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The History of The Old Mill Toronto

As we round the mark leading to our Centennial Celebrations we thought it may be appropriate to share a little history on the Old Mill Toronto, a Toronto tradition since 1914.

The Old Mill and the Valley in which it sits, have long been a part of Canadian Heritage. Centuries before the coming of the white man, the Huron Indians roamed the Humber Valley.

In 1615 Samuel Champlain sent a young guide to scout the route southward from the Lake Simcoe region . So it was that Etienne Brule became the first recorded explorer to see the Humber and view Lake Ontario. Brule lived among the Huron Indians, learning their language and customs, becoming an important mediator between the Huron Indians and the French settlers. Brule travelled the Humber, part of a long established trading route known as “Toronto Carrying Place”. Ornaments, weapons and furs were popular trading commodities.   

During the 1600′s the Humber River was known as St. Johns Creek, but was renamed by John Graves Simcoe, the first Governor of Upper Canada, after two rivers in his homeland. In 1793 Simcoe ordered the Queens Rangers to build a saw mill, which he named the Kings Mill.  This was the first industrial site of what is known today as the City of Toronto. 

The days of trading along the Humber Valley had transformed the Humber River into a vibrant industry of Mills throughout the Valley. By 1834 many mills were in operation along the banks of the Humber River which became the hub of both business and social activities of the day.

The Kings Mill was leased and later bought by Thomas Fisher. The Mill was poorly constructed so Thomas Fisher replaced the original Lumber Mill with a Grist Mill in 1834 just a few yards to the north of the original Mill. Years later William Gamble, Etobicokes first Reeve, bought the Grist Mill and shortly thereafter built a new larger Mill in the same location. This new Mill was destroyed by fire in 1849.

Not to be deterred, Gamble had a 4th Mill constructed, the stone, lumber and the heavy beams for this Mill came from the Humber Valley. The upper loft of the Mill served as a storage area for apples. During the frigid winters the loft was kept heated by a wood burning stove in order to prevent the apples from freezing. During the cold winter of 1881 the stove overheated and fire destroyed this latest Mill.  

The introduction of steam power once again transformed the Humber Valley from an industry of bustling Mills to a backdrop of leisure and recreation.

By the early 1900′s one man’s vision began the transformation of the Humber Valley forever. Robert Home Smith, financier, railway builder, real estate developer and avid sportsman purchased 3,000 acres in the Humber Valley, from Lake Ontario to what was to become Eglinton Avenue. His concept was to develop a unique modern community.

The early prosperous years of the 1900′s were shattered with the out break of World War 1 on August 4, 1914, the day the Old Mill tea garden opened. The Tea Garden acted as the community centre for the residents of this new residential development, a place where news and events of the day were exchanged. Home Smith’s motto “A LITTLE BIT OF ENGLAND FAR FROM ENGLAND” epitomized his objective to create a Toronto suburb of grace and tranquility through English tudor architecture.  

During the war years the original bridge adjacent to the Old Mill was washed out. It was a tribute to Home Smith’s political connections and financial clout that a new bridge was quickly constructed in 1916, during the lean years of World War 1. 

As the popularity of the Old Mill grew, Home Smith began the first of many additions to the Old Mill building. The print room was built in 1919 and was one of the few places of the time that offered the enjoyment of dinner and dancing in an elegant atmosphere. Thus began the live music tradition at the Old Mill.  

By the year 1928 Home Smith centralized the hub of his activities around the Old Mill with his next addition the administrative office of “Home Smith and Company” later to be known as “Home Smith Properties.” The cottage was built soon afterwards and became a popular private entertainment spot for Home Smith.

In response to the ever growing popularity of the Old Mill, design and construction of the Dance Hall and the Garret Room began soon after. Home Smith paid great attention to carry over the design features of the familiar English Tudor architecture into the Dance Hall design.

Who could have predicted that shortly thereafter on October 25th 1929 the financial world was to suddenly collapse with the crash of the stock market.

