The following article was originally written by Jo Aldwinkle and was published Mar 6, 1967, in the Oshawa Times. We have annotated the article to provide reference and make connections to the OM collection.
Attractive Bungalow Built in 1854 Withstands Inroads of Commerce and One-Way Traffic
The leaded, bevelled glass panel in the front door beams a welcome and a mellow atmosphere of gentle living enfolds you as you step over the threshold of one of Oshawa’s oldest houses.
Situated on the corner of Centre and Athol streets, the charming, bungalow-type house with its long French window and dark yellow shutters is owned and occupied by Miss Greta Ellis whose parents purchased the property at the turn of the century.
Greta Ellis was born 1888 in Oshawa, a daughter of Frederick E. Ellis and Mary Myrtle Henry (1866-1962); her maternal grandparents were Albert Henry (1837-1917) & Harriet Guy (1843-1866), making her great-grandparents Thomas Henry, Lurenda Henry, and Thomas Guy and Harriet Cock Guy.
Records show that the house was built in 1854 for a Doctor Joseph Clark and his wife, the former Elizabeth Cameron of Toronto. The house stood on an eighth of an acre of land which was neatly landscaped with winding walks, arbors and shrubberies.
The address for this home was 31 Centre Street South, NE corner of Centre and Athol. Today, this is the location of Michael Starr Building/parking; the Clark-Ellis house is no longer standing.
At that time a wide verandah encompassed the house on all sides. Built of mud and straw bricks and covered with stucco inches thick and the gleaming outer walls are twenty inches thick and the gleaming floors are made of pegged pine.
In a day when a finished basement was almost unknown, Dr. Clark’s house was unique. His spacious basement was completely finished and divided to include a consulting room and office, approached by a side door, down a few steps; a large kitchen and laundry and sleeping quarters for the domestic held. A dumb waiter transported food and dishes to a pantry above.
Oshawa’s eternal problem of mud and slush was even more aggravating in the days of board-walks than it is today and Miss Ellis recalled a story that she had heard in this regard concerning Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Clark.
“It was told,” Miss Ellis said, “that when the doctor and his wife walked out after dark and you must remember, there were no street lights, they had a maid carrying a lantern walking backwards before them to light their footsteps.”
About the turn of the century, Mr. And Mrs. Ellis purchased the property and added to it without changing the original plans.
The wide central hall gives a sense of spaciousness and the 33 foot long living room is well proportioned with a marble mantelpiece set between the French windows. The doors are wide and heavily bordered and the skirting around the walls is 24 inches high.
A portrait of Elder Thomas Henry, Miss Ellis’ great-grandfather, dominates the room and portraits of her grandmother, the former Harriet Guy and great-great-grandmother, bear him company.
The portrait of Thomas Henry was donated to the Oshawa Museum as part of the Ellis estate. The portrait included with the original article is the same one now on display in the Henry House study. The OM does not have any portraits of Harriet Guy Henry in its collection; we have a digital copy of Harriet Cock Guy (her great-grandmother), and we have the life-sized Harriet Trevithick Cock portrait on display in the Verna Conant Gallery. If this is the same portrait being referred to in the article, it is unclear.
From these gentle women, the late Mrs. Ellis inherited her skill in needle craft. Her daughter treasures a patchwork quilt, composed of pieces of silk, satin, and velvet, joined by fancy feather-stitching that her mother made for her trousseau.
Again, the artefact photographed for the article was donated to the OM as part of the Ellis Estate. This quilt is in fragile condition and is not always on exhibit. The needlework is indeed impressive.
Most beautiful of all are her decorative pieces of raised embroidery on crimson velvet. The examples shown depict white velvet roses with calyx, stems and leaves in shaded green chenille and a cluster of hydrangea, the flowers mounded high and each floret applied separately.