Dufferin Park Racetrack – Once Where Dufferin Mall Stands Today

1941 - The Dufferin Park Racetrack, once where the Dufferin Mall in Toronto stands today
1941 – The Dufferin Park Racetrack, once where the Dufferin Mall in Toronto stands today (1941 Archives of Ontario I0018100)

The Dufferin Park Racetrack was located on Dufferin St, where the Dufferin Mall stands today (on the west side, just south of Bloor St W), in the Brockton Village neighbourhood of Toronto.

The Land’s History

The land was originally the territory of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, then the Seneca and lastly, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. Later, the area was part of 25 acres of land that was owned by the Denison family. In the 1880’s, the Denison’s constructed a private horse-riding track and driving park.

Dufferin Park Racetrack

In 1907, Abraham Orpen purchased the land and developed it into a public racetrack for thoroughbred and harness horse races. It was an irregular egg-shape and was only a ½ mile long. The popular attraction was often called “Little Saratoga” and was considered a track for ordinary people. While it did have a small reserved section, it did not have a clubhouse. Under the Grandstand, patrons could get a meal at the “Goodwill Restaurant”.

1930 - The egg-shaped Dufferin Park Racetrack, looking northeast
1930 – The egg-shaped Dufferin Park Racetrack, looking northeast (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 2422)

Articles in the local newspapers (dated 1908/09), mentioned that there was a campaign to stop the racing and betting at the Dufferin Park Racetrack under a Provincial charter that was no longer valid. Mr Orpen was able to keep the track going using a Federal charter.

Travelling Circus & Amusement Events

The racetrack was not just home to horse racing but also hosted amusement events like wild west shows and circuses. The circus animals would travel by rail, disembarking from the depot near Bloor St W and Lansdowne Ave. The animals, which included elephants, then walked along Bloor St W to the racetrack.

The Track After Abe Orpen

Abe Orpen passed away in 1937 and his son Fred took over running the track. Dufferin Park Racetrack was closed in 1955 and demolished. Its stakes races were moved to Woodbine Racetrack on Rexdale Blvd in Etobicoke. That same year, the property, along with the Long Branch Racetrack were sold by the Orpen family for $4 million.

Dufferin Mall & Future Plans

2019 - Artist rendering of the West Block at Dufferin Grove Village, looking southwest across Croatia St
2019 – Artist rendering of the West Block at Dufferin Grove Village, looking southwest across Croatia St (BDP Quadrangle)

In 1956, the Dufferin Plaza opened and in the early 1970’s, the plaza was converted to a mall and enlarged. In the mall, there’s a display (near the southern entrance off of Dufferin St), detailing the land’s history as well as future plans for the site. They include developing what is mostly parking today by extending the Dufferin Mall further north. Called Dufferin Grove Village and spanning two blocks, there are plans for four residential buildings (some of which will be above the new portion of the mall) as well as a new park. Its scheduled for completion in 2026.

Did You Know?

  • Until 1886, Dufferin Street was named Side Line as it was the City’s western boundary. It was renamed after Lord Dufferin, who was Frederick Temple Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood and Governor General of Canada from 1872/78.
  • The area was known as Brock Village and in 1884, it became part of the City of Toronto.
  • Brock Stream, which was fed by Denison Creek and flowed into Garrison Creek, once divided the property. Over 100 years ago, all of these natural watercourses were diverted to underground pipes and then covered over.

Dufferin Park Racetrack Photos

1941 - The Dufferin Park Racetrack, once where the Dufferin Mall in Toronto stands today
1941 – The Dufferin Park Racetrack, once where the Dufferin Mall in Toronto stands today (1941 Archives of Ontario I0018100)
1930 - The egg-shaped Dufferin Park Racetrack, looking northeast
1930 – The egg-shaped Dufferin Park Racetrack, looking northeast (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 2422)
1908/09 - Open-air betting at Dufferin Park
1908/09 – Open-air betting at Dufferin Park (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 2575)
2020 - The Dufferin Mall at 900 Dufferin St in Toronto, where the racetrack once stood
2020 – The Dufferin Mall at 900 Dufferin St in Toronto, where the racetrack once stood
Undated photo - Circus elephants walking from the rail depot at Lansdowne Ave & Bloor St W to the Dufferin Park Racetrack
Undated photo – Circus elephants walking from the rail depot at Lansdowne Ave & Bloor St W to the Dufferin Park Racetrack (photo of photo taken at Dufferin Mall display)
Early 1900's - Harness racing at Dufferin Park
Early 1900’s – Harness racing at Dufferin Park (photo of photo taken at Dufferin Mall display)
1911 - Finish line at the horse-racing track
1911 – Finish line at the horse-racing track (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 214A)
1941 - The stands and racetrack at Dufferin Park
1941 – The stands and racetrack at Dufferin Park (Archives of Ontario I0002847)
1933/46 - Harness racing at Dufferin Park
1933/46 – Harness racing at Dufferin Park (Archives of Ontario I0048862)
1941 - Horse stalls at the racetrack
1941 – Horse stalls at the racetrack (Archives of Ontario I0018101)
1933/46 - Horse and rider training at Dufferin Park - notice Kent Public School in the background
1933/46 – Horse and rider training at Dufferin Park – notice Kent Public School in the background (Archives of Ontario I0048852)
1910 - Betting enclosures at the racetrack
1910 – Betting enclosures at the racetrack (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 213)
1955 - Looking northeast towards the track and grandstand of Dufferin Park Racetrack
1955 – Looking northeast towards the track and grandstand of Dufferin Park Racetrack (Toronto Public Library r-5826)
1955 - Looking northwest across Dufferin St from Dufferin Grove Park towards the grandstand of the racetrack
1955 – Looking northwest across Dufferin St from Dufferin Grove Park towards the grandstand of the racetrack (Toronto Public Library r-5828)
1951 - Looking north on Dufferin St towards Bloor St W - notice racetrack on left, Kent School in centre back and Dufferin Grove Park on right
1951 – Looking north on Dufferin St towards Bloor St W – notice racetrack on left, Kent School in centre back and Dufferin Grove Park on right (City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 58, Item 2142)
1910/40 - Fred Orpen, owner of Dufferin Park Racetrack, at his desk
1910/40 – Fred Orpen, owner of Dufferin Park Racetrack, at his desk (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 3941)
1957 - Looking northwest across Dufferin St from the park towards Dufferin Plaza
1957 – Looking northwest across Dufferin St from the park towards Dufferin Plaza (Toronto Public Library r-5836)
2000's - Dufferin Mall and parking lot, looking south from Croatia St
2000’s – Dufferin Mall and parking lot, looking south from Croatia St (photo of photo taken at Dufferin Mall display)
2020 - The entrance to Dufferin Mall
2020 – The entrance to Dufferin Mall
2019 - Artist rendering of the West Block at Dufferin Grove Village, looking southwest across Croatia St
2019 – Artist rendering of the West Block at Dufferin Grove Village, looking southwest across Croatia St (BDP Quadrangle)
2019 - Artist rendering of the East Block at Dufferin Grove Village, looking northwest across Dufferin St
2019 – Artist rendering of the East Block at Dufferin Grove Village, looking northwest across Dufferin St (BDP Quadrangle)
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