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June 26th, 2016
A High Ground Landmark: Home Of The Toronto Hunt Club

High Ground Landmark: Home Of The Toronto Hunt Club

continuing east along Kingston Road, after Mann's Fallingbrook gatehouse is 71 acres of green property, on the south side, home to the Toronto Hunt Club. This 170 year-old private club has roots reaching back to the military garrison at old Fort York. Founded in 1843 by British army officers stationed there, it was not incorporated until 1894 as The Toronto Hunt and Country Club. In 1930 the club obtained a new Charter as simply The Toronto Hunt.

Pastimes for Gentlemen and Ladies

Fox hunting with horses and hounds, as well as racing, steeplechasing and shooting are all part of the club's tradition. In the 1800s they hunted as far afield as Thornhill and what we now call Scarborough's Morningside Park, where there's an odd, circular hill. At the top of this hill, which the Hunt called "Tally Ho," the Master of the Foxhounds would release the unfortunate fox, and the British tradition of horse and hound ensued.

But in 1895 when the Hunt moved to its current Scarborough home atop the Bluffs, its members were looking for an ideal location for a country club. Here was a place where they could ride, golf, play polo and tennis, and socialize with their peers. Membership was (and still is) prestigious, and Toronto's business elite, including distillers George Gooderham and James Worts, comprised the early membership roles.

Grand Club house on Kingston Road

The Hunt commissioned the prominent architectural firm of Darling and Pearson to build the first clubhouse, completed in 1895. Unfortunately, like many Toronto landmarks of this time, the grand clubhouse could not escape the misfortune of fire. On November 6, 1910 the building burned to the ground along with a cherished collection of trophies, portraits and hunting prints.

Again, Darling and Pearson were called upon to design a new clubhouse - nothing but the best for the Toronto Hunt. But even so, the demanding club board rejected the first set of plans before allowing construction to proceed. With its new clubhouse and additional grounds added in 1910 the Hunt Club entered a Golden Age. In the Roaring Twenties a young Doris McCarthy, an iconic local Canadian artist, was dazzled by the luxurious Christmas parties held there. She writes. "There was a baronial dining room, a table to seat thirty, silver shining, glassware sparkling, a huge fire blazing in the hearth at one end of the room.

For me, the most exciting features were the row of waiters in uniform standing behind us, and ginger ale as common as milk." By 1930 the Toronto Hunt was ready to move away from hunting entirely. The property was refashioned as a ninehole golf course along either side of Kingston Road. All the hunting concessions outside of Toronto were sold off by 1933.

Polo playing also wound down, as the polo players tired of golf balls being struck at them. In 1937 golfing was consolidated in nine newly designed holes on 71 acres south of Kingston Road, so golfers no longer had to cross the busy highway. Club activities like tennis and Saturday night dances became the mainstay.

High Occasions at the Hunt Toronto

Hunt Club's grounds, gardens and clubhouse reflect an exclusive and elusive charm befitting high occasions. It had guests including international dignitaries; US President Ronald Reagan, Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Mitterand of France, De Mita of Italy, Takeshita of Japan, and Kohl of Germany in 1988 at the Toronto Economic Summit hosted by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Today, during the week of the Queen's Plate, the club traditionally hosts a dinner for the Governor General and other dignitaries.

The Toronto Hunt Club connects the city with its heritage in the British Isles, the Crown and the colonial army. It connects as well to traditions of camaraderie in the stables and the fields, on the golf links and in the club. It carries itself proudly as a landmark of Kingston Road, Scarborough, Toronto and Canada.

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