The breakthrough to this mystery building came when I found it on Google Street View. On my iPad, I navigated around the building to the Bethune Street side where I saw an entrance door with a house number (hidden here by a tree). Eureka. It was in fact a house on Bethune Street, not a mystery building on Edinburgh!
This house is another case of an unusual placement, with the property not facing the street. Placing the house in this direction gave it the best vantage point for a magnificent view of Peterborough from this hill. The house was built in the 1880s by James R. Donnell Jr., partner in the construction firm Donnell and Stabler. The house backs on to Edinburgh. Originally there was a good sized front garden that overlooked a Donnell Family compound, comprised of a modest 1870s brick house also built by James Junior, and his father James Donnell Senior's 1840s family homestead cottage to the south. Both these houses are still standing, but the family homes have been separated by newer houses that were built after the land was subdivided.
This little mystery was solved by literally looking at it from another direction!
The former YMCA building at George and Murray Streets has been sitting mostly empty since 2006. I've been inside only a few times during the past decade to view Spark photo exhibits. It has sat unchanged but empty, a keeper of endless memories for those of us who grew up here and enjoyed the many facilities it provided our community. Talk of refurbishment had been going on for so long it was almost a shock to see the partial demolition that is now happening.
The original structure was built in 1896, officially opening in May of 1897. Designed by Peterborough architect William Blackwell, the YMCA was built by funds bequeathed from Charlotte Nicholls, and further subsidized by George Cox. Major additions occurred in 1930, and modern facilities continued to be added in the 1960s and 70s.
The original 1896 exterior is largely being left intact. The Murray Street side of the 1930 addition has been completely demolished, while the George Street side has been entirely gutted. The…
There is a dumpster in front of 220 Brock Street. The front porch (not the original) and steps have been removed, which hopefully means there are positive changes in store. I was beginning to lose hope for this former beauty, as it seemed to be falling almost derelict.
The three Italianate style mansions on the north side of Brock, just east of Aylmer, were once part of a string of grand homes built along this block in the 1870s to the early 1880s. Two more were located where the 1960s high rise Brock Towers now stands. To the east, a large 1870s mansion is the only other survivor, and it now houses the Youth Emergency Shelter.
The original roofs of these mansions were far more ornate, with wrought iron cresting, mansards, and faux turrets. I imagine these features were high maintenance and only lasted a few decades. Only 220 still has its faux turret look.
Sadly, both 220 and 226 Brock Street were crudely broken up into apartments during the years of the Great Depression. 220…
Now a burrito take out and apartments, the use of this century building on Simcoe Street has changed many times. In the 70s, the second floor was a repertory movie theatre. When the movie Haroldand Maude had been rereleased on its way to cult film status, I remember it played there for many months.
The mosaic on the eastern side of the building adorned the exterior of the Gold Rush Room of the Empress Hotel during the 60s and 70s. The hotel is now Empress Gardens retirement residence. The mosaic was on the west, or George Street side of the first floor, outside what is now the Whistle Stop Cafe. It was preserved by Aon properties and moved to this location in their Charlotte Mews.