Points of Interest > Chorley Park
The site of the former Government House, home of the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, Chorley Park was constructed between 1911 and 1915 at a cost of over a million dollars. It was by all accounts a magnificent building. Modelled on the French Renaissance chateaux of the Loire Valley, the house was constructed of grey Credit Valley stone and roofed in red ceramic tile. All the main reception rooms boasted stunning views of the Don Valley. Designed by C.V. Levitt of New York, the gardens surrounding the house combined formal features at the front of the building with a more informal series of raised terraces above the slope of the site. The overall effect worked to soften the formality of the building by emphasizing the natural character of the site.
The decision to build the Government House in Rosedale was not without controversy. Critics felt the site was too secluded for a government building. When the provincial government first planned to replace the original 1870 Government House at King and Simcoe Streets, a number of sites were considered. In 1909, a design competition was held for a site at the corner of Bay and Bloor Streets (where the Manufacturers’ Life building presently stands). The increasingly commercial character of the area around Bay and Bloor, however, and its implications for construction costs, led the Province to pursue other options. In 1911 the Province selected a secluded fourteen acre site along Douglas Drive in North Rosedale. Provincial Architect F.R. Heakes prepared a design for the building based on drawings that architect John Lynn had submitted for the 1909 competition, and construction began the same year.
The expenses of maintaining the house, however, became the subject of political debate in the 1920s. Pressure intensified through the lean years of the 1930s, and in 1937 the building was closed. The building was used as a military hospital during World War II, retaining this purpose until 1956. The grounds were gradually overrun by temporary buildings, some of which were used to receive refugees when the Hungarian Revolution collapsed in 1956. Chorley Park was demolished in 1959, its grounds preserved as a park. The only trace of Government House that remains is the bridge to the forecourt. Anne Michaels documented the sadness that followed the loss of the building in her 1996 novel, Fugitive Pieces:
One of the last walks Athos and I took together was along the floodplain of the Don River, past the brick quarry and cliffs embedded with marine fossils. We intended to sit for awhile in the terraced gardens of Chorley Park, the Government House, built spectacularly on the edge of the escarpment…. We ascended the valley. The hills were scorched with sumac and sedge, cloudy with fraying thistles and milkweed…. We emerged from the scrub of the ravine into the garden and lifted our heads to emptiness. Chorley Park, built to outlast generations, was gone, as though an eraser had rubbed out its place against the sky….
Text: Jennifer Bonnell and Lost Rivers
Dendy, William. Lost Toronto. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978.
Michaels, Anne. Fugitive Pieces. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1996.
Toronto Historical Association. A Glimpse of Toronto's history: Opportunities for the Commemoration of Lost Historic Sites (Toronto: Toronto Historical Association and the Maps Project, City of Toronto Urban Development Services, 2002), MPLS #101.
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