Beach has always been a tourist area

What is a heritage area? I look around our great city and see a few areas that are designated as a tourist area, such as the Eaton Centre. How in the world can the Eaton Centre be designated a tourist area during holidays but not the Beach?

Hundreds of locals and tourists watch a lacrosse match at Scarboro Beach Park in this photo taken on July 1, 1910.
Hundreds of locals and tourists watch a lacrosse match at Scarboro Beach Park in this photo taken on July 1, 1910.

Over the past few decades I have fought to preserve the historic integrity of the Beach, its buildings and history, and will try to stop the incursion of any buildings or other enclaves that threaten the Beach.

I know that a lot of Beachers will be up in arms and disagree with me that the Beach is a small town resort.

For nearly 150 years the Beach area has been a tourist attraction, and it will always be. In the 1870s, Victoria Park, situated on the site of the current R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant, was the first major tourist attraction in the area, until 1896. At the same time in the 1870s Kew Gardens also brought in tourist clientele from the city. Steamships travelled from the central docks of the city to the piers of Victoria Park and Kew Gardens. They also came by horse and buggy and streetcars.

Later Munro Park took over, and also brought thousands of tourists to the area. The other major recreation area was Scarboro Beach Park, which ran from 1907 to 1925.

These attractions brought in tens of thousands of tourists to the Beach area – and because of this Queen Street became the major artery for businesses. One of the area’s other major attractions was the Woodbine race track. In the past and the present, tourists came because of the lovely green grass, our shining waters and our shimmering sand, where the citizens could get away from the grimy city and enjoy the benefits of the beautiful beach.

People fell in love with the area. They settled first in the cottages and then became permanent residents to enjoy the benefits of the Beach year-round.

In those days, as now, we wanted the area to retain its heritage. There was and is the Balmy Beach Club, that bastion of great sportsmen and women that became the ‘Legend by the Lake’. At this club you can lawn bowl, learn to canoe, play rugby and take part in nearly every other sport. Dances at the club were second to none.

In Kew Beach sport and recreation have been offered for more than 125 years. Lawn bowling has been going on for more than a century. In the 1930s and 1940s more than 7,000 tourists would come to watch baseball at the park.

At this time, merchants on Queen Street really began acquiring a great reputation for their wares and restaurants.

The illustrious Kew Beach Tennis Club has produced many great players and multi-generational families have been involved in the club over the last century.

All of these activities have always brought thousands of tourists to the Beach, Queen Street merchants and restaurants. There have been many changes – many businesses were closed on Sundays and Mondays, but as time went on tradition gave way, and the street is now open for business seven days a week to accommodate tourists and locals.

We now have art shows and great parades that bring tourists to the Beach. The Toronto Beaches Lions Easter Parade brings over 35,000 people to the area, while the newer Christmas Parade on Kingston Road brings in 5,000. The tree lighting and other festivals also bring in thousands. The Martin Goodman trail and boardwalk pull in people. Hundreds of children play lacrosse and soccer.

For 25 years Lido Chilelli has put on the Beaches International Jazz Festival. Millions have come to the festival over the years. No other free event in the city has such low crime rates and lack of violence.

Nowhere, and I mean nowhere, can you find a place like this. All of these other ‘tourist’ areas do not have and never had what we have here in the Beach for residents and tourists. They are the lifeline of the Beach.

Let us know how you feel. I, for one, want this to be a Beach Heritage Area.

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