A controversy erupted at Queen’s University in 1961, twenty-six years after the death of Archibald Patterson Knight.
As a scientist, Professor Emeritus, and former member of the university’s Board of Trustees, AP might have been in favour of the plan for a new physics building on the Queen’s University campus. But the Board had chosen a site that would destroy the last large green space on campus. Students and faculty protested, demonstrations were held, and the Board was forced to change its decision.
An alternative site was chosen on Queen’s Crescent, where most of the property owners had agreed to sell. Just one person held out. It was Archie and Cordelia’s daughter, Phyllis Knight, who had lived at 52 Queen’s Crescent for nearly 70 years.
March 26, 1934. Four years after her mother Mona’s death, Barbara Wood was coming home from a movie with her boyfriend. He rounded a curve too fast, and the car flipped over. Passers-by were able to rescue him, but Barbara was not so lucky. She died at the scene of the accident. She was just 19 years old.
It’s hard to imagine the effect of this tragedy on her relatives in Kingston. Her grandfather Archie died the following year, and his wife Corrie four months later. It was the end of a very painful period in the Knight family story.
It certainly looked respectable. In 1900, around the time her brother Freddie was admitted to the asylum and her younger siblings were still living at home with their parents, Muriel married the son of a prominent Kingston clergyman.
Six years later, they were divorced. “I only wish to God he was dead,” Muriel wrote to her mother, “with his lying drinking ways…Love to all, and just longing to see you tomorrow.”
Muriel would stop at home long enough to drop off her 2-year old daughter. Her parents would raise the child themselves.
Meanwhile, Muriel had her sights set on New York City. “If you would just lend me that little fur,” she begged her mother, “and lend me grandma’s muff, till I come back. I hate to go down without any furs.”
Corrie and Archie’s son Freddie was about 5 years old when his grandmother dropped in to a Kingston department store and wrote this postcard to his mother. She was babysitting the children while Corrie and Archie were away.
“Dear Corrie — the children are quite well and happy. Freddie and I have just finished our marketing and are now on our way home. I am writing this at Stacy’s. I hope you will enjoy your trip…”
Corrie and Archie lived in the house on Queen’s Crescent for the rest of their lives, and died there within a year of each other: Archie in 1935 and Corrie in 1936. They are buried together in Cataraqui Cemetery.
For more than 40 years in the beautiful brick house, story after story unfolded. Corrie experienced everything from incredible joy to heart-wrenching tragedy as she watched her children grow up. You can read about their adventures in future episodes of Storydello. Please stay tuned!
Corrie’s eldest son, Freddie, had some sort of intellectual or developmental disability. We don’t know the specifics, since the records aren’t yet open to the public, but when he was about 23 years old, his parents admitted him to the Orillia Asylum, and he spent the rest of his life there. Upcoming Storydello entries will tell more of Freddie’s story.
Meanwhile, Corrie’s other children were growing up and making their way in the world. Then, suddenly–in 1902, when the nest was almost empty–Corrie found herself with a new toddler to raise.
Phyllis Spencer was Corrie and Archie’s first grandchild. While the baby’s flamboyant mother was travelling the world and marrying one rich husband after another, little Phyllis grew up quietly in the house on Queen’s Crescent, much-loved by her grandparents and unmarried aunt.
With its back to Lake Ontario, which was just a block or two away, the new house faced the lush green trees and lawns of the university campus. The medical buildings and laboratory where Archie worked and taught were just a short walk away.
He travelled often, t00, studying or doing research overseas, in the Maritimes and in the United States. Meanwhile, Corrie had her hands full at home with five sons and daughters: Freddie (15), Muriel (14), Cyril (12), Mona (8) and Phyllis (2).
Even with help from a couple of domestic servants and her mother, who had come to live with the family, Corrie must have felt overwhelmed at times. And things were about to get very rough indeed.