If you missed the history talk on the nineteenth century development of Deseronto this weekend, there’s a chance to catch it again on YouTube:

Due to a technical hitch on the day, the visuals weren’t available, but this version includes the slides!

The north-south streets at the eastern end of Deseronto are numbered, like those in many North American towns. We have First Street, Second Street, Fourth Street and Fifth Street, but Third Street is nowhere to be seen.

Numbered streets on map of Deseronto from Bing

Well, that’s actually not quite true: you can see it in the Archives.

Here is a detail of a plan of the town made in about 1895:

Third StreetYou can see Third Street in the middle of the map and there’s also a Sixth Street on the far left. As you can see, Third Street was never a very long road, stretching only from Main Street down to the flour mill on Water Street.

On this day in 1896 (the Victoria Day holiday), most of this side of town went up in flames, destroying docks and many buildings. Newspapers across North America reported on the fire. This clipping is from the May 27th 1896 edition of the Daily Public Ledger of Maysville, Kentucky:

Daily Public Ledger report on Deseronto fire of 25 May 1896

Fire destroyed two-thirds of the east end of the town of Deseronto, Ont., and nearly a hundred families are homeless. The Rathbun Co.’s big flour mill, storehouse and elevator, the shingle and lumber docks, the Roman Catholic church and about one hundred dwelling houses were burned. Most of the houses were occupied by workmen. The total loss will exceed $300,000.

The original Roman Catholic Church of St. Vincent de Paul stood on the north side of Dundas Street in this part of Deseronto. The church had been built in 1883 at a cost of over $4,000. Herbert A. Osborne took this photograph of it in around 1895:

St. Vincent de Paul church, c.1895

When the church was rebuilt, it was located further west; still on the north side of Dundas Street but away from the more industrial areas of the town. It was completed in November 1896.

Unlike the church, it appears that Third Street was never rebuilt after the fire. By the time the map below was made for the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway in 1912, the road  had vanished.

Detail of 1912 map of the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway

A neat example of history affecting geography!

From a Hastings County directory of 1868-1869, this map shows the street plan of the village of Mill Point, later to become the town of Deseronto.

Mill Point in 1869

It is interesting to see how few streets were laid out at that time: Thomas Street, which now runs the entire length of the town, was only two blocks wide in 1869. Centre and Prince Streets were yet to be established and there were no roads north of Dundas. In 1869 the village did have a Third Street, however, which is more than the town can boast today! Compare this plan with the appearance of the town in 1962:

Deseronto lots, 1962

In 1869 the industrial core of the village was firmly in the southwest corner, where the steam saw mill, wharf, post office and ship yard can be seen. The H. B. Rathbun and Son advertisement from the 1869 directory neatly summarizes the firm’s interests at this date:

1869 advertisement for H. B. Rathbun and Son

The 1869 map also shows the location of Deseronto’s first church, at the top of [St.] George Street, close to the current location of the Presbyterian Church of the Redeemer. The Union Church had been built in 1868 as a shared place of worship: the Anglicans had a service there in the morning, the Presbyterians in the afternoon, and the Methodists in the evening.

Only one residence is marked on the earlier map: presumably that of the Rathbun family. At this period, Edward Wilkes Rathbun (1842-1903) had taken over the day-to-day running of H. B. Rathbun and Son, due to his father’s ill health. E. W. Rathbun built the Deseronto firm into a hugely successful business, becoming a millionaire in the process. While other family members built houses on Dundas Street, away from the busy industries of the waterfront, E. W. Rathbun liked to be close to his concerns. His Main Street home was a substantial property, as this photograph shows:

E. W. Rathbun's house on Main Street, Deseronto

This house no longer exists. To the front, it looked out on Central Park (now the Rathbun Memorial Park), which was laid out at E. W. Rathbun’s expense. He brought in A. J. Hopkins, a landscape gardener from Oswego, New York, to do the work.  The back of the house would have afforded good views of the Rathbuns’ industrial empire along the waterfront of the Bay of Quinte: Edward Wilkes Rathbun was clearly a man who liked to keep a close eye on his business!

Did you miss the chance to explore Deseronto’s Doors Open sites on May 28, 2011? Or perhaps you weren’t able to visit all of them?

Fear not! We’ve made all the Deseronto site brochures available here for you to look at. Just click on the images below to get a large version that you can print off or read online.

