The history of Mississauga's dark days in Lakeview

Duck Family and Homestead, Lakeview, c1900

Duck Family and Homestead, Lakeview, c1900

An area of Lakeview in southeast Mississauga carries a series of street names that harken back to a time when a schemer scammed hundreds of people out of their life savings and almost ruined a community.

Local farmer Robert Duck passed away in 1922, and within days of his funeral, a Toronto realtor named Harold Hubbs offered to purchase the Duck farm from Duck’s widow, Mary Ann. In the early 1920’s the economy was healthy, the Duck farm was close to the newly-paved highway (Lakeshore Road), and just minutes from the big city by the newly arrived automobile. There was certainly money to be made with investing in new housing projects in an area with railway, radial and highway access and a beach-lined waterfront nearby. Hubbs was in the right place at the right time. Had he been a man of integrity, Lakeview might have flourished.

Eight days after acquiring the Duck property Hubbs was advertising lots for sale in the Toronto Star. Hubbs called his new development Lakeview Park. Before the end of 1922 Hubbs had completed five new streets in his Lakeview Park project, named with a linear kind of logic: Centre Avenue (now known as Greaves Avenue), along with East, Eastmount, West and Westmout avenues. Connecting east-west roads were called First, Second (now Gardner Avenue) and Third streets. Advertisements began to gather investors, and people began to buy in. Hubbs did start building just enough houses to make it look as though he was putting his investors’ money to good use. Then he was gone. And then the stock market crashed. Hubbs had set up a Ponzi scheme and left his investors with unpaid mortgages on half-built homes.

Cavan Barn Raising, 1911

Cavan Barn Raising, 1911

An angry investor called the police on December 14, 1929, and Hubbs and secretary, Llewellyn Burlingham, were arrested and placed on house arrest. Things started to unravel further for Hubbs early in 1930. He might have escaped prosecution if Toronto Township (historic Mississauga) had not come looking for unpaid taxes on all the houses Hubbs had sold but never built. As part of his scam, Hubbs had investors pay everything up front to him with a promise that he would manage their property taxes. Hubbs’ partner, J. Cecil Hamilton, a Listowel lawyer, even sold his many clients on “wind insurance”, warning them that the gales off the lake in Lakeview could blow buildings away and that wind insurance was their best protection.

Hubbs’ subdivision plan laid out 96 lots – and Hubbs sold 112 lots. In cases where people checked on their investment, Burlingham admitted to showing investors the wrong property where a house was built or being built.

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Hubbs and Burlingham were charged with conspiracy to defraud. Burlingham pleaded ignorant and was sentenced to 30 months. Hubbs had no alibi, and he was clearly the mastermind. He faced three charges of fraud and two of false pretenses. Found guilty, Hubbs was sentenced to six years. When it was all worked out, it was determined that Hubbs had collected $797,203 in unpaid mortgages, rent paid to investors who didn’t own the homes they thought they owned, tax payments that Hubbs said he’d pay to the township, and insurance premiums that were never backed by a reputable insurance company. That was in 1930 dollars. In today’s money, Hubbs bilked investors out of about $10.4 million. It was also determined that Hubbs had never even paid the Duck family for the original Lakeview land deal that started the whole Ponzi scheme in 1922. Lakeview did eventually rebound after the Hubbs’ debacle. The surviving road names, and a few of the older houses in the neighbourhood, are the only reminders on the modern landscape of this moment in time that almost ruined a community.