“Scenes from OIDAR,” the story of 77 Creighton Rd
by Margaret Stowe
Note: All photographs subject to copyright.
The old farmhouse at 77 Creighton Rd. stands on a rise in the land and overlooks the vast grounds that were once its own, expanding south to the Governor’s Rd, and east to Central Park, when it was called West Flamborough. And what a vast story it has to tell. My grandparents Alma and Dr. Reginald Jaffrey bought the house in 1931, and I lived there for the first two years of my life in the early 1950s. They wanted to move “to the country,” as I was so often told. It was “the 3rd house past the bridge.” There were cedar hedges, tall trees and fruit trees, and a large barn where the horses lived. My grandmother had a garden down towards where the school is now, and she had another garden for the deer beyond that. We would ride the horses down there. My mother had four horses when I was born. Those were beautiful times. And the story goes back 100 years from then.
Back when it was first built, in the 1850s, it was not the brick house of today, but was a small frame house, one and a half storeys, with a cellar, on an acreage of farm land, on the east side of Creighton Rd. extending to the Governor’s Rd, that was part of a larger area originally owned by Richard Hatt, the founder of Dundas. The first inhabitant of the house was Sarah Crichton who is presumed to have built it during the years after the connecting bridge was built over Spencer Creek in 1851. Sarah was the daughter-in-law of Richard Hatt and became one of Dundas’s most important and interesting land developers. She remarried Thomas A. Crichton. This is where the name Crichton, then Creighton, came from. The full story of Sarah Crichton, her family and the interesting early history of Creighton Rd, including the earliest houses and neighbors can be found in an extended document available at the Dundas Museum. One can see the size of the original frame house in the rear view photo shown. What appears to be a back addition was the original house.
At the front of the original house, a central door and two flanking windows. Inside, there was an enclosed box staircase that led to the second floor sleeping lofts. On the ground floor, a wood stove and an open living space. A 12 pane window original to the house can be seen in the rear view photo shown. Outside, the well lay a ways from the house, close to the barn. There may have been sheds in the back, leaning down the slope. In the front, a path led down to the road. It wasn’t called Creighton Rd yet, it was called Concession 1 or Crichton Rd. The Dundas town line ran right through the north side of Sarah Crichton’s property.
After living at 77 Creighton Rd for upwards to 15 years*, in 1868/69, Sarah Crichton sold the house and property to James Chegwin, another developer, and it became part of the Chegwin Survey. [*During the late 1860s, Sarah also occupied 78 Creighton, across the road.] James Chegwin soon sold the southern section of the 77 land (the corner of Governor’s and Creighton) to Timothy Greening, and after a few other land deals, in 1872, the rest of it was sold to Andrew and Mary Crosbie who built the new brick addition in 1874, essentially building a new house, and the original house became the ‘back kitchen.’ They dug a partial cellar under the front addition for a big wood furnace, and stove pipes connected to the chimneys on either side of the house. Evidence of the stovepipes could be seen during later renovations. There was a complex plumbing system of separate roof water and well water. One can see where the old house was fitted to the new in the porch view photo shown.
On the front of the house, the Crosbies added three gingerbread gabled windows to the second floor, as well as beautiful landscaping, hedges and gardens, and this may have been when the house was given its first name, “The Cedars.”
There may have been two barns on the property then, and there were beautiful views from all angles. In the front, a manicured path edged with planting led down to Creighton Rd. (Crichton Rd) which at that time was a narrow roadway with wooden fences on both sides. In 1880, Dundas photographer Duncan McMillan came out to the house with his family, in their horse-drawn carriage. He parked the carriage out front, set up his camera on the hill across the road and took a picture of the elegant and expansive property. The 1936 photograph, shown here, taken by Dr. Jaffrey, was from the same vantage point and shows the breadth of the land.
The Crosbies had created a jewel on the hill, and this was the first of its heydays as a “modern” brick house.
During the 1880s, the neighbors were Greening to the south, with Burrows and Scott to the north. Burrows’ barn can be seen on the left in the 1936 photo. James and Margaret Scott, next to Burrows, had a lovely garden and a barn which could be seen from the back door of 77 Creighton, looking northeast. “Scott’s Garden” is shown here in the 1930s and 40s.
The new brick house interior
The new brick addition was a large two-storey living space. Looking in from the front door, into the front hallway, there was a reception room through a door to the right, with a fireplace, and on the other side of the hallway, two rooms, and another fireplace in the dining room. In the middle of the house, a large open hallway, and a grand wooden staircase which led up to a surrounding landing, off of which were the bedrooms, the bathroom, and the small hallway leading to the older part of the house, the former loft area, now put to different use. The old box staircase still led up there from the kitchen downstairs in the back.
The Crosbie family lived at 77 Creighton for 13 years. In 1885 they sold the house to William R. Horning, a fruit farmer, who farmed the land for the next 20 – 27 years. The Horning family named the house “Cedarmonte” although the name “The Cedars” may have gone back to the Crosbies.
In 1905, William Horning sold a section of the property, to the south, between 77 and the Ann St. creek, to Kerr-Twiss, and new lots were added there. In 1912, heirs of William Horning sold 77 Creighton to James Frederick Hils, a builder from Dundas and Mary Jane Hils. James Hils and his wife Sarah moved into the house, and it continued to be a farm for the next 19 years. In 1931, James Hils died, and Mary Jane Hils, now Mary Jane Hils-Bowman sold the house and its remaining two acres to Dr. Wm Reginald and Alma Jaffrey, my grandparents. It was the “3rd house past the bridge.” The address was still West Flamborough then, although “Dundas” was used. And that’s when its next heyday began.
