old mill toronto

Toronto has been having brunch at this hundred-year-old mill since the 1930s

A mill that's over 100 years old has been serving brunch to people in Toronto since the 1930s. It's also been a popular spot for afternoon tea for even longer.

Old Mill in Toronto was established in 1914, but the restaurant and venue's history extends back even further.

old mill torontoMills on the site have been built, succumbed to fires and rebuilt again since 1793 when Toronto's first industrial building was built - a government-owned sawmill.

old mill toronto

By the 1800s, many mills were in operation along the banks of the Humber River, making the area a hub for business and social activity.

old mill toronto

It was on the west bank of the Humber River that Robert Home Smith, a local entrepreneur who began to develop Toronto's Kingsway area in the early 1900s, opened The Old Mill Tea Garden on the first day of World War I.

old mill toronto

"When Robert Home Smith acquired the property that we sit on, he also acquired the accompanying 3,000 acres of land now known as The Kingsway. Many of the homes in this area were built and continue to be built in the same architectural essence used for Old Mill Toronto," says Irene Hryniuk, CEO of Old Mill Toronto Hospitality.

"The continuity is quite stunning. Of course, we are also lucky to be situated along the banks of the Humber River which has seen more and more visitors taking walks and who enjoy the park-like surrounding setting."

old mill toronto

Despite the times, people were still enjoying The Old Mill at the Humber as a resort and spot for afternoon tea. A boathouse and canoe livery were also built at the tea garden.

old mill toronto

"Old Mill Toronto originally opened as an outdoor tea room, located just along Old Mill Road directly in the area of our dining room. Robert Home Smith was British and wanted to create a little piece of England here in Canada. He opened the Tea Room in the first week of World War I, August 4, 1914," says Hryniuk.

old mill toronto

Afternoon tea at Old Mill is a two-hour experience of nibbling on house-made scones with Devonshire cream, tea sandwiches, and French pastries that takes place Thursday through Sunday, and weekends are often booked months in advance.

old mill toronto

"I often make the comparison to current-day business. Who would open up a public business based on social interaction in the first week of the public Ontario closures back in March 2020? Unheard of," says Hryniuk.

"And yet, we have a 109-year-old thriving business here at Old Mill Toronto which started with the afternoon tea service. Soon after, the tea Garden became a community hub. People came to learn from each other, to share news, to console and to celebrate. This is the tradition that carries on to this day."

old mill toronto

By the 1930s and 1940s Old Mill had gained a reputation as a destination for family gatherings, as well as roast beef dinners and Sunday brunch buffet.

old mill toronto

"We've expanded the number of food choices that we offer and today, all of the foods that are served are exclusively prepared in-house by our wonderful chefs and cooks. Today we offer about 100 different choices which include hot and cold entree choices, a seafood table, soup and salads, charcuterie board and cheeses, fresh fruits and delicious desserts including the ever-popular chocolate fountain," says Hryniuk.

"Having said that, the biggest change we've seen in the past five years is introducing more vegan and vegetarian options, and most recently, requests to have more gluten-free choices."

old mill toronto

While afternoon tea and Sunday brunch might be some of the most popular draws at the Old Mill, there's also much to experience here and so much history, with the actual space itself having its own stories to tell as well.

old mill toronto

"The architecture and historical features reflect the English roots Old Mill is known for and as the property has been built out, it has kept with those English roots and Tudor style. We even have a table in our beautiful Royal Oak room which Home Smith brought from England. The brass chandeliers found in our majestic and peaceful chapel were all brought from England," says Hryniuk.

"As far as we know, they are unique in Toronto as are the 300-plus candles that are manually lit for all wedding ceremonies. We have nooks and crannies that are unique and have been used in both large-scale and indie films. For example, a famous scene from the Matt Damon and Ben Affleck movie Good Will Hunting was filmed in our Print Room."

old mill toronto

Over the years, Old Mill has become a destination for holidays, a filming location, a dining spot for celebs, a wedding venue, a space for live music and now even has their very own honeybee hives on site. Some of their roughly 220 employees have been working there for over 20 years.

old mill toronto

"We are so fortunate to have a mix of generational guests as well as first-timers and out-of-town guests. We have a very high percentage of guests that are repeat customers and many of our customers have come here generation after generation: their grandmother was married at Old Mill, whose child then also got married here, whose child had their birthday party and so it goes on and on," says Hryniuk.

"Every day we see customers who come in to view the room they were married in years earlier, or we hear a story about how Old Mill is a tradition with their family and they come every Christmas or Mother's Day. It's really heartwarming to hear these stories and they are stories that make up the history of Old Mill but also of Toronto."

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim


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