Through the depression years the Old Mill continued to attract a regular clientele. By now the reputation of the Old Mill stretched well beyond the boundaries of the Humber Valley to include all of Canada. 

Groups became a familiar site enjoying the established afternoon English Tea tradition, which began in 1914. Home Smith continued to promote the Old Mill as a focal point of his development. The Old Mill management sent personalized letters to the residents of the area outlining many of the Old Mill’s attractions including dining and dancing, facilities for private parties  and special occasions with the emphasis on the quality of food prepared by their famous European Chef.

In February 1935, Robert Home Smith died suddenly in Toronto at age 58. He never lived to see the completion of his dream.  Home Smith willed his estate to his close and long time friend Godfrey Petit who assumed the chair of President of “Home Smith and Company.”

Monday September 10, 1939 then Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie signed the proclamation of war entering Canada into the war against the German Reich. Canada’s entry into war changed daily life throughout the Country. The war effort drained the Country of it’s labour talents and other resources. 

An announcement by Home Smith and Company on October 20, 1939 stated: “Due to the uncertainty caused by the war it has been necessary for us to make certain revisions in our organization…” 

The attention to old world charm, exquisite gourmet dining and the dancing to the Big Band orchestras of the day made the old Mill a popular rendezvous for the armed forces during the war years. 

The Globe and Mail of Saturday October 16, 1954 reports, “Great storm hits after 4 inches of Rain”. Toronto residents were jolted by the fury of Hurricane Hazel.” Cars were overturned, homes and businesses destroyed and carried away by the torrential rains. Thousands of people were left homeless in the wake of her storm. Many properties along the Humber Valley sustained extensive damage or were lost all together.  The Old Mill bridge, the original Mill ruins and the Old Mill itself were spared from Hurrican Hazel. Only the road adjoining the Old Mill bridge sustained damage.

Barely two years later with the continued popularity of the Old Mill, it was expanded once again. The addition of the Humber banquet room became a new feature for private parties which was elegantly decorated with wood panelling and lead pane windows over looking the picturesque Humber Valley. Over the next two decades the Old Mill continued to function in the tradition of its past and became a well known landmark to the ever sprawling city for Toronto. 

In 1973, William Hodgson, an Etobicoke resident, reportedly saved the Old Mill from demolition to make way for a new residential development. William Hodgson closed the building for massive renovations. New sections were added, a Wedding Chapel built, rooms were restored and newly decorated.

In 1986 the Old Mill was once again under construction in response to the popularity attributed to the boom years of the 1980′s. An entire new wing of Banquet rooms was added. The Old Mill had grown to a 16 room function facility nestled on the banks of the Humber river.

 In June 1991, then new owners, George and Michael Kalmar became the latest proprietors of the Old Mill. In October 2001, the Mill “ruins” were transformed once again into a boutique Hotel that now stands proudly within the walls.

So begins the new chapter in shaping the history of the Old Mill.

 



Turbo Charge Your Life

Part 2 
The best way to get things done is to push yourself to start just a tiny bit, 5 to 10 minutes a day. One baby step. There is a rule in psychology that says “YOU DO, THEREFORE YOU ARE, THEREFORE YOU DO”. Just doing something causes you to think differently about yourself. If you start to do your goal activity like say exercising for 10 minutes a day, you will start to think, “I’m an athletic person” and thereby start to get into a habit of doing things towards your goal. 

There are lots of motivational books, tapes, training programs and courses that talk about visualizing yourself achieving your goals and doing self affirmations by telling yourself that you are a great person and you can do anything. There’s also the popular best-selling book “The Secret” which says that you just have to ask the universe for whatever you want and think positively to attract good things.

Now as enticing and magical as all this sounds, science has proved that visualizing or fantasizing about yourself achieving goals is actually bad for you.  According to extensive studies at the University of California and the University of Pennsylvania, people who fantasize about being slim or getting a dream job, or landing the mate of their dreams, are more likely NOT to reach their goals.

