The Beaches (also known as “The Beach”) is a neighbourhood and popular tourist destination located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is located on the east side of the “Old” City of Toronto. The original boundaries of the neighbourhood are from Fallingbrook Avenue on the east to Kingston Road on the north, to Woodbine Avenue on the west, south to Lake Ontario. The Beaches is part of the east-central district of Toronto.
The commercial district of Queen Street East lies at the heart of The Beaches community. It is characterized by a large number of independent speciality stores. The stores along Queen are known to change tenants quite often causing the streetscape to change from year to year, sometimes drastically. The side streets are mostly lined with semi-detached and large-scale Victorian, Edwardian and new-style houses. There are also low-rise apartment buildings and a few row-houses. The Beaches is known as being a great place to raise a family with very little crime as well as many parks and schools.
In the early 1900s, the neighbourhood was the site of several amusement parks – Victoria Park, Munro Park, and Scarboro Beach Park. Today, their namesakes remain as streets. Kew Gardens (Toronto) is a medium-sized park in the neighbourhood running from Queen Street to Lake Ontario, and includes a bandstand for concerts. Every July, the neighbourhood celebrates the Beaches International Jazz Festival, drawing thousands of tourists to the area.
HISTORY OF THE BEACHES
The Beach was first settled by the Ashbridge family who came to Canada from Philadelphia, in 1793. Ashbridge’s Bay Park is named after these pioneers. The Ashbridges, and a handful of other families, farmed this district until the latter part of the 1800’s, when many of The Beach properties were subdivided. At that time, large parcels of land were set aside for local parks.
Woodbine, Kew Gardens, Scarboro, Balmy Beach and Victoria Park collectively became Toronto’s playgrounds by the lake. These amusement parks also attracted many summer cottagers to the area.
By the 1920’s, the City of Toronto was expanding eastward and The Beach was subdivided for year round residential development. Over the years The Beach has emerged as one of Toronto’s most popular neighbourhoods.
HOMES IN THE BEACHES
The Beach has the greatest variety of architectural house styles of any Toronto neighbourhood. The charm of these homes is accentuated by the tree-lined streets that wind their way down to the lake.
Many of the original frame Beach cottages built in the latter half of the 1800’s and the early 1900’s, have been modernized and are still standing today. However, the majority of The Beach homes were built during the 1920’s and 1930’s.
The former Greenwood racetrack site located at the foot of Woodbine Avenue is now the site of a large new home development known as The Beach. This large collection of heritage inspired custom built homes will include detached and semi-detached houses, and townhomes. Also included in this mix will be a handful of low-rise condominium apartment buildings.
LANDMARKS OF THE BEACHES
The Beaches contains a number of historic buildings that are either designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, or listed in the City of Toronto’s inventory of heritage buildings, including:
- 18–36 Wineva Avenue, built in 1929 (west side and even numbers only);
- the Bank of Toronto building, 1958 Queen Street East, now the “Lion on the Beach” bar, built in 1950;
- the Beach Hebrew Institute, 109 Kenilworth Avenue, built in 1920;
- Beaches Branch of the Toronto Public Library, one of four original Carnegie Libraries and identical to two others (one in Northern Toronto at Wychwood, one in Western Toronto at High Park), 2161 Queen Street East, originally built in 1916, revamped in 1980 and 2005;
- the Dominion Bank building, at Queen and Lee streets, built in 1911;
- the Dr. William D. Young Memorial, located in Kew Gardens, erected in 1920 and partly designed by Ivor Lewis;
- the Fox Theatre on Queen St. at Beech Ave, built in 1914, which is North America’s oldest continuously operated movie theatre;
- Glenn Gould’s family home, 32 Southwood Drive;
- The Goof – officially the Garden Gate Restaurant, a well-known Canadian Chinese restaurant in the Beaches since 1952, located at 2379 Queen Street East.
- the Kew Beach Firehall No. 17, still in use today as a working firehall (now as Toronto Fire Services Station 227), built in 1905;
- the Kew Williams House, 30 Lee Avenue, aka “the Gardener’s Cottage,” built in 1901–1902;
- the Leuty Lifeguard Station, foot of Leuty Avenue, built in 1920;
- Inglenook, at 81 Waverley Road;
- Whitelock’s Grocery Store, now Whitlock’s Restaurant, built between 1906–1908; and
- George Davis House on Kingswood Road.
