Our past defines Old Mill Toronto.
Our future is what keeps us committed to providing the best for our guests, employees and the community.
With each community practicing self isolation and social distancing during these unprecedented times, there are countless examples of creativity, resilience, helping those in need, and virtual connections that have brought neighbourhoods closer together.
As a founding establishment in the community, we feel it is a great time to reflect back on the memories created at Old Mill Toronto and are reaching out to you to send us your memories, stories and pictures. Old Mill Toronto has been a landmark and part of the Toronto/Etobicoke community for the past 106 years. We have been grateful to be associated with many celebrations, milestones and special occasions which are entwined with family & personal memories. Corporations count on Old Mill Toronto to provide memorable meetings and social functions/events. Our valued and loyal past and present employees also have fond memories and great stories of their time at Old Mill Toronto.
Continue to be part of the Old Mill history by sharing your memories, stories and pictures. We will compile all that is collected to create a special place online to view the contributions. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and include your name, the year the story or picture took place and your fondest memory. We hope to find space on site to display all that is collected and create an Old Mill Toronto museum/memory room. Who knows, we may even create a book filled with the stories and photos from our guests throughout the years. (If you wish to mail your memories/photos, please do so to Old Mill Toronto -Hospitality, Marketing Department, 21 Old Mill Road, Toronto, Ontario, M8X 1G5.
Read More about why we decided to create this book of memories. See below.
OUR EARLY HISTORY:
Our early Canadian history/heritage starts with the first settlers in the Humber Valley. Etienne Brule became the first recorded explorer to see the Humber and view Lake Ontario. Toronto’s first industrial building was a government-owned sawmill built in 1793 by the Queen’s Rangers on the order of Lieutenant-
Governor John Graves Simcoe to mill lumber for the proposed town of York. In 1803 the King’s Mill fell victim to fire and in 1834 Thomas Fisher of Leeds, England built a mill on this site and soon after sold it to William Gamble, the first Reeve of Etobicoke. In 1837 Gamble decided to build a new and larger mill and called in a young man named William Tyrrell to handle the construction. A fire in 1849 destroyed this mill and Tyrrell was again called upon to build a new and larger mill. Stone for the new mill came from the Humber Valley as did the lumber and the beams which were hand hewn on the site. Lime was brought from Kingston to the mouth of the Humber then was transported by barge to the site. In 1881 a small fire was started in the upper part of the new mill to prevent apples, which were stored there, from freezing. The small fire became an inferno, gutting the mill and leaving only heavy stone walls.
Home Smith, a local entrepreneur and developer began to develop the Kingsway Area. He opened The Old Mill Tea Garden on the west bank of the Humber River on August 4, 1914, the first day of World War 1.
In 1915, The Old Mill at the Humber was a popular resort for pedestrians, canoeists and motorists all finding it a delightful spot for afternoon tea. On the river’s west branch, a boathouse and canoe livery was built at the Tea Garden. Afternoon Tea at Old Mill Toronto continues to this day and is still very popular for groups and individuals.
Dancing to recorded music began at The Old Mill at the end of the First World War. In
1921, the first “live” music for dancing was introduced by violinist Cec Ryder with Nelson Hatch on piano in what is now the Print Room. When the new dance floor was added in 1929, Nelson Hatch opened with a nine-piece orchestra. Live music and entertainment are still a large part of Old Mill Toronto with our fabulous ‘Dining and Dancing’ in the original dining room.
In the 30’s & 40’s the Old Mill became a favourite for family gatherings. Roast Beef dinners and Sunday Brunch were known for miles around.
On Saturday, October 16, 1954, “A great storm hits. 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 altogether. The Old Mill Bridge and the Old Mill itself were spared from Hurricane Hazel. Only the road adjoining the Old Mill Bridge sustained damage.
With the continued popularity of The Old Mill, in 1956 it expanded with the addition of the Humber banquet room. This new addition designed for private parties, was elegantly decorated with wood paneling and lead pane windows overlooking the picturesque Humber Valley.
In 1975 there was more expansion. The third floor was added which included the Chapel and our most popular event room especially for weddings, the stunning Guildhall with its large private patio. Six additional function rooms completed the third floor. The Catering office which was located at the time on the 1st floor was relocated to its existing home on the 3rd floor. The Flower and Gift Shop took up residence on the 1st floor.
OUR RECENT HISTORY & MEMORIES:
Do you remember where you were on Thursday August 14, 2003 at approximately 4:20 PM when the power went out on the entire eastern seaboard? A 4 o’clock wedding was underway in our 16th century Chapel. The ceremony and wedding continued and Old Mill staff took quick action to prepare a selection of cold salads and sandwiches for the wedding party and guests to enjoy. As the power outage continued for 2 1/2 days, we still provided lasting memories for wedding couples to share with family and friends.
