Saturday, January 13, 2018
Canada’s first major industrialist was Hart Massey whose agricultural implement manufacturing eventually became Massey Ferguson. In 1855 he moved his father’s business from Newcastle to Toronto. His son, Walter, was born in 1864 and in 1887 he bought a 240-acre farm which he named Dentonia after his wife’s maiden name of Denton. The historical map below shows the original extent of the farm and all of the buildings have been marked in yellow. The one circled in red is the only remaining one and is the cover picture for this post.
The farm sold fresh eggs and dairy products to the public. City Dairy opened in 1900 and was the first in the city to offer pasteurized milk. At this time it was estimated that 400 children a year died in Toronto due to contaminated dairy products. The archive photo below shows the farm in its heyday. All of the buildings in this picture have been demolished and replaced with Crecent Town towers.
Walter and Susan Massey had a daughter named Dorothy who got married in 1921 to Dr Arthur Goulding and they built a house as a wedding gift for her. The house was built in the arts and crafts style that was popular at the time. Arthur and Dorothy raised their family in the house and she encouraged her own children and their friends to perform fairy tales and plays as a way of occupying their time. This grew into the Toronto Children’s Theatre. This may have been an influence on her nephew, Walter Massey the famous Canadian actor. The house is 5000 square feet and has highly detailed windows.
Walter Massey had pioneered the sale of pasteurized milk in Toronto but ended up dying at the age of 37 due to typhoid that he contracted from unclean drinking water he got on a train. Susan kept running the City Dairy until 1930 when it was sold to Bordens. The 240-acre farm was then slowly sold off for development. Susan donated 60 acres of land to the city for a public park on the condition that it be known as Dentonia Park. The Gouldings were fond of their horses and the house features an oversized porch to allow riders to get beneath it.
When Dorothy died in 1972 the house became the property of the borough of East York and sat vacant until 1997 when it was restored. Today it serves as the Children’s Peace Theatre, a use that Dorothy would have approved of.
We parked on Victoria Park Avenue, originally known as York and Scarborough Town Line. Taylor-Massey Creek is named, in part, after the family farm that it flowed through on its way to join the Don River. It passes under Victoria Park Avenue in a large concrete culvert that is a replacement for an earlier bridge seen on the map.
The trail through the park passes a lot of new growth trees as the farm returns to a more natural forest cover.
Taylor-Massey Creek is one of the most degraded watercourses in the city. The upper reaches collect pollution off of the 401 and carry it through a long industrial section. The city has updated its master plan for the revival of the creek and the repair of failing gabion baskets that were installed 50 or 60 years ago. The ones through this part of the park are in fairly good condition.
Winter camping, or homeless living, in Toronto’s parks must have been a very cold experience so far this winter. We saw a Jolly Roger flag flying on the top of a small rise along the side of the ravine. Pirates this far from the bay required investigation and so we proceeded to do so. There were no recent footprints in the snow and, unsure if the tents were occupied or not, decided to leave them alone.
We followed the trail along Taylor-Massey Creek past all three locations of the ponds seen in the historical map. Crossing to the unmaintained trail on the other side of the creek we made our way until we could see the O’Connor Drive bridge over the ravine. This marked the point where we had made it to during our previous hike in Taylor Creek Park.
The picture below is from our investigation of some of some abandoned ovens on the back of Baby Point opposite to The Old Mill. At that time we found a number of old bottles including this partial City Dairy milk bottle.
It is a fitting ending that one of the leading industrial and philanthropic families in the history of Toronto is entombed in a mausoleum designed by the most prolific architect of the late 19th century in the city. J. E. Lennox designed the mausoleum which was built between 1890 and 1894. All of the Masseys and their spouses that are part of this story are interred in this family mausoleum in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. It has been repaired over the years and in 1967 the underground crypt was filled in. In 2000 it was designated as having architectural and historical value.
The Massey family is remembered in Toronto by Massey Hall and the new 60-story Massey Tower rising behind it. Dentonia Park and Dentonia Park Golf Course are also remnants of the old farm and recall the family. Their agricultural implements manufacturing lives on in Massy Ferguson a major brand, worldwide.
Google Maps Link: Tayor Bush Park
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