What was once an artist colony on the edge of Scarborough is now a recreational park with run-down, vacant buildings.
Centennial College is about to sign a lease to revitalize the Guild Inn and restore it to its former glory. The city also plans to put in $4.2 million over the next three years for projects around the inn, according to Ward 43 councillor Paul Ainslie,
Centennial College plans to use the property as an addition to a new hospitality and tourism program. It has been reported it will build a hotel and open a restaurant on the site.
The Guild Inn was built in 1914 for Col. Harold C. Bickford, a retired American soldier. In 1932, it was turned into an artists’ colony by arts supporters Rosa and Spencer Clark.
Over the years, the inn has changed roles. During WWII, it became a naval base and a hospital for soldiers.
The inn has hosted weddings and other social events. It has also been a hotel with a restaurant.
The buildings are closed to the public and the park is used for recreational hobbies.
David and Jane Wells come down to the park about once a month. They were at the park on Sunday with their children for recreational geocaching— modern-day treasure hunting using a GPS.
“We’ve found some other geocaches here before, but we can’t seem to find the one we’re looking for today,” Wells said. “We live about a kilometre away so it’s a great place to come with the kids and just get some fresh air.”
Jane said she would like to see the Bickford building brought back to life again, as well as some more garbage cans added around the park.
“I think the buildings need to be restored because they’re falling apart so I think they really need to preserve the architecture to make sure it doesn’t get completely destroyed, “she said.
David recalls dining at the inn.
“I’d like to see them open up a café or restaurant or something — they used to have a pretty good restaurant here,” he said. “It was great, especially in the summer.”
Carole M. Lidgold, the author of the book The History of the Guild Inn, agrees with him.
“I want to see a bit of a restaurant back there, she said. “They’re talking about bringing back some of the artisans and they’re going to add on to that space and they’re going to have a bit of a thought café sort of thing and they want some glasswork and sculptures. I think that would be a wonderful change to the guild.”
She would also like to see some of the artists back in the guild.
“I think if they bring back the artisans, then it will be sort of keeping up with what the Clarks started in 1932 because it started as an artists’ colony. It was called the Guild of All Arts.”
There is no shortage of artists in the area. Peter Yung, a local photographer, frequently visits the guild for its scenic views and beautiful architecture.
“The sunset there [down at the bluffs] and everything, it’s really nice,” he said.
Families and artists are not the only ones who have made good use of the gorgeous landscapes. Looking closely at the marks in the snow, one can see dog paw prints, birdseed and cross country ski tracks.
“It’s such a unique part of Toronto, it’s kind of hidden away,” Yung said.