How many times have you driven along the Lyn Road, passed the large barns and the sign that reads “Avondale Farms”? Here is the story behind those barns and that sign.
An article printed in the (Brockville) “Recorder and Times” appeared on Friday, July 23, 1909……
“Mr. and Mrs. A.C. Hardy, were hosts of a delightful dance at “Avondale Farm” west of town last night, the affair taking place in a large, new modern barn on the Lyn Road recently completed. Although the weather was warm the barn afforded an ideal spot for just such a gathering and until two o’clock this morning the 250 guests tripped the light fantastic to excellent music furnished by Merry’s Orchestra of ten pieces from Ogdensburg. Three locomotive headlights and small coloured lanterns were used for lighting the building. At midnight dainty refreshments were served”.
As one reads this account 110 years later, imagination can almost visualize the dancing, the laughter and high spirits of that evening. Today, such a celebration for the completion of a barn would be unheard of. So who were Mr. and Mrs. A.C. Hardy?
Arthur Charles Winnett Hardy was born on Tuesday, December 3, 1872 at Brantford, Ontario. He was the son of a former Premier of Ontario, the Honorable Arthur Sturgis Hardy and Mary Morrison, the daughter of Hon. Joseph C. Morrsion, Solicitor General and Receiver General in two of Sir John A. Macdonald’s administrations from 1856 to 1860.
Educated at Brantford Collegiate Institute, Upper Canada College and Toronto University with a B.A. in 1895, Arthur Charles Hardy graduated from Osgoode Hall with a LL.B and was ‘Called to the Bar’ in 1896. In 1904 he married Dorothy Fulford (1881-1949), daughter of Senator George T. Fulford of Brockville. After their marriage the couple took up residence along the St. Lawrence River at the east end of Brockville at “Thornton Cliff”. This ‘mansion’ had been purchased by George T. Fulford for a reported $11,000 and given to his daughter and son-in-law as a wedding gift.
A barrister by training, Arthur C. Hardy practiced law for only a short time. He was summoned to the Canadian Senate on February 10, 1922, was speaker of the Senate for a short period in 1930 and was sworn into the Privy Council July 31, 1930. From this point on, Arthur C. Hardy became known as Senator A.C. Hardy.
With a deep interest in the community, Senator Hardy also held a more personal interest in agricultural matters. This perhaps started out as a hobby, but it later grew into something much more.
From ‘Hobby Farm’ to Business:
Sometime between 1905 and 1909, Arthur Charles Hardy turned his attention to establishing his own farm and began to buy up parcels of land along the Lyn Road, just west of Brockville. This first purchase of 100 acres allowed the Senator to pursue his long time interest in agriculture and own some cattle. This soon became a desire to breed purebred cattle and he would ultimately name his farm Avondale Farm. In the years following, the farm continued to grow in size to approximately 250 acres, with the purchase of other surrounding lands, including those belonging to the Bressee, Grant, Johnston and Paul families.
The existence of buildings on the original property is uncertain. The newly-built barn that we previously referenced may have been a replacement for an existing barn, or it could have been the first barn built on this property. The manager’s house, on the driveway leading into the farm was built shortly after Senator Hardy purchased the farm. The house located next to the manager’s house, was originally located on a side road at the back of the farm and was moved to its present location most likely prior to 1909. It was first used as a boarding house for farm employees and seasonal workers. Later it became the herdsman’s home.
Another structure that was built on the farm was a small, two story frame house away from the main buildings, down a short lane-way. Fully furnished and surrounded by trees on two of its sides and fields on the other two sides, this house was occasionally used by the Senator and his wife Dorothy. Avondale seemed to be a place of retreat for the couple and they would bring their servants with them to prepare and serve their meals. On at least one occasion Senator Hardy celebrated his birthday at this quiet scenic ‘hideaway’. In 1948, an additional two bedrooms were added on the back of the house in the event grandchildren would eventually visit.
From 1909 to the early 1920’s, Senator Hardy was establishing one of the finest purebred Holstein herds in Canada. It did not stop there. Continuing his quest for perfection in a cattle herd, in 1925 Senator Hardy imported a herd of purebred Jersey cattle from the Jersey Islands in the English Channel. For the next 13 years, Avondale Farm housed both purebred Holstein and Jersey cattle. In 1938, the Holstein herd was sold and the focus was placed on breeding and raising Jersey cattle.
