A Horse Lover’s Paradise

Posted November 22 2016 in Horses



Nestled into eighty acres of Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains, one of the most stunningly beautiful horse emporiums that ever existed was built in the 1940’s by Canadian construction visionary James Franceschini.

High above the shores of Lac Tremblant and resting in the shadows of the famed Mt. Tremblant ski resort, Dufferin Haven, as Franceschini named his mountain estate, was home to some of the most renowned equine show horse champions of the 1940′ and 50’s.

James Franceschini was my maternal grandfather, and our family visited him at Dufferin haven regularly throughout the 1950’s. He was commonly referred to as ‘J.F.  by the adults who knew him or ‘Big Jim’ by my siblings and me.  So, from time to time I will use these monikers to refer to this larger-than-life man.

After Big Jim passed away in 1960 the horses left Dufferin Haven, but our family was lucky enough to be able to carry on his legacy and gather together at the estate with loved-ones and friends for the next forty years.

These wonderful photographs of life at Dufferin Haven celebrate the horses and the people that loved and enjoyed them. Featuring the surrounding natural beauty, they are also a testament to one man’s passion for his four legged beauties.

The shot above is James dressed in his favourite western gear aboard champion palomino Far Vision.



At the gates of Dufferin Haven, James takes a guest for a ride with a pair of his hackney ponies.


The main entrance drive into the Dufferin Haven estate

Words cannot describe the feeling when passing through the gates and venturing down this promenade into a pristine world devised entirely for the soul-calming pleasure of man and beast.


           James with hackney champion Curtain Call


    The Main Residence

J.F.’s ten bedroom log cabin, made from British Columbia cedar, was expanded several times over the twenty years he lived here. All the principal buildings on the property where fashioned in the same log style with brilliant red cedar shakes on the roofs.

The greenhouse style building on the right is an indoor swimming pool that contained a variety of beautiful flowers grown in the estate’s green houses.


        El Vision and El Mischief

James bred all his palomino stock at his breeding farm outside of Toronto. It took years to refine the offspring into these gorgeous specimens.



The Indoor Pool

James, standing second from the right, loved to swim, so this pool was kept operational all year round. It was amazing to be swimming with snow packed thick on the glass ceiling and frigid temperatures outside. Flowers and plants from the estate greenhouses adorned the side planters and the sitting area in the background had and eight foot marble fountain complete with cherubs.


Speaking of Snow…

A winter’s sleigh ride was a great way to spend a chilly afternoon. Here we have James and a group of guests heading over to the ski lodge for a cup of hot coco, probably fortified with something stronger.

Pulling the sleigh are his famed palominos, Far Vision, El Fario, El Mischief, and El Vision.

Jingle Bells!



A Trip Back in Time

Reliving the cherished past of the horse and carriage was an intense interest for James. Here his hackney team pulls an English road coach called a ‘Park Drag,’ which were very popular in the nineteenth century.

Coaches came in every shape and size and were used for commerce and personal transportation. The word ‘hackney’ came from the English area where the horses and ponies were first bred.

The ponies were used primarily to pull small carriages that were often used as taxis which favoured a smaller type of horse to get around narrow streets. Hence the word ‘hack’ for a taxi.

The collection of carriages at Dufferin Haven was extensive, as you can see from the variety of these pictures.


 Entertaining Guests

Here in the back garden behind the main residence with such a magnificent backdrop, Big Jim loved to socialize with friends, business associates, politicians and celebrities. The ski resort can be seen across the lake on the lower right.


Hackney tandem Waltz Time and Dinner Dance

With James in formal attire and top hat, Mt. Tremblant looms large in the background.



The Horse Palace Residence

An interior view of the stables. Gleaming hardwood and chrome gave his favourite friends the luxury surroundings they rightfully deserved. Even monogrammed blankets.


Lac Tremblant Vista

Even on a hazy day the beauty of Dufferin Haven’s setting was spectacular. J.F. loved his four-in-hand teams that would pull the olde world English carriages imported to compete in shows around North America. On this day guests were invited to enjoy the show.

