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History of the Guild Inn

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

About 1795 John Graves Simcoe, First Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada commissioned Augustus Jones to survey Scarborough Township, plotting it’s concession roads and township lots. (Some documents state that Jones built the log cabin located at The Guild for his survey crew, however, Jones and his crew lived in tents during their surveys, and it has been proven he wa

1799 – 1805 John Graves Simcoe made the Crown Grant of land to William Osterhout who had chosen the lot where the cabin now stands. (Although the cabin sometimes is referred to as the Osterhout Cabin, Osterhout has been traced to Niagara during this period, and also proven not be the builder of the cabin)

1805 – 1909 Throughout the next hundred years the land was successively owned or occupied by: Alexander Macdonell, Member Upper Canada Executive Council, Sheriff Home District 1792-1805, Speaker Legislative Assembly 1804, (from 1805-1834) Honourable Duncan Cameron, Provincial Secretary, Registrar of Upper Canada 1817-1838, (during Oct. & Nov. 1834) John Ewart, Crown Commissioner, (from 1834-1845) James Humphrys, one of Scarborough’s earliest settlers (from 1845-1909)

Likely around this time the log cabin, that remains standing on the Guildwood grounds and is believed to be the oldest building in Scarborough and one of the oldest in Ontario, is believed to have been built.

Occupants of the cabin:

George Dickson-Kenwin, Shakespearean Actor, (1923) Dr. Donald M. Solandt, father of Dr. O.M. Solandt. former Chancellor University of Toronto, (1932) Dr. Lorne Pierce, Editor, Ryerson Press, (early 1930s) Lucy Swanton Doyle, Journalist (from 1951-1968) John Byers, Sculptor, (from 1968-1970) Elizabeth Williamson, Sculptor, (from 1970-1995)

1914 The original building was known as ‘Ranelagh Park’ when it was built in 1914 by Colonel Harold Child Bickford (1876-1956) as his country home. The 33-bedroom pseudo-Georgian villa is now the core of the Guild Inn.

1921 Colonel Bickford moved to Buffalo and sold ‘Ranelagh Park’ to the Foreign Missionary Society of the Roman Catholic Church as the China Mission College.

1926 The property was purchased by Richard V. Look, a gentleman from Kentucky, who was President of several companies. A year later, his offices were moved to Montreal and the property remained vacant for five years.

1932 The building and 40 acres of property were purchased in 1932 by Rosa Breithaupt Hewetson, heiress to the Hewetson Shoes Company, shortly before her marriage to Herbert Spencer Cl

On the property adjoining their house, they established ‘The Guild of All Arts’ which sought to re-establish traditional handcrafts in the style of William Morris. During this period, cottages and workshops were built for staff and their families; the existing log cabin was modernized and pressed into service; several of these staff cottages later became homes for The Guild’s resident artists.

The Clarks provided studio space and some accommodation for artists who might otherwise had no other source of income. At the same time, the Clarks hoped that the artists would remain inspired by the beautiful setting to continue to use their creative talents and, in the process, to earn a living.

Most of the artists’ crafts were practised in what had been the garage and stables

of General Bickford’s estate; the building is now known as ‘The Studio.’ (The area between the Studio and The Inn were the General’s polo grounds.) Artists experimented with wood, leather, ceramic, weaving, batik, raffia, wrought iron,copper and pewter under the guidance of experienced teachers.

The setting and the artist’s talents made the Clarks dream come true – visitors came in increasing numbers. The owners added dining facilities and guest rooms (the first major expansion of this type was in the early 1940s), and the Guild earned a reputation as a country inn located within a world of talented artists.

The Clarks purchased surrounding farms in order to protect the setting and to allow for the expanding recreational needs of the country inn. Eventually, the Guild’s lands amounted to 500 acres, and stretched from Lake Ontario to the Kingston Road, and from Livingston Road to Galloway Road.

1933 The Clarks purchased Corycliff, a splendid house on five acres of property near the Bluffs, from the artist Rody Kenny Courtice, who painted on many trips with the Group of Seven.

1934 The house was first renovated with the addition of kitchen facilities. The kitchen was upgraded three times in 1947-48, 1955 and in 1958-63.

1937 The lobby and front meeting rooms were added to the building. The pottery kiln was built by Mr. Eardley of Staffordshire, England. Most of The Guild’s original pottery pieces were fired here.

1940 The Sculpture Studio was built by Aage Madsen, a Danish wood sculptor. Over the years it has been home to a number of artists and sculptors including: Thomas Bowie during his first term as Director of Sculpture at the Ontario College of Art. (from 1953-1960) Frances Gage did the bas-relief of A.Y. Jackson in this studio (1967) Siggy Puchta worked here several summers. (1969-1973, 1979) Dorsey James did the carvings of Norse Mythology on the face of the building in 1979. (from 1979-1990)

1941-1942 The east side of the house was extended to provide guest rooms.

1942 The federal government requisitioned the property and converted it into a training and residential centre for the Womens’ Royal Naval Service (Wrens). It was known as ‘HMCS Bytown II’.

1945 At the end of the war, the property was requisitioned as a specialized military hospital specializing in the treatment of personnel suffering from nervous disorders and was known as ‘Scarborough Hall’.

1947 The property was returned to the Clarks and they re-established the Guild of All Arts.

1953 With the creation of Metropolitan Toronto, property taxes rose at an alarming rate, and the Clarks sold 400 acres of their land for development. Spencer Clark spend a great deal of time consulting and working with developers, carefully watching the creation of the community they would call Guildwood Village.The Clark’s retained 90 acres around the Guild, on which they began to gather pieces of architecture from Toronto’s historic buildings which were being destroyed to make room for development of new skyscrapers.

Historic Architecture at The Guild: All around the house, Spencer Clark laid out his collection of columns, capitals, reliefs, carvings and facade elements taken from banks, churches and office buildings which were being demolished in downtown Toronto as the post-war building boom fashion dictated glass-covered minimalist skyscrapers rather than neo-classical temples.

1965 The 6 storey, 100 room east wing was added to The Guild Inn to accommodate the increasing number of visitors who came to see the craftsmen at work and the beauty of the property.

1968 The final renovation was added to the building with the addition of the heritage lounge.

1978 The Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, acting for Metropolitan Toronto and the Provincial Government, purchased The Guild and its surrounding lands.

1993 Ownership was transferred to the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto and today the grounds are controlled by Toronto Parks and Culture. As a city park, The Guild is open to all during daylight hours, seven days per week. It hosts many tours and special events, including a well-attended annual art show. The walks and trails are popular with joggers, dog-walkers, birds and birdwatchers haunt the woodlands, and the rose garden with its fresh lake breeze provides a happy escape from the bustle and noise of the modern city of Toronto around it.


Fire destroys the studio building resulting in over $200,000 in damage.


Dynamic Hospitality and Entertainment Group Inc. announces plans for the restoration and renovation of the historic Guild Inn


The Guild Inn reopens as “The Guild Inn Estates”

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