Ontario Only Province Not
to House Lieutenant-Governor
Ontario is the only province that does not provide its
Lieutenant-Governor with an official residence, where the Queen’s
representative may reside and perform his or her vice-regal duties.
Instead, the Lieutenant-Governor is provided with a suite of rooms
in the Legislative Building itself, which are suitable for receiving
visitors and conducting official business, but not as living quarters.
Until 1937, Ontario followed the other provinces and maintained a
Government House for its Lieutenant-Governor.
In that year, Premier Mitch Hepburn closed the official residence
at Chorley Park in Rosedale, then and now one of Toronto’s most affluent
enclaves. Chorley Park
covered 14 acres, on a site overlooking the still rural Don Valley.
Government House was built at Chorley Park during World War One at
a then staggering cost of $1.2 million.
It was undoubtedly the most magnificent Government House in all of
North America. The five Lieutenant-Governors who lived there entertained
British and European royalty, leading British politicians such as Sir
Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George, various Canada Prime Ministers
and Governors-General, as well as Lieutenants-Governor from other
However, Chorley Park was expensive to maintain, and even during
the economically prosperous Roaring Twenties, murmurs of complaints arose
from Members of all parties at Queen’s Park about the burden it imposed
on the taxpayer. Chorley Park
finally emerged as a political issue during the 1934 election campaign,
when Liberal leader Mitch Hepburn promised to shut it down if elected.
In his first term as Premier, Hepburn failed to make good on this
promise, but ever mindful of the electorate’s sensitivities, he was
careful to maintain his distance from the Rosedale edifice.
Shortly after being re-elected in 1937, Dr. Herbert Bruce,
Lieutenant-Governor at the time, handed in his resignation after
controversy arose over who Premier Hepburn preferred to be the Queen’s
On November 30, the Hepburn government promptly put the building up
for sale and auctioned off its contents.
Over the next two decades, the building served variously as a
military hospital, RCMP headquarters, and as housing for Hungarian
refugees. The City of Toronto
bought the property in 1960, and demolished the house and outbuildings
shortly there after to make way for a public park.
All that remains on the site today is the little bridge in the
forecourt, a modest reminder of the magnificent edifice of 60 years ago.
Hepburn decreed that the new Lieutenant-Governor could perform his
public duties in the space known as the “Speaker’s House”, on the
second floor of the Legislative Building’s west wing.
The Speaker was obliged to move up one floor and take over the
apartment hitherto occupied by the Sergeant-at-Arms, who was assigned
office space elsewhere in the Building.
The cabinet’s old private dining room, as well as a large
reception room which had been used as a Members’ dining room during
sessions, was added to the Lieutenant-Governor’s new suite.
The new rooms opened on April 19, 1938.
that Chorley Park was gone, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth had nowhere
to reside during the Royal Visit to Toronto the next year (the first visit
to Canada by the reigning monarch), and so they stayed on their train,
shunted onto a siding at Union Station.
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