To maintain the accuracy of the research your input is vital. Landscapes change at lightning speed especially in urban areas. Many of the locations where Clara painted are gone. This is complicated by the fact that I left Toronto 33 years ago and now live in the NYC area. I come to Canada as often as I can but that’s no substitute for doing research in the “real place”.
Here are some examples:
Two Ontario readers, Ann in Erin, and Ruth in Toronto, aren’t convinced that my identified location of Clara’s Berry Road At the Bottom of the Humber River is correct (See Research Tours, July 2011).
Ann was so sure my chosen location was incorrect that she invited me to take a drive around the Park Lawn Road and Kings Point Drive area of Etobicoke. But we were unable to find a comparable site.
Ruth also is looking for the right location:
“I am very familiar with Berry Road and I am going to investigate. There is access to the Humber - not from Berry for sure but close by. You probably already know this but I am curious and will go and have a look in about a week - this week being spoken for”.
Ruth went to extensive effort to find the exact location, unfortunately her photos didn’t turn out but she provided me with a map. She believes that the correct location is near the boat ramp at the Toronto Humber Yacht Club at the end of Stephen Drive. Ruth has promised to go back when the weather’s better.
Ruth has also volunteered to take other photos relevant to Clara’s work:
“My husband and I have ridden along the Humber many times and even Valleyview Garden's once on bike rides so of course your project takes on another layer of interest for me. Think of us if you ever need something checked out in the area - in Toronto”.
“Next week, I hope to take a couple of pictures of the Humber River replete with autumn foliage on the shore”.
The location of Clara’s Ontario Pioneer Bridge, Devil’s Elbow Near Port Hope, 1933 is also elusive. Two attempts on my part and one on Ann’s have been fruitless. Ann describes her efforts:
“We did get to Peterborough last Wed and Thurs. On the way we went through Port Perry and Bethany and stopped at the library/municipal office so I could ask if anyone in there knew of the Pioneer Bridge, Devil's Elbow. No they didn't. One guy said it would help if we knew what road it was on. Well that would help us too I thought. He has lived in Peterborough for a long time and is a fisherman in the region's rivers. He said he has never seen the bridge – we printed a copy of it for him, but he is going to ask his friends who know the area. We mapped the area and feel the bridge was likely between Port Hope and Bethany, because Clara travelled up from the school at Port Hope. He feels the bridge would have covered either rail lines or water at that time. There is a rail line running right through the region we are talking about. There is also the Pigeon River and a tributary of that, Fleetwood Creek, which may be contenders. Another thought I've had is to maybe contact the Pigeon River Conservation Authority who I think are in Janetville. The fact that we could not find the site of that bridge has continued to bug me and I would love to put in the time to find it”.
The 2012 Research Tour, Port Hope Summer Art School revealed that this bridge was a common subject of J.W. Beatty’s students. The same scene painted by Beatty, titled: An Old Ontario Bridge at Port Hope can be seen at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg.
“As for the other painting, I was not able to pinpoint the EXACT location. However, on showing it to my mother, and from my memory on many of my walks, that painting is on the east end of the island, probably in the area of a location known as Giant's Staircase. Picture's attached of the area of Giants Staircase, one of the actual staircase, and one of the plaque dedicated to the steps.”
And here’s some additional information on Bailey Island, Maine.
Recently New Yorker Matthew Rodriguez, was visiting my office, and saw Clara’s painting: “Summer at Bailey Island, Casco Bay, Maine”. Immediately he identified the location as he and his family had vacationed there many times. I also showed him a photo of another Bailey Island painting of Clara’s that a collector had recently purchased. Matt promised to find some photos from his childhood. Here’s what he sent complete with comments: “I have attached a picture (labeled Mackerel Cove) which is the best one that I have that gives the full spectrum of Mackerel Cove on Bailey Island Maine. A couple of references for the picture. All the way on the far left edge of the picture, center, is the shack. If you follow the picture diagonally to the right from the shack, you see the old WWII guard tower sticking up from the trees.”
So readers keep up the good work!