Home » History » Famed E.P. Taylor Horse Racing Empire Got its Start in North York

E.P. Taylor is shown in October 1973 leading Lord Durham, with jockey Sandy Hawley, to the winner's circle at Woodbine. - Ron Bull/Toronto Star file photo
E.P. Taylor is shown in October 1973 leading Lord Durham, with jockey Sandy Hawley, to the winner's circle at Woodbine. - Ron Bull/Toronto Star file photo

Famed E.P. Taylor Horse Racing Empire Got its Start in North York

Family bequeathed home to Canadian Film Centre

One of Canada’s largest-ever horse racing empires got its start in North York at a 10-hectare estate, Windfields, on Bayview Avenue between Lawrence and York Mills streets, owned by legendary Canadian business tycoon and thoroughbred racehorse breeder E.P. Taylor. He bought the land in 1932. Up until then, he had rented residences.

Edward Plunket Taylor (1901-1989), generally known by his initials, was one of Canada’s wealthiest businesspeople. People joked his initials stood for “Excess Profits.” His many ventures included the development of North York’s Don Mills, Canada’s first planned mixed-purpose community housing plus commerce, places of worship and schools. “Windfields” was the result of a naming contest run by Taylor that was won by his wife Winnifred, inspired by strong autumn winds blowing through their property. She said he never paid her the $100 prize.

Windfields consisted of a grey stone mansion, a large gatehouse that Taylor used as an office, a greenhouse, three big stables, numerous barns and three workers’ “cottages.” He started with one horse and had 38 mares and two stallions by 1950, fourteen years later. Winnifred named most of the horses.

Taylor won so many Queen’s Plates that spectators became annoyed and booed when he kept going into the winner’s circle.

In 1968, Taylor sold most of the estate for housing development, except for the home where he and Winnifred stayed when in Toronto. In 1969, they gifted the estate to what was then the Borough of North York. Taylor transferred his horse business to much larger sites in Oshawa — where Northern Dancer, the first Canadian horse to win the Kentucky Derby (1964), was born — and Maryland, calling both Windfields.

The family lived in the house until 1987, when, at North York Mayor Mel Lastman’s suggestion, Taylor agreed to let Toronto-born movie producer-director Norman Jewison turn the place into the Canadian Film Centre, a non-profit filmmaking school. The estate was designated a heritage property in 1992. In 2014, the Centre constructed the “Northern Dancer Pavilion” where there had once been a swimming pool and cabanas. It houses CFC’s programs.

Written by Susan Goldenberg.

Originally published on October 29, 2021, on toronto.com.