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Category Archives: Sunnyside Toronto

Toronto’s Sunnyside Amusement Park (demolished)

1923, Mike Filey

Sunnyside Amusement Park in 1923. When I visited it as a child in the 1940s, its appearance was basically the same, so the above photo depicts Sunnyside as I remember it. Photo from the Mike Filey collection, in the Toronto Archives.

Today we live in a world where people are extremely mobile and well-connected via social media. Toronto in the 1940s was vastly different. Few households owned a phone, due to the high rental costs, and cell phones were science fiction, relegated to the comic sections of the newspapers. Automobiles were prohibitively expensive, and were not being manufactured since the companies were busy assembling tanks and vehicles for the war in Europe and the Pacific. Adding to the difficulties of owning a car, rubber tires and gasoline were rationed.

Thus, 1940s Toronto was a narrower world than that of today. People tended to purchase or rent houses within close proximity to friends and relatives, so they were able to walk to each others’ houses to converse about the trials and joys of life. Chatting with neighbours often occurred over a fence in the back garden, particularly on Mondays, which was washing day for most families. Corner stores and greeting neighbours when walking along the sidewalk also provided opportunities for exchanging information. For more important news, such as the war front, most households owned a radio. To keep in touch with family members who lived beyond the neighbourhood, a visit by streetcar or bus was necessary. If they were further afield, hand-written letters or postcards were sent.

Because owning an automobile was beyond the reach of most households, the majority of families were confined to the city. If they wished a day-trip away from the neighbourhood, in summer they visited places such as High Park, the Humber Valley, Scarborough Beach, and Kew Beach. Centre Island and Hanlan’s Point were other popular summer destinations, a ferry ride across the harbour considered an added attraction. However, in my family, the favourite day-trip was a visit to the Sunnyside Amusement Park and the sandy beach nestled beside it. Even on the hottest day, the breezes from the lake were cool and refreshing. 

We always arrived at Sunnyside via the Queen Streetcar, disembarking at Roncesvalles Avenue, where it intersected with King and Queen Streets. Walking across the Sunnyside railway bridge, we descended the iron stairs to the amusement park below. As we walked past the rides, which included an enormous rollercoaster named the Flyer, I longed to be of an age to climb aboard them. Alas, I was confined to the merry-go-round, now usually referred to as a carousel. Where Sunnyside’s rides were located is today where the Gardiner Expressway exists.

1945-  SC139-2 box 148489

The merry-go-round at Sunnyside in 1945. It was eventually relocated to Disneyland in California. The Flyer (rollercoaster) is evident in the background. Photo from the Toronto Archives, SC 139-2, Box 148489.

The History of Sunnyside

In 1912, Toronto’s city councillors voted to erect an amusement park at Sunnyside, to the west of the downtown, beside lake Ontario. Projected to cost $19 million, work began in 1913, but construction stopped when the First World War began in 1914. After the war, the project resumed, and over 1400 acres of land were reclaimed from the lake. The final stage was to landscape the newly created land with top soil and sodding.

By 1919, as work on Sunnyside proceeded, it was evident that a new roadway was required, which meant replacing the old Lakeshore Road. Completed within a year, the 54-foot-wide, four-lane Lakeshore Boulevard West was opened. Two year later, on June 28, 1922, the amusement park was officially inaugurated by Mayor Mcguire. At the time, Sunnyside Amusement Park had not been completed, but a few of the rides and the Bathing Pavilion were ready for visitors. The Bathing Pavilion, designed by Alfred Chapman, costing $300,000, accommodated 7700 bathers, and had a roof garden where 400 guests could purchase refreshments and snacks. To enter the pool, the cost was 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for children. However, there was a 1100’ free bathing area to the south of the Pavilion, and another at the western end of Sunnyside, close to the east bank of the Humber River.

After its official opening in 1922, thousands strolled the boardwalk at Sunnyside, swam in the waters of the lake, or dived into the new swimming pool. The Palais Royal, built at a cost of $80,000, also opened the same year. Walter Dean’s Boat Building Factory was in the basement level, so only the main floor was occupied by the dance pavilion. However, due to the dance hall’s success, it was not long before it encompassed the entire structure. It became one of the most popular dance venues in Toronto and featured many of the popular big bands. Its main competition was Palace Pier.  

During the next few year, the amusement park was completed. Popular features were the concession stands, dance pavilion, and an open-air theatre called the Band Stand. The annual Easter Parade was held on the boardwalk at Sunnyside. The Miss Toronto beauty contests and women’s softball games were also well attended. The Sunnyside rollercoaster, named the Flyer, was a wooden structure. I rode it many times in the 1950s and can still recall how the cars swayed from side to side as they descended from the highest section of track. This added greatly to the sense of danger.

The golden era of Sunnyside was the 1930s and 1940s. During the late-1940s and early-1950s, automobiles became more affordable and families began journeying north of the city to escape the heat of a Toronto summer. The lakes of Muskoka and the beaches of Georgian Bay were the most popular.

In 1955, the Toronto Harbour Commission ordered the demolition of Sunnyside. By the end of 1956, the summer retreat that previous generations had known and loved, was but a memory. The land is now beneath the Gardiner Expressway and the widened Lakeshore Boulevard.

153822-4, Series 2375, Ite, 4

Sunnyside, likely during the late 1920s, the view gazing west along the Lakeshore Boulevard. The merry-go-round is the large round structure on the right-hand side (north) of the Lakeshore Boulevard. Toronto Archives, Series 2375, Box 153822.  

Band Stand, c. 1939, Box 153800, SC 156-180

The Band Stand at Sunnyside in 1939, when the Peoples Credit Jewellers Community Sing Song was in progress. Toronto Archives, SC 156-180, box 153800.

Fonds 1034, Item 844

A concession stand at Sunnyside in 1929, Toronto Archives, F1034, Item 0844.

concess. Stand pre 1922

                                        Refreshment stand c. 1922.

fonds 1266, Globe and Mail fonds

Crowds at Sunnyside in 1924, Toronto Archives, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Globe and Mail Fonds.

Fonds 1266, Item 4392

   Sunnyside on December 24, 1924. Toronto Archives, F1266, Item 4392.

f1231_it0653[1]  beach 1935

Sunnyside Beach on August 21, 1935. The view faces east. Toronto Archives, F1231, Item 0653.

f1231_it0658[1] 1929

     The Sunnyside Pool in 1929, Toronto Archives, F1231, Item 0658.

Links to further information on this blog about Sunnyside:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/a-pictorial-journey-to-torontos-old-sunnyside-beach-part-two/

 https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/in-mid-winter-recalling-the-sunshine-of-torontos-sunnyside-beach/

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating history.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released on June 1, 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or to contact the publisher directly:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21.

 

 

 

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Toronto’s old Palace Pier Ballroom

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The Palace Pier Ballroom and Amusement Centre, depicted on a 1930s postcard.

My memories of the Palace Pier, an immense structure that extended 300 feet into Lake Ontario, date from the days of World War 11. On hot summer days in the 1940s, when my parent took my brother and me to Sunnyside beach to paddle in the cold waters of the lake, I gazed at its enormous size, as it dominated the scene to the west of Sunnyside Beach. I asked my mother about it, and she dismissed it as a place where people of “dubious” character attended, as it was a “dance hall.” My father gave an amused smile as if he seemed to disagree with her assessment, but said nothing. He had played a trumpet in McCormick’s Dance Band during the 1930s, before he met my mother, and had a more liberal view of dance halls.

A year or two later, I learned what the word “dubious” implied and discovered that my father thought that to dismiss Palace Pier as a mere dance hall was do it a great injustice. Located on the west bank of the Humber River, there were no other buildings in the area that competed with it in size. In its heyday, it was one of the most spectacular dance spots in Toronto. However, when I was a boy, I was too young to know about the famous entertainers who were featured there or to appreciate its importance in the night life of the city. Also, it was another few years before I became unaware of the inherent attraction of “dubious” places.

