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  • 22 Dec 2022 8:07 AM | John Mason (Administrator)

    Deciding the Future of the Restored Guild Inn

    At Historic Guild Park Site, City of Toronto Tries to Balance Serving People While Seeking Profits

    The following article will appear in the Winter 2022/23 issue of the Guildwood Village News & Views, published by the Guildwood Village Community Assn.

    by John P. Mason, President, Friends of Guild Park and Director, GVCA,

    Stepping inside the wood and glass doors of the restored Guild Inn for a meal at the refurbished restaurant, or enjoy displays of works by notable artists, or to attend a community meeting remains a dream for residents of Guildwood Village and the thousands of public visitors who come to Guild Park & Garden each month.

    At the start of 2023, the beautifully renovated and modernized facility, known as Guild Inn Estate, continues to operate entirely as rental space for private events. The community and regular visitors at the surrounding Guild Park remain shut out. Unwelcoming signs that state: “Private Property No Public Access,” are posted on the building’s white stucco walls.

    Long-time local residents know that the City of Toronto’s original plans for the old Guild Inn were much different. Based on years of public discussions with volunteers from the GVCA and the Guild Renaissance Group, City officials promised to restore the historic building – left badly dilapidated after decades of neglect – to serve the community and all Toronto residents.

    Partners for 40 Years

    The City’s concept was to turn the vacant structure into a destination with two roles. The public would enjoy dining and discussion, with a restaurant and community meeting space. Private guests would rent commercial space, for weddings, parties and special events.

    The whole project would operate through a 40-year agreement between the City of Toronto and its chosen private partner, Dynamic Hospitality and Entertainment, the only company that met the City’s selection criteria.

    The City required a partner with the financial ability to rebuild and enlarge the almost forgotten Guild Inn structure and bring it up to the City’s stringent specifications. It meant Dynamic Hospitality invested about $15 million into the project.

    Those ambitious plans were in keeping with the legacy of public hospitality founded by the first private owners of the renowned Guild Inn, Rosa and Spencer Clark. They were the remarkable art lovers and community builders who ran the site from 1932 to 1978, originally as an artists’ community called The Guild of All Arts.

    How the old “Guild” evolved into a modern facility was covered in the recent News & Views article, “The Dilemma at Guild Park: Public Destination / Private Facility” (Fall 2022 issue).

    That article opened the floodgates about people’s experiences and expectations at the two-storey, Arts and Crafts-style structure, built in 1912 in the middle of today’s Guild Park.

    Some readers described their memorable meals and enjoyable events from the Clark era. Others told about more recent experiences with Guild Inn Estate, when the dining was less than stellar, on those limited occasions when the restaurant was actually open and their reservations hadn’t got lost or cancelled without notice by the operator.

    A Petition about Promises

    These strong local reactions to the News & Views article led to creating an on-line petition to gauge the extent of public support for reopening the restored Guild Inn, with a restaurant and appropriate access for anyone coming to Guild Park.

    In November, volunteers from the not-for-profit organization, Friends of Guild Park, launched an online petition called “Fix the Broken Promises at Historic Guild Park & Gardens.” It outlined how the City of Toronto promised a decade ago to restore the former Guild Inn and welcome the public on the premises with:

    • a first-class restaurant,
    • City-provided meeting space, and
    • appropriate public facilities, such as art displays and washrooms, to serve the thousands of monthly visitors who come year-round to this popular destination.

    The petition also noted that as of late 2022, Guild Park visitors couldn’t step inside the restored Guild Inn. The restaurant wasn’t open, there was no meeting space as promised and no one was allowed in to see the City’s own collection of public art displayed throughout Guild Inn Estate.

    As a result, the facility’s private operator was able to rent all the commercial space for paid events. While none of the City’s promised benefits were provided to Toronto taxpayers and the public, the City continued to provide the operator with municipal tax exemptions, a benefit worth about $220,000 a year.

    Local & Global Support

    The petition by Friends of Guild Park asked people to support its call to action: That the City re-open the Guild Inn to the public and have City officials enforce the provisions of its original operating agreements with Dynamic Hospitality.

    People recognized that this situation was both unfair and wrong. Support for the petition was immediate, coming both locally and globally. In the first 10 days, more than 1,800 people from across Scarborough and Toronto, even 11 countries worldwide, added their names to the petition.

    Of these initial petition supporters, about 70% were from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), with:

    • 40% from Scarborough,
    • 20% from the rest of the City of Toronto, and
    • 10% from elsewhere in the GTA.

    The other 30% of supporters were from:

    • the rest of Ontario,
    • nine other provinces,
    • the U.S., and
    • international destinations

    The petition was further promoted by the local advocacy group, Scarborough Community Renewal Organization. The petition also got attention from officials at both the City of Toronto and Dynamic Hospitality.

    Before these interim petition results reached the office of local City Councillor, Paul Ainslie, staff from Toronto’s Corporate Real Estate Division had begun reviewing the terms under which Guild Inn Estate operates. This division is responsible for managing the leasing agreements with Dynamic Hospitality, and the leases for all other City properties.

    Legal Obligations

    Dynamic’s response to the petition was to state its on-site restaurant “was not supported by the community.” It added that “for insurance purposes,” Dynamic was required to install the private property signs “to limit liability.” The company also estimated that for 2022, its commercial operations at Guild Inn Estate will generate about $150,000 in rent to the City.

    According to the City’s Real Estate staff, these same agreements do require Guild Inn Estate to operate a restaurant and provide community space. Running a restaurant and providing community access are legal obligations agreed to by both the City and Dynamic when they signed the agreements almost a decade ago. The City intended Guild Inn Estate to be more than a private event space for rent. The public amenities on-site aren’t optional.

    This recent information from the Corporate Real Estate Division confirmed what local volunteers have maintained for years that:

    • a public restaurant and community meeting space are integral to Guild Inn Estate operations, and
    • the original operating agreements give the City authority to make this happen.

    But persuading City officials to act on this is proving difficult. For years, the City has allowed Guild Inn Estate to operate in ways that maximize its commercial operations, without due regard for the public’s use of this tax-subsidized facility. Examples include:

    • Converting the public restaurant into rental space
    • Setting rates for meeting space that are unaffordable for most community groups
    • Allowing Guild Inn Estate to operate as a private facility, preventing the public from entering
    • Not enforcing park permit requirements, so private guests at Guild Inn Estate can avoid paying the usual fees for photography, amplified sound and using popular park sites, such as the Greek Theatre.
    • Ignoring violations of Guild Park regulations by event guests, such as using smoke effects, operating unlicensed drones, littering, creating excessive noise, damaging park features, even threatening performers and their stage equipment on-site.

    “Temporary” Tent Issues

    Guild Inn Estate has also benefited from more recent agreements with the City, which have affected the visitor experience at Guild Park. These agreements were negotiated without public notice.

    Among the most noticeable is permitting Guild Inn Estate to install seasonal tents over the entire south patio and terrace of the premises. This three-year agreement was made in 2020 as a “temporary” arrangement to deal with Covid regulations. These tents convert outdoor space that used to be public into an additional rentable area for outdoor events.

    The tents are in place from spring to fall. During this time, the tents:

    • block wheelchair access along a newly built paved path behind the building
    • violate provincial regulations that protect heritage views at Guild Park,
    • prevent Guild Park visitors from using this area, and
    • become a popular spot for private outdoor parties with music loud enough to disturb park visitors and residents.

    Despite the lessening of Covid restrictions on private events, Guild Inn Estate is requesting to continue using these tents for seasonal events until the fall of 2024.

    Conflicting Interests

    It’s been more than five years since Guild Inn Estate opened its beautifully rebuilt and refurbished leased facility. In that time, the GVCA, other Guild Park volunteers and the community have watched as the facility keeps its doors closed to the public.

    Based on the many public documents relating to Guild Inn Estate operations, it’s apparent that City officials are caught between conflicting public and business interests.

    On one hand, City officials promised that the new facility would be an asset to the community and all Toronto. The City clearly listened to Guildwood Village residents when officials decided that a restaurant and other public amenities are required at this site. City staff then incorporated these requirements – along with significant tax exemptions for the restored building – in its 40-year agreements with the private operator.

    On the other hand, the revenue-sharing provisions contained in the same agreements emphasize maximizing profits. The City earns more when Guild Inn Estate rents more commercial space. This means the City can get more revenue by allowing the operator to rent all the facility for private events, without providing any public benefits.

    From this perspective, running a restaurant and providing community space at Guild Inn Estate isn’t in the City’s financial interests. What’s best for the City, according to Dynamic Hospitality, operators of the Guild Inn Estate, is to keep the facility entirely a commercial rental space.

    This is the message Dynamic officials have long taken when speaking to community reps and to City officials about the importance of keeping the building an all-rental facility. This may be why Dynamic’s two managing partners each made the maximum allowable contribution of $1,200 to the 2018 election campaigns of both local City Councillor Paul Ainslie and Mayor John Tory.

    Private or Public?

    Decisions are being made at Toronto City Hall that will determine how the former Guild Inn operates for the next generation. The question is: Will Guild Inn Estate become:

    • a private commercial business that, for the balance of its 40-year lease, operates just for paying guests, then shares part of its revenue with the City? or
    • a public attraction that serves Guildwood Village, the people of Toronto and everyone who visits Guild Park to enjoy the site’s historic, natural and public features?

    Members of Friends of Guild Park and the GVCA, along with thousands of supporters, strongly believe that this building has an important role as a public facility. A place that welcomes the world to Guild Park, a unique and inspiring public site in the heart of Guildwood Village. A place where all types of people can view art, nature and architecture… and have the opportunity to meet, enjoy a coffee and order a meal.

    This is how the original Guild Inn operated for almost 50 years, when owners Rosa and Spencer Clark hosted artists, events, local residents and international guests.

    To make this a reality for the 21st Century, decisions about Guild Park must strike a balance between commerce and public service – a balance that currently doesn’t exist. If today’s conditions continue, Guild Inn Estate will keep operating until 2055 as a private, tax-subsidized facility open only for paying customers, not the general public.

  • 11 Nov 2022 4:04 PM | John Mason (Administrator)

    Guild Park enjoyed tremendous popularity in 2022, with tens of thousands of people coming to enjoy the art and nature found amid the 88-acre site atop the Scarborough Bluffs.

    However park visitors and local residents are unable to use the on-site facilities inside the now-restored Guild Inn. This is despite past assurances by park officials that the public would be welcome at the renovated building's restaurant and community space, the well-known Guild Inn.

    This article, by Friends of Guild Park President, John Mason, outlines the current dilemma about Guild Park's role as a public destination and as a privately-operated facility, that's subsidized by Toronto's taxpayers. Nov 2022 Dilemma-Guild Park-FGP.pdf

    The article is adapted from a story that first appeared in the community newsletter, News & Views, published November 2022 by the Guildwood Village Community Assn.

  • 16 Nov 2019 2:46 PM | Kate Kennedy

    Friends of Guild Park is the winner of Heritage Toronto's 2019 Members' Choice Award which recognizes the volunteer group's ongoing work to "preserve and interpret Toronto's heritage."

    The award came at the 45th Annual Heritage Toronto Awards Ceremony held on Oct. 28, 2019.

    Friends of Guild Park was also singled out by the Heritage Toronto jury winning an Honourable Mention in the Community Heritage Award category.

    Friends of Guild Park President John Mason said these awards are important for two reasons.

    "They show that significant heritage sites and stories are found all across our city. Also, the awards show that volunteers play a major role in keeping these stories and places alive."

    This year, Heritage Toronto evaluated 40 nominations in four categories. The charitable organization presents awards each year to showcase the valuable role heritage plays in community and city building.

    Guild Park had a strong presence at last night's ceremony and was associated with two other nominations.

    The Lost & Found exhibition at the Campbell House Museum was nominated in the Public History category.

    This interpretive display includes architectural remnants preserved for decades at Guild Park. The fragments, salvaged from Toronto buildings demolished in the 1960s and '70s, are now back on public view near their original locations.

    The restoration of Stanley Barracks Gates, built in 1957 near Guild Park, was nominated in the William Greer Built Heritage Award category.

