When you think of the Argyle neighbourhood, you probably first picture the shopping centre at Dundas Street and Clarke Road on the eastern edge of London.

But Argyle is much more than that. An amalgamation of several neighbourhoods, including Pottersburg, Nelson Park, Trafalgar Heights and the Hale Street District, Argyle is home to the majority of east London’s residential streets, a bustling commercial corridor along Dundas Street, parks, community centres, libraries, and a whole lot of history to boot. 

Dreaney’s Corners

In 1846, an Irish settler named Robert Dreaney moved to the southwest corner of Crumlin and Dundas just east of Clarke Road, to build the wooden Dreaney House Hotel. He rebuilt the hotel with brick in 1853. Soon, this intersection became known as Dreaney’s Corners. His hotel hosted the post office in 1869, and a few shops popped up around him. The first, on the southeast corner, was owned by Charles Priddis, a London dry goods merchant. The store on the northeast corner was bought in 1892 by Turner Bailey, who added a blacksmith shop. 

a black and white photo of a gas station, with three buildings in the background and 4 people standing in front of the pumps in Argyle.
A Supertest Service Station at Dundas Street and Crumlin Side Road in the early 1940s. Photo courtesy of Dave Schulthies via Vintage, London (Facebook).

The post office closed in 1914, and over the years, the corner changed. There was a service station there in the 1920s, to offer gas to travellers along Highway 2/Dundas Street. The Crumlin Variety Store opened there in 1941. A dance hall was built to offer entertainment to the many servicemen at the airport during World War II, which was later turned into a grocery store. A used car dealership, mechanics, and brand new gas station adorn the corners now, and the name Dreaney is little remembered.

Airplanes and Entrepreneurs

The main hub of aviation in London, ON is Crumlin Road. The current airport is on Crumlin Road and has been since 1939, but the city’s first airfield was farther south on Crumlin just east of what is now Argyle Mall. The first flight took place from there at the Carling Farm —that’s right, the same Carlings that owned the brewery. The farm had first been a natural gas field in the 1880s until planes arrived in 1912. 

Two pilots stand in front of a plan that says "Sir John Carling" in a black and white photo.
Pilots James Medcalf and Terrence Tully pose in front of the Sir John Carling aircraft prior to their ill-fated London-to-London flight of 1927. Photograph signed by Terrence Tully. Photo courtesy of Western University Archives via historypin.org.

In 1927, Charles Lindbergh’s Trans-Atlantic flight inspired an imitation here in the Forest City. Carling Brewery decided to run a contest with a prize of $25,000 for the first flight from London, Ontario to London, England. Two pilots stepped up to the plate: Tully and Medcalf. They would make two attempts at the journey from the Crumlin airfield. Their plan was to get to Newfoundland to refuel and then soar across the Atlantic. It was their point of no return.

They made it to Newfoundland once, but once there, storms prevented them from flying over the ocean. Discouraged, but determined, they came back to London, Ontario and took off again on September 7, 1927. They made it Newfoundland again, and this time, took off over the Atlantic. They were never seen or heard from again. 

A stamp that says London Canada to London England.
The commemorative stamp created by Carling Brewing in 1927 for the London-to-London flight. Photo courtesy of Sparks Auctions.

Here’s an interesting tidbit for you: Carling Brewery printed up commemorative stamps for Londoners to put on letters for the plane to carry over to England. These weren’t certified stamps, but they would become Canada’s rarest. The only surviving ones were found on a few letters delivered in Newfoundland. There was, however, a rumour that an old newspaperman in London kept the original plates in a locked safe in his home, which would be incredibly valuable today if they hadn’t since been lost. 

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Pottersburg

There was also development on the western end of Argyle, known as Pottersburg. In 1877, a factory was built by C. S. Hyman to be a pork packaging plant and was later used by the London Crockery Manufacturing Company, which failed in 1887 due to a fire. This was when the business and property was liquidated by Samuel and William Glass, who rebranded and restarted the business as the Glass Brothers’ Pottery Company, giving the neighbourhood its name.

Today, some of the original lands from the factory are where the Trinity United Church stands on Hale, and you can find collectible pottery from both London Crockery and the Glass Brothers’ factories on eBay.