The Palace Pier was conceived in 1927 by the Provincial Improvement Corporation. It was inspired by the wonderful seaside piers in Great Britain, such as those in Brighton, one of which survives today. Toronto’s pier was to be a “year-round amusement enterprise.” Sunnyside Beach, which opened in 1921, had been a great success and the Palace Pier was an attempt to improve Toronto’s lakeside area by extending development further west along the shoreline. In some respects, it was a project similar to Ontario Place, which was constructed to celebrate Canada’s Centennial in 1967. It too was built out over the water, although it was created by dumping landfill into Lake Ontario. Similar to Palace Pier, it was an amusement centre and contained a theatre—Cinesphere.

Palace Pier was to have four buildings, each 260 feet in length, one of them containing a ballroom and another, a Palace of Fun. The latter was to have shops, an arcade, games, restaurants, and food kiosks. There was to be a 1500-seat theatre and a 170-foot bandstand. When the covered walkways and promenades were added to the sides of it, the structure would extend over a third of a mile into the lake. At its southern end there was to be a steamboat landing, as the 1920s was an era when leisure travel on Lake Ontario was highly popular. It was envisioned that over 3000 couples would dance the night away its ballroom, in a multifunctional facility that could also be used for roller skating and bowling.

1297791972217_ORIGINAL[1]

Artist’s sketch of the proposed Palace Pier employed to promote its construction and attract investors. Sketch from Toronto Sun, Jan. 10, 2016, contained in an article by Mike Filey. 

Palace Pier was designed in the Moroccan style by Craig and Madill, a Toronto company that was later to design the CNE Bandshell. However, by the time the pier transitioned from the architects’ drawing boards to the construction site, the Great Depression had descended, necessitating that the plans be greatly reduced. Only the first phase of the structure was to proceed, and due to delays, its corner stone was not laid by former Prime Minister Arthur Meighen until 1931. It extended out into the lake 300 feet and contained the main ballroom. Unfortunately, it was the only part of the original grand plans that ever materialized, and even after it was completed, it stood empty for a decade due to the financial restraints of the times. When it finally opened on June 18, 1941, it was a roller rink named Strathcona Palace Pier, another site of the Strathcona rink on Christie Street, south of St. Clair Avenue. I attended this rink when I was a teenager.

The pier’s 19-foot wide boardwalks, located on the east and west sides of it, provided commanding views of the lake. On the east side, the city’s skyline was visible. Its inaugural event was a fundraiser for the British victims of the bombing by the Nazi’s, the headliner for the event the Hollywood star, Bob Hope. He was in Toronto to promote his latest film, “Caught in the Draft.”

In 1943, the pier reverted to its original purpose and became the Queensway Ballroom, and later the Humber Pier Ballroom. During the years of World War 11, some of the famous “big bands” performed at the it—Lionel Hampton, Artie Shaw, Less Brown, Duke Ellington, the Dorsey Brothers, Louis Armstrong, Harry James and Stan Kenton. 

It was renovated in the 1950s and reverted to its original name, the “Palace Pier.” It was one of the few surviving large-scale dance floors in the city. In the mid-1950s, it included country acts such as Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. As attendance slowly dwindled, on weeknights, the pier held bingo events and rented its space for private functions such as political rallies, boxing matches, high school dances, and year-end proms.

However, its life came to an end on January 7, 1963 when it was torched, the arsonist never caught. The structure was destroyed to the extent that it required complete rebuilding, which was not financially practical. It was demolished and the great pier disappeared forever.

On the site of the pier, two luxury condominium towers and public park were constructed, which were named after the famous amusement facility. The north tower was built in 1978 and the south tower in 1991. A monument, donated by the residents of the condominium, was erected to commemorate the original Palace Pier. It was placed on the west side of the footbridge across the Humber River. The monument had originally been one of the cement footings that had been used in the pier’s construction.