Avondale was also equipped with a modern dairy, capable of pasteurizing and processing milk for home delivery. The Jersey milk was all produced by the farm herd of 65 – 75 cows, while the milk from Holsteins (after 1938) was purchased from area farmers. The ‘Dairy’ operation consisted of three men, one responsible for pasteurizing and bottling and two men for the delivery to households around Brockville. Approximately 1000 quarts of milk were sold each day by 1942! At that time the price for milk was 10¢ a quart (standard milk from Holsteins), and 12¢ for the richer Jersey milk.
The horse drawn ‘Avondale Farm Milk Wagon’ was a familiar sight on the streets of Brockville for many years in the early half of the 1900’s. One very memorable milkman was Harvey Pyke, who began delivering milk in 1932 at the age of 18. His faithful horse who pulled his wagon each day was named Polly, a Belgian mare. In good weather they used a wagon, and in bad winter weather, a sleigh. By the time the Avondale Dairy closed in the late 1940’s, a motorized truck had replaced Polly and her wagon and Harvey Pyke went to work for Smith’s Dairy in Brockville.
Although Senator Hardy never ‘lived’ on Avondale Farm, he visited whenever he could, depending on his schedule. “Sometimes he came every day, sometimes twice a week or he would simply call and ask if there were any new calves in the barn. He had a particular soft spot for the little calves.” (Lillian Baker)
To handle the daily chores, Avondale employed a staff of between ten to twelve farm workers, depending on the time of year. Obviously during the warmer months, more farm hands were necessary for crop planting and harvesting. Overseeing the employees was a Farm Manager. Prior to 1918, Mr. Betty, Mr. Manhard, Mr. Logan, Mr. Bissle and Mr. H. Lynn held this position. Mr. J.D. Seeks was the Manager from March 11, 1918 to November 28, 1918, followed by Mr. T. J. Davidson, who held the position from November 28, 1918 until his retirement on November 23, 1941. It should be noted that Mr. T.J. Davidson was a building contractor by profession and had constructed many of the buildings on the farm.
In the summer of 1938, a recent graduate of Kemptville Agricultural College, Mr. Arden Baker was hired as an Assistant Manager and starting on July 1, 1942, became the last Avondale Farm Manager.
Up until this time, “Most of the management efforts were placed on the cattle herds and very little on a cropping programme for the farm. As a result the crops were limited to hay and silage corn. Almost all of the grain ration was purchased. It was quite common to have a car load of beet pulp (by product of beet sugar) or various kinds of grain feed, placed on the Church Street rail siding and then transport the hundreds of bags of material to the farm with horses and wagons.” (Arden H. Baker)
Farm Manager Arden Baker was very interested in efforts to improve crop production. After the war years (1939-45) the Ontario Department of Agriculture instituted a programme for encouraging farms to develop new varieties of grasses, clovers and legumes. Test plots were set up for the Department of Agriculture and for the Kemptville Agricultural College.
“For several years we grew six to ten different varieties of oats, barley and corn on the farm as test plots for the Ontario Dept. Of Agriculture. These tests plots were to assist in picking the best varieties for yield, strength of straw, disease resistance, etc. At the same time County Crop Improvement Associations were formed and great interest was generated among farmers to improve their cropping practices. With the depression and war years over, there was a renewed vigour and interest throughout society in general to get on with improving the quality of life. Agricultural fairs resumed again after being completely closed down during the war years. Farm people began to exhibit their livestock and crop samples at the fairs and this in itself generated great interest and improved knowledge in agricultural production.” (Arden Baker)
In time the farm was able to reduce its dependence on outside producers and grow all the required feed themselves, for the cattle and other livestock.
With increasing notoriety from the celebrated purebred Jersey herd and the new crop improvement programme taking place at the farm, there was a growing interest in Avondale Farm, which resulted in many bus tours of farmers visiting from Ontario and New York State.
Various cattle at the farm continued to make history in the agricultural community. One such cow was “Beatrice Newington” and in her honour, a banquet was held at the Manitonna Hotel in Brockville, sponsored by the Eastern Ontario Jersey Breeders’ Association on May 14, 1931, where the honoured guest (Beatrice Newington), was actually presented to the invited guests after the dinner.
