Gene Domagala will cover the historical aspect of an organized walk through the Glen Stewart Ravine on Sunday, Oct. 25 as part of the launch of a new Friends of Glen Stewart Ravine group. See page 4 for details.
Twelve thousand or so years ago an ice age retreated, leaving a lake called Lake Iroquois. Over the years it receded, leaving streams and rivers in the East End and the lake we now call Lake Ontario. In the East End we were left with what we now call Scarborough and the Beach, including the Scarborough Bluffs and little valleys filled with trees and vegetation. There were many of these from the present Fallingbrook Avenue to the Don River.
One was what we now call the Glen Stewart Ravine, although there have been other names for it. The ravine originally stretched from north of the Danforth south to the lake. There were several ponds and marshes and streams, large trees, flowers, and vegetation. The ravine ranged from half a mile to a mile in width, and was a natural habitat for wild animals and birds.
Scarboro Heights Hotel
The Scarboro Heights Hotel was built in 1879. The directors were Peter Paterson, James Lamond Smith (who introduced golf to Toronto in the 1870s) James Beaty, Allen McLean Howard (who owned the property on Glen Stewart), and George Leslie (of Leslieville fame).
Tourists came to the area on the Kingston Road tramway, and often stopped at this luxurious hotel located at the top of the present Glen Stewart Ravine on Kingston Road. The hotel eventually went up for sale. As fate would have it a group of businessmen and medical people wanted to purchase the building and property for a lunatic asylum.
Glen Stewart golf course
Glen Stewart was the original home of Walter Stewart Darling, an Anglican minister who started several churches in the 1870s. Later the property was owned by a Mr. Ames, a wealthy stockbroker and philanthropist. Ames was also a fitness buff who turned his property into an athletic field and golf course for the public. It was the first municipal golf course in the City of Toronto, started in the early 1920s.
Glen Duart ravine
Allen McLean Howard worked as a clerk for 50 years at City Hall, both on Jarvis Street and at the newer city hall at Queen Street and Bay Street (now Old City Hall). He named his farm Glen Duart, after the Scottish area his relatives came from.
Glen Duart was one of the best kept farms in the East End. McLean Howard raised Guernsey cows imported from England. He had pheasants, Peking ducks, and other birds and animals. McLean Howard’s farm produced many prizes from what is now the Canadian National Exhibition. After living there for many years he moved to Oakville. His house, however, is still standing at the northwest corner of McLean Avenue and Queen Street, just behind the Beacher Cafe.
Ivan Forrest Gardens
On Queen Street is a relatively new park called Ivan Forrest Gardens. It was named for Ivan Forrest, who was a commissioner of Parks and Recreation for the City of Toronto prior to amalgamation. Forrest was responsible for many new programs, and was a very progressive commissioner – a person ahead of his time in his field.
After McLean Howard moved out of the Glen Duart Ravine, a large real estate company decided to renovate the estate into homes that are still there today. The company called the property Stewart Manor. They hired Lorrie Alfreda Dunington-Grubb, probably one of the best known landscape architects of her time, to design the landscaping. She was born in England and studied garden design and later landscape architecture. After coming to Canada with her husband they established the well-known Sheridan Nurseries.
South of Queen
Below Queen Street the ravine extended to the lake. This land had a stream running into the lake. At one time this was a farm belonging to a Mr. O’Connor. Later O’Connor willed the land to a religious order and it became the House of Providence Farm. In 1907 the land was bought by a syndicate that built the Scarboro Beach Amusement Park, which lasted until 1926. Later it was developed into the Price Brothers housing complex, with outstanding four-plexes, many still relatively unchanged.
The present ravine
Glen Stewart Ravine to me and many other Beachers is like an oasis in the desert. When one starts to walk south through the nature trail it’s like another world. You can hear birds chirping, the sound of the small babbling brook, but you can’t hear the noisy traffic of the city. In the spring you can see migrating birds heading south – a bird-watcher’s paradise. Besides the birds and animals one can see a variety of trees.
This idyllic setting was a utopia for people like the late, great naturalist Fred Bodsworth, who told me about this great escape from the city.
It is best that you come here yourself to hear, smell, and see the wonders of this great nature trail. When walking through this green maze you can go back in time hundreds of years to when the native people travelled these areas. Coming down to Glen Manor you can see the vestiges of the ponds that used to be there long ago. Going under the bridge and south to the waterfall in Ivan Forrest Gardens, one can thank the Lord (and the parks department) for keeping this a great site for all.