Sources: www.torontovintagesociety.ca—vintagesocity.ca—ww.blogto.com—tornontohistory.net—citiesintime.ca/toronto—urbantoronto.ca/news—https://booksgoogle.ca/books—www.torontosun.com

data=RfCSdfNZ0LFPrHSm0ublXdzhdrDFhtmHhN1u-gM,Bcp1Jl2WTHd5fqTIEjV_zN1J8UEcfCtEi_ZvqTNN6q2fWfUOXVRASZFmb_v-HdAaljOkWtU4RufMioB_IcOyE-lt5-ZtuDAvHUQte2m[1].png

Location of the Palace Pier Dancehall, beside lake Ontario, on the west side of the Humber River.

Series 372, Subseries 34 - Humber bridge photographs

Entrance to the Palace Pier on July 29, 1931, when it was under construction. Toronto Archives, S 0372, SS 0034, Item 0070.

Series 372, Subseries 34 - Humber bridge photographs

Looking west on the Lakeshore Road, the facade of the Palace Pier visible in the background, to the left of the tall hydro tower. Pictures was taken on August 4, 1931, while the building was under construction. Toronto Archives, S. 032, SS 5500, Item 0078.

Palace_Pier_Plaque_2[1]

Undated photo of the Palace Pier, the view showing the north and east facades. The covered walkway and terrace on the east side can be seen.

Palace Pier c. 1940s (public Domain). 

         Palace Pier in the 1940s, the north and west facades visible. 

1954, bridge over Humber  pictures-r-3136[1]

View looking south toward Lake Ontario in 1954, when the bridge over the Humber River was being constructed. The Palace Pier is in the background. Toronto Public Library, r- 3136. 

Series 65 -Metropolitan Toronto Planning Department Library collection of Alexandra Studio photographs

Aerial view of the area surrounding the Palace Pier in 1958. The pier is in the bottom left-hand corner of the photo, on the west bank of the Humber River. The widened Lakeshore Road is to the north of the pier, the Gardiner Expressway to the north of it. Toronto Archives, S 0065, File 0047, Id. 0011.

              TRL,  1963  tspa_0000344f[1]

The Palace Pier after being ravaged by fire in January 1963. Photo from the Toronto Star, Baldwin Collection, Toronto Public Library tspt 000344f. 

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.

 

 

 

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A pictorial journey to Toronto’s old Sunnyside Beach-1922 to 1955

DSCN1095

This photo of Sunnyside Beach was taken in July of 2011. Viewing the site today, it is difficult to imagine that from the 1922 until the 1950s, this was Toronto’s most popular bathing area and the site of the city’s main amusement park. From the May 24th-weekend until Labour Day, crowds descended on Sunnyside to stroll along the boardwalk, splash in the lake, enjoy the amusement rides, and consume the fat-laden treats at the food stands. It was a magical world. After Sunnyside was demolished, nothing was ever built to equal it.

Sunnyside possessed a long history that preceded its days an an amusement centre. In centuries past, along the shoreline where Sunnyside was later built, Indians gathered to trade furs with the French. In 1813, when the Americans invaded Upper Canada, during the War of 1812, their fleet came ashore at Sunnyside, and then proceeded eastward to attack Fort York, where the British garrison for the town of York was located. During the early decades of the 20th century, as the city expanded westward, Sunnyside became a popular area for bathing.

f1231_it0540[1] 1922

The newly paved and widened Lakeshore Boulevard, gazing west, early in the morning on August 3, 1922. This photo was taken the year Sunnyside opened to the public. In the background is the new Bathing Pavilion, which commenced its life the same year the photo was taken. This building remains on the site today.

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The south facade of the Bathing Pavilion in 2014, facing the sandy beach and waters of the lake.