SCHOOLS IN THE BEACHES AREA
(PH) Malvern Collegiate Institute, 55 Malvern Ave
(P) Adam Beck Junior Public School, 400 Scarborough Rd, (416) 393-1682
(P) Balmy Beach Community School, 14 Pine Ave, (416) 393-1565
(P) Beaches Alternative School, 50 Swanwick Ave, (416) 393-1451
(P) Kew Beach Junior Public School, 101 Kippendavie Ave, (416) 393-1810
(P) Kimberley Junior Public School, 50 Swanwick Ave, (416) 393-1450
(P) Norway Junior Public School, 55 Corley Ave, (416) 393-1700
(P) Williamson Road Junior Public School, 24 Williamson Rd, (416) 393-1740
(P) Blantyre Public School, 290 Blantyre Ave, (416) 396-6070
(P) Bowmore PS, 80 Bowmore Rd, (416) 393-9450
(P) Courcelette PS, 100 Fallingbrook Rd, (416) 396-6185
(CA) St. Denis Catholic School, 67 Balsam Ave, (416) 393-5310
(CA) St.John Catholic School, 780 Kingston Rd, (416) 393-5220
(CA) Ééc Georges-Étienne-Cartier, 250 Gainsborough CH,
(P) Public School, (PH) Public High School, (CA) Catholic School, (PR) Private School, (PC) Private Catholic School, (PJ) Private Jewish School, (C) College, (U) University
LIFESTYLE IN THE BEACHES
The Beach looks and feels more like a lakeside resort town, than a big city neighbourhood. In the summertime, thousands of Torontonians and tourists flock to The Beach to walk on The Boardwalk, exercise along the Martin Goodman Trail, relax by the water, or shop and dine at the colourful stores and restaurants along Queen Street.
The social centre of The Beach neighbourhood is Kew Gardens, which hosts many annual events including a Christmas Tree and Menorah lighting festival, a Jazz festival, and an Arts and Crafts show.
Ed. Note: A long standing debate has ensued over the proper name for this neighbourhood. Some refer to it as The Beach, others as the Beaches. To be politically correct use The Beach, otherwise both are acceptable.
RECREATION IN THE BEACHES
The Beaches’ most famous landmark is The Boardwalk. The Boardwalk is skirted by the Martin Goodman Trail which spans the city’s waterfront from The Beach to the Humber River.
Ashbridge’s Bay Park is a good spot for family picnics and windsurfing. Its also a popular spot for beach volleyball. Glen Stewart Park off Queen Street has a picturesque ravine and nature trail. Donald Summerville Pool at the foot of Woodbine Avenue, overlooks the lake and includes an Olympic size pool, a diving pool and a children’s pool.
Kew Gardens has one of Toronto’s most active tennis programs with 10 flood lit courts. This park also has a baseball diamond, an artificial ice rink, a children’s playground, a wading pool and a concert bandstand. The Beach Branch of the Toronto Public Library is right next to Kew Gardens, off Queen Street.
TRANSPORTATION IN THE BEACHES
There are bus or streetcar routes along Queen Street, Kingston Road, Gerrard Street, Victoria Park Avenue, Main Street, and Woodbine Avenue. All these surface routes connect to Toronto’s rapid transit lines and subway stations.
Motorists have the convenience of being located close to the Don Valley Expressway, the Gardiner Expressway, and Lake Shore Boulevard.
PARKS AND GREENSPACES IN THE BEACHES AREA
Beaches Park – 77 Kew Beach Avenue
Kew Gardens – 2075 Queen Street East
Kew Gardens is a large park in The Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The park stretches from Queen Street East to the lakeshore at Kew Beach.
The park began as a private 20.7-acre (8.4 ha) farm owned by Joseph Williams in the 1850s. As more visitors from the city began to visit the lake front he transformed his holdings into a tourist destination. Today the park is one of the main public venues in the Beaches neighbourhood. It is home to a number of facilities including tennis courts, a baseball diamond, a wading pool, and in winter, a skating rink. A number of historic buildings survive, including Williams’ cottage, the bandstand, and the Leuty Lifeguard Station. In the northeast corner of the park is the historic Beaches branch of the Toronto Public Library. A number of monuments and memorials are also now located in the park, including the Dr. William D. Young Memorial. It is also the main venue for the Beaches International Jazz Festival each summer.
Balmy Beach Park – Willow Ave & Park Ave
Created in 1903 this historic 7.3 hectare park in The Beach neighbourhood is home to the Balmy Beach Club. This park features Lawn Bowling, a children’s playground, a dog off leash area. The Martin Goodman Trail runs though the park paralleling the boardwalk and beach along the shore of Lake Ontario.
Ivan Forrest Gardens – 131 Glen Manor Drive
A small park on Queen Street east of Woodbine Avenue that features a mature tree canopy and ornamental fountains.
Glen Stewart Park – 131,241 Glen Manor Rd
A 7.8 hectare wooded ravine park near Kingston Road and Main Street that features a walking trail through the ravine.
Pantry Park – 70 Kew Beach
A 1.4 hecatre park near Lake Shore Boulevard East and Woodbine Avenue that features a multi-purpose sports field.
LIBRARIES IN THE BEACHES AREA
- Gerrard/Ashdale Library – 1432 Gerrard Street East, (416) 393-7717
- Beaches Library – 2161 Queen Street East, (416) 393-7703
- Jones Library – 118 Jones Avenue, (416) 393-7715
- Danforth/Coxwell Library -1675 Danforth Avenue, (416) 393-7783
- Taylor Memorial Library – 1440 Kingston Road, (416) 396-8939