The David Dunlap Observatory property was originally the site of a 19th century farmstead. When its observatory in downtown Toronto became unworkable due to light pollution, the University of Toronto identified the site as appropriate for a new facility, and the land was purchased as a gift to the University by Jessie Donalda Dunlap, as a memorial to her husband, David Alexander Dunlap. In December of 1931, the well-established Toronto architectural firm of Mathers and Haldenby was awarded the prestigious project. The architects were able to develop a design which incorporated all the astronomers’ functional requirements in a fine classical Beaux-Arts form.
The Town passed a heritage designation in 2009 to designate the lands as a Cultural Heritage Landscape under the Ontario Heritage Act and with the aim of protecting the features on the property which are of great cultural heritage significance. A Richmond Hill David Dunlap Observatory Park Master Plan was approved by Council in 2016 and is an important guide that sets out a comprehensive, phased plan for the creation of Richmond Hill David Dunlap Observatory (RHDDO) Park. This unique destination park will serve the residents of Richmond Hill and attract visitors from across the GTA.
The Exterior Conservation of David Dunlap Observatory and Administration Building is the most recent phase of a comprehensive multi-year, multi-phase implementation of the DDO Lands Conservation Management Plan. From project understanding and building condition assessments, through the design and planning of interventions, the Standards and Guidelines continuously informed the decision-making processes and overall execution of the work. Project delivery methods were devised from the outset to elevate craftsmen and trades to collaborative team roles to meet the highest standards of craftsmanship and conservation based on the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada as the benchmark for heritage conservation practice in Canada.