Sunday, December 8, 2019
The property of the current Donalda Golf Club contains some of the oldest farm buildings remaining in the city of Toronto as well as one of the earliest surviving grist mills. The property was deeded to William and Alexander Gray in 1825. They quickly built a small milling empire along the sides of the Don River. The County Atlas from 1877 shows the grist mill on one side of the river and the saw mill on the other. The saw mill vanished when the timber industry ran out of local wood to use. The grist mill was incorporated into later structures and the old lane way to the grist mill survives today as an access road. Please note that the golf course is private property and is not open to the public, even in the off season.
The lane way has been recognized for its historical significance and is now protected under the heritage act. It served as an access road to allow farmers to bring their grain to the mill to sell it or have it ground for flour. It served as a given road between the modern day Don Mills Road and Victoria Park Avenue. The eastern half of this given road has been closed and serves the golf course.
Around 1840 the two brothers built brick homes that stood side by side and just across the lane way from the grist mill. These two houses still survive on the property and unfortunately it looks like the front of one of them has been painted red. This hides the patterned brick work that is still evident on the side. This house has a Georgian Style, a design that was popular between 1790 and 1875.
The second house lacks the patterned brick but has a more Gothic design, popular from 1830-1890. Based on the architectural styles it would appear that this house was constructed some time after the first one.
The grist mill was built in the 1830s and operated until the farm was sold in 1916. The Grays ground their own brand of flour which they called Wee MacGregor. It is the oldest surviving grist mill in the city that stands on the original site. The grain elevator shaft can still be found at the rear of the old mill.
One of the doors on the top floor of the old grist mill appears to have shifted in its track.
In 1916 David A Dunlap and Jesse Donalda Dunlap bought the farm from the Grays with the intention of building a model farm. They had some ideas for sanitary husbandry that were ahead of their time and they wanted to showcase them to the world. They hired the architects Wickson & Gregg to design and build their new barn, incorporating the old barn into the structure. The cattle enjoyed soft radio music in the barn that featured fresh air ventilation. In the winter they had steam heating to keep them warm and comfortable. The pigs were bathed in olive oil and washed with toilet soap. The front side of the old grist mill can be seen in this picture on the left of the new barn.
The farm expanded to include 1800 acres of land with over 40 farm buildings and 30 employees . A lot of attention to detail and fine workmanship went into everything including something as functional as the silo where the animal feed was kept. No boring old poured concrete for this granary but rather some rather beautiful tiles have been used.
This picture shows the farm buildings and the old grist mill from the side of the river where the saw mill once stood.
David Dunlap made his fortune by founding the world’s greatest silver mine followed by founding the second greatest gold mine. Although they never lived there permanently in 1920 the Dunlaps decided to build a new home that would be used as their country retreat. The house was given doric columns and wrought iron was used to create a classical design. When David died in 1924 he left a 5 million dollar estate farm that his wife operated with their son until it was sold in 1952. By 1960 it had become the Donalda Golf Club and the home was renovated to become the club house.
David Dunlap left a quarter million dollars each to several schools, hospitals and churches. His donation to Toronto General Hospital funded the Dunlap Radiological Science Department.
Google Maps Link: Donalda Golf Course
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The Gray’s were ancestors of mine. Its nice to have pictures of the houses…the houses and barns at one point were used as a riding stable by the Girls school, north of York Mills, and very hippy-like. That was why it was painted Red.
wish I could attach photos here, but I’m emailing you with an old photo of the mill, the flour bag, william himself…I’m a great great granddaughter…
Hi I’m a third generation great granddaughter, could you please send me the old photo? email@example.com
what fun finding your blog. I’ve sent you an email with a photo of the mill from before the Dunlops, as well as a pic of one of the flour bags, and one of William Gray with some grandchildren, one of whom was my grandfather Harold Gray.
How did you access the property? My understanding is that it’s a private golf club, accessible to members only, or is it publically accessible in the winters? I’m currently working on a project and would love to see the buildings in person.
I walked in cautiously but found many people walking their dogs. I do believe it’s private and you could get in trouble.
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