Tag Archives: The Guild Inn

South Marine Drive Park

Sunday August 21, 2016

The Scarborough Bluffs run for fifteen kilometers from Victoria Avenue east to Highland Creek.  At their highest point they rise ninety meters above the water and have been described as a geological wonder. They are the only bluffs of their kind in North America.

Hiking the GTA has made several visits to the bluffs starting with Guidwood Park in April 2015.  At that time the historic inn sat closed and in need of repairs.  The Guild Inn is currently undergoing restoration along with the addition of a multi-purpose event hall.  It was time to go and see how that was coming along as well as explore the construction roadway that leads down to the bottom of the Scarborough Bluffs.  The $20 million dollar restoration will include a 40,000 square foot addition to the original inn.  The Guild was the only Depression Era artist colony in Canada.  Over the years the Guild had been expanded with several additions, including a hotel tower.  After the inn closed in 2001 the tower was removed.  The current restoration strips the inn back to it’s original building and adds new structures to both ends.

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The restoration is scheduled for completion in December 2016.  The city is paying for the removal of mold and asbestos while the developer will pay to renovate the inn to it’s 1932 appearance.  A banquet hall is being built on the one end while an outdoor pavilion is going on the other end.  The developer has signed a 40 year agreement with the city.

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Parking is currently restricted to a lot on the east side of the old construction roadway.  The road was littered with old leaves and this Northern Crescent butterfly was quite well disguised among them.  I only caught sight of it when it moved.  It feeds on many species of the aster family of which we have many in Ontario.  The Northern Crescent has only recently been recognized as a separate species from the Pearl Crescent.  The latter of which has black lines in the large orange patches on the hind wings.

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There are only a couple of places where a vehicle can get to the bottom of the bluffs.  Bluffer’s Park is one of them and it sits near the western end of the bluffs.  This roadway is not open to public vehicles and is currently in use for heavy construction equipment.  One of the ways in which the city is trying to slow down the erosion of the bluffs is to create hard shorelines and South Marine Drive was created for that purpose.  Old construction material, demolished buildings and slabs of pavement are known as rip rap when dumped along the shoreline as seen below.  There is a project currently in process on the shoreline in front of The Guild.

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This roadway has been turned into a linear park known as South Marine Drive Park.  It runs for several kilometers along the south edge of the bluffs and was largely abandoned this morning except for a couple of hikers and a few cyclists.  With the views of the bluffs, and the breeze off the lake, I was surprised to see so few people.  Access is very limited though as you must come in from one end or the other.

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The sand in the bluffs was laid down in a river delta prior to the last ice age.  The melting ice sheet created a larger lake where Lake Ontario is today and this was known as Lake Iroquois.  It cut through the old river delta and exposed the bluffs.  This lake suddenly drained into a smaller lake known as Lake Admiralty which has since become Lake Ontario.  The exposed sand face has been eroding quickly ever since and in spite of all our efforts, continues to do so.  The roots of the trees and grasses hold the top layer together but when the sand below disappears it is only a matter of time before the tree crashes down the hill side.  The sand will make its way into the lake and eventually come to rest on one of Toronto’s many beaches, all of which are west of the bluffs.  The lake has a slow rotation that means that water takes six years to make its way around the lake and out into the St. Lawrence River.

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Jack-in-the-Pulpit can live up to 100 years.  The corm, similar to an onion,  grows underground and it will produce one flower if it is male or two if it is female.  The plant has the ability to change sex over it’s lifetime with only the female plant producing berries.  These berries will turn bright red and provide food for wild turkeys and wood thrushes.  The berries are listed as toxic to humans most likely because of the raphides of calcium oxalate that are present in the plant.  The sap of the plant makes an instant pain reliever when applied to a wound.  The natives used the plant in this way as well as making a red dye from the berries.  The picture below shows the unripe green berries in their cluster.

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The trees along this section of the bluffs are hanging over the edge as they start their journey to the bottom.

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Milkweed provides the only home for monarch butterfly larvae and the park has quite a large number of the plants growing along the side of the roadway.  The seed pods are getting ripe.  They will soon pop open sending the little white seeds floating on the wind.

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Following the trail will bring you to Gates Gully where the Doris McCarthy Trail leads back up to the Kingston Road.  Just before you reach the gully one section of a sunken ship can be seen sticking out of the lake.  On August 3, 1915 the steamship Alexandria was wrecked near the entrance to the gully. The Alexandria was built in 1866 and served both as a passenger ship and a cargo ship.  On this night it was bringing 300 tons of beans and tomatoes when it was blown too close to the shore and was grounded.  The ship broke into sections and was completely destroyed.  The locals made short work of stripping everything of value above the water line.  They say that many cellars were well stocked with sugar, vinegar and canned goods for the coming winter.  In maritime tradition Captain William Bloomfield was the last man off the ship at about 2:00 am the following morning.  All passengers were brought to safety and led up the bluffs through Gates Gully. The steamer remains in the lake 100 years later, just to the east of the gully.  The picture below shows the wrecked ship as seen from the shore.  The cover photo shows the ship in close up.  There is a place rusted through the rectangular part of the hull right at the waterline.  A rounded piece of hull on the left of this is briefly exposed with each rolling wave.

