Invitations will be going out to local businesses by the end of January for the First Annual Riverside District BIA Bonspiel on March 25 at the Royal Canadian Curling Club.
More than 60 BIA business owners and employees played in the inaugural bonspiel last year that was promoted as a way for BIA members to get acquainted with the curling club tucked away behind a row of houses on Broadview Ave. just north of Queen St. E.
The 700-member curling club is one of the oldest active organizations in the Riverside District neighbourhood. Its history dates back to the Royal Canadian Volunteers, a 750-member militia regiment recruited from across Upper Canada and disbanded in 1802.
It started with the Royal Canadian Athletic Club, a group of about 100 men that evolved into the Royal Canadian Bicycle Club in 1891.
The bicycle club was located in a portion of Dingman Hall at 112 Broadview Ave., better known today as “Jilly’s.” The Toronto Evening Star wrote: “The club parlours are upholstered and furnished in the best of style and the pictures of the winning teams decorate the walls. A padded boxing room, a pool room, a card room, a smoking room, a reading room and a first class gymnasium are among the attractions.”
In 1907, the bicycle club built a new clubhouse at 131 Broadview Ave. They added an arena for curling, skating and hockey to the back of the clubhouse in 1929 and changed the name to the Royal Canadian Bicycle and Curling Club. The ice house runs north behind the row houses on Broadview Ave. to the alley beside the St. John’s Bakery.
Curling has been the sole sport played at the club since 1953.
Inside the curling club lobby stands one of the world’s largest athletic trophies. The silver and ebony Dunlop Challenge Cup – seven-feet tall and named for the bicycle tire manufacturer – was won by the Royal Canadian Bicycle Club in 1895 and 1896. The 20-mile race started with four laps around the defunct Greenwood Racetrack on Queen St. East before heading out Kingston Road and back for another four laps around the track in front of the horse racing grandstand packed with spectators.
By Brian McAndrew
Brian McAndrew is a long-time curler at the Royal Canadian Curling Club and is a member of its board of directors and history committee. He can be reached at email@example.com