Now owned by the city, Graydon Hall built in 1936 ‘by super-rich Toronto financier Henry Rupert Bain,’ writes Susan Goldenberg
With 29 rooms, Graydon Hall — on Graydon Hall Drive south of Highway 401 and Don Mills Road — was once the grandest residence in the Toronto area after, of course, Casa Loma (with 98 rooms). It also has a dramatic history.
Now a city-owned events facility, Graydon Hall was built in 1936 by super-rich Toronto financier Henry Rupert Bain, flaunting his wealth during the worst of the Great Depression, when most people were suffering hardships. The price tag: $250,000 ($4.6 million today). Then 38, Bain had made a fortune from gold mine investments in northwest Ontario.
The name is thought to come from an amalgamation of the “Gray” family who settled in the area in 1825 and “don” from the Don River where they owned sawmills.
The Georgian-style manor was the centrepiece of a 100-acre estate, and was primarily built with Ontario fieldstone like neighbouring farmhouses. It featured a 10-car garage, indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, 9-hole golf course, stables for Bain’s 30 prizewinning racehorses, polo field, racetrack, formal gardens, man-made rolling hills, and hunting-dog kennels. He sold half the land in 1950 to business tycoon E.P. Taylor for real estate development.
In September 1951, shortly after he and his close friend Reginald Watkins switched wives through divorces and remarriages, Bain sold the rest of the property, including the house, to Nelson Morgan Davis. Davis was worth $100 million when he died in 1979 and his wealth was acquired from business interests in nickel mining, car sales, paint and varnishes, real estate and paving.
One month later, Bain was badly injured in a riding accident; he died in March 1952, at 54, leaving $1.2 million ($11.6 million today) in equal shares to his widow and three children. He stipulated that she be cut off if she remarried.
Davis sold Graydon Hall in 1964 to developers for $1.8 million, moving to a mansion, also with 29 rooms, overlooking the Rosedale Golf Club. In 1979, he suffered a heart attack in his Arizona home’s pool and drowned, age 72.
Son Glen, who generously supported land conservation, was shot to death in 2007, at 66, by killers hired by his godson/cousin Marshall Ross. Ross erroneously believed he was in Davis’ will — he wasn’t — and wanted to collect immediately. Police unravelled the plot and charged him. He pleaded guilty.
Written by Susan Goldenberg.
Originally published on March 22, 2020, on toronto.com.