Scadding Cabin, built in 1794, is Toronto’s oldest surviving building. It is located at the west end of the Exhibition Grounds.
The cabin’s first owner was John Scadding, an assistant to Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe. Scadding’s 250-acre property was on the east bank of the Don River and his log home sat near where present-day Queen Street crosses the Don Valley Parkway.
In August 1879 John Smith, owner of the cabin, donated it to the Pioneers. The log building was dismantled by the York Pioneers and they reconstructed it on the grounds of the first Industrial Exhibition, now the Canadian National Exhibition.
How the cabin was physically moved to the CNE isn’t known, but some York Pioneers suspect the logs from the dismantled house were floated down the Don River and along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. The rebuilding of the cabin (then 85 years old) was well-documented in newspapers of the day.
Several Pioneers met at a seed store on Adelaide Street. Holding aloft the Union Jack emblazoned with “York Pioneers”, they trundled along King Street in a wagon pulled by a team of oxen. At the exhibition grounds, they met other volunteers and the rebuilding “bee” began.
York Pioneers on the way to erect their house in Exhibition Park, Toronto. August 22, 1879.
One mean-spirited article, perhaps attempting humour, described “ feeble old men attempting to raise the timber with the aid of walking sticks”. Regardless, the energetic workers, sustained with quantities of “lukewarm tea and coffee” and “five-gallon lager beer kegs”, were ready to christen “Simcoe Cabin” by 5 p.m. A bottle was broken over the cabin and a cannon fired. The Pioneers shouted themselves hoarse and one remarked “a jollier time had not been seen for 50 years”.
Scadding Cabin was opened as a museum and furnished with artifacts donated by the Pioneers and descendants of other local families. The second Thursday of the Industrial Exhibition each year was designated “Pioneers and Old Settlers’ Day” with special programs and demonstrations of skills and crafts that their ancestors, those early settlers in York and York Township, would have utilized to survive and prosper.
The building was later renamed “Scadding Cabin”, not to remember its first owner but to honour his son, Henry Scadding. Henry was a founding member and president of the YPHS for 18 years, as well as a renowned historian.
When you’re ready for a break from the hurly-burly of the midway, wend your way to just west of the bandshell and step back in time more than 200 years as you enter the dim interior of Toronto’s oldest building. The square-timbered Scadding Cabin is a little oasis surrounded by a split rail fence and a re-creation of a nineteenth-century garden featuring herbs and flowers.
Scadding Cabin is open every day during the CNE. Admission is free, but small donations are appreciated to defray the cost of conserving the cabin. Among the small items for sale is Mrs. Scadding’s Receipt Book, and Mrs. Scadding’s Receipt Book 2, a collection of nineteenth and early twentith century recipes.
Visitors are welcomed by volunteers in period costumes who happily explain the cabin’s history, describe artifacts and demonstrate spinning.
You can take a virtual tour of the cabin here: