Saturday Feb. 27, 2016
This hike focused on an area around Sawmill Valley Creek which features one of the earliest homes in the area, an haunted historic grand estate as well as the possible burial site for Tootsie the Elephant. The Glen Erin trail and the Sawmill Valley Trail connect everything. We parked on Dunwin Drive just north of Dundas Street and followed it north to Brookmede Park.
This part of Dunwin Drive used to be the laneway for the Miles Park Farm. In 1912 a Toronto undertaker named A. W. Miles built a country home and small zoo in Mimico. By 1936 the neighbours were complaining and city council was telling him to shut it down. He decided to buy 200 acres of land on the north west corner of Dundas Street and fifth line west (Erin Mills Parkway) near Erindale. The park was an instant success with bears, monkeys, llamas and peacocks. Donkeys and camels were also residents along with many other animals but none were more popular than Tootsie. Born in Burma, Tootsie the elephant loved children. Unfortunatey, Tootsie perished along with 70 other animals in a fire on Valentines Day 1943. Children from all around came to attend her funeral and the burial which took place on the farm. In spite of the tragic loss, the farm continued to operate into the 1950’s before being sold for development. The bones likely are buried under modern Brookmede park as there is no record of their discovery during construction on the property. The picture below shows the park and possibly even the final resting place of Tootsie the elephant.
A small tributary feeds into Sawmill Valley Creek and we followed it from Brookmede Park to where it joins Sawmill Valley Creek near Mississauga Road. Along one section it descends the ravine in a hydraulic energy dissipator. This is designed to slow the water down and remove the energy as it falls so that it arrives at the bottom of the ravine without the energy to cause erosion or do damage. Looking at the series of concrete steps and cylinders running down the hillside it makes me wonder about the waterfall that must have been in this location at one time.
In 1927 William Watson Evans built Glenerin Hall in a glen near Erindale on Sawmill Valley Creek. The 85 acre estate was intended as a summer retreat for the millionaire and his family so they could get away from their Rosedale home in Toronto. This was the era of grand estates and several were built in the area but only a few survive. The tower and the music room at the front were added a couple of years later but sadly, Evans died in 1932 before getting to enjoy his estate for very long. At his request he was buried nearby. The home was used as a school by over 100 students, mostly girls, and their teachers during World War 2. The students, from Hornby England, spent the last part of the war in safety here. One of the interesting uses of the property began in 1945 when the Simpsons purchased it. They converted it into a convalescent retreat for employees who were injured on the job or underwent surgery. All expenses were paid from anywhere in Canada including full salary while you were here recovering. When the Simpsons had to cut expenses in the early 1960’s this was quick to go. It was later used as a monastery, a real estate development sales office and also served as home to Mississauga’s first Jewish community. It is now the Glenerin Inn and spa. It is featured in the cover shot as well as below.
They say that there is a spirit in the house and it is a site frequently visited by those seeking the paranormal. Although reported as a full apparition in the doorway they claim he is most often seen tending the fire in the great hall. Some believe it is the spirit of William Watson Evans as he continues to host his guests in the home.
When Glenerin was built there was a gatehouse on the corner of the lane way at Mississauga road. The picture below, from the Mississauga Library, shows the gatehouse in 1978.
Today the foundation for the gatehouse have been converted into a sign for the subdivision that stands on the property. The subdivision is named Ivor Woodlands after Roy Ivors who owned the Winding Lane Bird Sanctuary on the property to the north of the Inn.
In the woods not too far from the Evans Estate is an old utility pole which brought electricity when the building was first constructed. Electrical insulators were introduced in the 1850’s along with telegraph wires. Electrical transmission adopted the same poles and the glass insulators were used for this application as well.
Sawmill Valley Creek has recently been landscaped for erosion control. What was formerly a long series of cascade waterfalls has been turned into a series of steps made of cut stone blocks.
The Grange was built sometime around 1828 for Sir John Beverly Robinson who was the first Chief Justice of Upper Canada. He was also considered to be the leader of the Family Compact which controlled the government leading to The rebellion of 1837. The regency styled house with it’s ornate windows was indicative of the status of it’s owner. Robinson only owned the house until 1833 when it began a rapid change of ownership until around 1910 having seen up to ten owners during this time. Then the Adamson family took up residence here and they stayed until 1973. Sometime during the Adamson years the exterior of the home was given an exterior layer, or veneer, of brick from the local Cooksville Brickyards. The building was given to the city of Mississauga by the land developers and used by the Boy Scouts until 2004. It has now had it’s bricks removed and been fully restored to it’s original splendor. The Heritage Resource Centre of Heritage Mississauga is now the occupant of this home.
Community Canoes are a way of re-purposing old canoes and turning them into bee friendly gardens. Due to a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder we have lost over one third of our bee colonies since 2007. Bees are essential in the pollination of most of the fruits and vegetables we eat as well as the colourful flowers we enjoy. They also pollinate many of the plants that the animals in our diets live off of. On June 13, 2015 Heritage Mississauga planted a community canoe on the lawn of The Grange. We had previously encountered a community canoe along Garrison Creek during our exploration of Military Burying Grounds.
Google Maps link: Glenerin Inn
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Love this hike as an idea for the residents of 1905 Broad Hollow Gate. Could I get a specific map for Ghastly Tales of Sawmill Valley Creek?
Hi Janis, I have a map ready but it won’t let me attach it. If you send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll reply with the map.
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Back in the forest off the beaten path of the trail (not far from the Glen Erin Inn), there is a stone foundation of a small building. Plants (lily of the valley, daffodils) in the vicinity indicate that there might have been a garden at some point around this building. Are there any records to indicate what this building might have been?
Most likely you found the remains of the Winding Lane Bird Sanctuary. https://hikingthegta.com/2014/10/13/winding-lane-bird-sanctuary/