The North London Region
Even though the north of London, Ontario, encompasses the four significant areas of Oakridge, Hyde Park, Masonville and the neighbourhoods surrounding the University of Western Ontario, when people think of North London, it is Masonville that comes to mind first. The name Masonville evokes images of the large shopping mall with that name and all of the big box retailers that spread out around the mall and that form the major retail hub of the north end of the city. Few realize that the area around Concession 5 (Fanshawe Park Drive) and Proof Line (Richmond Street) was once a small village and one of London, Ontario’s earliest manufacturing centres.
The first building in the area, though, was not a factory, but a school that stood on the north west corner of the intersection as early as 1847. At the time, the area was known as McMartin’s Corners. The name “Masonville” was taken from the Mason House tavern and inn built on the corners later. In the 1870’s it was not uncommon to see 75 to 100 yoke of oxen traveling along the Proof Line on their way into London with a stopover night in Masonville. In 1874 the Masonville Post Office opened in the Mason House and mail was delivered there by stagecoach.
At least three factories opened in the area during this period and did business up into the late 1890’s. Numerous other businesses were established and flourished during this period. At the “V” where Richmond Street and Western Road met there was a toll gate. At one time as many as four stagecoaches a day were passing through the toll gate making trips to Lucan and Exeter and back. As transportation quickened with the advent of motorized vehicles, there was less and less need for people to stop over in Masonville. Masonville declined and eventually the post office was closed in 1914.
In the 1920’s and 1930’s the Masonville intersection became increasingly busy and a number of strange and deadly accidents occurred at the intersection, earning it the name Calamity Corners. In 1935, the London Free Press called it the most dangerous intersection in western Ontario. By the 1950’s the village was no more. Even though the original village was gone, it was not long before things began to change.
London was growing quickly in all directions and for the wealthier residents of London, the beauty of the hills around the Masonville area were an attraction. The Iveys and the Labatts had built houses in the area and they enjoyed the convenience of being close to the city while enjoying the country environment and lower taxes. The number of homes in the area began to mushroom and in 1961 the area was annexed by the city of London.
Today, Masonville is one of London’s wealthiest areas. Masonville Place was built at the corners in 1985, forming the heart of the district. Fanshawe Park Road is now among one of the busiest in the city.
North London contains most of London, Ontario’s, wealthiest areas with average property values in a number of neighbourhoods that are almost double the city average. Without any major industrial areas, the north of London is almost entirely suburban and characterized by “sprawl.” Whereas in the east, and parts of the south of the city, you find well integrated services and schools, living in the north of London often means more driving. Despite the challenges of living with suburban sprawl, this remains one of the fastest growing parts of the city.
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