Henry Farm community steeped in history, referred to as Toronto’s ‘best kept secret’ by residents

Dan Berry takes a look at the history of the Henry Farm community, who it was named after, and how it's evolved over the last couple centuries.

By Daniel Berry

Henry Farm is something the president of its Community Interest Association calls Toronto’s “best kept secret.”

The small community in the northeastern part of Toronto was first established in 1809 by Henry Mulholland and his wife Jane, when it was granted to them. They worked on the land and established the first homes.

“We’re finding that a lot of young family were moving in, that’s good because it kept the community going,” shared president Wendy Petcoff.

The original farm changed hands a few times, eventually ending back within the Henry family.

In the 1920s, it was George Stewart Henry, a direct descendant of Henry Mulholland and would bring the family farm into the modern age.

Then in 1930, Henry became the premier of Ontario. He is remembered for his work during the Great Depression, of building roads across the province including the expansion of the Don Valley Parkway, and Highway 401.

But just one day before his death in 1958, Henry sold the family farm to developers. That’s when the current resident started to move in.

Arline Goldwater bought her home in the spring of 1969 for the asking price of just $37,500, more than she wanted to pay.

Newly married, Goldwater and her growing family moved into the developing new subdivision of Henry Farm, a small enclave tucked in between several bustling streets.

“I didn’t know a thing about the neighbourhood. And now it would take a bomb to get me out of here,” said Goldwater. “The neighbourhood is a big part of it, I have just always been so comfortable here.”

“Everybody knows each other. And everybody that moves in we make a point to let them know who we are and all the events,” explained Petcoff.

“The Association was founded about 50 years ago by a group of neighbours, who decided that it was important to this small enclave for everyone to know each other,” she added.

And those who have called this community home through the decades appreciate it.

“I remember that was the year of the Moon walk and the neighbourhood across the street invited us over to watch,” shared Goldwater.

The place where the Mulholland family cairn once stood is where the Don Valley Parkway is now.

When the highway was widened, it was moved to a park next to Betty Sutherland trail in 1966, a reminder to the present-day residents of the hard work that went in to bringing this community together.

“I say the biggest challenge that were probably going to face is hoping that we can keep the neighbourhood somewhat connected,” said Petcoff.

“We are concerned about some of the old houses being torn down,” she added. “There is quite a bit of development going on around us because we’re on the subway line, but that’s a good thing. I just think as long as we stay focused making sure that the neighbourhood knows that we’re all there for them.”

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