* The Geography of Jane of Lantern Hill
L. M. Montgomery wrote Jane of Lantern Hill in 1936, shortly after she moved to a house in west Toronto. Jane of Lantern Hill is set partly in Toronto and partly on Prince Edward Island. Jane’s Toronto reflects places Montgomery must have been familiar with, as a Toronto resident.
Gay Street, Bloor Street
Jane lived at 60 Gay. It was a huge, castellated structure of brick, with a pillared entrance porch, high, arched Georgian windows, and towers and turrets wherever a tower or turret could be wedged in. It was surrounded by a high iron fence with wrought-iron gates… those gates had been famous in the Toronto of an earlier day… that were always closed and locked by Frank at night, thus giving Jane a very nasty feeling that she was a prisoner being locked in.
There was more space around 60 Gay than around most of the houses on the street. It had quite a bit of lawn in front, though the grass never grew well because of the row of old trees just inside the fence . . . and quite a respectable space between the side of the house and Bloor Street; but it was not nearly wide enough to dim the unceasing clatter and clang of Bloor, which was especially noisy and busy where Gay Street joined it. (JoLH ch.1)
Gay Street is imaginary. Bloor Street is one of downtown Toronto’s main thoroughfares and traverses diverse neighbourhoods. Today, the elegant shopping area Yorkville, the University of Toronto, and the Royal Ontario Museum can be found along it. LMM’s sons attended the University of Toronto, and she enjoyed visiting the Royal Ontario Museum, and had shopping and business trips downtown, so she would have been familiar with downtown Bloor.
LMM retired in the Swansea area at far west of Bloor, where she was able to walk to the Bloor Streetcar.
Perhaps Grandmother Kennedy’s home is in an area of “old money” like Yorkville, mingled with LMM’s own experiences of living near Bloor Street. Perhaps it has the character of the Annex, an affluent neighbourhood along Bloor. Perhaps it is purely imaginary.
Photos by ettml http://www.flickr.com/photos/ettml/sets/72157594511156819/
Uncle William Anderson’s house in Forest Hill was very handsome, with landscaped lawns and rock gardens, but she wouldn’t like to live there. One was almost terrified to walk over the lawn lest one do something to Uncle William’s cherished velvet. You had to keep to the flat stepping-stones path. And Jane wanted to run. (JoLH ch. 1)
Forest Hill is one of Toronto’s wealthiest residential areas.
Photo by ettml, http://flickr.com/photos/ettml/sets/72157594508635834/
It was the last week in May that Jane saw the house. Mother had gone one evening to visit a friend who had just moved into a new house in the new Lakeside development on the banks of the Humber. She took Jane with her and it was a revelation to Jane whose only goings and comings had been so circumscribed that she had never dreamed there were such lovely places in Toronto. Why, it was just like a pretty country village out here . . . hills and ravines with ferns and wild columbines growing in them and rivers and trees . . . the green fire of willows, the great clouds of oaks, the plumes of pines and, not far away, the blue mist that was Lake Ontario…
Jane decided that she liked Lakeside Gardens. She liked it because it twisted and curved. It was a friendly street. The houses did not look at each other with their noses in the air. Even the big ones were not snooty. They sat among their gardens, with spireas afoam around them and tulips and daffodils all about their toes, and said, “We have lots of room . . . we don’t have to push with our elbows . . . we can afford to be gracious.”
Jane looked them over carefully as she went by but it was not until she was nearly at the end of the street, where it turned into a road winding down to the lake, that she saw her house. She had liked a great many of the houses she had passed but when she saw this house she knew at first sight that it belonged to her . . . just as Lantern Hill did.
It was a small house for Lakeside Gardens but a great deal bigger than Lantern Hill. It was built of grey stone and had casement windows . . . some of them beautifully unexpected . . . and a roof of shingles stained a very dark brown. It was built right on the edge of the ravine overlooking the tree-tops, with five great pines just behind it.
“What a darling place!” breathed Jane. (Jane of Lantern Hill, ch. 33)
Lakeside Gardens is undoubtedly based on Riverside Drive in Swansea, where LMM retired. This community is now part of west Toronto. It lies between the Humber River to the west, High Park to the east, Bloor Street to the north, and The Queensway to the south. The area is characterized by its rolling hills. Most of the homes in the area were built between 1900 and 1935, including “Journey’s End“, where LMM retired.
