photos
October 17th, 2017
Anchoring East Riverside for over 120 Years

Anchoring East Riverside for over 120 Years

Dingman’s Hall – More Than a “Party” Venue

Its builder, Archibald Wayne (Archie) Dingman, had a way of making things run and making money from running them. As a young man he had left home near Picton to work in the oil fields of Pennsylvania. He then settled in Toronto, where he founded a soap factory, Pugsley, Dingman Company Ltd. When the soap business proved profitable, Dingman began investing in other promising ventures. He was a founder and General Manager of the Scarboro Electric Railway, partnering with noted members of the business elite, Henry Pellatt (builder of Casa Loma), brewer Robert Davies and financier John Starks. The electric rail venture opened up Kingston Road to bedroom community development and earned Dingman his second fortune. (See also Beaches Living Guide, Fall/Winter 2014)

A Venue for “Respectable” Society

It was 1893 when Archie Dingman completed Dingman’s Hall. He envisioned it as the way station of choice for travellers on his electric rail line, at the edge of the booming city. More than a hotel, he envisioned an event venue and salon. His clientele included the most respectable of stolid Empire social clubs – the Orange Lodge, Sons of Scotland and Maids of England.

The Royal Canadian Bicycle Club was perhaps the tenant that gave Archie the greatest pride. These had been the Royal Canadian Volunteers, a decorated militia whose regimental name was attached to a 100-member, all-male athletic at Dingman’s Hall, they expanded into winter sport with curling club mates. The Toronto Evening Star approved of their facilities at Dingman’s Hall: “The club parlours are upholstered and furnished in the best of style and the pictures of the winning teams decorate the walls. A padded boxing room, a pool room, a card room, a smoking room, a reading room and a first class gymnasium are among the attractions.” In later years the club would focus exclusively on curling and move across Broadview in 1907 to become today’s Royal Canadian Curling Club at 131 Broadview.

Growing Restless in Mid-Life

By 1900, Archie Dingman was growing restless. He’d won at soap manufacturing. His electric rail ventures had stalled as the 1890s economy softened. Perhaps he just wasn’t cut out to slide into retirement as a middling player in the hospitality sector. Maybe event space management wasn’t enough of a challenge. For whatever reason, when his soap factory burned in 1902, rather than rebuild, he pulled up stakes at age 52 and moved to Alberta. There were reports of oil slicks forming on the surface of Sheep Creek. The veteran of Pennsylvania’s oil boom, the basis for the Rockefeller fortune, was intrigued.

In Alberta, Dingman formed the Calgary Natural Gas Company, and successfully drilled and supplied gas on a modest scale to local businesses. But he really struck pay dirt in 1913 and 1914 when he formed Calgary Petroleum Products Company, recruited young R.B. Bennett (future Prime Minister) and his senior law partner, James A. Lougheed (grandfather of Premier Peter Lougheed), as investors, and drilled the Dingman 1 oil well that launched the Alberta Oil Patch. Today Archibald W. Dingman is primarily remembered at the foundation of Canada’s oil industry in Alberta.

What Would Dingman Do?

It’s difficult to guess what might have happened if Archie Dingman had remained in Toronto. When looking at Dingman’s Hall/Jilly’s today, it’s hard not to conclude that this building has yet to reach its full potential. Ahead of his time though he was, perhaps Archie Dingman didn’t fully appreciate the business prospects of “party party party”. But looking at the stunning hall he left us, maybe also this intriguing building is yet destined to become an anchor for the new urban district coalescing at the mouth of the Don River.

Featured Beaches
History & Landmarks
In Published Issues:


Spring & Summer 2017


Fall & Winter 2016/2017


Spring & Summer 2016


Fall & Winter 2016


Spring & Summer 2015


Fall & Winter 2014/2015


SPRING & SUMMER 2015


FALL & WINTER 2013/14


SPRING & SUMMER 2013


FALL & WINTER 2012


SPRING & SUMMER 2012


FALL & WINTER 2011


SPRING & SUMMER 2011


FALL & WINTER 2010/11


SPRING / SUMMER 2010


FALL / WINTER 2009-10


SPRING / SUMMER 2009


FALL / WINTER 2008-09


SPRING / SUMMER 2008


FALL / WINTER 2007-08


SPRING / SUMMER 2007


FALL / WINTER 2006-07


SPRING / SUMMER 2006


FALL / WINTER 2005-06


SPRING / SUMMER 2005


SUMMER / WINTER 2004-05