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The History of Guildwood Village: Model Homes, Construction & Marketing

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

By Bob Taylor-Vaisey

This fourth installment in a series of columns about the evolution of Guildwood Village explores the Avenue of Homes: 12 unique, furnished, architect-designed homes. The grand opening of sales in August 1957 attracted 25,000 visitors on the first weekend alone and was dubbed “the largest display of its kind ever presented in Canada.” [1]

A merchandising campaign … the boldest of its kind yet launched in Canada [2]

The pilot: the “Avenue of Homes”[3] The brains behind construction was J.F. Harris.[4] He wrote, “I have explained to all of the builders that have approached me that we have already started our public relations programme through Cockfield Brown and Company. I also explained the co-operative information office, together with the sales control procedure we are developing.”[5] There were 11 builders. See Figure 1 for details.

Figure 1

The “Avenue” from the air In Figure 2, we see the main parking lot, where St Ursula sits today. Figure 3 shows the main entrance, just at the east end of the St Ursula property. Figure 4 looks north towards the forest and apple orchard where Nuffield and Toynbee Trail are today.

Fig 2: Looking West

Fig 3: Looking East

Fig 4: Looking North

How it started See Figure 5. An excavator, a bottle of champagne, and Hon W.N. Nickle, Minister of Planning and Development for the Province of Ontario.

Fig 5: The Official Start

Fig 6: Under Construction

Promotion, publicity and sales Each of the 12 model homes had a customized brochure.[6] Figure 7 is a collage of the 11 surviving brochures. Figures 8 and 9 show the details. All of the furniture and furnishings were described in detail. Over 250 Canadian firms provided support for the largest cooperative project ever undertaken in Canada.

Figure 7: Brochures for 11 Model Homes

Figures 7 and 8: Brochure Details

Signage was a key component of the marketing plan. Figure 10 is a great example of the creative design used. Figure 11 and 12 show two sales offices. The campaign was extensive. Articles and advertisements appeared in Forward, The Lord Simcoe Magazine, The Vagabond, Scarborough Advertiser, Royal Yorker, National Builder, Argo Dundas News, Key to Toronto,[7] a six-page supplement in the Globe and Mail, the Canadian Home Journal, and Furniture and Furnishings.

Fig 10: Signage

Fig 11: Sales office for R. A. Wells

Fig 12: Sales office

The open house and opening ceremonies The open house extended for weeks and attracted 200,000 visitors. Figure 13 shows the parking areas. Figure 14 is the official opening with Mrs. Leslie M. Frost, wife of the Premier of Ontario, Spencer Clark and Mrs. Jean Newman, Senior Controller of the City of Toronto. Figure 15 is an example of the crowds. Watch the GVCA website for street names by quadrant, over 40 photographs of the Avenue of Homes and images of the subsequent set of mode homes. Up next: not the apartments that are, but those that never came to be: Livingston Park, Marine Drive and Leverhume.

Fig 13: The Parking Lot

Fig 14: The Opening

Fig 15: The Opening Weekend

Up next: not the apartments that are, but those that never came to be: Livingston Park, Marine Drive and Leverhume.

[1] Heritage Ontario [2]The Financial Post, February 16, 1957 [3]Most of the images are all from UofW. SCA. GA182. Guildwood Village. Box 3. Planning and construction [4]Previously involved in Don Mills Developments [5]U of W. SCA. GA182. Guildwood Village. Box 3. Series 2, Planning and Construction, file “memos from Harris, interoffice memo, January 4th, 1956 [6]There were 15 model homes built with 12 staged (National Builder, January 1958, pp. 6-7 (“Planned Promotion Pays Off”) [7]UofW. SCA, GA182. Guildwood Village. Box 17a. Publications

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