscale” slates set in elaborate patterns, and notice too the many decorated barge-boards in the gables that face the street.

The area’s relatively short period of development (1890 – 1915) has given rise to a certain similarity in design created by the frequent use of wide gable ends on the front elevation ornamented with milled woodwork, sided with shingles and usually sporting a small attic window.

Information taken from ACO, London Region Branch booklets:

  • The Pride of Piccadilly,16th Annual Geranium Walk, 4 June 1989, and
  • Picturesque Piccadilly, 27th Annual Geranium Walk, 4 June 2000

Both these booklets, and all other ACO Geranium Walk booklets, can be borrowed from the Central Library, third floor arts area (720.971326 Ar25t).