My Flemingdon Park: A Milky Conundrum
With phase two of development well underway by 1963, Webin Community Consultants (WCC) dreamed up a new motto to capture the neighbourhood's mood: Flemingdon Park — For those who enjoy fun living.
This second phase culminated in the development of rental properties for 15,000 to 20,000 people between 1962 and 1965, including:
Low-rise apartments at 7, 9 and 11 Rochefort Dr
Townhouses at 17,19,21,23 and 29 Rochefort Dr
Mid-rise apartments at 10 and 12 St. Dennis Dr
The Citadel apartment building at 701 Don Mills Rd
Garden Homes at 18, 20 and 22 St. Dennis Dr
An apartment at 48 Grenoble Dr
Maisonettes at 4, 6 and 8 Vendome Place
Low-rise buildings at 30, 32 and 34 St. Dennis Dr
Nine 18-storey apartment buildings were at various stages of development.
The community earned local and international praise. Besides architectural uniqueness, critics lauded the growing neighbourhood for pedestrian-friendly, abundant green spaces, landscaped pedestrian malls, underground and off-street parking, patios and sundecks with sliding French doors, adult-only buildings, free bus service, and convenient location minutes from downtown.
Describing the progressive environment fostered in Flemingdon Park, Toronto Star columnist Robert Fulford wrote, "…ground floors face onto the streets for pedestrians only. Here and there are trees, shrubs, grass, brick pathways, small terraces in front of each house – and no roads. The effect is rather like living on the edge of a small, cheerful park."
Prescient for the times, mothers in the area established a day nursery for 2½ to 6-year-old children in the lower level of the new plaza. The not-for-profit cooperative daycare was staffed mainly by volunteers. Webin Community Consultants provided the space free of charge and hired a professional staff person to support the mothers.
Flemingdon Park won the 1963 Canadian Housing Design Award.
Delegations from Japan, England, India, Burma and other countries toured the new community. The United Nations sent an envoy to make a study of the emerging neighbourhood. Harvard University hosted a design conference on housing options in the community. Feature articles appeared in major publications. Germany's Baumeister magazine concluded, "Flemingdon Park is the most important contribution of recent years to urban design and living."
Lifestyle options in Canada's first self-contained, integrated estate were plenty. Amenities included state-of-the-art General Electric appliances, a master TV system, and Muzak-like hi-fi audio piped into units utilizing an in-house speaker system.
Pollsters revealed the typical renter was a middle-income earning young executive or professional with a bright financial future and household income of $7,000 per annum versus the national average of $6,200. Tenants never lifted a finger. No lawns to cut. No snow to shovel. No household maintenance — not even taking the trash out. Household waste placed in bags at the kitchen door was whisked away by WCC employees.
While some renters preferred spending downtime with feet up, stretched out on their chesterfield in front of a black and white television set watching Gun Smoke or the Patty Duke Show, others enjoyed an active lifestyle. Encouraging the latter, WCC provided the facilities for tenants to remain fit.
The hiring of Herbert Stricker, 41, Flemingdon Park's first property manager, was the ideal choice to maintain the community's health in more ways than one.
After graduating from Harbord Collegiate, Herb Stricker earned a civil engineering degree from the University of Toronto. In high school, Stricker had been an accomplished athlete. He would become a halfback for the Toronto Argonauts playing a season before being sidelined by a knee injury. Stricker also excelled at rugby and baseball. At 21, the slugging pitcher won a hitting title in 1942, playing for Massey-Harris in the War Industry League with a batting average that season of an astounding .448.
Responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of Flemingdon Park, Stricker emphasized healthy practices.
Leisure activities sponsored by WCC included swimming facilities behind 1 Deauville Lane, tennis at hard-surfaced courts adjacent to 1 Vendome Place and golf at the nine-hole Flemingdon Park Golf Course on St. Dennis Drive. Residents used tennis courts on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The original price tag for the golf course came in at $250,000. Seeded and landscaped in 1960 by Webb and Knapp Ltd, linksmen had been teeing off for two seasons before Stricker's hiring. Professional golfer Al Balding, the first Canadian to win a PGA Tour event in the United States, provided clinics for residents, free of charge. Rent initially included green fees. The course would later adopt a semiprivate, pay-as-you-play model, $1.25 on weekdays and $2.00 on weekends and holidays.
Donna Ing, 27, the mother of two, complained to a newspaper reporter that she never saw her husband since moving to the community. "I was a bit of a golf widow before we moved here, and my husband had to drive miles to find a course. But now the landlords have provided one just around the corner, and even when he's too lazy to get the car out, it's no bother to pop around the corner and disappear for half a day."
Stricker organized hockey matches between renters at a community rink. In addition, he facilitated access to downhill skiing at the Don Valley Ski Club located at Lawrence Ave E. and the Don Valley Parkway.
Stricker found himself in a conundrum: In a community bent on promoting choice and independence, Webin management appeared at times to bend over backward to accommodate tenant's needs. Stricker admitted to the same reporter who interviewed Donna Ing that he struggled to entice tenants to participate in management-sponsored activities.
Sports associations he attempted to get off the ground never materialized, leaving him discouraged. Stricker mused to the reporter, "It may sometimes seem like we go too far in doing things for our tenants; that we provide so many services and facilities that they do nothing for themselves…[but] they all want this service."
Whatever Stricker was doing worked. While vacancy rates across the city peaked at eight percent, Flemingdon Park's held steady at three percent.
The outdoor swimming pools were appealing leisure-time attractions during summer. The larger of the two pools, incorrectly billed as Olympic-size, was half that at 25 metres in length. The smaller wading pool was for children. Qualified lifeguards supervised both.
The pools were accessible to all during daytime hours.
The first summer the facility opened in 1962, pool hopping residents gained after-hours access for moonlight dips. On one occasion during a steamy mid-August heatwave, merrymakers accessed the pool to cool off in the clear, blue water. Before departing, they deposited a surprise in the deep end.
The following morning the lifeguard arrived puzzled by the water's milky white appearance. Reporting the phenomenon to his boss, Stricker sent a water sample out to be analyzed.
A baffled lab tech had the results back in a few hours and promptly telephoned Stricker.
The lab tech asked, "Are you sitting down?"
Stricker replied hesitantly, "A-ha."
"The analysis came back. Three parts carbon, six parts hydrogen and three parts oxygen."
Stricker grew impatient, "Listen," he cracked, "My degree is in engineering. Not chemistry. Just tell me in English."
"Milk. It's powdered milk. Three hundred and thirty thousand gallons of it."
Pranksters had dispensed sacks of powdered milk into the water, churning the pool into a not quite Olympic-size cauldron of milk.
The pool was closed for the day, drained and refilled.
The incident made front-page news the next day.
After his fill of Flemingdon Park, Herbert Stricker left in 1964 and established Heathcliffe Developments.
Additional material from Toronto Star, May 28, 1963, pg 7; Toronto Star,
August 22, 1961, pg1; Toronto Star, September 5, 2006, pg B7;
Canadain Homes, November 1961
Ed Brown lived in Flemingdon Park at 58 Grenoble Drive from 1969-1991