November 2016 issue
Mount Albert ‘Lloyd House’ Brimming With
Memories & Stories
By Blair Matthews
The Prince Albert Pub on Main Street in Mount Albert sees a lot of foot traffic everyday. People come by for a drink after work, or stop in for lunch or dinner. It’s the kind of place that, for most locals, has always just been there. And so if you’re accustomed to eating there, you might forget that it’s one of the oldest houses in Mount Albert still standing. If the walls could talk, they’d have nearly a century of tall tales to divulge.
Former Prince Albert Pub owner Ian Bowie knows a thing or two about 69 Main St. from the time he spent meticulously converting the house into the Town’s favourite watering hole.
Originally built in 1885, the house first served as the manse for the Presbyterian church across the street. (That same church was moved further west to the south side of Main Street in 1919 and is now a private residence.)
William T. Lloyd, owner of Mount Albert’s drugstore, and his wife Sarah bought the property to have as their family home.
If you’re a history buff, you might know that in the late 1800s there was a brickyard in Mount Albert – the yellow coloured bricks that you can still pinpoint in a few original houses in town came from there. Much of the red brick that was made in years later came from outside the immediate area.
Look closer at the outside of the building and you can see differences in the brick patterns signalling where Lloyd had an addition built onto the back of the original house.
“Mr. Lloyd was the druggist in town,” Bowie says. “I guess he thought he was going to have a big family – it’s a huge property, but he only ended up having one child; Olive.”
Owning a drugstore in those days had unique perks. Mount Albert didn’t have electricity yet, but Lloyd had Bunsen burners setup for heating, sterilization and combustion needed for mixing chemicals.
“He ran a pipe from his drugstore to the house here,” Bowie says. “He had gas lighting in this place. People would come by before there was hydro and the house was always bright.” Bowie still has the original gas fixtures (they were retrofitted for electricity years later).
Mount Albert historian Allan McGillivray says that Lloyd bought the drugstore in 1889 and was there until 1947. He also notes that the acetylene gas machine was installed in the drugstore in 1906.
With no waterlines running to houses in those days, Lloyd also built a pump in his basement and a cistern in the attic to pump water from the backyard well so he had water pressure. “There’s lead pipes in the walls running to where all his bathrooms and sinks were. It was very innovative for its time,” Bowie says.
Lloyd also holds the distinction of owning one of the first automobiles in Mount Albert. On the far side of the property, the old barn is still standing where Lloyd worked on his car.
Considering Lloyd’s automobile ownership, it’s a safe assumption that the Lloyd family was well-off.
Lloyd lived in the house until he died and Olive lived there until she died – a spinster in her 80s. “So no one had ever lived in this house other than the Lloyds until the 1980s.”
Olive was the pianist at the United Church and worked at the Mount Albert Telephone Company just up the road. Her life involved walking a few minutes every day between home and work. She confined herself to the bottom level of the house due to the sheer size of the building.
Olive mostly kept to herself, Bowie says, and was an avid gardener. “There were all these gardens in the back where the parking lot is now that she nurtured along. The front was all overgrown with bushes, so you didn’t really notice the house. It was a beautiful home, but you never noticed it even walking by.”
When she passed away, Olive willed the house to a cousin from Newmarket who spent three seasons living in the house and winters in Florida. A few years later, the cousins decided to sell it and for the first time in nearly a century the Lloyd family home was on the market.
The Bat House
The Lloyd House was purchased by a Mississauga family who had grand visions of country living. Unfortunately, they quickly discovered that the attic was home to colonies of bats.
The locals had, for some time, often referred to it as “The Bat House”. The family moved and the mortgage was taken over by Canada Mortgage and Housing; the house was condemned due to poor air quality from the bat infestation.
“They had to get the bats out of here before they could ever sell it,” Bowie remembers. “So they got a fellow from Keswick who was called ‘The Bat Man’ (he worked at the Toronto Zoo as a bat expert). They went in the attic and there were probably generations of bats living there. He videotaped it and as part of his speaking tour about bats he showed the attic of this place because there were so many bats.”