Barn Fire and the End of the Dairy:
On Sunday, July 11, 1948, a disastrous fire wiped out the main cattle barn and dairy. “Fortunately the fire happened in the summer and the milking herd was in the pasture at the time and all of the calves were saved from the adjoining calf barn except for two small calves that went unnoticed in the barn when the barn door closed prematurely as the workers were frantically removing them.” (Lillian Baker)
“The loss of the barn was estimated to be between $75,000 and $100,000. The fire was discovered shortly after 4 a.m. by Mrs. Peter Morrow, matron of the farm’s boarding house. The Brockville Fire Department received a call at 4:20 and went to render whatever assistance they could. Manager Arden Baker said that when he looked out the window the flames seemed to be shooting out of the roof in the centre of the barn. He could not give any logical reason for the out-break as there was no new hay in that part of the barn and there was no electric wiring in that section.
Only one cow was lost, a record test animal which was in the barn. All the other animals were in pasture but would have been in the barn for milking in about another hour.
Much valuable dairy equipment was lost in the fire. However other local dairies have promised assistance so that Avondale customers will receive their daily supplies of milk.
Efforts of the firemen and voluntary workers were concentrated on saving the other buildings nearby. Heat from the burning barn blistered the paint on the other buildings and one ignited three of four times but the firemen were able to put this secondary blaze out.
The barn collapsed about 5:30 a.m. and the fire continued to burn throughout the day still smouldering a bit at night but not enough to cause any trouble”. (Recorder and Times: Monday, July 12, 1948)
One theory behind the cause of the fire was that a tramp was spending the night in the hayloft, and accidentally caused the fire – but that was only a theory. Within forty-eight hours of the fire, plans were already being made by Senator Hardy to rebuild and in less than one week, a building contractor was on site to commence reconstruction. As for the cows, the milking took place in another barn on the east side of the Lyn Road, until the new barn was built.
On October 10, 1948, just three months later, the new barn was completed and ready for the milking herd. Senator Hardy gave much of the responsibility for the design and barn features to Arden Baker. But one decision was made by Senator Hardy. He chose not to re-build the Dairy. The Avondale Dairy business was then sold to Smith Dairy, operated by Glenson Smith (Smith Dairy was located at the foot of Water Street in Brockville.)
Construction of the new barn:
The “Modern Era” (1950’s and beyond):
By now, in addition to the three single family homes, the farm property on the west side of the Lyn Road consisted of a duplex house, the new main cow and calf barn, a combined horse and sheep barn, a bull barn, a machine shop, a farm equipment storage shed and an ice house. This ice house was still utilized during the 1950’s, when blocks of ice were cut from the St. Lawrence River, placed in the ice house and insulated in sawdust. The ice was used for the old fashioned ice boxes which were in the houses on the farm.
Located on the east side of the Lyn Road was another duplex house and a single family home, completing the accommodations which were made available for the farm employees. Also on the east side of the road was an older, ‘L-shaped’ barn, possibly built before 1905, which housed more cattle and pigs and was used for the milking during the main barn construction in 1948.
Like most farms at the time, Avondale was home to pigs, sheep and ‘work horses’, as well as the prized Jersey herd. While the pay for the farm labourers was not great, it did include housing, milk and cream for butter. The farm also grew potatoes that were shared by the various farm families. In the winter, work gangs were formed to cut down trees and split wood for heat and the cook stoves in the various homes on the farm.
“The post war years brought the re-opening of the county and district fairs. Avondale exhibited a representative sample of the Jersey herd (12 to 14 head) each year at the St. Lawrence Jersey Club Show and at the Ottawa Exhibition and the Ottawa Winter Fair. Avondale Jerseys won over 30 Premier Breeder and Premier Exhibitor Awards at the two Ottawa Fairs between 1950 and 1966. In 1952 Avondale won the Premier Breeder Award at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. The same year was the beginning of the annual Sale of Stars held in conjunction with the Royal. Avondale entered a three year old cow named Avondale Delphine. This cow sold for the highest price of the sale at $4,500 to Mrs. Virgin who had a Jersey herd at North Hatley, Quebec.
