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Wandering about Wychwood

As part of its ongoing series of neighbourhood walks, Freeman Real Estate Ltd. is hosting a historic tour of Wychwood Park on Sunday, September 20th at 1 p.m (rain date September 27th 1 pm).


Formerly known as the gated community of Bracondale Hill, Wychwood Park is a small enclave that was set up around the turn of the last century as an artists’ colony thanks to Marmaduke Matthews, an artist and aficionado of the Arts and Crafts movement. Matthews would gain prominence as an artist after painting traditional Canadian scenes that appeared in the illustrated ad work of Canadian Pacific Railway.

Matthews’ friend Alexander Jardin owned a huge block of land in the Wychwood area, which is north of Davenport Road and just west of Bathurst. Jardin sold a good chunk of that land to artists. The land was still very rural back then, when Matthews planned his pastoral community and named it after Wychwood in his native Oxfordshire.

“The area is a little enclave that is almost not part of the city,” says Marilyn Spearin, a local history buff and former school teacher who is leading the tour.

She is referring to the fact that although Wychwood was amalgamated into the city of Toronto in 1909, it remains a private community. The streets and amenities are paid for by the local residents, and the community is managed by an executive council. As one of Toronto’s more exclusive neighbourhoods, house prices easily top a million dollars.

During its start, the land was divided into irregularly shaped lots situated around a central park, pond and tennis courts designed by Toronto architect Arthur Edwin Whatmough.  Many of the homes in Wychwood were designed by Whatmough in the Arts and Crafts style.

Several well-known people have lived there, including Marshall McLuhan and Anatol Rapoport. In 1985 the area became the first residential zone in Ontario to be granted heritage status. A handful of other homes were designed by Eden Smith, a well-known architect who lived in the neighbourhood.

Wychwood is a leafy area home to ravines, old-growth trees and Taddle Creek, a six-kilometre stream that has been largely buried throughout most of the city except in a few spots including Wychwood where it is visible above ground.

The tour On September 20th will also encompass a visit to the nearby Tollkeeper’s Cottage, an historic tollgate structure discovered in the early ‘90s that now houses a museum and a gift shop. Located at Davenport and Bathurst, the cottage is also now home to a blue canoe thanks to the David Suzuki Foundation. As part of the foundation’s homegrown national parks project, the canoe is designed and planted with plants that encourage bees and butterflies. For more info visit www.tollkeeperscottage.ca.

The tour is expected to take one-and-a-half to two hours in total. Participants are asked to meet outside of the Tollkeeper’s Cottage just before 1 p.m.

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