THE GOVERNOR'S ROAD: EARLY BUILDINGS FROM MISSISSAUGA TO LONDON
Mary Byers and Margaret McBurney.
Volume 11 Number 6.
The Governor's Road is the third in a series of books from the University of Toronto Press that combine the two dominant interests of their authors, early Ontario history and pre-Confederation architecture. Where the first two books were concerned with the area east of Toronto, Homesteads: Early Buildings and Families from Kingston to Toronto, and the area around Toronto, Rural Roots: Pre-Confederation Buildings of the York Region of Ontario, this volume moves westward, down Dundas Street (Highway 5) to the town of Dundas in order to follow the route from there to London, Ontario (Governor Simcoe's original choice for capital of Upper Canada), along what was called the Governor's Road. With the aid of clear maps, both regional and district, as well as innumerable architectural photographs, the authors take us on a logical progression from town to town, keeping us informed as we go of the local history in terms of the public (commerce, politics, etc.) and private sectors (individual family histories). Each locale has been painstakingly mined for its extant buildings of architectural merit, the buildings photographed and thoroughly researched for information about their previous owners.
Unfortunately, the authors chose an approach to disseminating this fascinating material that is quite disruptive to its historical continuity. Each house is taken as a discrete unit of history, by which I mean that it is studied from its origins to the present owner. When it is realized that there must be several hundred buildings illustrated and discussed in the book, it becomes evident that there is a continual circling back chronologically, a structure that eventually becomes annoying to the reader. In addition, there seems to be a lot of interest placed on the more gossipy aspects of the owners' lives, somewhat as if the book were a small-town newspaper's social column. As the bulk of the text is concerned with such details of personal history, students of architecture will find little more than excellent photographs to whet their appetite and interest. Contrary to what might be expected from the book's subtitle, "Early Buildings," architectural style is given little space here, the buildings serving merely as repositories of family history.
Consequently, I admit a certain hesitancy in recommending The Governor's Road wholeheartedly for inclusion in a school library. As a historical document, it is too diffuse and ultimately confusing. As a gossipy book about the early settlers of Southwestern Ontario, it is quite thorough. As a photographic document of Pre-Confederation architecture, it is outstanding.
Susan Morrison, N.A. Boylen S. S., North York, ON
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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