When a devastating fire swept through the 90-year-old Badminton and Racquet Club near Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue Tuesday afternoon, the organization added yet another chapter to its storied history.
The club opened in 1924 when the old TTC streetcar barns on St. Clair Avenue were converted into seven badminton courts. The B & R, as it's affectionately known among those who use it, started with only a few members from Toronto's elite — but has since grown to include more than 2,750 members. To this day, it remains a private facility and access can be gained by membership only.
'Women are to be seen and not heard'
The club has also been known for its history of segregation of the sexes. It wasn't until 1980 that women were allowed to sit in on board meetings — but without voting rights. "Women are to be seen and not heard," says the club's website in describing that period of its history.
"The idea of women on the board had been rejected annually as many of the men on the board felt that the "right kind of man" would not serve if there were women at the table," it adds.
According to a historical timeline on the club's website, a co-ed dining room was introduced in 1997— nearly 75 years after the club's opening.
In 1987, CBC News reported on concerns among community members when the B & R wanted to expand by taking over another local tennis club.
They were opposed to the move saying the club had "an unofficial, unwritten policy not to allow Jews or other minorities to be members." The club denied the allegations saying they "do not inquire into a new applicant's racial or religious backgrounds."
The club has also seen another major fire — caused by an electrical fault in the men's sauna. It destroyed the entire men's locker room back in 2009.
'Traditional club rules'
Maija Palkeinen has lived in the area her whole life and learned how to play tennis at the club when she was young.
She recalls its "traditional club rules."
"It kind of harkens back to the Wimbeldon days of tennis," she said. "I wasn't able to go there one day because I had a black stripe on my shirt … it harkens back to another time."
She called Tuesday's fire unfortunate for the area and hopes to see it rebuilt or relocated in the neighbourhood.
Calls to the club went unanswered on Tuesday. The extent of the damage inside is unclear and it's not known what will happen to the space.