Deseronto Cemetery [site 22]
Camp Rathbun [site 23]
St. Mark’s Hall [site 24]
Grace United Church [site 25]
Public Works Garage: former aircraft hangar [site 26]
Naylor’s Theatre [site 27]
Deseronto Post Office [site 28]
Deseronto Town Hall [site 29]
Rathbun Memorial Park [site 30]
McGlade Funeral Home [site 31]
Foresters’ Island [site 32]
Former industrial sites [site 33]
Church of the Redeemer [site 34]
St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church [site 35]
Founding of Deseronto [site 36]

Top ten

As regular readers of this blog will know, the Archives has been gradually digitizing its photographic collection over recent years and putting them online through the Flickr photo-sharing website. This week, we passed a significant milestone, with over 100,000 online views of those photographs.

To mark this achievement, here are a few more Flickr-related statistics:

Number of photographs: 1,189
Number of sets: 42
Number of collections: 5
Number of tags: 341
Views of most popular image: 545
Views of least popular image: 7*
Number of times photos have been ‘favorited’: 222
Number of comments on photos: 87

The collage at the top of this post is a compilation of the ten most popular photographs on Flickr, which between them have been viewed over 3,500 times.

It’s also interesting to see the geographical spread of the Archives’ photographs: the image below shows how far across the globe the subject matter of our photographs is scattered.

Geographic range of Deseronto Archives photos

The ‘most interesting’ photograph (by Flickr’s measure) is one of these far-flung ones – a picture of the Eaton’s store in a very quiet Portage Avenue in Winnipeg, Manitoba, taken in 1907 by Harold McMurrich Rathbun.


Four years ago, the only way of seeing most of these photographs was by coming to visit Deseronto Archives in person. Some of them belong to individuals and were not available to public view at all. We’re delighted that they are now accessible to a much larger public.

*It should be pointed out that this image has only been on Flickr for a week or two. It’s not unpopular because it’s spectacularly unattractive or boring. Go on, go and have a look at it, just to give it a boost…

Detail of 2011.03

One of the Archives’ first new accessions of 2011 was a map of Hastings County, transferred by colleagues at the Lennox and Addington County Museum and Archives. Surrounding the map are mini-business directories for Belleville, Deseronto, Frankford, Madoc, Shannonville, Stirling and Tweed. The photo shows the businesses listed for Deseronto, which suggest that the map dates from the 1940s (as that was when Evan Gardner’s funeral home was in operation). It must have been much simpler to remember telephone numbers, back then…

Ed Roach’s butcher shop is fondly remembered by many local people. One of our oral history interviewees remarked that Ed always promised that his meat was “as tender as a woman’s heart”.

One of the (many) very good things about putting the Archives’ photographs onto Flickr is the ability to place the locations onto a map. Often the buildings in the photographs no longer exist (this is particularly true of Deseronto’s industrial heritage), but with the help of old maps it is possible to give the sites an approximate location on a map of present-day Deseronto. Around a third of the images in the Flickr collection are photographs of buildings or details of plans of the town. These have all now been added to the map of the Deseronto area that is associated with our Flickr account.

The screenshot above gives an impression of the way that this map appears. One slightly strange thing about the underlying map software is that it does not show Foresters’ Island, which is situated in the Bay of Quinte just south of Deseronto. As a consequence, the marker on this map for the orphanage photo we featured the other week appears to be in the middle of the water.

It is also possible to search for all the photos that have been associated with the area by all Flickr users, which gives a good selection of more recent views of the town alongside the Archives’ more historic ones.

Two old maps of Deseronto have surfaced in the last few weeks. One is a photocopy of an 1875 plan of Mill Point (as Deseronto was known at the time). The image below shows the lumber mill, workshops, the steam boat wharf and the post office of the day (click on the image for a closer look). At that time, Main Street was also known by its alternative name of Front Road.

Mill pond, Mill Point, 1875

Around 20 years later, the area around the original mill had changed considerably. The detail below is from a plan of the southern part of Deseronto, made at the height of the industrial era of the town in the late 1800s. Here, the western side of Mill Street is taken up with a sash and door factory. The wharves have expanded greatly and railways form elaborate patterns around the whole site.

Deseronto Mill Pond area, c.1895

The ‘dry kilns’ on this plan are now occupied by the Deseronto Flea Market, but otherwise these buildings have all gone and the area is now a centre for recreation, rather than industry.

Centennial Park
Photo by Dana Valentyne