The oldest house in the city is the Duff-Baby House, built at the corner of Mill and Russell around 1790.
According to Fred Neal’s book the Township of Sandwich published in 1909
“It was built by the Hon. James Baby, who was born in Detroit in 1762. He as a member of the Legislative Council of Hesse and Western District from 1792 until his death in 1833.”
However according to the City Records:
“The “frontier Georgian” building known as the Duff-Baby Mansion was built in 1798 as part of a trading complex by Alexander Duff, a merchant from Detroit. However, within
ten years the local fur trade had declined. Duff (of Leith, Shepherd & Duff) moved the business to Amherstburg, and sold the house (1807) to his friend, the Hon. Jacques (James) Baby (pronounced Bah-bee). Mr. Baby was descended from an influential family from Quebec City and his father, Duperon Baby, was well known in early Detroit. Jacques’ Loyalist political career included membership on both Executive and Legislative Councils of Upper Canada (Ontario) and, ultimately, Inspector General at York (Toronto). As Colonel of the Militia, he was captured by the Americans during the War of 1812. His house was sacked by
Gen. Harrison’s troops. Son Charles, a solicitor and Mayor of Sandwich, held the property until his death in 1871. Subsequent owners were Harriet van Cleve (1879), whose grandson sold it in 1905, and Dr. William Beasley. Daughter Isobel sold it to the Ontario Heritage Foundation in 1979. It is held in trust for the people of Ontario.”
Here’s how the house looked in 1909 under the ownership of Dr. Beasley.
A photo of Dr. Beasley from Fred Neal’s “The Township of Sandwich”.
The owner of the Baby Mansion, and who currently occupies it with his family at the present time, besides attending to the many duties of his profession as a physician in the community, has taken a deep interest in the welfare of the town. He is a member of the Board of Education and was elected chairman of that body for the year 1907. He is also a member of the Essex County Historical Society. He is a most worthy gentleman and a valuable acquisition to the old county town.
Here is how the house looked in 1924 following a new porch.
After it was acquired in 1979 from Dr. Beasley’s daughter, the house began undergoing restoration at the hands of the Ontario Heritage Trust. The Beasley’s porch was removed in 1993.