When John Graves Simcoe was the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, he received a 200 acre tract of land on which to build an estate in the name of his young son, Francis. Like all of the country lots sold at the time, the plot stretched from modern day Queen Street (then Lot Street) in the south to what is now Bloor Street in the north. Simcoe’s plot ran along the Don River.
Simcoe had the Rangers clear land for a large house at the north end of his lot, and had them build a log cabin there of pine. It was modelled on a classical Greek temple, though the pillars were made from large tree trunks stripped of their bark. The house itself was unpainted. Perhaps with some irony, the house was named “Castle Frank.”
The Rangers then cut a path from the house to the town of York, roughly along what is Parliament street today. The Simcoe’s also travelled to Castle Frank by sled over the frozen Don River in winter.
After the Simcoe’s returned in England in 1796, the house fell into disrepair. Francis Simcoe did not visit his namesake home again in his lifetime, falling during the Seige of Badajoz in 1812. The house burnt down in 1829, reportedly due to the carelessness of local fishermen who were using it for shelter.
On the site of the house is now the Rosedale Heights School of the Arts, although the name itself is commemorated by the adjacent subway station, “Castle Frank.”
During the sacking of York in 1813, American soldiers noticed the name of Castle Frank on a map. Thinking it an actual castle, they paid a visit, only to find a large rotting wood cabin.
In 1829, Castle Frank was being used by what Robertson described as “amateur fishermen” who accidentally burned the cabin to the ground.