The same year, 1952, one of our cows, ‘Avondale Alga’, broke the Canadian record for butter fat. The previous record was just slightly over 1000 pounds. The Canadian Jersey Cattle Club held a banquet in honour of this cow in the Manitonna Hotel in Brockville.” (Arden Baker)
As the years progressed, Senator Hardy left more and more of the decision-making to Arden Baker, apparently realizing the passion which he himself had for farming, was equaled by that of his Farm Manager.
In the late 1950’s, Senator Hardy suggested a vision for the future of Avondale Farm. He thought the Jersey herd should be replaced by beef cattle, stating, “Arden get out of dairy cattle and into beef cattle. There’s more of a future there.” (Arden H. Baker) With that advice, the first purebred Hereford cattle began appearing on the farm in 1959.
On March 16, 1962, Senator Arthur Charles Hardy passed away, at the age of 90. As a final act of kindness and generosity, Senator Hardy willed his entire 250 acre farm to Arden Baker.
The farm continued to operate and flourish for many years, with a growing purebred Polled Hereford herd, which, like their Holstein and Jersey predecessors, took many honours and gained recognition throughout the beef producers’ community. In 1966 a visit to the farm was made by Sir Anthony Eden (Lord Avon) and his wife, of Great Britain. Also owning Hereford cattle, Lord Avon had heard stories of Avondale Farm and requested that a tour of the farm be placed on his itinerary during a visit to Canada.
Visit of Sir Anthony Eden to Avondale Farm
In September, 1968, a sale was held at the farm and the remaining prized Jersey herd was sold. The following year, in addition to the Purebred Hereford operation, a ‘Beef Cross-breeding Programme’ was initiated on the farm.
Also in 1969, the ice house was torn down, and the old machine shop and storage shed were replaced by newer ones. By 1975, the barn on the east side of the Lyn Road ceased to be used for cattle and became a hay storage area until it was torn down in 1996. Pigs and sheep no longer remained on the farm. The reliable ‘work horses’ had also been replaced by the more modern tractors.
On Saturday, June 10, 1978, Avondale Farm held its final sale…. “Polled Herefords Dispersal Sale”. The ‘Beef Cross-breeding Programme’ continued until 2001.
Avondale Farm remains in the Baker family and continues to be used for ‘cropping’.
Legacy of Senator A.C. Hardy and Dorothy (Fulford) Hardy:
We have just learned about Senator Hardy’s personal passion and dedication for the farming business. But his passion and dedication also reached into other areas of his life and that of his wife Dorothy (Fulford) Hardy. Their generosity can be found in and around Brockville.
Senator Hardy was one of those most instrumental in the erection of the New Theatre in Brockville, a gift to the municipality and completed in 1911. Until its demise in 1921, he was president of the Brockville Opera House Co., which operated the theatre.
In 1912, Mr. and Mrs. Hardy purchased a property on Pearl St. West and presented it to the Children’s Aid Society as a shelter.
In 1915, Mr. and Mrs Hardy offered the Dominion Government the sum of $100,000 with which to equip a battalion of infantry or other combatant unit for overseas service. The offer was not accepted. The sum of $40,000 was however, in the same year accepted by the University of Toronto as a share of the maintenance of the University Base Hospital Unit which proceeded overseas. A further sum of $60,000 was given by Mrs. G.T. Fulford and Mr. and Mrs. Hardy to the Duchess of Connaught’s Canadian Hospital at Clivedon, England.
In 1917, they finalized the completion of the Fulford Memorial Home for Aged Women, which was started by Dorothy’s father George T. Fulford. The home was reported to have cost in the neighbourhood of $400,000. (1920’s dollars).
When the 156th Leeds and Grenville Overseas battalion was authorized, Mr. and Mrs. Hardy at once took a keen interest in its welfare and presented the unit with the band instruments which were used during training in Canada and afterwards taken to England.
In 1921 they offered the Town of Brockville a pavilion at St. Lawrence Park for the protection of visitors. This pavilion is still standing today.
During the European War, Senator Hardy was president of the Patriotic Fund in Brockville which administered the funds provided for the care of soldier’s dependents.
In 1961, probably the most notable and lasting gift of Senator A.C. Hardy was the Water Street property of the former James Smart Mfg. Company which he purchased and donated to the city of Brockville. Mayor Langmuir stated at the time “It will be a pedestrian park, there will be plenty of trees planted and benches placed about it.” Asked about a bandstand the mayor said that was a possibility too. (Recorder and Times, June 27, 1961)
This same year, Senator A. C. Hardy was named Brockville’s Citizen of the Year.