There are two reasons for this… since fantasy is just that, fantasy, people who daydream are often unprepared for the setbacks or difficulties that come along on the road to success. When something goes wrong, the visualizers tend to give up their dream instead of persisting. Researchers also found that indulging in fantasy and escapism was more fun than actually doing the work required to reach the goal, so visualizers tended to waste too much time dreaming instead of doing.

Now having said that there is a kind of visualization that actually works. Instead of visualizing yourself as a top tennis player, visualize yourself going through the process of training. Visualize yourself eating and sleeping properly, getting out on the tennis courts with an instructor, practicing your swings, etc. Visualizing the process of getting to your goal is actually effective.

Imagine the benefits of achieving your goals and also visualize the kinds of barriers or problems you are likely to encounter when you go after your dream. These kinds of strategic visualizations actually work very well. So, don’t daydream about sailing on a yacht with George Clooney; visualize how you’re going to get on that yacht with Clooney and some of the setbacks your likely to incur. And once you’ve figured out how to get on that yacht with Clooney, let me know.

Other techniques that have been scientifically proven to work in achieving goals are:

1.  Making a step-by-step plan. Write down everything you need to get to your goal and break it into daily steps.

2.  Telling other people about your goal tends to force people to complete their mission.

3. List the benefits of your goal.

4. Give yourself rewards along the way… everytime you make progress, give yourself a treat like a movie, bubble bath, new shoes, a cup of good tea.

5.  And lastly, recording your progress in a journal or chart.

Now as mentioned earlier, you are going to hit some snags on your way to the top. A great motivational speaker, Les Brown says:

“If you don’t develop the hunger and courage to pursue your goal, you will lose your nerve and you will give up on your dream. If you don’t have the courage to act life will take the initiative from you. Act on life or risk having life act on you.”

There are many setbacks that can occur in life. Toxic people are one of them…and it’s a biggie. It takes an enormous amount of energy to achieve your goals so you need to surround yourself with people who inspire and encourage you and who make you feel good about yourself.

Now, what do you do when life hands you things that are totally out of your control…there are three questions you can ask yourself:

1. What can I do to move forward?
2. How can I grow from this challenge?
3. What’s within my control to change? 

Scientists have also concluded that OVERTHINKING can sometimes severely impair our judgement and convince us to choose something we don’t even like.  In Western culture we’re taught that the more we think and reason, the wiser and more rational our decisions will be. But the more we cut ourselves off from our gut feelings and natural instincts, the less equipped we are to make clear, smart choices. Our ability to pick up subconscious and nonverbal clues are more effective in guiding us to make correct decisions than hard thinking.

So don’t overthink or rationalize things, or make excuses. Go with your hunches and gut feelings! I hope you all go for the life of your dreams without delay, and don’t let anything stop you.

Written by Orli Kohn



Turbo Charge Your Life

Part 1 
You know one of the biggest fears people have is public speaking…you’ve all heard that people would rather die than speak in public…or as Jerry Seinfeld says, “People would rather be in a coffin than giving the eulogy”. I always tell people who are shy or scared of making fools of themselves that no one cares about them anyway…people are far to busy thinking about themselves.  

Imagine if Margaret Mitchell had let 38 publisher rejections of “Gone With The Wind” stop her from trying to get it published. Imagine if Thomas Edison had listened to his teachers who told him that he was too stupid to learn anything. Imagine if Elvis Presley had listened to Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, who fired Elvis after just one performance telling him, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.” 

Benjamin Disraeli said: “Life is too short to be little”  

French Author, Andre Maurois Wrote: “Often we allow ourselves to be upset by small things we should despise and forget. We lose many irreplaceable hours brooding over grievances that, in a year’s time, will be forgotten by us and by everybody. No, let us devote our life to worthwhile actions and feelings. to great thoughts, real affections and enduring undertakings.”

