On Saturday May 4, 2019, the North York Historical Society was proud to join Councillor John Filion and Heritage Toronto to unveil a new historical plaque for the Golden Lion Hotel.
NYHS director Marla Weingarten delivered the following remarks.
The Golden Lion Hotel was built in 1825 by Thomas Sheppard on what would now be the southwest corner of Yonge and Sheppard. The Golden Lion Hotel was well known for the life-size lion carved out of pine stump (carved by Paul Sheppard, Thomas’ brother).
There were beautiful verandahs on the east and south sides and extensive stables and barns that could accommodate a dozen horses. The hotel was a popular site. A dance hall was built over the driving sheds and parties of young people came to the inn for dances. Cheese and crackers were served free in the bar and the following ditty was sung:
Here am I
On my way to Zion
I find my sons
In the Golden Lion.
In 1833 Sheppard held a pigeon shooting match and good money was rewarded to first and second place: £10 for the best shot, £5 for the second (about £1,000 today) and a rifle for third place.
The Golden Lion Hotel was not just any hotel. It served as a meeting place for William Lyon Mackenzie and his supporters, called the Reform Party. Their 1834 convention was held here. As well, The Golden Lion played a part in the 1837 Rebellion. After the battle at Montgomery’s Tavern on December 7, where the rebels were far outnumbered and had to escape, Mackenzie ran to the Golden Lion Hotel and took a horse for his escape to the U.S.
The original golden lion was stolen from the hotel around 1833 but after the rebellion, a new lion was carved from oak once again by Paul Sheppard, and this time he used putty for the flowing mane.
After the turn of the nineteenth century the hotel became the residence of the Rev. T. W. Pickett, a retired Methodist minister. Unfortunately, the hotel was torn down in 1933. But luckily, Pickett gave his daughter, Mrs. George S. Henry, the golden lion and in 1955 it was presented to the York Pioneers and Historical Society. It now resides right here at the North York Central Library, and will be on display in the North York History Room when it is completed.
If only the lion could talk – it would have many stories to tell over its 175 year life.