[left] Humber River in West Toronto Photo by Ricardipus , http://flickr.com/photos/ricardipus/2945939308/ [right] L. M. Montgomery Park, near her Toronto home. Photo by lmm-anne.net, 2004
March 12, 1935
“Mossom Road and Riverside Drive, which is all one long winding street, going along the top of a curious ridge extending along the Humber from Bloor Street to the Lake Shore. It is one of the prettiest, if not the prettiest, of the new suburban developments of Toronto. It has been building up rapidly the past few years. We have always driven through it on our way to the business section and I used to say jestingly, “When we retire I’d like to live here,” but I had no idea that dream would ever come to pass. The homes were all nice, set in nice gardens with lots of trees. I must have trees about or near a house I would love. A house without some trees to veil it is an indecency like a too naked body.
We drove slowly along until all at once I saw a new house with a “for sale” placard on the lawn. I liked the look of it at first sight. there was a couple of oak trees in front and behind it was a group of pines. Pines! I said, “I am going to get out and look through the window.”
I did not need to do this, however, for as I went up the little stone flagged walk the owner and builder came along and took us in. I fell in love with it at once. The front door opened into a little vestibule. A glass door led into a nice panelled hall. On the right was a dining room with a large beautiful casement window in the end. A breakfast nook and pantry separated it from a darling bright compact and convenient tiled kitchen. On the left was a beautiful living room with fireplace. It ran across the whole end of the house, with two large casement windows at each end and another on the side. The front one looked out on the drive but the back one looked out on a lovely ravine full of oaks and pines, where they told me that ferns were to your waist in summer. Below it was the Humber River and beyond open country of green wooded hills. Off to the left was a glimpse of the Lake. I think it was when I saw the ravine I knew I must have the house….
I knew I was going to buy that house- that it had been built for me. My dream had come true.
Prince Edward Island
Jane’s Island is L. M. Montgomery’s beloved North Shore of Cavendish. (The name “Queen’s Shore” references PEI’s “Queen’s County”, which Cavendish falls under. When Montgomery was writing Jane, she pasted a photo of the Cavendish shore, along with photos of her Toronto home, in her journal.)
Lantern Hill itself is an idealized dream cottage, but its location sounds like the Cavendish side of New London Harbour.
Lantern Hill was at the apex of a triangle of land which had the gulf for its base and Queen’s Harbour for one of its sides. There were silver and lilac sand-dunes between them and the sea, extending into a bar across the harbour where great, splendid, blue and white waves were racing to the long sun-washed shore. Across the channel a white lighthouse stood up against the sky and on the other side of the harbour were the shadowy crests of purple hills that dreamed with their arms around each other. And over it all the indefinable charm of a Prince Edward Island landscape.
Just below Lantern Hill, skirted by spruce barrens on the harbour side and a pasture field on the other, was a little pond . . . absolutely the bluest thing that Jane had ever seen. (JoLH ch. 16)
The Watch Tower Hill
One identifiable landmark on the “Queen’s Shore” is the Watch Tower, the largest sand-dune in Cavendish.
It was a sultry night and Jane went out and up and sat on the hill… “to get back into herself,” as she expressed it. The great dune that they called the Watch Tower was scalloping up against the empty north sky. Beyond it sounded the long, low thunder of the surf. — Jane of Lantern Hill, ch. 21
Jane’s friends live in the hills and coves along the Harbour Shore. The Jimmy John Garlands are her nearest neighbours, then there is Hungry Cove, where the Snowbeams live, Big Donald’s Hill, Little Donald’s Hill, and various fields.
By the end of a week Jane knew the geography and people of Lantern Hill and Lantern Corners perfectly. Every hill seemed to belong to somebody . . . Big Donald’s hill . . . Little Donald’s hill . . . Old Man Cooper’s hill. She could pick out Big Donald Martin’s farm and Little Donald Martin’s farm. Every household light she could see from the hill-top had its own special significance. She knew just where to look to see Min’s ma’s light sparkle out every night from the little white house in a misty fold of the hills. Min herself, an owl-eyed gipsy scrap, full of ginger, was already a bosom friend of Jane’s. — Jane of Lantern Hill, ch. 18
The nearest village is Lantern Corners.
A mile away the lights of the little village at Lantern Corners shone. –Jane of Lantern Hill, ch.17)
photo by lmm-anne.net 2004
Places to See
210a Riverside Drive Montgomery’s home, where she died in 1942, is privately owned, and not open to visitors. However, you can walk around her neighbourhood.
L. M. Montgomery Park in Swansea A small local parkette commemorating L. M. Montgomery in her Swansea Neighbourhood
Green Gables National Park - The sand-dunes on the Cavendish shore, as well as many ponds, woods, and hills are part of the Green Gables National Park. There are hiking paths along the harbour shore.
Stanley Bridge - a village located on New London Harbour, possibly “Lantern Corners”
French River Lighthouse - from the beach of the French River lighthouse, one can row or perhaps swim (I’ve never tried) across the channel the sand-bar.