The Jaffrey House 1931-1957
Dr. Jaffrey had a dermatology practice in Hamilton, which he had formed after leaving his position as Pathologist for the City of Hamilton during the First World War. He married Alma McMahon, a cultured “lady” whose family had come to Hamilton in 1905 to found Union Drawn Steel (still there today). Now with two small daughters, the Jaffreys decided to “move to the country.” They later had a son.
It took two months to prepare the house. Ouellette did carpentry, $231.56, Mitson, decorator, paper hanging and painting, $197, T.Eaton Co, paper $207.04. Dean replaced the hardwood floors, $208. In the kitchen and back kitchen, new linoleum and painting. There was a dry sink and a wet sink, and tall cupboards with drawers. They serviced the furnace and the well, got a Kelvinator, a mower, tons of crushed stone, fruit trees, fixed the barn roof, added new shutters and 12 new storm windows. There was Bowman Lumber, Snetsinger Lumber, Morden Insurance, and dozens of Wm Crowley receipts. And even more fruit trees. Meticulous records were kept of the whole adventure, saved to this day. In September 1931, Dr. Reg and Alma Jaffrey and their two young daughters, Ruth and Jean, aged 2 and 4, moved in.
They improved the long straight driveway that angled down from the house along the Greenwood property line and right through the Dundas town line. They tore down the chicken house and planted more trees. And the fruit trees bore fruit. Apples, cherries, plums and peaches at the south fence. In 1934, they planted an apricot tree, and two orange quinces, grapes too, and two large vegetable gardens stretched out down to the paddock. There was Paul the gardener, Abe and Charles Webster who lived on Ann St. were the groundskeepers, Arthur Hannis, who also lived on Ann St. was the carpenter. In 1932, Abe dug the original cellar to replace pipes. In ’37, they redid the kitchen. In 1941, they added 29 new cedars. Total, including planting, $10.72.
Upstairs in the original loft area, they created two rooms, a playroom for the children and a darkroom for Dr. Jaffrey. He did all of his own medical photography. In 1947, the coal furnace was replaced with a new monster oil furnace, and in January 1947, J.F. Crowley installed a new Aero Silver Flame Oil Burner ($390.00), fueled by a 220-gallon oil tank. Crown-Dominion Oil filled the tank, $24, and Dr. Jaffrey wrote,
Jan 28/47 – Oil burner in & running.
OIDAR, the house gets a new name
During the 1930s and 40s, the Jaffrey house was a centre of family and community activity. Dr. Jaffrey was well known in town for his wireless radio and the large antenna that dangled above the house, and they named the house OIDAR (radio spelled backwards). A letter addressed to the Jaffreys simply had to say OIDAR Creighton Rd. The phone number at OIDAR was “1.” The Jaffrey daughters grew up, went to Dundas High School, danced at Club 42, and rode horses around the countryside. Their son was a proud cadet and went to Ridley. They had many horses, Peter Who, Greyboy, Jake, Dusty, Fancy, and Mr. Tom Folkes kept horses there too. Tom Folkes became a great friend of the family and was often seen riding on the land. Young Ruth Jaffrey, my mother, was Mr. Folkes’ protégé and rode with him in parades.
Young people loved to come around to the Jaffrey house, Mrs. J. always welcomed them, and the house was the scene of many afternoon soirees and picnics on the side lawn. They hosted doctors and their wives, and the Women’s Auxiliary made bandages there during the war. And the beautiful open countryside stretched out in a vista of hill and dale. Beyond the creek, the land rose up with its stately homes on the Governor’s Rd visible amidst the trees. The horses were in the field. It was a paradise.
The pictures shown are from that time. My grandfather Dr. Jaffrey passed away in 1950, and I lived there with my parents and grandmother until I was two. That was probably when they installed the new large oil tank to the south of the house, to keep the house warmer. In 1954, my parents and I moved to the new Highland Hills Survey (originally Hatt land too!) which was another bit of paradise, and our family grew. In 1957, my grandmother sold the back part of the property to the School Board for the construction of Central Public School (as did Greenwood and “Twiss”), and that same year she sold the house and moved down to Melville St. in Dundas, a few doors down from St. James Church where she was so active.
During the next five years, the house was divided into two apartments. Three lots were subdivided at this time, one to the south and two to the north. To the south, where the orchard had been, a triplex apartment building was built by Reginald Speight. Charles Juravinski, of hospital and racetrack fame, also lived there. To the north, the two new front lots became Hockridge and Frid.
Brown 1963 – 1985
In 1963, 77 Creighton Rd came up for sale again, and it was bought by the Brown family. It was vacant when they bought it. With two new houses in the front there was no road access to the house, and the Browns made the new curving driveway in the front. The barn still stood in the back.
At the time, Dr. David Brown was a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at McMaster University, and he and his wife Mariana had three daughters. It was thanks to the Brown family that the house was restored and returned to its splendor as a family home, and more. The Browns added a two-storey addition onto the back which included a basement, and also added back the gingerbread gabling that had originally adorned the front windows. They opened up the back staircase and furnished the house with period furniture. The barn provided a world of endless imaginings for the children. They lived at 77 Creighton for 22 years. Mrs. Mariana Brown lovingly immortalized the house in a stunning replica dollhouse, which remains a family treasure. Looking up the drive, the house at 77 Creighton still sits, like an elder, in the background, up on the rise, as the world whizzes by on the busy Creighton Rd.
Enjoy these “Scenes from OIDAR,” from the 1930s and 1940s.
Margaret Stowe © 2020
Thanks to Dr. David Brown; Sandra Kiemele and Kevin Puddister, Dundas Museum; Bill Greenwood; Barbara and Ken Gibson; Audrey Hartwell; Beverley Stiegler