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  • Writer's picturePat Browne

Have you ever wondered where the names of our little ‘hood came from?

It was Sunny Orban from Jessie Drive that brought this story.

To begin, we need a little history lesson. We’ll start with David Dunlap. Some graduates of the University of Toronto may have heard about the David Dunlap Observatory. Originally established as part of the university, at one time the observatory had the second largest telescope in the world and still is the largest optical telescope in Canada. Opened in 1935, the observatory is located, and now is part of, the city of Richmond Hill. David Dunlap had offered to back the development of the observatory, however he died before it could be built. It was his wife, Jessie Donalda Dunlap that funded the development of the observatory as a memorial to her husband.

David Dunlap Observatory (image by Joseph Chan), the observatory located at 123A Hillsview Drive, Richmond Hill is open to the public. The natural spaces of the Richmond Hill David Dunlap Observatory Park is open for all to enjoy everyday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. You can register for tours at 905-884-1281.

David Dunlap was a lawyer and mining executive who made his fortune in gold and silver mining in Ontario. With his great wealth he supported several causes and projects, one of which was a 600-acre country summer retreat which he called Don Alda Farm.

Established in 1914, the farm was one of the most modern and efficient farm complexes on the continent. “Pigs at the farm were bathed twice a week in olive oil to keep their skin sleek and supple. Stable hands mucked out the stables and cows were vacuum cleaned and milked by men with manicured hands who wore white suits while they worked. It was dubbed ‘a model for the universe.’ The stalls in the cow barns were tiled, electric fans whirled to distract flies, and music was piped into the barn to provide contentment for the herd.”

“Donalda” was the middle name of Dunlap’s wife, Jessie. A good portion of the original 600 acres is now the Donalda Golf and Country club located just south of York Mills, east of Don Mills. The original home for the farm is the main clubhouse. Dunlap built his residence overlooking the old mill pond which he stocked with white swans. There were 40 buildings and 30 employees.

Although the Dunlaps owned a home in Rosedale, it was the farm in the “country” where they spent much of their time. David Dunlap died at the farm in 1924. His wife continued to operate the farm until 1959 when a group of local businessmen bought a portion of the farm to establish the Donalda Golf Club.

There you have it, two of our street names come directly from the history books of the area: David Dunlap Circle and Jessie Drive.

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