Beach Memories: Historic heart of the Beach as reflected at Queen and Lee should be saved

There is a proposal to build a six-storey mixed-use residential building at the northwest corner of Queen Street East and Lee Avenue, where the Foodland grocery store now stands. Photo: Beach Metro Community News file photo.


As a person who has tried to save historic sites and preserve Toronto’s, and in particular the Beach’s, history for more than 50 years, I thought my time was done and I would let other “rebel young activists” beat the heritage drum.

The current “heritage site” in the Beach that is in danger of being demolished is at the northwest corner of Queen Street East and Lee Avenue. It is not an imposing structure but it does have character and some architectural qualities, historic and other, that should be noted.

I have given dozens of tours along Queen Street East in the Kew Beach area, and I have always pointed out that particular store to the people. Now I am soon going to be giving an historic tour to some young school children and that building will be included.

That’s what changed my mind to try and continue working to save our Beach history and buildings. It’s not only for the older Beachers, but for the young Beachers growing up.

And that’s why I’ve reversed myself about my time being done on this cause. This is a building that is worth saving, especially for the young people.

The corner of Queen and Lee is the historic heart of the Kew Beach area and possibly the entire Beach community. Though I suppose that could be open to debate.

But that intersection has the historic Kew Gardens park, which was started by Williams family. It also has a modern structure on the southeast corner. On the northeast corner there is a modern building as well. But on the southwest corner, we have a lot of Beach history including the park, the former bank building that is now home to the Coles book store, a three-storey apartment building and then the Beaches Branch Library.

Which leads me to the northwest corner, where the Foodland store is now located. That building is about 120 years old and it has a special metallic ceiling inside along with many other features.

We need to work together to preserve this building as there is a proposal to demolish it and replace it with a six-storey building. Please Beachers, let’s preserve our Beach history.

I will be writing more about this in upcoming issues.

For more on the proposal for the northwest corner of Queen Street East and Lee Avenue, please see the Beach Metro Community News story at


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I love preserving old buildings but I can see both sides of this issue. It’s really not much to look at despite a metallic ceiling, hee-hee. A grocery store with triple the floor space would be great. It’s not an ugly rendering(the proposal). I’m not sure either way. I shop at the No Frills on Coxwell anyway, what do I care?

“What do I care” says it all. I hope there are plenty of people who do care. Preserving the uniqueness of the Beach and it’s older architecture is important. Surely we can find a solution for the empty properties here (greedy landlords and eye watering rents) and bring back the charm of past years to the area. People get complacent, but if we don’t do something about this, it won’t take long before other properties begin to disappear, along with the character of this unique little spot. Once there is one, there will be more and the Beach will no longer be unique, just another of those modern, mini, extensions of Toronto..

The two buildings directly across the street(between Lee and the Library) have character and are pleasant to look at and should definitely be preserved….the Foodland building is pretty much ugly and it might be time to say goodbye….I appreciate your position but we really must draw the line somewhere. Regards.

I’ve lived in the Beaches for 40 years and I feel no nostalgia about that building at all. It’s plain, utilitarian and too small for its purpose. If the development proposal provides a good number of rental units there’s no question it would be a better use of that space. People need affordable places to live, and more density is needed in vibrant areas such as the Beach.
Jane G

The only thing that should be saved of Foodland is the facia of the building. This is going to be a major project taking years to complete and a massive headache for customers and traffic at a very busy intersection. Let’s hope council don’t allow the developer to take out a lane of traffic or sidewalk. Walking a block west of this proposed site we have two new stores built next to the LCBO and a revitalized ex The Wave into a classy looking Bistro. Now how about Bills property that has been vacant for years can council not do something about that eyesore.

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