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  The north side of the Bathing Pavilion at Sunnyside, beside the boardwalk.

fonds 1266, Globe and Mail fonds

                                          Strollers on the boardwalk in 1922.

s0372_ss0070_it0267-es[1] Palais Royale 1931

This was the only photo of the Palais Royale I was able to locate in the City of Toronto Archives. It was taken on the occasion of the ninth annual convention of the International Association of Street Sanitation Officials, in October of 1928.

                     Palais_Royale_1930s[1]

  Palais Royale in the 1930s (photo from the internet). The basement level that once housed Walter Dean’s Boat Factory can be seen.

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                     Palais Royale in 2014. An addition can be seen at the rear of the building.

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In this modern photo, the east-bound lanes of the Lakeshore Boulevard can seen on the left-hand corner of the picture, and the west-bound lanes on the far right. The land in between the lanes is the parking lot of the Palais Royale. In the 1920s, the amusement rides and food stands of Sunnyside were located on the site of the parking lot. The modern St. Joseph’s Hospital is in the extreme upper-right corner of the photo.

Other photos that portray a history of Sunnyside

queenlookingtoroncy[1] 1922

Gazing east along the south side of Queen Street, where it intersects with King and Roncesvalles. The Sunnyside Railway station can be seen in the distance. This photo was taken in 1922, the year that Sunnyside officially opened. Many people arrived on the Queen streetcars, and walked from this intersection, over the bridge, and down the stairs to Sunnyside.

s0372_ss0031_it0018[1]  1923

A photo taken 30 August 1923, looking northeast to the bridge near Queen/King and Roncesvalles. The bridge crosses over the railway tracks that separated Sunnyside from the streets above the embankment.

s0372_ss0031_it0011[1] 1923  1923

View from under the bridge on 30 August 1923. This is the same bridge as the previous photo. Behind the bridge can be seen the Sunnyside rollercoaster.

c. 1924

                                Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion and beach in 1924

DSCN7747

                   A 1920s postcard of the Children’s Garden, near the Bathing Pavilion

Series 372, Subseries 34 - Humber bridge photographs

The Palace Pier under construction in July of 1931. It was beside the lake, on the east bank of the Humber River. The pier extended out into the lake and was an important attraction at Sunnyside for several decades. It has since been demolished and Palace Pier Condominium is on the site.

f1231_it1962[1]  1931 Palace Pier

This photo was taken in October of 1931. The Palace Pier is nearing completion and can be seen on the left of the picture. The new bridge over the Humber River, being built to accommodate the Lakeshore Boulevard, is also visible, as well as the old iron bridge. The flat-roofed building beside the new bridge, on its north side, is Jeckle’s Boat House.

.Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 41 - Miscellaneous photographs

The beach and the schooner the Julia B. Merrell, in August of 1931. During the late 1920s and 1930s, old sailing vessels were often burnt in the evenings after dark. It was an attempt to attract crowds to Sunnyside.

thumbnailImage[1] Burning of S.S. John Hanlan, 1929

                  The burning of the S.S. John Hanlan at Sunnyside on July 19, 1929.

f1257_s1057_it0092[1]

View of the Sunnyside Swimming Pool in the 1940s, looking east. The Bathing Pavilion is to the west of the pool, and not visible in this picture.

I am grateful to the City of Toronto Archives for the photos employed in this post.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating history.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released on June 1, 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or to contact the publisher directly:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21.

 

Tags: ,

In mid-winter, recalling the sunshine of Toronto’s Sunnyside Beach

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The Bathing Pavilion at Sunnyside in July of 2012. The building was opened to the public in 1922.

During the dreary days of Toronto’s mid-winter, it is pleasant to recall the times I spent as a child under the hot sun at Sunnyside Beach. During the 1940s, one of the highlights of the summer was a visit by streetcar to the sandy shoreline beside Lake Ontario. In this decade, Sunnyside was the location of the city’s largest amusement park. Known as “the poor man’s Riviera,” it is a pity that it has completely disappeared from the scene.

