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By Amy West – New Dream Homes and Condos Magazine
This quaint Toronto neighbourhood, popular with tourists and residents alike, is home to an academic crowd, outdoor leisure activities, trendy antique stores, and restaurants.
The Beaches 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 1800s, when many properties were subdivided. At that time, large parcels of land were set aside for local parks.
By the 1920s, the City of Toronto was expanding eastward and the Beaches was subdivided for year-round residential development. Woodbine, Kew Gardens, Scarboro, Balmy Beach, and Victoria Park collectively became Toronto’s playgrounds by the lake. These amusement parks also attracted summer cottagers to the area.
The Beaches looks and feels more like a lakeside resort town than a city neighbourhood. Its most famous landmark is the boardwalk, which is skirted by the Martin Goodman Trail, spanning the city’s waterfront all the way to the Humber River. In the summer, thousands of locals and tourists flock here to stroll along the boardwalk, exercise along the trail, relax by the water, or shop and dine at the colourful stores and restaurants along Queen Street East.
The social centre of the Beaches is Kew Gardens, which hosts annual events including a Christmas tree and menorah lighting festival, a jazz festival, and an arts and crafts show. Kew Gardens also has one of Toronto’s most active tennis programs, with 10 floodlit courts. This park also has a baseball diamond, an ice rink, a children’s playground, a wading pool, and a concert bandstand.
Ashbridge’s Bay Park is a great spot for family picnics and windsurfing. It’s 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-sized pool, a diving pool, and a children’s pool.
Queen Street East is the most commercial of the Beaches shopping districts. Many of its stores and restaurants have a beach motif that caters to the tourist trade. The shops on Kingston Road also have a beach flavour; however, they attract a more local client base than the stores on Queen.
The Beaches is also home to the greatest variety of architectural housing styles of any Toronto neighbourhood. The tree-lined streets that wind their way down to the lake accentuate the charm of these homes. Many of the original frame cottages built in the latter half of the 1800s and the early 1900s have been modernized and are still standing. However, the majority of homes were built during the 1920s and ’30s.
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, semi-detached, and townhomes. Also included in this mix will be a handful of low-rise condominium apartment buildings.
Bus or streetcars routes run along Queen Street, Kingston Road, Gerrard Street, Victoria Park Avenue, Main Street, and Woodbine Avenue. All surface routes connect to Toronto’s rapid transit lines and subway stations. Motorists have the convenience of the Don Valley Expressway, the Gardiner Expressway, and Lake Shore Boulevard.
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