Yesterday and Today - September 2022

Albion Park’s forgotten Mason’s Corners

By Tim Lambrinos

Today’s gas stations have expanded their services from years’ past to include a variety of mini-mart style services. Self serve gas stations have actually evolved to become an essential component of everyday existence. Even with modern commercial expansion and growth, self serve gas stations, along with their own mini-marts, are often the first commercial enterprises established at newly constructed intersections in rural areas.

All you have to do is to look to the north to see that gas stations are often the very first businesses that are opened at newly developing intersections.

For many years in Humberlea, near Weston Road and Wilson, there has been a revolving door of gas service stations that not only pumped gas but serviced vehicles too. Records reveal that at one time or another, there were five different fuel brands available in Humberlea. However, one major difference these days about gas stations is the way in which automobiles receive regular maintenance. Today, automobile maintenance is handled primarily by separate shops. Automobile maintenance garages may even be mega-sized franchises where each location could typically have up to twenty individual bays. One of these service centres is called Canadian Tire.

But back in the nineteen twenties and thirties, the regular maintenance of changing a vehicle’s oil was seldom carried out by the vehicle’s owner. The oil was primarily changed by a mechanic at a gas station. These centres of business operated as true service centres. Engine oil was even routinely checked by the same individual that operated the gas pump.

There was even a time in Canadian history when individuals travelled without the use of automobiles. This existed way back in the 19th century. During this era of Ontario’s past, travellers would be catered to at inns, taverns, blacksmith shops and livery stables. Commercial establishments were set up at the main intersections of sideroads and concession roads. The businesses took care of travellers’ needs in resting their horses, maintaining their wagons, providing some food and drink, and perhaps putting them up overnight.

Records reveal that the intersection of Flindon Road and Weston Road once had an operating inn as late as 1860.

The inn was situated on the property of James Lever (b 1769 d 1861). He was known to be a strict Methodist who arrived in York Township from Pennsylvania.

At that time, the main northbound travel of Weston Road had been diverted northwest with the opening of the Albion Plank Road through John Grubb’s farm in 1841. He began taking tolls in 1846 with the founding and partnership of the Albion Plank Road Company. Their mission was to build a plank road from Thistletown to Bolton that passed through Claireville. To maintain the road, a series of toll houses were established to collect money from users of the road. Typical tolls at the time were a 1/2 pence for the passage of a horse and rider or a 1/2 pence for each 20 hogs or sheep.

The intersection of the Albion Plank Road (Flindon) and Weston Road seemed to be an ideal location for a commercial enterprise since it would be on the main route. A replacement metal bridge called the Musson’s bridge was built over the Humber in 1905. It was the first all-riveted steel bridge with a permanent floor created by Octavius Laing Hicks. The new class of bridge permitted wagons and vehicles to travel over the river while continuing along Flindon Road. That was until Hurricane Hazel hit the area in 1954. This caused the approaches to the bridge to be washed away leaving only the steel bridge left standing. In 1963, the surviving remnants of the damaged bridge were taken down.

But immediately during the building of the bridge in 1905, cottagers and bridge-building workers began to develop the west side of Weston Road with separate dwellings. New streets were created called Reuben, Omagh, Lilac, Acacia, Flindon and Griffith. The turn-of-the-century rural community and subdivision was called Albion Park.

By 1932, Lever’s original inn had already been knocked down for some time and this created an opportunity for something else to take its place in an expanding Albion Park community. At this time, there was already a Shell gas station operating nearby at the intersection of Weston Road and Wilson. And by 1936 a competing Sunoco station was documented to be on the former site of the inn at Weston Road and Flindon.

By the early 1950’s the fuel brand available at Weston Road and Flindon was no longer Sunoco but Supertest. This service centre was operated by a new owner, Albert Mason, and the intersection became known as Mason’s Corners.

The records also show that by 1950, a brand new Sunoco service station was opened at Weston Road and Walsh Avenue. This was done in conjunction with municipal plans for a new extension of Albion Road that called for a new bridge to be built over the Humber. In 1952, the main extension of Albion Road was diverted slightly from Walsh Avenue and a new route was completed together with a new bridge. That made the intersection at Weston Road and Walsh as a straight connection that would run directly into Albion Road. The intersection of Weston Road and Flindon would no longer be part of the main connection to Albion Road.

As a result of consumer demand from the building of Highway 401, another gas station opened in 1955 right across the street from Mason’s Corners. Cliff Palmateer opened a Fina service centre on the southeast corner of Weston Road and Gaydon. This station was later purchased and operated by Paul Harrison in 1967.

And what about the Shell station that operated at Weston Road and Wilson since 1932? In 1966, this station was demolished with the expansion of Hwy 401 and the creation of newly enlarged off-ramps and on-ramps. Coincidently the abandoned building of the original Humberview public school on the west side of Weston Road was also taken down at this time with the expansion and development of eastbound 401 on-ramps.

But there are more stories about gas stations operating in this locale. Beginning in 1951, there was a B/A service station at a newly created curved intersection along Walsh Avenue situated 400 metres east of Weston Road. In those days, black and white television sets were the norm and B/A had been a notable sponsor of televised CFL football games. In 2022, the location of the former B/A station (and later Gulf) has now been replaced with an extended parking lot at Toronto Auto Depot’s used car dealership located at 2020 Wilson Avenue.

And the once popular Sunoco station that operated at Weston Road and Walsh has now been replaced by a U-Haul rental business. And Palmateer’s original Fina station at Weston and Gaydon is now a Petro Canada self serve gas station, complete with its own a mini-mart. A location at Weston Road and Gaydon is the last remaining spot in Humberlea that still actually sells gasoline to customers.

And what happened to Albert Mason’s Supertest at Mason’s Corners? Nothing exists today of the once proud Supertest station that was once part of the main route. Townhomes were built over the former commercial location known as Mason’s Corners in 2001. The new homes do mix quite nicely into the surrounding community. But there is no visible clue left that would indicate that this intersection used to be part of a major transportation route.

It shows that as times continue to evolve, who can predict what may lie in store for this once dynamic commercial sub-centre of Humberlea and the potential it holds as an accompanying major transportation route.