In other words. we have limited time here, don’t waste it on the “small stuff”. Dr. Robert Eliot, Professor of Cardiology, University of Nebraska suffered a massive heart attack at the age of 44. He was forced to spend a few months looking at life from the perspective of a patient, rather than a doctor. There was no history of heart disease in his family and he had a feeling that his heart attack was the result of the constant stress in his life. Dr. Eliot, who now heads the Institute of Stress Medicine in Scottsdale, Arizona, estimated that as many as 500,000 Americans die each year from stress-related heart conditions alone. Some people tend to react to stress by overreacting in ways that may damage their heart and blood vessels by producing excess adrenaline.

As a heart patient, Dr. Eliot offered two rules to live by:

Rule #1: Don’t sweat the small stuff
Rule # 2: It’s all small stuff

Lot’s of people have ambitions and dreams in life – whether it’s to travel, to start a new career, to get out of bad relationships…whatever…and they wait till the time is right to pursue their dreams. They wait until they have enough money, till the kids are grown, till they lose weight, till they put together a business plan, etc. The problem with that is that a lot of talented people end up standing on the sidelines and not on the playing field.

The trick is to start before you are ready. I’m not saying to be reckless and not plan and think ahead, but don’t wait for the PERFECT time to pursue your dreams because you don’t know what that perfect time will be. Oftentimes when you start before you’re ready, the momentum of starting will propel you forward and you’ll be on your way.

Don’t let age deter you or be an excuse to keep on the sideline either. Many of our great success stories made their mark on society later in life. Who would believe that an overweight, ex-boxer-turned preacher could recapture the title of heavyweight champion of the world at age 45. George Foreman did. Who would believe that a 48-year-old widow who never owned a business before could start her own cosmetics company and turn it into a billion dollar enterprise. Mary Kay Ash did. Ray Kroc was a 52-year-old traveling salesman of milk-shake mixers before he launched McDonalds. Winston Churchill was defeated in every election for public office until he finally became the Prime Minister of England at age 62. Harland Sanders was 65 before he began selling his Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises from his car.

So it’s never to late to pursue your dreams or to start on a new goal. Don’t procrastinate.

Procrastination is such a huge problem for many people. We’ve all heard techniques against procrastination, like breaking down the task into small chunks, overcoming perfectionism, managing time properly, etc. There is a simple trick that psychologists say works best. It was discovered in the 1920′s. A psychology graduate named Bluma Zeigarnik was having tea in a cafe with her supervisor when they happened to come upon something interesting. When a customer asked for the check, the waiters could easily remember the food that had been ordered. However if the customer already paid the check and then asked about the order a few minutes later, the waiters had to struggle to remember anything about the order. The psychologists concluded that the act of paying for the meal brought a sense of closure so the waiters erased the order from their memories.

Based on this theory, Zeigarnik did some lab experiments where she asked people to start a task but didn’t allow them to finish it. She later asked people to describe the task and, like the waiters, she found that people who didn’t finish what they started remembered the task very clearly. It stuck in their minds.

The psychologists concluded that if you start an activity and don’t finish it, your mind experiences a kind of psychic anxiety until the task is completed. Now procrastinators put off starting activities because they are overwhelmed by the size of the job, but if they can push themselves to work on the activity for just a few minutes, they often feel an urge to see it to its completion. “Just a few minutes” rule is one of the best ways of getting a procrastinator to finish their work. Those few minutes of initial activity create an anxious brain that refuses to rest until the job is done.

Written by Orli Kohn



Thanksgiving Food Drive

Daily Bread Food Bank is a non-profit, charitable organization that is fighting to end hunger in our communities. Every year thousands of people across Toronto rely on food banks. Daily Bread serves these people through neighbourhood food banks and meal programs in over 170 member agencies.  In support of our local Fire Department station #422, the staff at the Old Mill Toronto held a food drive for the daily Bread Food Bank.

Boxes were placed in various staff areas throughout the Old Mill Toronto building with signs to support our mission.

           

Every staff member was encouraged to donate at least one can or jar as listed on the poster. All non-perishable food items were being collected on Friday October 11, 2013 and being delivered to our local Fire Department.