    This gateway, located at Guildwood Parkway and Kingston Road, marks the entrance to the old Guild Inn and the then-new Guildwood Village. The gates were originally part of Fort York in the 1800s. The City of Toronto last year hired a team of professionals to restore the stone, metal and lanterns. (Facebook/guildpark)

  • 02 Jul 2019 9:40 AM | Kate Kennedy

    From Facebook post June 27 2019 by John Mason

    Another sculpture from the collection of Rosa & Spencer Clark, founders of the Guild Of All Arts and Guild Inn, is back on display at Guild Park.

    The abstract figure, Ravenna, by the late Canadian sculptor, Sorel Etrog, now graces the front (north) garden in front of the restored original Guild Inn building.

    The photos below show Ravenna now in place (image supplied by City of Toronto) and Etrog in 1986, holding a prototype of the Genie Canadian film award, perhaps his best known work (Toronto Star photo).

    Etrog was a friend of the Clarks, who collected more than a dozen of his works. Ravenna is positioned near another Etrog sculpture, the black hinge-like metal triangle entitled, Space Plough.

    For more information about Etrog's connection with Guild Park, join us for the Sunday Stroll this Sunday (June 30). The walking tour begins at 2 pm from the park's Sculptor's Cabin.

    Ravenna, named for a city in northern Italy, is the second sculpture in the past two months that has been restored and remounted in their original positions at Guild Park. In May, St. Francis & the Wolf by Thomas Bowie, an artist-in-residence in the 1950s, was returned to public view.

    Thanks to the City of Toronto's Economic Development and Culture's Public Arts section for caring and restoring these original art pieces. It's another step in the ongoing revitalization of Guild Park, a place where art meets nature.

  • 25 May 2019 12:41 PM | Kate Kennedy

    What we’ve done, so far… 

    Since July 2012 Friends of Guild Park have hosted a series of volunteer-led walking tours at Guild Park attracting more than 1,100 visitors yearly.  Our independent walking tours and those offered partnership with Heritage Toronto, Jane's Walk and DoorsOpenTO provide visitors with a unique historical, a cultural perspective of Guild Park each Spring and Summer. In 2016 our group received a special award of recognition from Mayor John Tory Mayor for the walking tours of Guild Park.

    Twice a year we organize the Guild Park portion of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, a national campaign of the Vancouver Aquarium and World Wildlife Federation. Shoreline Clean Up occur each Spring and Fall but we encourage park enthusiasts to collect rubbish whenever they visit the park! Our group is also working closely with the City on identifying waste management solutions. 

    Our group initiated several annual Holiday events including the Spring Party for Guild Park, The Halloween Haunt and The Annual Christmas Tree Lighting and we also actively participate in Guild Alive With Culture Festival each summer. in 2015 we were proud to have Guild Park selected as one of 141 national Dutch Canadian Friendship Tulip Garden and planted 700 red and White Tulips to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first gift of 100,000 Dutch tulips bulbs sent in 1945 to Canadians. In 2017 we continued the tradition of the bulb planting event with community members and look forward to seeing yellow Daffodils and blue Muscari celebrating the colours of the former City of Scarborough next Spring.

    The Friends of Guild Park & Gardens have developed a strong partnership with Heritage Toronto receiving the Heritage Toronto Media Award, 2012 and Community Heritage Award, 2013 This year we were thrilled to hear our walking tours have been rated the second most popular in Toronto for 2016 and 2017 Our group continues to work closely with Heritage Toronto as we fundraise for the Guild of All Arts commemorative plaque which will be the first official recognition of the historical and cultural importance of Guild Park. 

    In 2017 our President John Mason was awarded the Scarborough-Guildwood Medal for Community Service by John McKay, MP and along with and our Treasurer Rose Mitchell-Spohn, recognized for their exceptional volunteer efforts in the Park by the City of Toronto, Parks Forestry and Recreation. 

    Our group has earned media coverage from CTV, Toronto Star, Global News, Scarborough Mirror, Snap'dScarborough. In partnership with other Guild Park Stakeholder Groups including the Guildwood Village Community Association, Guild Festival Theatre and the Guild Renaissance Group we advocate on behalf of and promote the legacy of the Guild Of All Arts, Rosa and Spencer Clark and the natural beauty of Guild Park and Gardens. 

