Historic Homestead of Insulin Discoverer May Become Housing Development

The Banting farm in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

| Feb 1, 2007

The Banting farm, a pilgrimage site for people with diabetes all over the world, is slated for the bulldozer.

Home of a True Hero

On a beautiful 100-acre farm that lies an hour north of Toronto, Ontario, Fred Banting was born and raised. In 1921 Fred discovered insulin—a hormone that has saved the lives of hundreds of millions of people. For his discovery, Fred won the Nobel Prize in medicine and was knighted by the King of England. He could have become rich selling insulin, but instead he let the patent go for one dollar to the University of Toronto. He preferred keeping insulin affordable for the people with diabetes. We owe a lot to Sir Frederick Banting.

Pilgrimage Site for People With Diabetes

The last person to live on Fred’s farm was his nephew, Edward Banting. People from all over the world made pilgrimages to Fred’s birthplace, and Edward took great pride in showing them treasured mementos of his uncle. He was determined that future generations should be able to visit the farm, and he hoped that a camp for diabetic children would be established there. So he bequeathed the 100-acre Banting Homestead to the Ontario Historical Society (OHS), with faith that the society would carry out his wishes.

Farmhouse Falling Apart

That has not been the case. Over the past seven years, despite receiving $15,000 annual rent from a local potato farmer, the OHS has let the farm buildings go to rack and ruin. The farmhouse roof has developed holes, the henhouse has decayed, and a unique octagonal shed has collapsed. People still make pilgrimages, but now they’re appalled at the disrepair of their hero’s homestead.

More than a year ago, the local Town Council began negotiating with the OHS to buy the Banting Homestead and save it from destruction. Eventually, the Town offered a million dollars to the OHS. Believing that an agreement had been reached, the Town sent purchase papers to the OHS on November 22, 2006.

Secret Negotiations Revealed

The following day, the OHS announced that they had accepted an offer of $2.2 million from housing developer Solmar Development. The owner of Solmar Development later told the press that his deal had been made with OHS five months earlier. Apparently the OHS, whom Edward Banting had trusted with his dream for the children’s camp, had been secretly negotiating with a developer who intends to bury the farm in new houses. The Solmar deal withholds only four acres of the property from development.

The Town Fights Back

Currently the Town is seeking “designation as a historical property” for the Banting Homestead, which would prevent its commercial development and would require the owner to maintain the buildings. Both the OHS and Solmar Development have filed objection to such designation. A Heritage Review Board will hold a hearing on the matter in the near future, and public opinion is being sought prior to the hearing.

If you believe that the Banting Homestead should be preserved for future generations and that a camp for diabetic children should be erected there, please send your opinion to the Ontario Conservation Review Board, c/o Sir Frederick Banting Legacy Foundation, 2 John Avenue, Alliston, Ontario, L9R 1J8, Canada.

More information about the Banting Homestead can be found at http://www.discoveryofinsulin.com

Dr. Peter Banting is Emeritus Professor of Marketing, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. His grandfather was Sir Frederick Banting’s cousin. Peter is a founding member of the Board of Directors for the non-profit Sir Frederick Banting Legacy Foundation, which was established as a charitable organization to accept title to the Banting Homestead after its purchase by the Town of New Tecumseth (where Alliston is located). The Legacy Foundation hopes to build a camp for diabetic children on the Banting Homestead in fulfillment of Edward Banting’s expectation.

Dr. Peter Banting,
105 Upper Filman Road,
Ancaster, Ontario,
L9G 3K9

Phone: (905) 648-5889
Email: peter.banting@sympatico.ca

Editor's Note: See a response to this article, ("Banting Farmhouse"), in our Letters to the Editor Section.

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