The History of Guildwood Village: The Concept

By Bob Taylor-Vaisey

The evolution of Guildwood Village: the concept

Guildwood Village is a welcoming enclave.  That was the original plan.  Today’s community sits on the first level of Lake Iroquis and until the early 1900’s was farmland.  A majority of today’s village was owned by four families:  the Humphries, The Eades, the Galloways and the McCains.

The 1920’s brought the proposed development of a summer resort colony, cottages that became increasingly derelict[1].  The idea fizzled out and Spencer and Rosa Clark began a methodical series of acqusitions to “assemble the land from the highway to the lake and from Scarborough Golf Club Road on the west to Galloway Road on the east.” [2]  It was 500 acres and they secured all of them by 1955.

The seed for Guildwood Village was sewn in 1935 in the brochure for Guildwoods School[3]. “…  the gradual building of a garden village, all bring the school into close relationship with many practical activities, clarifying and co-ordinating the world of learning and the world of actual life.”

The garden village concept (planned communities) dates back to seminal works by Ebenezer Howard  in 1902, B. Seebohm Rowntree in 1908 and Sir Raymond Unwin in 1909.  The theme was simple.  Planned communities, like Welwyn in the U.K., were more sustainable and attractive than uncontrolled growth and there was a pronounced need to replace slums in England with more affordable and attractive housing.

Spencer Clark and his team visited several garden villages in the UK.  The main theme of these communities was cul-de-sacs, curvi-linear streets[4] to discourage fast traffic, an elongated park system [5] and lots of trees  It was a version of a gated community; hence, the Stanley Barracks gates at the top of the hill.  Clark was also a member of the Urban Planning Institute (Chicago) whose main driving force, Clyde Nichols, espoused the same concepts.  Both Roundtree and Unwin visited the Clarks as the idea started to take shape.

The Clarks had a compelling motivation to build a planned community.  Significant increases in property taxes for an area of 500 acres required a new source of income.  They saw the potential rapid rate of expansion of Toronto eastward and the risk of amalgamation after the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto was created. So, their focus:  … the planning of these lands was not simply another subdivision but involved a whole community[6].  

And, to support that vision, Sir Raymond Unwin, the UK’s leading urban planner, wrote Spencer Clark On October 17, 1936, “I believe you have a site capable of being developed into a genuine garden city, housing a very complete community as a satellite to the larger City of Toronto.  If the scheme could be realized, you would be setting a valuable example of the methods which town planners are agreed afford the best prospects for the orderly development of large towns”.[7]

And so it began.  Next to come – changing plans, negotiations, sequence of development and the team that made it happen.


[1] Lidgold, Carole M., The History of the Guild Inn, Brookridge Publishing House, 2006., p.55

[2] UofW. SCA. GA182. BHC ection. Guildwood Village, Box 3, Planning and Construction.  Guildwood Village, nd. p.4

[3] Lidgold, op. cit., pp 195-198

[4] Guildwood Village, nd.p.8  UofW. SCA. GA182. BHC, Guildwood Village, Box 3, Planning and Construction

[5] “Initially the developers of Guildwood Village planned an elongated park system running the entire development … .”Guildwood Village, nd.p.9  UofW. SCA. GA182. BHC, Guildwood Village, Box 3, Planning and Construction

[6] Guildwood Village, nd.p.5  UofW. SCA. GA182. BHC, Guildwood Village, Box 3, Planning and Construction. UofW. SCA. GA182. BHC.  Correspondence with Unwin

This article was originally published in News & Views June 5, 2018