My father arrived in Toronto as an immigrant in 1921, and the following year, glorious Sunnyside officially opened as the city’s new amusement park, adjacent to the beach that had been an attraction for generations.  Prior to the opening of Sunnyside Amusement Park, the main amusement park was located on the Toronto Islands, at Hanlan’s Point, known as “Canada’s Coney Island.” It included the city’s baseball stadium, where Babe Ruth hit his first homerun. In 1926, the  Maple Leaf Team relocated to the mainland, at the foot of Bathurst Street. This was necessary as fewer people were visiting Hanlan’s Point after Sunnyside opened.

The area that we know today as Sunnyside was annexed to the City of Toronto on 22 January 1888. Sunnyside stretched from Humber Bay in the west, to Roncesvalles Avenue in the east. The name Sunnyside was derived from the summer home of John G. Howard, who in 1848, built a modest structure in the area. He named it Sunnyside,” as it was on the “sunny side” of a grassy hill, a short distance north of the present-day Queensway Avenue. The structure was located between Glendale and Sunnyside Avenues. However, Howard’s main residence was further west, in High Park, and was named Colborne Lodge. On the site of Howard’s Sunnyside Villa, in 1876, the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Sacred Heart built an orphanage that they named the Sacred Heart Orphanage. Howard’s Sunnyside Villa was retained by the orphanage as an office. The villa survived until 1945, when the villa and orphanage were demolished to construct St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Sunnyside Beach

By the year 1900, Toronto had expanded westward, and the land to the north of Sunnyside was becoming increasingly populated. At Sunnyside, there was a narrow wooden boardwalk alongside the sandy beach, and on the other side of the boardwalk, the old Lake Shore Road.  As the 20th century progressed, Sunnyside increasingly became a favourite place during the summer months for Torontonians to stroll the boardwalk or have a dip in the waters. One of the most popular bathing spots was at the foot of Roncesvalles Avenue. 

Around the year 1910, the City of Toronto Councillors began discussing the possibility of building an amusement park at Sunnyside, at a projected cost of $19 million. It necessitated reclaiming land from the lake through landfill. The project was finally approved and the work began in 1913, but unfortunately the outbreak of the First World War interrupted the project. The landfill work commenced again in 1918, and by the time it was completed, over 1400 acres of land had been reclaimed from the lake. The landfill was derived from the dredging of the Toronto Harbour and Humber Bay.

The city’s new amusement park was opened by Mayor Mcguire on June 28, 1922. The project was not finished, but the Bathing Pavilion and Amusement Park had been completed, along with 75% of the western section of the landfill. During the next few years, over 200 more acres of land were added. To create a protected area for bathers, a short distance from shore, a 17,895 feet break wall was built, providing a hundred acres of protected waterways for swimmers. The break wall remains to this day. 

The first year Sunnyside was open, thousands of people descended on the amusement park to enjoy the enlarged beach, and stroll the newly-built 20-foot wide boardwalk. Many others visited the Canoe Club. Included among the popular attractions were the concession stands, which rented beach chairs, as well as those that sold root beer, popcorn, and hotdogs. Sunnyside also possessed a drug store, a dance pavilion, guess-your-weight scales, souvenir stands, an open-air theatre named the Band Stand, a delicatessen, sight-seeing services, and a shoe-shine shop.

Originally, seven amusement rides were approved by the city, including the Whip, Aero Swing, two other low-level swings, Dodgem ride, the Frolic  and a Merry-Go-Round (carousel). Nine games of chance were approved – Monkey Racer, Coney Racer, a shooting gallery, Kentucky Derby, Torpedo Race, Balloon Race, and Figure 8. There were also ten food stands, several boat rentals, and some high-powered telescopes. Sunnyside also became the site of the annual Easter Parade, where Torontonians displayed their new spring outfits as they strutted along the boardwalk.