         

Every year, with the assistance of volunteers, Daily Bread Food Bank conducts a survey across the GTA of people who access food banks. For a fifth year in a row, food banks in the GTA saw over a million client visits. Did you know that 32% of Food Bank Clients are children and that 45% of adults go hungry once a week as they struggle with fixed incomes and rising food costs.

Daily Bread Food Bank is committed to providing food and resources for people experiencing hunger and poverty. Thank you to everyone who supported our food drive, we collected 11 boxes with over 350 non-perishable food items. 

          

It’s amazing what the power of a group can do to help a greater cause!



Tea, Men & Romance

Let’s talk about Men!

A friend of mine had a tea party a while back and the husband of one of the guests came early to pick her up. And he was invited in and promptly the ladies started serving him tea and gave him some cookies and cakes, and put a napkin on his lap. He was chatting and had a great time and then left with his wife.

If I told that same story a hundred or a hundred & fifty years ago people would be outraged. Women would have said how low have we come?… Women never serve men at any public or social function, men serve women.

In the Victorian and Edwardian eras – that is, from 1837 right through to 1910, (the end of the Edwardian era), the idea of men sort of sitting around at any party or social gathering and not constantly serving women would be unthinkable. A man’s character and social class was measured by his gallant treatment of women. Men were frequently invited to ladies afternoon teas and here’s why: Here’s a quote from an 1897 etiquette book for men.

Manners for Men – by Mrs. Humphry 1897
Gentlemen are in great request at 5 o’clock tea. Their duties are rather onerous if there are but one or two men and the usual crowd of ladies. They have to carry teacups about; hand sugar, cream and cakes or muffins, and keep up all the time a stream of small talk, as amusing as they can make it. They must rise every time a lady enters or leaves the room, opening the door for her exit if no one else is nearer to do it, and, if the hostess requests them, they must see the lady downstairs to her carriage or cab. With regards to the viands, a man helps himself, but not until he has seen that all the ladies in his vicinity have everything they could possibly want.

At any kind of social function, men always served women. For example at a dinner party, after the dinner was over, the ladies would rise to leave the dining room. The men sitting closest to the door would rise with the women, open the door for them, and remain standing at the door until all the women had left to go to the drawing room. Now, the servants would usually serve tea in the drawing room after dinner, and again, just as in afternoon teas, it would be the men’s job to take the empty tea cups from the women.

At a ball a woman would give her trusted man, like her brother or father, her gloves, fan, evening purse, and flowers to hold when she wanted to dance. Today, men would feel this was unmasculine, but Victorian and Edwardian men were honoured to be a woman’s most humble servant. 

Interestingly, the Victorian and Edwardian eras were extremely patriarchial. Women couldn’t vote until 1918 and 1920 in the U.S. A married woman could not own property. Married women were not allowed to make a will. A woman could not enter into a business contract without her husbands approval. A married woman who worked outside the home was not allowed to keep her earnings; her wages became the husband’s property. In short, a husband had the right to everything that was his wife’s, but she had no right to anything that was his.

Single women or “spinsters and old maids”, as they were called at the time, actually did have the right to own their earnings, widowed woman could also inherit property. In general, however unmarried women were looked down on, and had difficulty making ends meet unless they came from a wealthy family.

Here we have an extremely patriarchial society in which men are taught that real masculinity lies in worshipping and serving women. The truth was that Victorian and Edwardian men really did adore women, and they felt that having a patriarchial society would protect them. 

Men were so delicate and refined during the Victorian era that they would walk backwards when retreating from a room so as not to turn their backs on the ladies who remained. Men were required to bow slightly and lift their hats if they met a woman they knew on the street. Men were never allowed to push their attentions upon women unless the lady gave an invitation of some sort – through a card or mutual acquaintance.

Men always stood up when a lady entered or left the room. If a man was smoking when a woman walked by he would have to remove the cigar from his mouth. When dancing with a woman, men always wore gloves so that his sweat would not touch her hand or dress. 

