Leuty Lifeguard Station photo by John Vetterli
The Beaches — known as “the Beach” by its residents — is a prestigious and popular destination for a relaxing walk, a heart-pumping roller blade or a calming bike ride at sunset along the boardwalk lining the shore of Lake Ontario. The surrounding tree lined streets are peppered with original Victorian and Edwardian homes (all beautifully preserved) mixed with luxury modern-style homes. Walking along the commercial district of Queen Street East, anyone can experience a large number of specialty stores, cafés, and restaurants; places where friends and families can meet to catch up or find some treasured gems. The close knit community consisting of executives and artists, and the fact that no building is over four stories high, gives this Toronto neighborhood a truly small town flavour.[/colored_box]
The Ashbridges family first settled the Beaches in 1793. The Ashbridges, along with a few other families, farmed the district until the latter part of the 1880’s when many of the Beach properties were subdivided. Extended areas of land were set aside for local parks, which collectively became Toronto’s playgrounds by the lake. Hotels and resorts were developed, including Victoria Park, Kew Gardens and the Scarboro’ Heights Hotel. Development continued and by the end of the 18th century the first church and school had been built. By the 1920’s, the city of Toronto was expanding eastward and the Beaches was then absorbed with the amalgamation of surrounding communities.
From the Beaches’ earliest days people from across the city flocked to here to relax and enjoy its racetracks, amusement parks and lakeside camps. One of the best-known summer attractions was the Scarboro’ Beach Amusement Park, which opened in 1907. By 1925 the park was bought by developers and was transformed into a residential neighborhood.
“The Beach” versus “The Beaches”
There has been an endless debate about whether the official term for the area is The Beach or The Beaches. Old school Beachers call the area “The Beach” and claim that this has been the traditional name for the area for generations. The Beach is the more historically correct title. New and younger residents and a majority of the GTA tend to side with the title “The Beaches”.
April of 2006 saw the Beaches Business Improvement Association hold a pole to answer the long-standing question: Is the neighborhood called “The Beach” or the “Beaches?” The Beach won by 58%. This year saw the city posting new street signs in the area labeled “The Beach.”
No matter the name, the Beach or the Beaches, this is an exciting area of town, with something amusing and entertaining for everyone. There are numerous historical landmarks to see such as Kew Beach Fire Station No.227 — completed in August 1906 and still an active fire hall; the R.C Harris Water Treatment Plant — a beautiful Art Deco water treatment facility built in 1930, designated a national historic civil engineering site; and the Fox Theatre — built in 1914, Toronto’s oldest operating movie theatre.
The Beaches is also host to one of the most popular outdoor events in the Toronto area: The Beaches International Jazz Festival, which runs in the month of July, seeing 2 km of Queen St. East shut down for good music and good times. The event draws thousands of tourists to the area every year.
Definitely a hub of great living in Canada’s most populated city, the Beaches is one of our favourite places and one the great neighbourhoods of the GTA. For a great tour guide of the Beaches area, visit www.beachesliving.ca