by Kyle Gonyou

The majestic Italianate home on Princess Avenue, London, Ontario, was built in 1882 for an educator, doctor, and early enthusiast of microscopes. Dr. Alexander Hotson (1854-1945) was a well-known physician of his time, spending most of his medical career in Parkhill, Ontario, but his medical origins are found in London.

Image 1: The Italianate House on Princess Avenue, in March 2020.

Following his primary and secondary education in Oxford County, Alexander Hotson went to the Toronto Normal School in 1874. He came to London to become the principal of St. George’s School and the old Union School, and in 1878 he joined the staff of the London Collegiate Institute as the science teacher. The following year, in 1879, Alexander Hotson purchased Lot 25 from Dr. John Salter.[1] In 1882, he had his house on Princess Avenue[2] built. In 1884, the property was valued at the princely sum of $2,800.

The house is an archetypal Italianate house: two-storey, strong vertical lines in the windows, bracketed eaves, and hipped roof. Bays windows are included on the front and side façades. Importantly, it features a London Doorway. Its triple arched motif fits into the rhythm of the otherwise flat façade, articulating the buff brick opening with grace. A verandah originally spanned the front façade, which was recently reconstructed.

While a teacher at the Collegiate Institute, Alexander Hotson enrolled as a medical student at Western University. With special permission of the Board of Education, he lectured in biology to medical students at Western University. Alexander Hotson received his medical degree in 1889. Following graduation, Dr. Hotson took a position in the faculty of Western University where he instructed in Zoology. During the 1890s, Dr. Hotson’s scientific interests were demonstrated in his membership with the Microscopical Society – sharing the revolutionary development of microscopes. Alexander McQueen, John Balkwill, J. Alston Moffatt, John Dearness, and Frank Lawson were also members of the Microscopical Society. The Microscopical Society hosted a “microscopic exhibit” (in topic, rather than size) as part of an open house at Western University. “A large number of costly instruments were spread around the table, and everyone had a peep at something interest. The circulation of the blood in a live frog was seen vividly,” as reported in The London Advertiser on February 15, 1896. Dr. Hotson was also a leading investigator in the first use of “all-penetrating ‘X’” or cathode rays.

Image 2: Group portrait of the Microscopical Society, London, Ontario circa 1890-1900. Dr. Alexander Hotson is the third man from the left (seated). Courtesy Ivey Family London Room, London Public Library, London, Ontario, Canada (LonPL088387f).

In 1899, Dr. Alexander Hotson sold his house on Princess Avenue to Hannah Ovens, presumably the widow of Dr. Ovens whose practice he took over in Parkhill.[3] The property was sold on a nearly ten-year basis into the 1960s, when it was foreclosed upon and subsequently divided into multiple rental units within the building. In 2015-2017, the house was extensively rehabilitated and covered back into a single-family home. The London Doorway was restored, as well as many of the Italianate details of the home. The property is located within London’s East Woodfield Heritage Conservation District designated pursuant to Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act in 1993.

Image 3: Photograph of the Dr. Alexander Hotson house pictured in the East Woodfield Heritage Conservation District Assessment Report (City of London, 1993).

The Alexander Hotson Memorial Scholarship was established by Aletha Hotson, in memory of her father Alexander Hotson, M.D. The scholarship is awarded to the Western University medical student achieving the second highest standing in the examinations at the conclusion of second year.


  • Brock, D. Fragments from the Forks. 2011.
  • City Directory. Various years.
  • Insurance Plans of the City of London, Ontario, Canada. Charles E. Goad Co., Montreal. 1881, revised 1888. Courtesy Maps and Data Centre, Western University.
  • Land Registry records.
  • Property files. City of London.
  • Registered Plan 177(E).
  • The London Free Press. “Veteran Doctor Marks Birthday.” 1936. Courtesy scrapbooks, London Room, London Public Library.
  • “The Microscopical Society.” London Room Photograph Archives  – PG E224. Ivey Family London Room, London Public Library, London, Ontario, Canada.
  • Western University. “Academic Calendar Faculty of Medicine.” 1975-1976.
  • Voter’s Lists. Various years.

[1] In an Italianate house built two years earlier, Dr. John Salter was a neighbour to Alexander Hotson. Dr. Salter was surgeon to the British Garrison during the Upper Canada Rebellion (1837) and one of London’s first dentists.

[2] Princess Avenue was renamed in 1881 to commemorate the visit of Princess Louise (1848-1939), daughter of Queen Victoria following her visit to London with her husband, the Marquis of Lorne (1845-1914), Governor General of Canada. Princess Avenue was originally named Bond, for Lt. Governor Francis Bond Head (1793-1875).

[3] Despite the property’s value in 1884 at $2,800, Dr. Hotson sold the property to Hannah Ovens in 1899 for only $2,650 which further suggests other personal or business arrangements. Hannah Ovens sold the property in 1914 to Marie (Mary) L. Chevigny for $4,300 who sold it in 1921 for $6,000 to Sebastian Giles. Sebastian Giles leased the property for several years before selling it in 1944 to Cora E. and Michael Kiely for only $3,800. Cora E. Lasek, widow of Michael Kiely, sold the property in 1960 to William A. Aitken for $14,000. William Aitken appears to have defaulted on his mortgage for the property and it was foreclosed upon by the Canadian Permanent Mortgage Corporation in 1964 and assigned to Sheldon Weinstein, optionor, before being sold in the same year to Z Realty Company Limited.