Men who didn’t respect women were actually more frightened of other men…Rudeness, especially to a lady, was the kiss of death in Victorian society. A rude man would get “the big chill” from other men. He would be ostracized from social activities; from the sacred men’s clubs and other men might even refuse to do business with him.

Interestingly, in an 1891 issue of the Ladies Home Journal magazine, women were asked to predict what life would be like for women in the year 2000. They said they were happy that our sisters in the future will probably have freedom, rights and independence, however they said we also fear for our sisters of the future. Victorian women predicted that feminism and women’s independence by the year 2000 might lead to a sexual revolution. They predicted that if women were promiscuous without marriage or any promise of solid commitment, men would no longer respect them and chivalrous behaviour would be unfamiliar to us. A very interesting prediction!

Dedicated to Orli Kohn…



History of Tea

 

Part 4 of 4

Afternoon teas could be very simple events or more elaborate ones used to introduce debutants to society or to honour special guests. The more elaborate teas were often called “at homes” and could take place in the evenings.  There would be maids and footmen to help guests out of their carriages, and tons of food and drinks, including champagne as well as tea, bullion and hot chocolate. Musicians would also complete the event.

Now the only problem left to deal with was “how could a Victorian lady truly relax with her tea when she couldn’t breathe?” Victorian women often had difficulty breathing and fainted often because their waists were squeezed into a tiny 18 inches by a whalebone, wire, sometimes steel ribbed corset. Also Victorian Women could wear up to 37 pounds of clothing – up to 19 lbs suspended from the waist alone. On top of the corset problem, there was the problem of sitting down with a bustle. Bustles were made of wire mesh and springs, and they wouldn’t allow a women to sit back in their chair so they had to balance themselves on the edge. In fact in the late 1870′s bustles became so large that they were called tea tray bustles (because they were large enough to hold a tea setting).

In the 1880′s, the Dress Reform Society in England came to the rescue by introducing “tea gowns”. These very loose, flowing gowns, almost like negligees were made of chiffon, lace, velvet, satin or silk, and were very ornate – trimmed with beads, jewels, feathers, furs or ribbons. Many “tea gowns” had matching jackets. They were usually worn in the home, or if you were visiting friends in their country house. The comfortable tea gowns, however were not worn to public functions or formal teas.

When Queen Victoria’s son, King Edward the seventh, took the throne (1901 – 1910), tea gowns became even more lavish and high society went all out with teas. Evening tea parties had footmen, hot dishes, professional musicians, and ornate silver tea pots on swivel stands. The Edwardian era was a very lavish and joyful time. People emulated the extravagant ways of the king.

LOW TEA – also called afternoon tea is the most elegant of teas, served between 4 and 5 o’clock. This was the tea of wealthy aristocrats and features dainty finger sandwiches, scones with Devonshire or clotted cream and jam, and also a variety of tarts and pastries. Sometimes fresh fruit is also served. Low teas are called “low” because it was taken in the sitting or “withdrawing” room where low tables (like a coffee table) were placed near sofas. In a traditional low tea, all food must be dry to the touch as Victorians wore hats (some with veils) and gloves to these events. The gloves would be left on while eating, especially at outdoor garden teas, so food was prepared neatly so as not to get the gloves dirty.

HIGH TEA – also called a “Meat Tea” was traditionally the tea of the middle and lower classes. During the second half of the Victorian Period, known as the industrial revolution, working families would come home tired and hungry. High tea was served at 6 o’clock at the end of the workday, and is basically a large, heavy supper with several courses – meats, eggs, cheese, fish, vegetables, sandwiches and tea. Despite its name there is nothing elegant about high tea. It was the main meal of the day and is still a tradition in English, Welsh and Scottish farming regions.

 So there you have the basic history of tea… After almost 5,000 years of tea drinking, we’re still discovering new varieties, new flavours, and the wonderful health benefits of this drink.

Join us for our Musical Twilight Tea with musical guest Rosalee Peppard. Her music is steeped in the sea, as she brings the rich maritime past to life in song.