A black and white ad advertising The London Crockery Mfg. Co. in Argyle
An undated ad for the London Crockery Manufacturing Company, which later became the Glass Brothers’ Pottery Company. Image courtesy of Argyle Business Improvement Association.

Pottersburg was annexed by the City of London in 1912, as city hall looked to bolster its population numbers to qualify for a streetcar system. Along with Pottersburg came Ealing and Knollwood Park. East-end residents got to benefit from improved city services like policing, fire fighting, sewers, and telephones. London got to benefit from new public transportation.

The city did not annex the area east of Pottersburg until much later, and most of the houses in Argyle were built after World War II. There are a few older homes left here and there, but you’ll generally find single-story cottages and ranch-style brick houses that match the era of London’s later 1961 annexation. Even then, there were still farms in Pottersburg, including one belonging to an immigrant  Japanese family, the Ebisuzakis, who sold eggs and produce to the community and are fondly remembered. 

The Creek

Boomers from Pottersburg and Trafalgar Heights remember swimming in the Pottersburg Creek, which runs east-west between Dundas and Oxford, and then north-south along Hale. The memory is idyllic, but in the mid-twentieth-century, the creek was notoriously polluted due to the many industrial ventures surrounding it.

A black and white photo of the a creek with houses in Argyle in the background.
Pottersburg Creek, shown here in 1953, was known to contain sewage from industries, septic tanks, and plants. Photo from London Free Press Negative Collection, Western University Archives via Pottersburg via The Gore and The Grove (Facebook).

Since then, it has been massively improved by the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority. Nevertheless, warnings were issued as recently as 2012, so I wouldn’t dive in any time soon. One old-time resident told me she’s pretty sure some of her health problems came from splashing around in there during the 1950s. 

Clarke House

Most of the houses in Argyle were built after World War II, but there are a few older homes still standing there. Among those is one at the corner of Clarke and Avalon known as “Clarke House.” The landmark white 19th century home made headlines this year when new owner Sam Cox reached out to the community for photographs and projected them on the side of his house. His project was a great reminder of how many families have their roots in the Argyle neighbourhood.

A colour photo of a white bricked house in Argyle.
The Clarke House has sat at the corner of Clarke Road and Avalon Street since 1897. Image courtesy of Sam Cox, The Clarke House (Facebook).

Cox says he plans to use the home for community projects and events like this in the future. It was, in previous years, home to a reverend who hosted weddings there. The first record of a house on this land being a sale in 1829 to John Clarke, for whom the road is named, and was on the west end of the property, indicated by a row of surviving century-old trees. The current, historically designated house was built around 1897. 

Even into the twentieth century, it was a picturesque area, with a racehorse breeding farm across the road belonging to Alex Parsons. The Parsons even had a graveyard with stones for their most successful Standardbreds. One was named Paper Doll. Alex Parsons also owned the Belvedere Hotel in Downtown London, which featured a plethora of horse-themed decor. 

Motels, Diners & Drive-In’s

The period after WWII saw a burst of development in homes and businesses in Argyle, but it also saw a massive economic change with the opening of Highway 401. Historically, the main east-west route across southwestern Ontario was actually Dundas Street, also known as the meandering Highway 2. Did you know, prior to 1998, Highway 2 stretched all the way to Windsor heading west, and to Quebec heading east? Before the 401, it was Ontario’s major highway, so you’ll find some pretty neat old motels and diners along Dundas Street, even in the more dense urban parts of town. 

In Argyle, these are more visible than in other parts of London, and many are still in business. This includes the landmark Motor Court Hotel just west of Argyle Mall, which sports a landmark white rearing horse statue out front. This getaway gem is known for its heart-shaped bathtubs and mirrored walls, straight out of the 1970s. 

A black and white aerial photo of a motel in Argyle.
White Village Motel, pictured here in 1947, was a staple on the Argyle’s Dundas Street strip. The site is currently home to the Knights Inn Motel. Photo by Ron Nelson. Photo courtesy of Western University Archives via historypin.org.

Along Dundas are also diners of yore. Among these is the Del-Mar Restaurant, in operation since 1953. First located one block east from the current location, the original restaurant was built by joining two old railroad boxcars. Kiddy-corner to the Del-Mar’s current location is the Malibu, my personal favourite, where you can get a hot beef sandwich or choose one of the mind-blowing desserts from the glass case by the entrance. Both of these sport old fashioned neon signs, but only the Del-Mar has retained its kitschy interior. 

