Frank O’Connor House a gem for the community
by Kathleen O’Keefe
The Frank O’Connor House, once a vandalized eyesore, has been restored to its former glory and is now taking its place as vibrant hub for community, cultural, heritage and education organizations. Visually stunning, the Colonial Revival-style mansion and its surrounding buildings compromise the O’Connor Estate which sits next to the Senator O’Connor College School located near Victoria Park Ave and Ellesmere Road.
Built in 1933, Frank O’Connor House was the home of Canadian Senator Francis Patrick O’Connor and his family. The son of Irish immigrants, O’Connor was a self-made millionaire who founded the Laura Secord Chocolate dynasty. The O’Connor home was a focal point for the community. In its heyday the grand house, complete with an indoor swimming pool that transformed into a dance floor, was the site of lavish parties which entertained the elite of Canadian society including Premiers and Prime Ministers.
When the Senator died in 1939 the estate was left to religious charities and eventually became the location for Senator O’Connor College School. When the school underwent a major rebuild in 2002 the O’Connor buildings were left vacant and deteriorating with squatters damaging much of the mansions interior. In 2009 the property was deemed so far beyond repair that a demolition permit was requested but denied as the building had just received designation under the Ontario Heritage Act. As a result a new partnership was formed as The Frank O’Connor House not-for-profit organization and the Toronto Catholic District School Board teamed up to restore this beautiful property.
Midway through the renovations a spark from a welders’ torch set the attic ablaze. The roof along with much of the original plaster was destroyed and four feet of water had to be pumped out of the basement. Thank goodness for fire insurance, as the resulting damage set the renovation back over a year but the commitment to the project never faltered.
It would take over five years and over five million dollars before the historic doors would open to a restored mansion with a renewed purpose. Today the Frank O’Connor Estate building, with its grand staircase and gleaming original hardwood, is a community gem once again. New footsteps fill the halls as the TCDSB, the property landlord, uses the house and coach house as teaching space and the buildings are utilized at other times by local community organizations.
You can be a part of the mission to restore the historic O’Connor House and inspire future generations of Canadians by serving the educational, heritage, community and cultural needs of our community. For more information or to donate to Frank O’Connor House please contact us at: http://frankoconnorhouse.ca/who-we-are/contact-us/
For permit information please call: 416-222-8282 ext. 370 or visit https://www.tcdsb.org/Board/PlanningandFacilities/permits/Pages/default.aspx
A Picture for Posterity!
Two former Frank O’Connor House Board of Directors Chairs, Tony Wagner (middle), Dennis Timbrell (left) and Ward 34 Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (right), met recently over breakfast to discuss the status of the Frank O’Connor House community outreach plans.
Ward 11 Catholic District School Board Trustee Angela Kennedy drops by to say hello and meet the OCH Board
Pictured with Ms. Kennedy are (L) Past OCH Board Chair Tony Wagner, and (R) current Board Chair, Brian Sankarsingh
New Chair for O’Connor House Board of Directors
At the O’Connor House Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday October 28th, Brian Sankarsingh was confirmed as the new Chair of the Board of Directors. After 5.5 years of tireless work in the Chair role, Tony Wagner is stepping into a non-voting role with the Board and will continue as an ‘ambassador’ for the organization to our external stakeholders and customers.
The Board also set in motion detailed plans to reset the Strategic Plan so stay tuned for exciting news to come!
Visit Us at Artscape’s 2nd Annual Creative Spaces Partnership Exchange
O’Connor House is excited to be one of the 50+ exhibitors in the biggest meet up of arts and cultural organizations across the GTA. This free, one day event is devoted to advancing creative space projects and programming in every corner of the city.
Date: Monday, November 2, 2015
Time: 1:30 pm
Location: 5040 Yonge Street, Toronto (map)
For more information about this unique event can be found on the event website: http://www.torontoartscape.org/events/creative-spaces-partnership-exchange-0
See you there!