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The Guild Inn – A treasure along the Scarborough Bluffs

July 2020

The Guild Inn, also known simply as The Guild, is a historic former hotel along the Scarborough Bluffs, that now operates as a banquet and special events facility.

Originally known as Brickford Manor, this white stucco, Arts and Crafts-style manor house, was built in 1914 by Colonel Harold on his 40 acres property. The house, a white stucco, 33-room, “arts and crafts” style manor house passed through several owners from 1921 until 1927, when it sat vacant until 1932, when it was purchased by Rosa Breithaupt Hewetson.

Along with her husband Spencer Clark, Hewetson transformed the house into “The Guild of all Arts” artists’ colony and inn.

During World War II and a few years afterwards, Bickford Manor served as a military hospital.

A six-story, 100-room, hotel tower was built in 1965, along with a restaurant, connected to Bickford Manor by an indoor breezeway.

By 1978, the property surrounding the Inn was transformed into a park after the Guild Inn and its property was jointly bought by the governments of Metropolitan Toronto and Ontario from Rosa and Spencer Clark in 1978. The Clarks stayed on as managers of the Inn for the next five years. But following the couple’s deaths.

Unfortunately, following the death of Rosa and Spencer Clark, various hotel management groups came and went, and the buildings eventually fell into disrepair.

By the 1990s, the future of the aging and dilapidated Inn was in doubt, and several proposals for the redevelopment of the property were put forth, but nothing came to fruition.

The end of the Guild Inn came in 2001, when it and restaurant closed.

By 2009, yet another re-development proposal came about in the form of a cultural and heritage institute to be run by Centennial College. As part of the proposal, the six-story hotel tower and the connecting breezeway were demolished, beginning in April 2009.

The hotel tower had to be demolished floor by floor since the historically designated Bickford Manor was to be restored and included in the re-development. The demolition crew went to extra lengths so as to not unnecessarily damage the manor.

Like many re-development proposals, this $30-million never came to fruition either.

After sitting abandoned and deteriorating for several years, the City of Toronto set about restoring the century-old manor into a new wedding, special event, and conference facility, run by Dynamic Hospitality & Entertainment Group.

Two new wings were built on either side of Bickford Manor, one for a banquet hall, and the other for meeting rooms.

The restored Guild Inn Estate opened in 2017.

The estate, known as Guild Park and Gardens, is now owned by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, with the park managed by Toronto Parks, an is a very popular tourist attraction.

The Guild Park and Gardens

By the second half of the 20th Century, the estate property had essentially transformed into a repository for pieces of Toronto’s past.

By the late 1950s, many older buildings were being demolished in downtown Toronto; historic buildings constructed of stone, with various carvings throughout the façade; detailed columns and archways; or other intricately designed features. While many of these buildings couldn’t be saved from the forces of re-development and progress, by the 1960s, selected features from various buildings that had been saved, were relocated to the Guild Inn property, effectively creating an outdoor architectural museum of over 60 building remains mounted throughout the Guild Park and Gardens.

Spencer and Rosa Clark commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Guild Inn by building an open-air theatre using eight marble columns, plus Corinthian capitals and arches, saved from the former Bank of Toronto building, which stood at Bay and King Streets from 1912 to 1966, along with a concrete stage and steps. Originally an amphitheatre was to be built in front of the stage, but it never cam to fruition. Instead the audience sits with either on the grass or personal lawn chairs.

Numerous musical productions and plays have been performed on the stage, including the Guild Festival Theatre’s annual productions of classic stage plays.

The Guild Park and Gardens is a very popular spot for photoshoots, everything from weddings, to special portraits, to amateur photographers capturing the beauty of the estate property.

Sources: https://guildinnestate.com, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guild_Park_and_Gardens, https://www.toronto.com/news-story/37513-demolition-of-guild-inn-s-hotel-structure-set-to-begin, https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/09/07/guild-inn-restoration-set-to-begin-soon.html

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/the-guild-inn-a-treasure-along-the-scarborough-bluffs/

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