To fix the house, baseboards had to be ripped out, sections of wall had to be torn apart and everything was cleaned, scrubbed, and sanitized. Bowie says he remembers seeing technicians wandering around wearing hazmat suits. When the house finally passed all the proper inspections it went up on the market again – this time with a brand new attic, and updated vents and fans.
Bowie, who had been in the restaurant business since 1975, bought the house in 1998 and spent the better part of a year getting it re-zoned for commercial purposes and moulding it into a neighbourhood pub.
He says he envisioned it as an authentic meeting place. “It was a great house,” he says. “I didn’t even want to modernize it at all. The definition of a Pub in Britain is a place where everybody met…” Hence the moniker ‘Public House’.
During the first few months after Bowie bought the house, there were definitely a few surprises.
The basement was still full of coal because there used to be a coal furnace for heating. When it was updated to natural gas heating, the coal got left behind. Bowie remembers giving piles of coal to a buddy who was a blacksmith.
“The first year I was here the bats all tried to get in again because they leave in the fall and then come back in the spring. They were all banging on the ceiling up there trying to get in. It was pretty nutty.”
During the renovations, Bowie found some interesting treasures hiding in the walls including a promotional pencil from long defunct Mount Albert business Davis’ Bakery and a wooden ruler from the local mill where coal was sold.
Some of the Pub’s booths and furniture came from a Hy’s Steakhouse in Toronto that was closing. Much of the wood throughout the pub is the building’s original material – the high baseboards, trim around the doors, stained glass window inserts, gorgeous pocket doors, right down to the wooden door knobs. And though the roof looks a little rough in some spots, it doesn’t leak – it’s the original steel roof that is weathered, but completely reliable.
By November of that year, the Prince Albert Pub was ready to open to the public. Leading up to the official opening day, Bowie says they gave out free food to some of the locals to test their menu and their preparation methods.
Their liquor licence had been approved, but the paperwork had to be picked up from Toronto before a drop of alcohol could be served. “I went all the way down there (on opening day), picked up my alcohol and beer on the way back, and I got here and the place was packed – everyone was just waiting to have a drink! As I was pulling out bottles and putting them on the shelves people were ordering…”
As the day wore on, Bowie says, there were people lined up to come in for dinner. They had seen this constant activity for months and were curious what Mount Albert’s first pub would be like. “There was no soft opening. I had no idea that it would be that popular for the first little bit. I knew it was going to work, but I was surprised how positive people were about it right off the bat.”
It wasn’t long after opening that Bowie and his pub employees learned there was someone or something residing in the upstairs of the building. A little girl ghost, Bowie says matter-of-factly.
If you believe in that sort of thing.
The Rescue Mediums ladies from the W Network television show were in the area filming an episode on a known ghost-inhabited house. Every day for lunch they and the crew would visit the pub. “They’d be sitting upstairs eating lunch and every day they could sense a spirit or something upstairs with them,” Bowie remembers.
Despite the stories of some pub patrons “feeling something uneasy” over the years, Bowie says he’s never personally seen anything ghostly. “One night my original staff spent a whole night here with a Ouija Board to see if anything would happen.” They were scared and freaked out, but no concrete evidence appeared, he says.
Current Prince Albert Pub owner Ken Rosevear confirms that many of his staff have stories about the ghost who roams the upstairs halls. “I’ve never seen anything,” Rosevear admits, “but there are a lot of really credible people who have seen things.”
Bowie recalls a family coming in for dinner and sitting in the back corner booth. A daughter in the family – maybe 2 or 3 years old – started talking to what was assumed to be an imaginary friend. When her father asked her who she was talking to, she replied, “I’m talking to a little girl.”
Strangely enough, the house never had a little girl living in it – Olive never married or had children. The background history of the manse, however, is unknown.
The Prince Albert Pub building is currently up for sale. Bowie still owns it, but sold the business to Rosevear in 2011. If the property sells, Bowie says it would be up to the new owners to decide what they want to do with it.
Bowie says he’d like to see it stay as a pub – and for it to continue to be a local gathering place for the growing Mount Albert community.