Plaqued Houses and Buildings
Address:
76 Thomas Street - The Williams House
Summary:
The house was buiilt in 1866. Originally owned by Mr. John Williams, Proprietor of the Canadian Hotel
Property Details:
John Williams (1817-84) came to Oakville in the early days. In his youth he was a mariner on the lakes and was very popular with sailors and farmers. He is not to be confused with John A. Williams, son of Justus Wright Williams. In 1852 he took over the Oakville House at the corner of Lakeshore Road and Navy Street. Apparently he kept his money, mostly silver, in a jar behind the bar. He had a number of secret caches around the hotel where he could hide money entrusted to him by drivers of grain wagons. In 1855, responding to a shortage of hotel rooms, he built the Railway Hotel, southeast of the new railway station. He soon sold it and it was demolished in 1935.

In 1857 he built the Canadian Hotel on the southeast corner of Robinson and Navy Streets. It opened to receive travellers on 15 December 1857 and had twenty-one rooms, many of them only six feet square. He ran the Canadian Hotel until 1867 when he sold it to James Teetor for $2005. It later became the Murray House, named by his nephew, Murray Williams, in 1896. Williams returned to the Oakville House and remained there until he retired in 1878. In the 1871 (toward the end of the Fenian Raids) he took over command of the 20th Halton Battalion of Infantry (now The Lorne Scots) from its first Commandng Officer, LCol George King Chisholm.

John Williams and his wife Margaret purchased this property in 1862 from George King Chisholm, oldest son of Oakville’s founder, Colonel William Chisholm. For most of their years in Oakville, John & Margaret Williams most likely lived in the hotels they were proprietors of. Their son, Captain Robert Williams, lived in the house for several years along with some other tenants. In the 1880s, Robert was the Commodore of the fleet of 11 ferries that served Toronto Island and wintered in Oakville.

In 1874, the house was sold to their daughter, Mary Elizabeth. Soon after, Mary married Frederick W. Doty, a member of the Doty family which owned and operated the Oakville Steam Engine and Machine Works. In 1880 the house was sold back to John & Margaret. John spent the last four years of his life here before passing away in 1884. The widowed Margaret soon sold the property in November 1884 to George Halen and his wife. The property was sold again in 1891 to William Herbert Carson who was a builder and contractor. In 1879, he converted the Oakville Steam Cabinet factory on Trafalgar Road into a planing mill which he ran for some thirty years as Carson and Sons Planing Mill.

The house was sold again in 1894 to Mary Anne Smith, a widow. Mrs. Smith died in 1899 and in 1900 the house was sold to James and Sarah Hunter. The Hunters owned the property for over fifty years. During the period, a long time occupant of the house was their daughter Nellie Hunter who was a teacher. As a result, the house was known by many old Oakville residents as The Nellie Hunter House.

The house is a large brick and frame residence. The building is a good example of the late Victorian, highly decorative style. The asymmetrical plan, tall proportions, elaborate mouldings and imbrication all combine to achieve a highly picturesque effect. Townhouses have been constructed immediately abutting the rear of the property, however, these do not detract significantly from the major architectural features of the house.
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77 Thomas Street today77 Thomas Street today
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The Nellie Hunter House taken in the 1920sThe Nellie Hunter House taken in the 1920s
The Oakville House - 1897The Oakville House - 1897
The Canadian Hotel  Built 1852  Corner of Navy and RobinsonThe Canadian Hotel Built 1852 Corner of Navy and Robinson
Captain Robert Williams 1845-1924Captain Robert Williams 1845-1924
Mary Anne SmithMary Anne Smith
Sarah and Nellie Hunter (left to rigth) circa early 1950sSarah and Nellie Hunter (left to rigth) circa early 1950s