Historic Homestead of Insulin Discoverer May Become Housing Development

The Banting farm, a pilgrimage site forpeople with diabetes all over the world, isslated 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 Freddiscovered insulin—a hormone that has saved the lives ofhundreds of millions of people. For his discovery, Fred won theNobel Prize in medicine and was knighted by the King of England.He could have become rich selling insulin, but instead he letthe patent go for one dollar to the University of Toronto. Hepreferred keeping insulin affordable for the people withdiabetes. 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, EdwardBanting. People from all over the world made pilgrimages toFred’s birthplace, and Edward took great pride in showing themtreasured mementos of his uncle. He was determined that futuregenerations should be able to visit the farm, and he hoped thata camp for diabetic children would be established there. So hebequeathed the 100-acre Banting Homestead to the OntarioHistorical Society (OHS), with faith that the society wouldcarry out his wishes.

Farmhouse Falling Apart

That has not been the case. Over the past seven years, despitereceiving $15,000 annual rent from a local potato farmer, theOHS has let the farm buildings go to rack and ruin. Thefarmhouse roof has developed holes, the henhouse has decayed,and a unique octagonal shed has collapsed. People still makepilgrimages, but now they’re appalled at the disrepair of theirhero’s homestead.

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

Secret Negotiations Revealed

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

The Town Fights Back

Currently the Town is seeking “designation as a historicalproperty” for the Banting Homestead, which would prevent itscommercial development and would require the owner to maintainthe buildings. Both the OHS and Solmar Development have filedobjection to such designation. A Heritage Review Board will holda hearing on the matter in the near future, and public opinionis being sought prior to the hearing.

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

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

Dr. Peter Banting is Emeritus Professor of Marketing, McMasterUniversity, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. His grandfather was SirFrederick Banting’s cousin. Peter is a founding member of theBoard of Directors for the non-profit Sir Frederick Banting LegacyFoundation, which was established as a charitable organization toaccept title to the Banting Homestead after its purchase by the Townof New Tecumseth (where Alliston is located). The Legacy Foundationhopes to build a camp for diabetic children on the Banting Homesteadin 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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