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There are plenty of places where the slopes of the bluffs are covered with shrubs and trees.  This helps to stabilize the slopes and you will notice on the return trip that this section has some well vegetated areas.

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Having reached this point it is about a 45 minute walk back to the parking lot at the Guild.

Other posts in our Scarborough Bluffs Series:  Guildwood Park, Sand Castles (Bluffer’s Park), Erosion(Cathedral Bluffs), Gates Gully, East Point Park

Google Maps link: South Marine Drive Park

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Guildwood Park

Sunday April 19, 2015

I went to Guildwood park because the second oldest house in Toronto is preserved here.  I found the house and a whole lot more.  I parked in the parking lot of the former Guild Inn and went for a walk in the cool sunshine.

In 1795 Augustus Jones, who had surveyed Yonge Street, was commissioned to survey Scarborough.  It is said that Jones built the log cabin on the property for his crew to live in during the work but records show that his men lived in tents at this time.  Regardless of the details it is generally accepted that this is the oldest house in Scarborough and the second oldest in Toronto.

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The property was originally granted to William Osterhout in 1805.  Over the next 100 years a series of owners lived on the property.  In 1914 Colonel Harold C. Bickford built his country estate on 40 acres of land with a view over lake Ontario.  His 33 bedroom mansion, known as Ranelagh Park, is featured in the cover photo.  Bickford fought in the Boer war, was a Brigadier General in the First World War and then led anti-Bolshevic forces in Russia following the war.  He and his family enjoyed the view from atop the Scarborough Bluffs for only a few years before the house was sold in 1921 for use by an order of Catholic Missionaries.  Over the next ten years it also served as a home for a wealthy business man and finally it sat empty for a couple of years.

In 1932 Rosa and Spencer Clark took over the property and started the Guild of All Arts.  Under their management the property was expanded with additions to the house being made throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s.  A 6 story hotel tower was added in 1965 to accommodate all the people who were visiting the artist colony.  The tower sat empty from 2001 until 2009 when it was demolished.  The picture below shows the sprawling mansion as it looks today with all of its additions.

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In 1940 a sculpture studio was built.  Various artist worked here over the years including Dorsey James who created the Norse carvings on the door and along the roof line in 1970.

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The Guild sits on top of the Scarborough Bluffs with beautiful views out over the lake.

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During World War II the property was operated by the Women’s Royal Navy Service.  In 1947 it was returned to the Clarks who picked up where they had left off.  They became concerned that much of the late 19th and early 20th century artwork that decorated buildings in Toronto was being destroyed to make way for new development.  They started to collect or buy interesting parts of demolished buildings and move them to the Guild Inn property where they had them re-assembled.  Today there are parts of over 30 buildings on display on the grounds.

The four Corinthian columns in the picture below stood at the entrance to the Banker’s Bond Building at 60 King Street West.  The Banker’s Bond building was constructed in 1920 and demolished in 1973.

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The building originally looked like this.  The street address sign stood over the doorway but was placed in the middle when the columns were put back together.

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The Bank of Toronto stood on the south west corner of King and Bay streets from 1912 to 1966. The bank was founded in 1857 by George Gooderham, son of William Gooderham who owned Gooderham and Worts distillery in Toronto.  The bank merged with The Dominion Bank on Feb. 1, 1955 to form the Toronto Dominion Bank.  The columns in Guildwood Park have been set up in a different configuration than the original building.  The three arched entrances have been split up and placed on three sides of the monument.

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The Bank of Toronto building in 1915.  The three arches were located side by side at the entrance to the bank.

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The Canadian Bank of Commerce has stood on the north west corner of Yonge and Bloor for over a century.  This ornate date stone was rescued from the 1899 building.  It was removed in 1972 to make way for the new 34 story tower that CIBC built at Two Bloor West.

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The building as it appeared in 1922.

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The Temple Building was constructed in 1896 on the corner of Bay and Richmond Streets.  It was built as the international headquarters for the Independent Order of Foresters who claim to have originated in the 14th century in England as a friendly society caring for the sick.  I love the horses head on the top of this piece.

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At 12 stories it was the tallest building in the city upon completion.  It was demolished in 1970.

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The Royal Conservatory of Music was founded in 1886 as the Toronto Conservatory of Music. Their building at College Street and University Avenue was built in 1897 and demolished in 1968.

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A trail winds it’s way down the hill to where an old construction road leads to the edge of Lake Ontario.  It practically cries out to be explored.  Perhaps another time.

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Today the Guild Inn sits empty once again.  The signs in the window declare it to be a hazard due to asbestos and mold.  It’s future is in question.  Will it get cleaned up or demolished?

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