By Tim Lambrinos
The Emery Village Voice is reprinting an earlier article on the Rivermede Cottage. We hope to contextualize the recent ongoing controversy, heritage designation, and property sale for development.
Emery Village developed exclusively as a farming community in the 1800s, and the small village quickly established a centre at Finch and Weston Road. Yet by the mid-1920s, a parcel of the Griffith farm on the west side of Sheppard and Weston caught the eye of an illustrious Toronto philanthropist, Percy Gardiner, and his wife, Gertrude. Gardiner initially made his money in the brass manufacturing industry and, by the mid-1920s to the 1930s, was a principal director in significant brokerage firms and The Toronto Stock Exchange. Gardiner was renowned for being a generous man who was acknowledged to anonymously support any charity that asked for his help.
In 1928, Percy and Gertrude purchased 57 acres of land from the Griffith family to build an extravagant summer cottage complete with tennis courts and a swimming pool to organize lavish summertime parties and charitable benefits for Toronto’s downtown elite.
The cottage, known as Rivermede, had a luxurious $75,000 swimming pool surrounded by colourful gardens in the rear of the building on the hilltop. The cottage was colossal but quite a distance from downtown and deep into the countryside, so Gardiner made a map to his cottage, which included a hand-drawn diagram of his summer home, complete with an illustration of how the main gates actually looked.
In the early 1940s, Jethro Crang of the Wilson and Jane area purchased the Gardiner cottage at Weston and Sheppard and later quarried a sizable area of gravel used to support the building of Hwy 401 in the early 1950s. The quarry later filled with nearby creek water from today’s Florida Crescent and Coral Gables to produce what we presently have - Crang’s Pond.
In 1961, the cottage and the entire 57 acres were purchased by the Basilian Fathers, who quickly built their own Catholic High School beside St. Basil’s College.
In 1998, the relocation of the high school to the former Southam-Murray Printing Plant site on Starview Lane created an opportunity for our local Councillor Mammoliti to negotiate using the original school to be leased by the city from the Basilian Fathers as a community centre. At that time, a City of Toronto Parks and Recreation report and follow-up City Council approval identified the immediate community needing a full-scale aquatic centre too.
These days, Father Melowani resides at the Gardiner summer cottage along with other Fathers.
He welcomes all to pray and attend the religious shrine in the rear of the building, created by filling in Gardiner’s former swimming pool. The shrine is visited regularly by many catholic religious groups while they pray.
The building’s name was a dedication to Carmine Stefano, who resided on Jubilee Crescent and was instrumental in assisting recreation for our community’s youth and world championships for boys’ Weston Wolves soccer leagues. The City Councillor aims to officially classify Gardiner’s original cottage to be protected and sanctioned as an official Heritage Building within our community.