Sunday, February 5, 2012

Villa Fiori ~ the first Eaton Hall


Photos by Barry Wallace
Anyone familiar with the King Campus of Seneca College will recognize Eaton Hall pictured above.   But probably many fewer will know that the first Eaton Hall, on Eaton Hall Farm, was the large manor house pictured below which came to be known, many decades ago, as Villa Fiora.         

Villa Fiora, which was the first Eaton Hall, was built around 1920, about 19 years before the 2nd Eaton Hall, the Norman chateau-style mansion pictured at top, which was finished in 1939.   Villa Fiori ('home of Flora') was a wood-frame, pink stucco, 7,000 sq. ft. home, in which Lady Flora Eaton lived for several years before moving into the larger Eaton Hall.



Today, Villa Fiori is 90 years old, and, like the huge aged maples on her front lawn, is near the end of her days.   The villa is patched up, boarded up and off-limits to visitors.




My wife's father, Clyde Cairns, worked as a groundsman and herdsman at Eaton Hall Farm for a period of time during the 'dirty thirties'.   His older brother, Arwood Cairns, was farm foreman for many years at the 700-acre farm that featured a large, prized dairy herd.   Villa Fiora (the first Eaton Hall) was only a fifth of the size of the ultimate Eaton Hall, but still commanded a broad and elevated view across Lake Jonda.   Much more about Eaton Hall's past is  available by searching online for "Seneca's Past according to Newman Wallis 1967-2004". 
Please comment if you wish.
BtheB

5 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this insightful information. It was a pleasure reading your blog. You answered many of my questions about this abandoned, yet beautiful, estate. It is nice to know about the personal connection you and your family share with the Eatons.

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  2. Extremely interesting to me. As you know, Jack and Flora bought the property in 1918 and so your date of building Villa Fiori in 1920 sounds just right...but what is your source for that date? Then Jack died in 1922. What a blow that must have been for her.
    In Frank Proctor's book Fox Hunting in Canada and Some Men who Made it (Toronto 1929) there is a photograph facing page 367 of the Toronto Hunt (not the Toronto and North York, which came into existence iin 1933) with Eaton Hall in the background. I cannot quite fit this building to your photo, though one chimney is similar. I suppose you couldn't get around to the back because of brush?
    You don't know if Seneca College has plans for that building? I hope they value it and will restore it, it does look sad in your photo.
    I am interested in Lady Eaton because she was Master of Foxhounds of TNYH and rode sidesaddle.
    Thank you for those photos

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  3. Extremely interesting to me as well as it was my great grandparents, William Ferguson and Annie Rogers Ferguson that owned and farmed the land that was eventually sold to the Eaton Family. The old Ferguson Homestead remains on the grounds of King Campus. My great Uncle continued to work for many years for the Eaton family often tending the gardens at Eaton Hall.

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  4. The website "dictionaryofarchitectsincanada.org" states that "Villa Fiori" was built for Lady Eaton in 1928-29 to plans by Wickson & Gregg, who also designed "Ardwold" (built 1909-10) and "Kawandag" (built 1920-21) for John Craig Eaton.

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  5. This building called "The Villa Fiori" (which means "House of Flora", as in Florence McCrea Eaton, Lady Eaton) was actually "built" in 1924 utilizing one of the existing Ferguson Farmhouses on the property which Lady Eaton had moved to its current site and then continued to build an addition to the north and south of the building after digging in a basement. Sir John Craig Eaton, her husband, died in 1922 prior to Lady Eaton building the Villa Fiori. To design the Villa, Lady Eaton utilized the architects Wickson & Gregg whom the family had worked with many times before - having said that, Wickson & Gregg did not design Eaton Hall. If you look up an architect named Charles Voysey you will notice that the Villa really does follow the "Voyseyian" design concepts. I highly recommend reading the book Eaton Hall: Pride of King Township as an entire chapter is dedicated to this building with many images showing how Lady Eaton moved the original farmhouse and how she added on to create, The Villa Fiori.

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