Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Jokers Hill got its name

Pictured above is a section of the University of Toronto's Koffler Scientific Reserve at Jokers Hill in King Township.   The knoll, top-centre, is the site originally called Jokers Hill.   Below, another view.

Photos by Barry Wallace

Pictured above is the view from atop Jokers Hill looking westward across the Oak Ridges Moraine.

Jokers Hill Farm was the name of a huge country estate atop the King Ridge and straddling Dufferin Street, north of the 19th Sideroad in King Township.    According to the UofT's KSR website, the lands that include Jokers Hill were originally assembled by Colonel R. S. McLauglin, founder of the Canadian arm of General Motors.   In 1952 he gave the estate to his daughter Billie and her husband, Major-General Churchill Mann.   The couple were great horse people and according to legend, Billie Mann's favourite horse, Joker, liked to escape and climb to one of the highest points on the property (that's it, pictured above).   The spot commands an outstanding view of the western Oak Ridges Moraine.   On one of their retrieval journeys up the height of land, Billie Mann said to her husband: "Church, you must build me a house right here and we will call it 'Joker's Hill'. "   The entire sprawling estate became known as Jokers Hill (minus the apostrophe), and many years later was owned by Murray and Marvelle Koffler (Shoppers Drug Mart).   The Kofflers gifted Jokers Hill to the University of Toronto in 1995.   Today the scientific research facilities at Jokers Hill are world-class.   Moreover, the legend of Joker and his hill continues.
Please comment if you wish.


  1. Yes my son, It is public. Sorry for the late answer

  2. No actually, it is NOT public

  3. I worked at Jokers Hill as a horse groom in 1976 when it was still the Kofflers’ country home. It was a beautiful facility and a classy show Hunter jumper horse stables. At that time Major General Mann and his wife Billie were living in a home on the north edge of the Jokers Hill property and still kept their horses and those of their granddaughter Shelagh at Jokers Hill. Shelagh was a lovely teenager and good rider.
    Lots of memories

    1. I taught Tina Koffler at Havergal College in the 70s. In the 80s I bought an adjacent property to Jokers Hill and would often run into Murray when walking the trails. He was always generous and happy that people were enjoying his paradise. In the early 2000s U of T strictly forbade horseback riding on any of its trails, arguing that the horses would destroy their projects. I formed a group of locals, arguing that horses are not predators and would stay on the trails. Our arguments were ignored - no horses - but dogs allowed on some areas. Dogs are predators - horses are not. Zero logic. Now I can only remember, not visit the beauty of that acreage.