In July 2013 Toronto experienced substantial heavy rains in a short period of time. The Kipling Power Station flooded with enough water to fill 5 swimming pools. The power grid shut down and needed to be repaired leaving the Old Mill and many other businesses in the area with no hydro for almost 3 days.
The sudden outage meant the Old Mill had to quickly adapt once again. Smaller sized meetings were able to continue. (Albeit without AV). Hot buffets were substituted with cold buffets. Old Mill guests were still provided hot coffee by Old Mill staff that lived in the neighbourhood and had power. The coffee was brewed in their homes much to their appreciation of our guests.
Few will forget the Ice Storm of December 22, 2013 which decimated the well forested Old Mill neighbourhood. Grand old trees buckled under the weight of the ice. Live electric wires came down plunging the area and many parts of the city into darkness. Many of our neighbours would reluctantly leave their homes unable to stay due to the cold and darkness.
Remarkably, Old Mill Toronto was spared from the long power outage caused by the ice storm. For those whose power was out for many days, Old Mill Toronto became a much needed place to stay and get a hot meal. Most importantly, it was amazing to see many families moved their Christmas celebrations from their homes to ours.
DID YOU KNOW……?
- Old Mill hosted a wild mushroom and game promotion featuring a Vietnamese potbellied pig Betsy and a white 1936 Rolls-Royce with Robin Leach of the ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’;
- The popular TV show Flashpoint took over the Dining Room and Old Mill Road to film an episode;
- Anne Murray filmed her final Christmas special in July 1995 featuring the Barenaked Ladies. The property was made to look like a winter wonderland. People driving by did a double take. The grand piano used was hoisted into the Old Mill ruins by a crane;
- Robin Williams filmed a scene in the Print Room for the movie, Good Will Hunting. The particular scene was shown at the Oscars that year;
- Old Mill hosted 20 years of Robbie Burns celebrations to sellout crowds;
- Matt Dillon and Nicole Kidman filmed ‘To Die For’. Matt enjoy lunch from our Dining Room buffet and Nicole would stay in her trailer in the parking lot with her private Chef
- Janet Leigh enjoyed dinner in the Dining Room during the Toronto Film Festival
- Eric Braeden ‘Victor Newman’ from The Young and Restless had dinner with our General Manager when in Toronto as part of a celebrity tennis tournament
- Joan Rivers enjoyed Afternoon Tea with us
- Old Mill Chapel and Brule Room were featured in a Lotto 649 commercial
- The Brule rooms were part of an episode of ‘Say Yes to the Dress Canada’
- Old Mill Toronto 90th & 100th year celebrations
- CHFI’s Mike Cooper’s hosting live broadcasts of ‘Saturday Night Oldies’ from the Dining Room until he retired in 2016
- In 2019, Cate Blanchett and Sarah Paulson filmed an episode of Mrs. America
- In 2020, a season 3 episode of American Gods was filmed
- Hallmark movies filming in different areas of Old Mill Toronto
Our employees play a large part of the success of Old Mill Toronto and provide exceptional customer service. Many have worked here for over 30 years. It is such a wonderful group of people that are like family. We have had many bonding experiences together over the years:
Picking up garbage along the Humber River each year for Earth Day; Thanksgiving food drive and bake sale with donations given to the Jane Street Fire Hall; Tree of Warmth at Christmas with hats and mittens donated to Women’s Habitat; Preparing Christmas Dinner for our local Police Station to name a few.
Old Mill Toronto continues, as its founder intended, to offer the people of Toronto and their guests, a unique atmosphere. Although The Old Mill has changed in scope and size, it still remains a haven of peace and tranquility and continues to flourish in the tradition of its past to become a well-known landmark to the ever-sprawling city of Toronto and the Etobicoke community.
On March 17th, 2020, following the direction of the Provincial Emergency Measures Act, Old Mill Toronto reluctantly closed its doors temporarily due to Covid-19. We stand together with Toronto, Ontario, Canada and the rest of the world to do our part as we struggle through these trying times felt by all.
Someone once said “it is not the place that binds us, it is the people.” Old Mill Toronto would not be the landmark it is today without our loyal patrons and employees from over the past years. We have had the honour and privilege to be part of your events…..weddings, anniversaries, brunches, dinners, entertainment with dining and dancing and enjoying our beautiful patio. Staycations, spa retreats; girlfriend weekends and romantic getaways.
Corporate functions return year after year for their meetings, retreats, retirements, award dinners, charity events and festive functions.
You have allowed us to be part of your family holidays and traditions by creating memories at Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving and countless other celebrations.
We appreciate your contribution as we look to the future and welcoming you back with a smile very soon. We hope to build even more memories and stories together.
From your Old Mill Toronto team,