The building at the end of the track is the trophy room, which is attached to the peak-roofed stables.



The Trophy Room

The trophy room was packed with ribbons, photographs, display cases of medals, and of course, trophies. There was a beautiful mirrored bar for entertaining and huge windows on both walls. The interior windows allowed viewing into the indoor stable training ring.


Dufferin Statesman Driven By Mrs. Frank Ryan

Mrs. Ryan and her husband were great friends of James. Notice the attention to detail in the carriage and footman.


The Indoor Ring Facing the Trophy Room

Foul weather never stopped the horses from being exercised.  The horse stalls were just behind the camera.


Poetry in motion, with a high prancing beauty!

What else can you say?


James Gets a Badge Before Greeting His Guests

Over two hundred dignitaries and their wives were feted at Dufferin Haven in September 1953. The guests were treated to luncheon and a special showing of James’ pride and joy.

greeting-001 A Warm Handshake and Hello

Mayors from all over North America and Europe arrived from Montreal, one hundred miles to the south, by motor coach to spend a special afternoon at Dufferin Haven.


A Day To Remember

The mid-September weather was overcast but the rain held off as the guests filled the infield lawn to enjoy cocktails, food and a spectacular display of equine showmanship


Mayor Roy Hofheintz of Houston Texas enjoys the party


Signing the Guest Register

The Guest Register was an important keepsake after the festivities ended and it has remained in our family ever since. The man standing is Robert Grieve, J.F.’s long time personal assistant who was with him right up to his final days.


A Family Affair

Here we have J.F. with his brother Leonard, standing to his left with the fedora on. The brothers were inseparable in business and pleasure, and Leonard was James’ greatest asset throughout his lifetime.


 A Man Who Loved To Laugh

The is my favourite picture of my grandfather. He loved to entertain and enjoy himself with the people around him.


The Nephews

Here we have Leonard and Jimmy Franceschini, Leonard senior’s two sons. These gents were an intrical part of the family business and social realm.


Another Day At The Ranch


Horses Weren’t The Only Four Legged Friends at Dufferin Haven


The Guest Apartment

This building was the original stable and JF’s first residence. As other structures were built, this  became a multi unit dwelling for staff and guests.

It is here that my family would stay when we visited in the summers, and I can remember like it was yesterday waking up to the ‘clip-clop, clip-clop of the horses hooves as the carriages passed under my bedroom window in the early morning.

el-vision-001El Vision and Paul Ouimet

There were at least fifty staff at Dufferin Haven year-round tending to the various needs of the estate. These included gardeners from Holland, horse trainers, competition riders, landscapers, maintenance men and domestic staff, many of whom lived on the property with their families.

There was a school house/social club building for their use with a television and top movies were shown on a regular basis.

Of all the competitive horse handlers, Paul Ouimet was the most renowned, earning many first prize ribbons. He was also a dashing figure with the ladies, as rumour once had it.

far-vision-001J.F. with Far Vision


Alasa Wren


King’s Flashlight


Saying Hello to Far Vision

dh12-001Enjoying the Gardens Around the Main Residence

Next to his horses James loved flowers, and the property was awash in numerous variety of annuals and perennials for everyone to enjoy.


Another Family Affair

Here is my mother Myrtle, with my brother Martin in front of her and yours-truly in the background. The pony is ‘Talk Of The Town,’ a world champion who won more blue ribbons than any other of my grandfather’s horses.

The carriage is called a ‘Governess Cart’ because it was used in England for the household governess to cart her charges around.


Talkie and Me

So, here I am with ‘Talkie,’ as he was affectionately called. Talkie would compete in both cart and saddle classes at competitions and do equally well in both disciplines. He was a wonderful friend to me and lived to be seventeen years old, which is quite something.


The Boss Himself

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into a time-gone-by.

If you would like to see more about James and his horses please watch the ‘Dufferin Horses’ video that is in ‘Horses’ category of my website.

This video was professionally produced in colour with soundtrack and much of it was shot at Dufferin Haven.

To read about J.F.’s life, visit the ‘People’ category of my website.

Thank you for your interest,