After moving to Midland in 1883 to work for the Toronto Lumber Company, James Playfair became a pillar of the community in business, social life and sports. In 1888, he started a lumbering company with a partner before branching out into shipping, shipbuilding, and milling.
Mr. Playfair epitomized the phrase, “Work hard and play hard.” He owned several small yachts as well as an elegant seagoing yacht on which he and his wife entertained the governor general in 1916. The Playfairs hosted rowing regattas on the bay, with legends such as Ned Hanlon and Jake Gaudaur participating.
He was also the founder of the Midland Golf and Country Club, where the game has been played since 1919. However, his most significant initiative for sport in this town is Little Lake Park, for it was Mr. Playfair who thwarted an attempt to cut down the trees on the north shore of the lake in 1906.
When Mr. Playfair discovered that logging was planned, he purchased the property and sold it to the town for what it cost him on condition that it remain a public park. Through the years, literally tens of thousands of people, citizens of Midland and visitors alike, have benefitted from his philanthropy. Little Lake Park has witnessed many athletic pursuits both on the lake and around it, from rowing and sailing to camping and horse racing.
As Thomas Duncan, longtime chairman of Midland’s park commission, said many years ago: “If it had not been for Mr. James Playfair, Midland would not have that park today, and all through the years he was one of the best friends the [park] commission had.”