Dufferin Mall/Then and Now
David Wencer writes:
The Dufferin Park racetrack traces its origins to the 1880s when the local land owners, the Denison family, created a riding track on their property for their own private use. Sometime around 1905, Abe Orpen began leasing the property and operating it as a public racetrack. Although the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame puts the first date of racing at Dufferin in August of 1907, it appears that races were held there at least several months earlier. The May 25, 1907 Toronto Star reported results for four races held at Dufferin Park over the long weekend, stating that “a fast track, favorable weather, and a good class of horses combined to make a fine afternoon’s sport at Dufferin Park yesterday… The attendance was large.”
The track at Dufferin Park was somewhat irregular in its dimensions. Abe Orpen’s son Fred, who ran the track from 1937 until its closure in 1955, considered the shape to be more egg-like than a traditional racing oval. “That track was virgin forest,” he also told the Star in 1936. “It was cleared right out of the bush and made a track by the Denison family for their own horses. It was a third of a mile but later it was increased and the result today is about a half [mile]… more or less.”
The aeriel shot below shows just how much real estate the park occupied.