Four men standing in front of a restaurant with the sign "Del-Mar Lunch Bar" with a fifth man leaning in the doorway.
A staple in Argyle for decades, Del-Mar was first located on the north side of Dundas, across the road from its current location. Photo courtesy via Vintage, London (Facebook).

Another piece of mid-century car culture that existed in Argyle was the Skyway Drive-In, where Argyle Mall currently stands. It was Ontario’s second drive-in, opening June 18, 1947. It closed in July 1955. Between the post-war homes and commercial buildings, there is no area of London that has more blatant mid-century flair than Argyle. 

Where does the name come from, anyway?

The earliest reference I have found was provided by historian Cindy Hartman, who runs the Vintage London, Ontario page on Facebook with Colin Duck.

An ad for homes being sold in "Argyle Park"
An ad from the Argyle Land Company, provided by Cindy Hartman of Vintage London, Ontario, shows the possible first mention of the name “Argyle,” c. 1914.

It looks like the name Argyle came from a developer selling plots in a subdivision called “Argyle Park” near Pottersburg as early as 1914, which utilized that fancy new London Streetcar system after the 1912 annexation. It’s a name that reflects the Scottish ancestry of many Londoners, and even potentially connects to a golf course that existed on Crumlin Road. 

Uniquely EOA

Those Londoners who live in Argyle and identify as being EOA (“East of Adelaide”) are a fierce bunch. They love their neighbourhood and have built a strong community association, complete with their own Santa Claus Parade. The east end of London has its own flavour, and with it, a temperament all its own. 

Feature Photo of a postcard of Pottersburg, later named London Junction, c. 1910. Sourced from eBay via Pottersburg via The Gore and The Grove (Facebook).

Further Reading

The Clarke House (Facebook)

If You Grew Up in London, You Might Remember When… (Facebook Group)

Janigan, Mary. 1985. The trail of a toxic disaster. Maclean’s.

London Township A Rich Heritage 1796-1997. 2001. Aylmer: London Township History Book Committee.

Miller, Orlo. 1988. This Was London: The First Two Centuries. Westport: Butternut Press. 

Pottersburg via The Gore and The Grove (Facebook)

Vintage London, Ontario (Facebook)

The London Neighbourhood Histories series aims to highlight and chronicle some of the rich, layered heritage of many of London’s neighbourhoods, the diverse individuals who have lived within them, and the events that have impacted their development. The series is made possible by the Community Heritage Investment Program (CHIP) through the London Heritage Council and the City of London.

London Heritage Council and City of London logos

6 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Vanessa. I grew up in Crumlin, [Dundas Street East and Crumlin Side Road]. I remember it well. The old Supertest gas station was were my friend Bobby Simpson lived.
    As kids we spent countless hours at “the Corner” as we dubbed it. We could play outside from dawn to dusk and our parents NEVER had to worry about our safety. It was a great place to grow up–we had the rural activities of fishing/swimming in the Wabuno Creek, tobogganing on Jolliffe’s hill and we skated/hockey ALL DAY on the pond in Byers’ bush behind the public school on the corner of Crumlin Side Road and Trafalgar street. This article has brought back many happy childhood memories. Thank you, again.

  2. Vanessa , I just remembered –my father [Ed Summerfield] was a motion picture projectionist–and often played the movies at the Skyway drive in theatre.

  3. Vanessa, here I go again !! I attended Argyle Public School [Kathleen Street and Dundas St. I think]. It was later re-named “Mildred Barons Public School” in honour of Miss Barons who taught there [Grade one maybe] for YEARS. I think that’s how her name was spelled. There was no JK/K in those days, 1949, we started right in in Grade One.
    I have many more memories of my schooling there if you are interested.

  4. The Byers Pond is still going strong. I learned how to skate on that pond. I remember hanging out at The Corner dancing and drinking coke. My Mom Betty Byers pAssed away this past December (97) was still living at home on Trafalgar just east of Crumlin side road. Lots of memories, Del Mar, Malibou and swimming at Wabuno Creek.

  5. Still remember the day we were tubing and playing in Pottersburg Creek and the guys in hazmat suits showed up and sent us home. Fun times LOL. Still check every time I turn off the lights for a glow.

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