On UTSC grounds, one may notice how every part of the building has character, and operates with a different plan in mind. The expansion and modernization of some parts of the campus has not taken away from the surrounding landscape, all which makes this campus unique.
One place that goes unnoticed is the Miller Lash House. The house is located in the Highland Creek Valley, right off of Old Kingston Road. The historic house is an example of art and nature with its distinctive craftsmanship. The house was at the center of the University of Toronto’s original estate, or Scarborough College, as it was known in 1963. Before the house was built however, it was Miller Lash who found the property, and became so drawn to the open space and nature that he bought it shortly after.
A graduate of U of T, Miller Lash was a successful lawyer and businessman. He was also a relative of William Lash Miller, a scientist, after whom the chemistry building at UTSG is named after. Lash hired Edward B. Green Sr. to design the house, and it was constructed in 1913. The massive, 17-room house was used as the residence for the principal of Scarborough College when the campus first opened in 1965.
After a period, the house became property of U of T, and now serves as a unique conference hall and event facility. If Miller Lash House is so significant to the university’s history and has been around longer than UTSC itself, why haven’t students or staff been able to access the space?
Fran Wdowczyk, Director of Business Development and Special Advisor at UTSC, says that the house is a “bookable space for the university.” It is open to students and staff, but when special events are held, many times it is “unaffordable.”
The problem is that students are on campus mainly from September to April, and during that time, not many students or faculty have the means to pay for expensive catering or booking large spaces for their events. The main revenue the house receives occurs in the summer, during wedding season. The house is popular amongst people looking for great spot for an intimate, country-style event. The house does not gain from student tuition, or other private means. “The house is simply not cheap,” says Wdowczyk.
On top of the house’s uniquely historic characteristics, the Miller Lash estate was able to obtain a grant of $82,733 from the Canada Millennium Partnership Program, for restoration of the original estate. U of T Magazine reported that in January, John McKay, MP for Scarborough East, presented the grant to the Scarborough campus principal Paul Thompson and restoration coordinator Lyne Dellandrea. “The preservation of the Miller Lash House will provide the University of Toronto, and the community of Scarborough with recreational space in a natural, and historic setting,” McKay says.
With the history of the house, as well as the renovations to restore and preserve the property, the cost of the house will certainly rise, making it even more financially difficult to book the venue for students and faculty at UTSC.
However, Wdowczyk wants to change that. Wdowczyk and her team want to make the Miller Lash House more accessible to students and faculty. One proposition Wdowczyk has made is inexpensive catering. For example, Aramark, the same food company that caters to students and staff in the Marketplace, could offer their services to the Miller Lash House. This way, the two forces could combine to help cover costs. Wdowczyk has also suggested students bring their own dishes. This would also cut the cost of utilities and other supplies.
Currently, there are several events that students can attend at Miller Lash House. One example is “Pub at the House” which takes place every Thursday during the summer. This event is an affordable way to have a good time because the menu items are all under $20 CAD. As well, this winter the Miller Lash House is presenting its first “Christmas in the Valley” show, which involves local vendor goods”.
As one can see, Miller Lash House, and the people responsible for organizing events there, are moving towards making the space more accessible for UTSC staff and students.