On August 4th, 1914, not only was war declared in Europe, but Robert Home Smith opened the Old Mill Tea Garden Restaurant. It was in this facility that plans were made for the Old Mill Lawn Bowling Club, which officially opened three years later. The picturesque Old Mill Stone Bridge joined the two facilities. Lawn bowls thrived at this location for almost fifty years, however when the TTC was developing its second subway line along the Bloor Danforth route the property was appropriated and the lawn bowling club was moved some six kilometres up the Humber River to the current location next to James Gardens. Many of the trophies and memorabilia from the original club can still be found in our present clubhouse.
James Gardens was purchased from the estate of the James family in 1955 as part of the Humber River flood plain acquisition program following the devastation cause by Hurricane Hazel the previous year. Over the subsequent years it has been landscaped and numerous flower gardens added. Facilities such as nature trails, specimen plantings, small spring fed ponds, tennis courts, pedestrian walkways, biking trails, picnic areas, and reforestation. One of the most pleasant additions is the James Garden Lawn Bowling Club facility.
Members migrated from several other clubs combining with interested people moving into the area and petitioned the Etobicoke council to set aside part of the new park for lawn bowling. Negotiations to establish a lawn bowling club within the park began with the parks authority in 1965. The actual construction of two lighted natural grass bowling greens and a clubhouse commenced in 1968. On Saturday, June 14, 1969 the James Gardens Lawn Bowling Club officially opened. The picture shown above was taken at the opening ceremonies. As bowling clubs at the Old Mill, Runnymede, and Weston closed some members chose to come to James Gardens. They brought with them various traditions, tournaments, and trophies.
Throughout the next thirty years the club membership grew. Both recreational and competitive bowling was important to players. In-club bowling became an important aspect of community life and traditions of holiday events, breakfasts, luncheons, and barbeques were established. Members formed teams that brought back trophies and pennants from district and provincial competitions.
At the start of the new century the club was active in district, provincial, national and international events. Over the years members have shone bringing many pennants and trophies back to the club from these competitions.
In 2004, the club began negotiations with the city to convert the greens from natural grass to artificial turf. In May 2005 the City of Toronto agreed to a capital project to enlarge the green closest to the Humber River to regulation size and to install artificial turf. The cost of this project was fully borne by the City of Toronto. As part of the bargaining process the second rink was closed temporarily with the lighting poles kept in place. Bowlers were finally able to use the new green during the 2007 season. The new surface has attracted many championship level players to the club. They have found that through repeated practise on the artificial surface they are better prepared for national and international competition.
A publicity and a membership drive in 2012 saw the club attract thirty-two new bowlers, which resulted the club placing third across all of Canada, and the club won a set of new bowls from Bowls Canada. A new roof was installed on the clubhouse following a storm, which brought down large tree branches that year. That action prompted club members to refurbish the interior of the club with a new coat of paint, some new flooring and updated washroom facilities.