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Published on Friday, April 21, 2017

Glen Abbey golf course rich in Oakville history

In-depth story about Landscape Study report

Glen Abbey golf course rich in Oakville history
Glen Abbey Golf Course
Glen Abbey Golf Course valley not part of development plan. - Oakville Beaver file photo by Riziero Vertolli
By Nathan Howes, Oakville Beaver

While most will associate the property at 1333 Dorval Dr. with its iconic Glen Abbey Golf Course, the property’s history can be traced hundreds of years back in time.

The Glen Abbey property is an approximate 229-acre land tract, comprising tablelands and valley lands that have, most famously, been developed into golf course designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus, but it was also once occupied by indigenous people, a farm and sawmill (19th century), private estate (1930s-1950s) and a religious retreat (1950s-60s).

Its history can be found in the Town’s draft of Phase Two Cultural Heritage Landscapes Assessments, researched by Letourneau Heritage Consulting Inc.

The report indicates the Dorval Drive property has a history of being more than a famous golf course, with layers of historical significance.

If Oakville Town council moves to the next phase of its Cultural Heritage Landscapes Strategy, history may come into play at the Glen Abbey property at 1333 Dorval Dr.

The report is set to go before the Heritage Oakville Advisory Committee for consideration Tuesday, April 25, at Town Hall, Council Chamber, at 9:30 a.m.

Recommendations from the committee and Town staff will then go to Council for approval Monday, May 15.

But, as Town staff pointed out, “the Phase 2 Assessment is not about a heritage designation, it is about identifying if this property is a significant cultural heritage landscape,” stated Jane Courtemanche, director, strategy, policy and communications, Town of Oakville.

“Should Council approve a recommendation to proceed to Phase 3 - Cultural Heritage Landscapes Strategy Implementation with this property, the town will then consider the extent of conservation measures and tool,” stated Courtemanche.

Historically, the property was part of the lands obtained from the Ashininabeg peoples by the Crown in the early 19th Century.

Later, it housed a farm on the tablelands and a sawmill in the valley lands.

The farm operation continued into the early 20th century after which the property was then converted to a country estate (RayDor), a Jesuit retreat and finally a golf course in 1963.

In 1792, Glen Abbey Golf Club’s land was located in the home district of Upper Canada, within a land track designated 'Mississague [sic] Indian Land,' as proclaimed on July 16, 1762.

The Mississauga land was bordered to the east by York County East Riding and to the west by York County West Riding, connected by the former Burlington Bay spit to the first riding of Lincoln County.

In 1795, the majority of the Mississague land was acquired by the British from the Mississauga people (Anishinabeg), although Mississauga families continued to frequent the entrances of Sixteen and Twelve Mile creeks, as well as the nearby Credit River, for seasonal occupancy patterns.

In 1805, Mississauga surrendered 85,000 acres from Etobicoke River to Burlington Bay and north from the lakeshore to the vicinity of what is now Eglinton Avenue.

In 1827, land holdings at the mouth of Sixteen Mile Creek, still held by the Mississauga, were sold to William Chisholm, who founded Oakville that year.

This land was developed into a town site under the guidance of Chisholm, who also dredged and developed the harbour.

The town soon became an exporter of lumber harvested from the immense tracts of oak trees within the township, which led to its name designation of Oakville.

Almost all other land within the district was cleared for pasture and cropland, including the portions of what became the golf course property.

Within the property of what is now Glen Abbey Golf Course, in 1877, Isaac Carter owned a farmstead near or on the present site of the service area for the golf course where the stables belonging to Andre Dorfman, a mining technologist and entrepreneur, were built.

Thompson Smith, who owned part of Lot 18, which stretched across Sixteen Mile Creek, appears to have been the most prominent early settler associated with Glen Abbey lands.

He is commemorated in the naming of the Smith-Triller Viaduct, listed as a lumber merchant in an 1851 census.

Smith purchased parts of lots 18 and 19 in 1830, and around 1836, he built a sawmill on Sixteen Mile Creek on Lot 18, along with an access road running through his property between the mill and Upper Middle Road.

The property houses the Raydor Estate, listed in the Town’s Phase 2 draft report, and purchased in March 1937 by Dorfman.

He assembled portions of the land and developed a country estate of 141 hectares (350 acres) that he named RayDor.

The estate received a full landscape treatment and included a long, tree-lined entrance drive, formal and walled-gardens, imported trees, extensive perennial plantings and a road connecting the estate house to the stables.

The house is a grand, three-storey French eclectic residence formatted as a neo-classical building from the front and a Tudor revival and arts and crafts facility from the back.

Dorfman retained the property until its sale to the Jesuits in 1953.

In 1963, a multi-million-dollar country club and residential development was planned on the large country estate, formerly owned by Dorfman, and situated close to the hub of Oakville.

W.G. Findlay of Oakville, president of Clearstream Developments Limited, publicly-stated Howard Watson, a Canadian golf course architect, agreed to design an 18-hole championship golf course.

Plans were also in place to add areas for curling, swimming, tennis and skiing.

Following the construction of the golf course, the plan was for Clearstream to build homes on the perimeter of the golf course and the upper levels overlooking Sixteen Mile Creek.

Almost immediately after the golf course was completed, members tried to buy the club land from Clearstream.

At that point, in 1966, John Bailey, president of Robertson-Yates Corporation Limited, took over control of Clearstream Developments Limited to retain ownership.

The golf course became a separate entity owned by Clearstream until it was purchased by Great Northern Capital in 1974.

Clearstream started the club developments promptly under the name Upper Canada Golf and Country Club, which reopened in 1967 as the Clearstream Club.

In 1974, Rod McIsaac, owner of Great Northern Capital, bought the property and reached an agreement with the Royal Canadian Golf Association (RCGA) to redevelop the Upper Canada Golf Club as a spectator-oriented venue for the Canadian Open.

The RCGA leased the RayDor house for its headquarters and golf museum from 1975 until 1983, when it purchased the club property.

The RCGA contract set out a plan to have the course redesigned by golf legend Jack Nicklaus, which he did, in 1974-75, and then held its first Canadian Open in 1977.

Prior to its construction, the competition moved from course to course each year.

The RCGA purchased the property in 1983 and continued to maintain Glen Abbey as a venue for the tournament from 1980 onwards.

In 1999, Glen Abbey was sold to current property owners ClubLink for approximately $40 million.

In addition to an 18-hole golf course, the Dorval Drive grounds contain surface parking, a clubhouse and ancillary buildings (including former outbuildings and Raydor Estate house, now altered and expanded to include a golf museum).

Present-day land use around the golf course includes low-density residential subdivisions bordering Dorval Drive, to the south and west, Upper Middle Road and the Smith-Triller Viaduct to the north, as well as low-density residential subdivisions to the east, on the lands east of the Sixteen Mile Creek valley.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

Categories: News




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