Upon her death, Phyllis Mary Rawlinson (1912-1995) willed her 89.5-acre farm to the citizens of Richmond Hill. Phyllis Rawlinson Park is Richmond Hill’s largest park on the Oak Ridges Moraine. In her will Miss Rawlinson said this donation must continue to preserve the land’s rural origins for all to enjoy.
Phyllis was the daughter of Marmaduke Arthur Rawlinson (1852-1922) and Mary Alice Welsh (M.A) Rawlinson (1887-1984). Phyllis and her mother made Richmond Hill their permanent residence in the late 1940’s after moving from the City of Toronto. The property was purchased from the region’s well established Forster family in 1934 and became known as the Tentone Farm. The Rawlinsons stabled horses and continued to support equestrian sport in the region.
Equestrian activities took centre stage
- She was an established champion five goal player in the sport of polo.
- Captained a team that won the Eglinton Hunt Club Polo Shield.
- Rode in Pole Bending races at the Eglinton Hunt Club.
- Scored four of the six goals for the winning team at the Richmond Hill Fair in May 1930’s Pole Bending race.
- Her pursuit of equestrian sports like; steeplechases, fox hunts and show jumping matches added to her enthusiastic personality.
- She placed in the top ten Canadian trials for the Olympic games trials.
- Later she assisted the Canadian Equestrian Olympic Team with their jump preparations.
- On her farm Phyllis also raised prize winning thoroughbred racetrack horses, as well as show and pleasure horses.
- She was inducted into the 2016 Richmond Hill Sports Hall of Fame.
Overseas during World War 2
Phyllis Rawlinson served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service as a radar plotting officer. Women performed many vital naval roles such as aviation mechanic, electrician, radio operator and weapons analyst.
After her service to the Women’s Royal Naval Service, she attended the Slade School of Fine Art in London, England. After graduating with a degree in painting, Phyllis then returned to Canada and settled at Tentone Farm.
Above is a photo taken in 1995, the same year Phyllis Rawlinson passed away. At the bottom right corner is the barn complex and the house is just barely in view at the very bottom of the picture. We can see cleared pastoral land used by generations of families to produce livestock, grow food crops and raise horses. Note the laneway from the barns and house is running straight towards Leslie Street at the left of the picture, compared to the winding entryway we see today shown in the next satellite picture.
Historical records show the Phyllis Rawlinson Park is located on lot 32 on the 3rd concession (yellow rectangle). Other historical records show the Rawlinson family may have also owned the adjacent lot to the north, lot 33 on the 3rd concession (green rectangle), altogether adding up to approximately 185 acres.
Trails, the Pond and an Ice Rink
The walking trails are not cleared of snow. The more well trodden trails consist of hard packed snow, other trails amount to a cow path through a field. Though many new trees have been planted there remains a good portion of flat open spaces for tranquil winter activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or winter photography.
Boardwalks cross over unnamed tributaries of the Rouge River feeding into the pond. The water temperature in the pond has consistently stayed below 0 degrees C. and has created a natural ice-skating rink. With assistance from The Rouge Valley Foundation and its volunteers some sections of the park are being returned to a forested setting from its previous pastural farm use.
The park includes one of only two off leash dog parks in Richmond Hill. The one hectare dog park is enclosed by a 1.5 meter fence and has separate areas for different size dogs.
Another feature only available at this Richmond Hill park are charcoal barbeque grills with a picnic shelter area available for a rental fee.
Robert Holland Interpretive Centre
The Robert Holland Interpretive Centre is housed in one the oldest heritage homes in Richmond Hill, the Shaw House. It is estimated the Shaw house was built between 1801 and 1834. Robert Holland, a member of the Rouge Valley Foundation, provided funding to have the house relocated here to its present location from Yonge Street in Richmond Hill. When in operation, the house staff welcomes you inside where you can explore outdoor environmental activities by registering for outdoor education programs. The Centre also has displays about local history and the Rawlinson family.
George Forster House
At the east side of the park, you will find the George Forster House and barn complex. When in operation, the George Forster House hosts recreational programs both indoor and outdoor similar to the Robert Holland Centre. It too has heritage artifacts related to the property and past family histories on display.
The hewn log house was built around 1830 by George Forster (1787-1879) and his wife Margaret (1783-1847). The Forsters also built the barn complex we see today. Forster families worked the land for many generations until selling it to the Rawlinson Family in 1934.
Phyllis Rawlinson Park is located at the top north east side of Richmond Hill, west of Highway 404. The park is at the city’s outskirts, away from nearby business districts and residential neighbourhoods. For some people one of the park’s most appreciated attributes is its remoteness meaning it’s less frequented and perfect for an afternoon of winter solitude.