On a recent Friday morning, when our cleaning lady, Lucy, was scheduled to visit, my husband Peter and I set off on another adventure. And, once again, we found a unique neighbourhood right in the middle of this great big metropolis.
Wychwood Park had called out to us from a book: Old Toronto Houses. It was not too far away, at the northwest corner of Bathurst and Davenport. We drove there and discovered that the roadway was closed to cars but a pedestrian gate stood unlocked. After we parked the car nearby, we stole through the gate and up a steep hill. And there they were, a gathering of historic homes, surrounding a pond. It was idyllic.
A plaque on the side of the road told us some of the history: naming the area after a forest in Oxfordshire, England, the original settler had an artists’ colony in mind when he built his house in 1874. Marmaduke Matthews, a painter, envisioned a group of “cottages” overlooking the city. There was no CN Tower, and no high rise condos in the way, and the views of Lake Ontario must have been spectacular.
Slowly other artists joined Matthews, along with well-to-do businessmen who were drawn to an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. In 1906 artist and president of the Ontario College Of Art, George Reid, built “Uplands Cottage.” A couple of years later a prominent lawyer, Ernest Du Vernet, built one of the grandest homes in the area, complete with a ballroom. In 1911 Eden Smith, architect, designed a home with one of the first attached garages. Soon others followed suit, designing and building about 60 homes along the banks of Taddle Creek Pond.
Since the early 1900’s many of the homes have been passed on to the next generation, but several prominent Torontonians have also found their way there. One of the most influential was Marshall McLuhan, media guru, who shared the neighbourhood with the likes of financial minister Joe Oliver, Hudson’s Bay CEO Bonnie Brooks, and journalist Libby Znaimer.
Peter and I spent a very pleasant hour walking along the forested roadway that cirlces the pond and nearby tennis courts. We were not alone; several residents said hello as we passed by. One woman asked us if we had ever been there before. Feeling like interlopers, we admitted that we had not. She quickly reassured us that many people dropped by often to take advantage of the beautiful neighbourhood. She gave us a quick overview and wished us a good trip.
We followed the meandering roadway uphill and around the pond as we admired the unique homes, some brick, some stucco, all with unusual architectural features. The pond, originally a shallow puddle, was dredged out by the locals and is now the scene of hockey tournaments in the winter, and 2 swans, Oscar and Felix, in the mild weather.
After we got home, we decided to find out more about this distinctive enclave. Well, looks can be deceiving and Wychwood Park, like many other neighbourhoods, has had its share of characters and conflicts. An original trust deed, created to get residents to pay for common expenses, is often challenged, and bickering among neighbours is commonplace.
The biggest scandal involved one resident, Albert Fulton, who considered himself the steward of the area. He became upset when people started parking cars on the sides of the road instead of in their driveways. One night in 2008 he took his rage outside and began slashing tires. He was caught and, while waiting for his sentence to be pronounced, he drowned himself in Lake Ontario.
So this winter, when you walk around your neighbourhood, enjoy the architecture and natural features. And be kind to your neighbours, because you never know who might be dealing with loneliness or grievances, during this stressful time.
5 thoughts on “Whych Way To Go?”
Loved this Sue!! Catherine
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I know it well. Several friends lived very close by.
And I have a story for you…
My mother loved a bargain, and she knew instinctively how to hunt at thrift stores like the Sally Ann. One day she found an old watercolour of a gorge with a man fishing from the top. It was signed Marmaduke Matthews. This was before the internet, so she had to go to a gallery to learn about the artist. When she passed away, my brother and I decided to sell the painting, and put it up for auction with a major King Street auction house. We dreamt of thousands. It sold for $800. Better than as they say, “A kick in the pants.”
I suspect that these days the thrift stores have expert consultants to pick the best and to sell elsewhere for their benefit. So be it. Their charity work is important.
I love your stories, Sue, not only for their own sake (you are a wonderful explorer!), but also for triggering these great memories.
Looking forward to the next on!
Very interesting Sue. I have heard the name but knew nothing of its history. Bill
Once again you have found a new and interesting area. I really enjoyed reading your post and you have inspired me to check out this area.
Great insight into this area. We discovered it a few years ago when our nephew and his girlfriend had their wedding reception at the Wychwood Barns. I forget the origin of the Barns. Think it was a bus loop. Will have to check that out now. Close to home for a walk. Thanks for another great post.