Among his other lifetime accomplishments were: President of the Ontario Liberal Association from 1919 until 1932; Chairman of the Committee of Management of Fulford Home for Aged Women for many years; Trustee of the National Sanitarium Association; Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the Governor-General’s Foot Guards; Trustee of Queen’s University, Kingston (Endowed a Chair in Political Science) and Director of Toronto General Trusts Corporation for over fifty years.
Arthur Hardy and his wife Dorothy had four children: Arthur Sturgis Hardy (1905-1969); Mary Fulford Hardy (1907-1930); Fulford Patrick Hardy (1911-1951) and Dorothy Patricia Hardy (1916-1974).
In 1949, Dorothy (Fulford) Hardy passed away at the age of 68. The couple had been married for forty-six years.
Senator A.C. Hardy died on March 13, 1962 at the age of 90.
Although not many people today know the name Senator Arthur Charles Hardy, his legacy, his philanthropy, his generosity and selflessness will live on for years to come.
The End of the Story:
So the next time you are out driving on the Lyn Road, and pass by the “Avondale” sign and look over at the cream coloured barns, you will know the amazing history behind those buildings.
1905 – 1909 – Senator A.C. Hardy began purchasing land from surrounding families with the intention of raising cattle and eventually concentrated on Purebred Holstein cattle
1909 – July – The Main Barn was completed and opened
1916 – November – The new dairy was tiled and Mr. Herman Fulford made the first butter on the farm – 17 pounds. For a time butter along with milk and cream was sold to customers.
1917 – “May Echo Sylvia” was such a great milk producer, that the Senator held a party in her honour at the Manitonna Hotel in Brockville. When all the guests were assembled at the tables ready for the banquet, the guest of Honour- “May Echo Sylvia” was lead into the room to join the guests.
1918 – April – Three cows were taken to the Brockville Armouries where a short course in judging was given to local area farmers
1918 – Sold a bull calf to Carnation Farms for a record $106,000. This was the highest price paid for an animal up to that time.
1925 – A herd of Jersey Cattle was imported from the Jersey Islands
1925 – 1938 – The farm had both purebred Holstein and Jersey Cattle
1931 – May 14th – In honour of a Jersey cow “Beatrice Newington”, a banquet was held at the Manitonna Hotel in Brockville, sponsored by the Eastern Ontario Jersey Breeders’ Association
1934 –1935 – There were only 10 cows in Canada having produced over 1000 pounds of butter fat, 3 of those 10 were from Avondale Farm
1938 – The remaining Holstein cattle were sold and focus was then directed on breeding and raising purebred Jersey cattle
1942 – July 1st – Arden Baker became manager of Avondale Farm
1948 – July – The main barn was destroyed in a fire
1948 – Avondale Dairy was closed and home delivery of milk and cream ends
1948 – October – The new main barn was completed
1949 – October – Mrs. Dorothy (Fulford) Hardy passed away
1951 – “Avondale Alga” made a Canadian Record for producing over 1122 pounds of butter fat and 16,767 pounds of milk. A banquet was given at the Manitonna Hotel in Brockville in this cow’s honour.
1952 – A three year old cow named “Avondale Delphine” sold for the highest price of the sale at $4,500.
1959 – The first purebred Hereford cattle appeared on the farm
1962 – Senator Arthur Charles Hardy passed away at the age of 90
1962 – Avondale Farm was ‘willed’ to Arden Baker
1968 – The remaining Jersey herd was sold and the farm business was turned to raising Polled Herefords
1969 – ‘Beef Cross-breeding Programme’ was initiated on the farm
1969 – New machine shop and equipment storage shed built
1978 – The purebred Polled Hereford herd was sold
2001 – ‘Beef Cross-breeding Programme’ comes to an end; ‘cropping’ continues
Photos of the Farm from the 1930’s
The Interior of the Original Barn
Photos of the Farm from the 1940’s (before the fire in 1949)
Bottled Milk and Cream Delivery
Photos of the Farm from the 1950’s
Photos of the sale of the Jersey Heard 1968
Miscellaneous News Articles
Avondale Farm Manager and Owner- Arden Baker 1915-1988