The storied London home has hosted lavish society garden parties and greyhound races on its sprawling grounds.
'The end of an era'
A Canadian prime minister even wrote a book within its rooms - writes lfpress.com
But the 140-year-old home will soon fall to a wrecker’s ball, making way for new development.
The former residence of Dorinda (Dinnie) Greenway, whose mother was a McCormick of the cookie empire, sits on 36 hectares at 2154 Richmond St. at Sunningdale Road, and will give way to a Drewlo Holdings subdivision.
Dorindale, as the estate is called, dates to 1878. Its looming demolition is a loss to London’s history and heritage, and a reminder to honour Greenway, 97, who now lives in a retirement home, some Londoners say.
Dinnie Greenway right, with her father and mother (riding sidesaddle due to polio). (Family handout photo)
“I loved it, I still love it,” said Greenway, seated on the patio at her new home at Richmond Woods Retirement Village.
“We spent as much time at the farm as possible. We loved to get out there. It was a wonderful place.”
The home may be a historical and cultural icon in the city, but to Greenway it was her escape, her fun place, she recalls.
“As kids we would go riding out on our bikes and our ponies to the farm. We had a stable in town (at their London home) but we wanted to get to the farm. There were 100 acres and a woodlot, coyotes, wolves. I loved it.”
She recalls how the home also hosted former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, who wrote a book while visiting the house.
“He wrote a book we had to study in high school, he wrote beautifully,” and portions of it were written at Dorindale, Greenway said.
They also used to hold greyhound races on the grounds, but horses were the focus of activity at Dorindale – named after the many Dorindas in the family.
“It was fun to race them but it was more fun to have horses jumping. The kids all rode very well,” Greenway said.
The Greenway family at their home on Richmond Street just north of Sunningdale in London. (Family handout photo)
“Horses were the focus,” added Dorinda (Dee) Lewis, her daughter.
It was a focus throughout the family. Lewis made the national junior equestrian team and her sister Kelly Hall-Holland made the Canadian Olympic team. Their mother, Greenway, was admitted to the London Sports Hall of Fame in 2017 as an accomplished equestrian and international judge. She was one of the first female riders to compete internationally.
Greenway won the first international show jumping competition at the 1949 Royal Horse Show. Two years later, she won the first Canadian international dressage competition at the same venue.
“Dinnie is an inspiration, a great friend,” said former premier David Peterson, who counts Greenway as a dear friend of his late mother.
“If London had a queen Dinnie would the best candidate. She is just fabulous.”
Peterson recalls being taught how to jump by Greenway when he was in his 20s.
“She always looked like a queen on a horse, perfectly straight back. Riding well is difficult and she did it perfectly. She competed at a very high level.” he said, adding she hunted on horseback for more than 80 years.
“She would jump fences when normal people would say, ‘I am not doing that.’ She never had a hair out of place. She was a total lady in all circumstances.”
When the proposal to demolish the home at 2154 Richmond St. first came to a city committee, Coun. Maureen Cassidy spoke about how last year Greenway rode her horse to the Loblaws store in Masonville to shop because she wasn’t allowed to drive.
“The horse was completely traffic broken, Greenway said. “They gave me apples for a crisp and carrots for the horse.”
Despite the importance of the family legacy, the homedoes not meet the criteria for historical designation because of its many additions and renovations, said Kyle Gonyou, heritage planner with the city.
Greenway sold the home and estate to Drewlo Holdings more than 30 years ago but negotiated a “life tenancy” meaning she could remain in the home for as long as she liked.
It became a joke between Drewlo and Greenway that Eugen Drewlo, who died in April, would call Greenway once a year.
“He would call and ask how I am. I said, ‘Fine, thank you,’ and he would sigh. I would say, ‘Sorry I’m a bad tenant.’ He was a very decent fellow, very good to deal with,” Greenway said.
In February, the barns at the home burned, leaving Greenway’s five horses without a home. Word spread through the community about the fire and friends showed up to support her. Some brought horse trailers and took the horses to stable them at their barns.
“You wouldn’t believe how good everyone was. It was the resurrection of the pioneer spirit. People were there at two and three in the morning, with trailers and sympathy,” Greenway said.
But the history is not just in her home. Her parents were judge George Arthur Brickenden and Catherine (McCormick) Brickenden, whom the London theatre awards are now named after.
Dinnie Greenway centre, with brother next to her, with her father, left and mother right (riding sidesaddle due to polio). (Family handout photo)
Catherine was the granddaughter of biscuit maker Thomas McCormick. She studied drama, literature and playwriting at Emerson College in Boston and was instrumental in developing amateur theatre in London. She later famously lead the charge to save the Grand Theatre from sale – and a future as a bowling alley.
Greenway’s full name is Dorinda (Dinnie) Hall-Holland Fuller Greenway, as she survived three husbands.
“Dinnie is a legend, in so many ways. She is tremendously elegant,” said Deb Matthews, former London North Centre MPP.
“She would have a barn party every year literally in the barn with a buffet. It really is the end of an era.”
Other branches of the family are well known, too. In April, Greenway’s brother George, 95, and his wife Shirley, 94, chose assisted suicide, garnering national media attention.
“There were a lot of tears over that,” Lewis said.
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