    In May 2016 our groups worked together to create The Future Arts Programs and Facilities at Guild Park Report
    This report was shared widely with community members and the City of Toronto's Arts Services in support of returning arts programming to Guild Park. Our research and ideas figured prominently in the community engagement process and proposed plans for the Clark Centre for the Arts.  

    Our group continues to offer our insight and recommendations in support of Guild Park Trails Master Plan process, Guild Park Resource Group and ongoing stakeholder relationship development.  If you are interested in becoming more involved with Friends of Guild Park & Gardens , sharing a story or volunteering at a specific event please send us an email at  We'd love to hear from you!

    Image: Arrivals and Departures by John Broere, Guild of All Arts 50th Anniversary, 1982

  • 19 May 2018 8:32 PM | John Mason (Administrator)

    During the spring of 2018, Friends of Guild Park has received numerous comments spring from park visitors about the state of the forest, woodlands and trees at Guild Park. Specifically, about the number of fallen trees throughout the site is a source of public concern.

    Friends of Guild Park recently asked Guild Park officials for an update about current forest conditions in the park and specific questions about what is being done.

    Below is a file with the information and responses received on May 17, 2018 from members of the City of Toronto’s urban forestry division. This is the group responsible for forest areas across the city, including those at Guild Park.

    Guild Park Forest-QandA-May17-2018.pdf

  • 29 Nov 2017 9:43 PM | Kate Kennedy

    For about two hours, Bob Kortright of the Toronto Field Naturalists showed examples of Guild Park's biodiversity - from butterflies to a butternut tree, mushrooms to mulberries, Cooper Hawks to cornflowers. The photos from today show participants listening Bob describe the life cycles of various types of vegetation and wildlife. On the bright and sunny autumn afternoon, he took folks along some little-used public trails atop the bluffs, into Guild Park's Carolinian Forest and through the formal gardens of the 36-hectare public park. Everyone gained a new appreciation for Guild Park's amazing environmental features people who came were greeted by a 4-point buck ambling along the park's Waterfront trail. When the deer turned around to return down the hill, he showed a wound on his haunch. Not sure if it was the result of an attack or a wound. The animal didn't appear limping so it's hoped the injury won't be serious. The rest of the tour was full of identifying fungi, trees and birds.

    Thanks the tour leader Bob Kortright of TFN for arranging the memorable tour and to the 2 dozen folks who braved the zero degree weather to enjoy Guild Park.

    Another follow-up to the Native Plant Give-Away that Friends of Guild Park hosted in August, was a Native Plant Workshop for everyone interested in learning about native plants and how to incorporate them into your garden. The event was free and hosted by Park People and Carolinian Canada.

    The workshop was led by native plant specialist, Ben Porchuk of Carolinian Canada. Ben has over two decades of experience in ecological systems recovery and is a strong advocate for restoring urban ecology to create greater resiliency. All workshop attendees were invited to stay for the North American Native Plant Society's Annual General Meeting. The AGM keynote speaker was Dr. Jon Johnson of First Story Toronto. First Story is a program at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto devoted to researching and sharing Toronto’s Indigenous heritage through popular educational initiatives. As a part of this work, Jon leads tours about the Indigenous heritage in the GTA. Earlier this year, one of Jon's special tours with Park People included a visit to Guild Park.

  • 11 Mar 2017 2:52 PM | Kate Kennedy

    The City of Toronto's Arts Services division of Economic Development & Culture provides the latest details about the work now underway to re-open a unique arts facility, along with arts programming, at Guild Park.

    The website includes updates on the architect, Taylor Hazell Architects, selected to create the multi-use design for the building. This online resource also includes the history and describes many of the architectural features now on view at Guild Park's Monument Walk.

    Here's the link to the new website:

  • 29 Jan 2017 7:15 PM | Kate Kennedy

    On January 5th, 2017 John Mason, President of Friends of Guild Park and Gardens presented a deputation at City hall and letter from the Guild Park Stakeholder group in support of a Trail Master Plan for Guild Park. On January 27th it was confirmed Guild Park and Gardens Trails Master Plan capital project will be included in the City of Toronto 2017 Parks, Forestry and Recreation Capital Budget and Plan.

