William McMaster’s grand house, built in 1851, stood on the hill just east Poplar Plains Road,. An Irish immigrant, he was one of Victorian Toronto’s most successful capitalists. He was a successful merchant and founder and first president of the Bank of Commerce. He was a MLA and later a senator. He was a fervent Baptist and a generous benefactor, contributing to the Baptist college, McMaster Hall and the Jarvis Street Baptist Church. McMaster Hall, the building is now the Royal Conservatory of Music, But the college was moved to Hamilton and is now McMaster University.
McMaster named his estate Rathnelly for his birthplace in Ireland. He split up this property shortly before he died in 1887 and the property south of the hill went to speculators. Senator James Kerr purchased the Rathnelly house and lived there until his death in 1916. Simeon Janes purchased five and a half acres on Avenue Road, where he later built his Benvenuto. Rathnelly and McMaster Avenues immortalize one of Victorian Toronto’s most successful capitalists. (For more about Rathnelly and William McMaster see “The Estatesof Old Toronto” by Liz Lundell).