Guild-ed Greens….

Continuing with my series of Neighbourhood Spaces, Toronto.  

Another urban gem is the scenic and historic Guildwood Park and Inn constellated with sculptures manifesting history, artists and political influencers. 

The Park, an extension of Scarborough Bluffs, alongside Lake Ontario is a sculptured fantasyland and as we step onto the greens we are in midst of wedding shoots with brides and grooms and their entourage posing in front of pillars and arches reminiscent of Hellenic architecture.

Arches and sculptures welcome you at the entrance and one can imagine the lure of this place as an exotic locale without stepping on to an aircraft.

History of this unique 88-acre public park is equally dramatic with art meeting nature. The garden and the house, originally the Ranelagh Park estate of Col. Harold Bickford (1914) was sold in 1932 to one Rosa Breithaupt Hewetson prior to her marriage to Spencer Clark. The art connoisseur couple worked on remodelling the property into a Canadian equivalent of Roycroft in East Aurora, New York, a well known centre of the Arts and Craft movement at the time. During World War II the Inn was used by the Government of Canada as training base for the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRENS) and as a military hospital providing therapeutic rehabilitation for the service personnel undergoing treatment there.

The Clarks returned to the property in 1947 devoting the next 35 years to preservation and amassing a huge art collection and architectural fragments. They had responded to calls for preservation of historic buildings that were being demolished in late 1959s by taking away remnants of the buildings and re-erecting them in the Guild gardens, the front gate of the Guild Inn, and the front gate of the Guildwood Village neighbourhood.

The remnants include a facade of The Temple Building (62 Richmond Street West and Bay Street ) which was the tallest building till 1905, animal bas-relief panels from Bank of Montreal by famous artist Jacobine Jones, and a Log cabin built in 19th century. The Greek theatre was constructed with the ornate archways and eight pillars of the Bank of Toronto building of 1913. There are public artworks, including sculptures by E. B. Cox, Sorel Etrog, Emmanuel Hahn, Frances Loring and Florence Wyle.

Architectural fragments preserved from notable demolished buildings are today’s photoshoot landmarks. While we were ruminating in the freshness there was a wedding entourage waiting patiently for their mythical Greek journey.

From the incandescent to the sublime as nature takes over and we wander the woodland trails alongside Lake Ontario. One can catch a glimpse of the Scarborough Bluffs from the cliffs as you cross the terracotta gates to the viewpoint overlooking Lake Ontario. Here the path divides into two – the left returns you to the parking lot, while the right path meanders along Lake Ontario till Livingston Road. We stayed within the Guild park confines revelling in bird songs, admiring the relics and the lake waters.

The heritage treasures include the oldest building in Scarborough, the Osterhout Log Cabin and other remembrances as the Oak tree, the Water Wheel.

The actual date of the construction of the Log Cabin is unknown. William Osterhout was owner of the land in 1805 but there is no record of a log cabin during the time he lived on the property. The hut was part of the sold property changing hands. Its present name, Osterhout Cabin, and protected heritage status was granted in 1980. Artist Elizabeth Fraser Williamson is said to have used the cabin as a studio from 1970 to 1995.

During summer months, The Guild gardens and hotel reverberate to the sounds of dialogues and music via theatre and other Art festivals. In 2011, the iconic Greek Stage was the setting for Canadian rapper Drake’s lead single from his album Take Care.

Sniffing for creatures small.

A relaxing afternoon in ornamental settings and a perfect pulchritudinous weekend adieu.

Location: The Park is located on Guildwood Parkway, east of Eglinton Avenue East and Kingston Road. South of the Guild Inn is a grassy, open space. To the East a ravine leads down from Guildwood Parkway to Lake Ontario. The edges of the Bluffs are roped off for safety due to cases of the daring, sliding down to the waters.

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