    Key design considerations for trails at Guild Park identified in Trails Master Plan Report compiled by Friends of Guild Park and Gardens:

    • Environmental protection – relating to designated Environmentally-Sensitive Areas (ESAs), the waterfront and Scarborough Bluffs
    • Public safety – preventing falls along the Bluffs/injuries along unimproved trails; protecting against poison ivy, harmful vegetation, tree/branch falls
    • Cleanliness – easy public access to waste containers; routine servicing/maintenance of waste containers and public areas.
    • Maintenance/responsibility issues affecting trails – given the many jurisdictions within the park)
    • Relate to the attributes/legacy of Guild Park – wildlife/ First Nations/pioneers/ artists etc.

    Recognizing the range of interests/abilities of park visitors – international tourists, first-time 

    guests, frequent visitors, local residents, neighbouring students. It is important to recognize that trails, pathways, sidewalks, walkways and the grounds at Guild Park are under near constant use for both “active” and “passive” pursuits – from early morning walks to nighttime special events. Examples of these uses include:
    • Heavy foot traffic by pedestrians – especially between parking areas and key park attractions during daylight and after dark.
    • Regular use by trucks/service vehicles – park maintenance/solid waste pick-up/ special event activities/first responders
    • Specialized accessibly for people with disabilities
    • Bicyclists
    • Dog walkers
    • Recreational walkers
    • Parents using strollers/carriages with children
    • Seniors using walkers/mobility scooters
    • Artists/naturalists/photographers 

    Consider four distinct trails/pathways areas:

    • West Trail with two new boardwalks (in process)
    • Monument Walk linking to “formal” Garden Path area (includes vehicle parking areas)
    • Waterfront Trail including public access from Guildwood Parkway 
    • East Trail adjacent to Jack Miner School 

    Common elements for each trail – with consistent design/signs/markers

    • Noticeboard/Map of park and trails
    • Welcome & Trail Information – visitor responsibilities/ notable highlights/ identification
    • markers for trees/flower / interpretation
    • Info hot-line for improvements/repairs/emergencies
    • Garbage/recyclingbins/bags
    • Dog poop bags /waste pick-up
    • Possibility of video monitoring for security
    Accessibility of trails – location, material, edging, - determined by:
    • environmental constraints
    • traffic volumes/location
    • types of users (pedestrians, bicyclists, service/emergency vehicles (TRCA jurisdiction)

  • 10 Sep 2016 12:03 PM | Kate Kennedy

    In response to the situation highlighted in this BlogTO post  FGPG reached out to the Free the Greek Gods to suggest Toronto's Guild Park as a potential new public home for E.B. Cox's important Greek Gods sculptures. As John Mason outlined "There's already a strong connection between E.B. Cox and Guild Park. In 1979, Cox and fellow Canadian sculptor, Michael Clay, together created the Bear figure at Guild Park (see photo). The brown bear's sculpted features show the distinctive markings from E.B. Cox's air chisel. The Bear is a favourite among Guild Park visitors, especially children. Another connection is that Guild Park is home to four sculpted figures by Canadian sculptors Frances Loring and Florence Wyle, who were influential on E.B. Cox's career."  Guild Park has ample public space to display all of the Greek gods. The new Monument Walk at Guild Park would be a wonderful location for these important works. This public walk was created last year. It leads from one of the park's pedestrian entrances, through a forest and garden setting, to the top of the Scarborough Bluffs. The Greek gods would also complement Guild Park's "Greek" Theatre.. This structure was designed by Canadian architect Ronald Thom using marble Corinthian columns and arches salvaged from the 1912 Bank of Toronto Building. The Guild Renaissance Group and Friends of Guild Park are award-winning volunteer organizations active in bringing more awareness and activity to Guild Park. I'm a member of both groups and would welcome the opportunity to contact the people who've already been leading the initiative to "Free the Greek Gods." You can get more info

    However, the group is hoping to see E.B. Cox's sculpture collection relocated to the Rose Garden, which is just south of the Bandshell at Exhibition Place.

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