By Michael Walmsley
Hart Court runs W off Southdale Road
The name “Hart” has both a given-name and a surname significance in Huntsville’s past.
In terms of the given-name connection, we need to go back to 1854 when Alexander and Jane Proudfoot named their new baby boy Hart Proudfoot.
Fast forward to 1878 and we find Hart and his brother William living and working in Huntsville. Besides operating the Huntsville Carriage Works, the Proudfoot boys worked as general contractors and carpenters in the Muskoka area.
In 1887, when Huntsville was incorporated as a village, Hart became its inaugural assessor – a position he held in excess of forty years. Indeed, he served Huntsville in various public capacities for a total of fifty years.
Hart was yet another of Huntsville’s “persons of multiple interests”. He was secretary of the Board of Education, a charter member of the Huntsville Sons of Scotland Lodge, a staunch member of the Presbyterian and United Churches, and a Liberal Party supporter. In his later life, he even tried his hand at the insurance business.
Hart’s life had a couple of interesting crossings with one of Huntsville’s founding fathers, Allan Shay. In 1897, Hart purchased four building lots from the Shay Plan of Subdivision and then married Allan’s daughter, Alma.
At the time of his death, in 1941 at the age of 87 years, Hart Proudfoot was lauded as Huntsville’s most honourable, conscientious, and honest businessman. It was noted that his passing was a severe loss to the town. But, alas, not so severe as to warrant a street to be named after him!
So, then, it’s on to the surname connection.
Jacob W. Hart was born on March 12, 1858 in East Durham, Ontario. He attended Trinity Medical School in Toronto and, upon graduating in 1886, Jacob chose to hang his shingle in Huntsville.
Not a person to waste time, Dr. Hart, within his first year of practice, oversaw the erection of the village’s first hospital which was located on Chaffey Street. The doc was also a bit of an entrepreneur as he devised an idea to operate his hospital with an insurance plan offered to area residents. For the amount of $5, a person could buy one year of paid medical care at the hospital. The site became known as a “ticket hospital”.
In 1901, the Village of Huntsville became a town and Dr. Jacob Hart was elected as its first mayor. He went on to serve three terms in that office and listed among his many political accomplishments were the following:
- New fire building codes became law as a way to safeguard against any repeat of the Great Fire of 1894;
- The new steel swing bridge was installed on Main Street over the Muskoka River;
- Huntsville hosted the Royal Visit of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.
Huntsville’s first hospital was established by Dr. Hart on Chaffey Street in 1886 (Huntsville: With Spirit and Resolve)
A very sad event occurred in 1917 when Hart’s only child, Jack, was killed on the battlefields of WWI.
Jacob Hart practised medicine in Huntsville for more than 35 years, was known to be on duty 365 days a year, and was said to have delivered over 3,000 babies! At his funeral in 1924, the number of mourners filled over 100 cars during the procession to the cemetery. He was definitely a very active, involved and beloved Huntsville figure and quite deserving to have his surname affixed to a local street.
See more Saturday Streetscapes here.
Michael Walmsley is a retired elementary school principal who resides in Huntsville. He enjoys looking at things with a bit of “outside-the-box” perspective and totally believes in living today with a hand on the past and an eye on the future. He has published articles in Kanawa and Adventure Kayak magazines and has recently published a book entitled The Joy of Kayaking – Including the Kayak Quiz.
During this past year, as president of the PROBUS Club of Muskoka North, he has written a weekly article to the club’s membership which has included a focus on Huntsville’s streets. These articles have been combined into book form which will be published in the summer of 2021.
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