The 1930s and 1940s were the height of Sunnyside’s popularity. Even the wealthy who owned large cottages in Muskoka paid a visit to the amusement park when they were in the city. Fireworks displays and the burning of old sailing vessels attracted crowds in the evenings. A ladies’ softball league played their games at Sunnyside, and well-known entertainers performed at the Bandstand. Beauty pageants attracted a diverse crowd. Every weekend during the summer months, families departed early in the morning to spend the day at the famous beach. The smell of popcorn, hot dogs, frying onion at the food stands, as well as the cries of the barkers for the games of chance, and the click-clack of the amusement rides, were all a part of the symphony of Sunnyside.

During the 1950s, as automobiles became more affordable, Torontonians took to the highways and Sunnyside was less attended. In 1955, the Toronto Harbour Commission ordered the demolition of Sunnyside. By the end of 1956, the demolition had been completed. For those who had enjoyed Sunnyside as a retreat from the hot humid streets of the city, a glorious era had ended. All that remained were the fond memories. The site of Sunnyside is now buried beneath the Gardiner Expressway or a part of the expanded Lakeshore Boulevard.

I am grateful to Mike Filey and his book “I Remember Sunnyside.” (published by Dundurn Group in 1996) for some of the information contained in this post.

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A 1920s postcard of Sunnyside amusement park and the famous boardwalk. The view faces west toward Humber Bay. The famous boardwalk is on the left of the photo. The lake is to the left of the boardwalk, but is not visible. The large circular building with the red roof is the merry-go-round.

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Crowds in 1920 on the beach in front of the Bathing Pavilion, watching a regatta. Toronto Archives, S1257, S1057, Item 090.

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Sunnyside Beach and Bathing Pavilion in 1970. Photo from the City of Toronto Archives, F0124, fl0003, id 0027.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

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Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating history.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released on June 1, 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or to contact the publisher directly:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21.

 

 

 

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Memories of Toronto’s Sunnyside on a hot summer day

“The glories that were Sunnyside are of another day,” to paraphrase the words of the song popularized by Tony Bennett. During a recent heat wave, I visited Sunnyside and it brought back boyhood memories of the enchanted playground beside the lake, with its carnival-like atmosphere, honky-tonk merry-go-round (carousel) music, roaring roller coaster named the Flyer, and wondrous aromas of the greasy food stands and freshly-popped popcorn. 

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  Early morning on a hot day at Sunnyside in 2011. The pedestrian bridge across the Humber River is visible in the background.  

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Above is a postcard view of Sunnyside in the 1920s, looking west along Lakeshore Blvd, the red-domed roof of the merry-go-round prominent in the picture.  Viewing the same location on Lakeshore Blvd today, the site of the Sunnyside merry-go-round is in the centre of the east-bound and west-bound traffic lanes of Lakeshore Blvd. The land is now the parking lot of the Palais Royal.

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    The Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion in the 1920s (left) and in 2011 (right)

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Sunnyside (Gus Ryder) swimming pool in the 1920s (left) and in 2011 (right) 

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Sunnyside Beach, summer 2011, on a sweltering hot morning (left), and the Easter parade on the famous Sunnyside Boardwalk in the 1920s. The boardwalk of the 1920s is where the bicycle path is now located. Today’s boardwalk is closer to the water’s edge.

 

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                                           Sunnyside Beach in the 1920s.

The following information about the history of Sunnyside is from the novelThere Never Was a Better Time.” The story chronicles the adventures of an immigrant family as they discover the delights of Toronto in the 1920s, including the fascinating world of Sunnyside Beach. 

The following quote tells more about the history of Sunnyside. It is from the book, “Arse Over Teakettle.”

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In the 1930s and 1940s, Torontonians referred to Sunnyside as, “The Poor Man’s Riviera.” The Harbour Commission had constructed it with landfill, and it stretched along the shoreline from near the Humber River, eastward for almost a mile. It was thus accurate to say that they created Sunnyside by flinging dirt, the same way that many politicians build careers. The name Sunnyside was derived from Sunnyside Villa, which John G. Howard had constructed on the hill overlooking the lake. St. Joseph’s Hospital occupies the site today. John G. Howard donated the land that we now call High Park, and his house, Colborne Lodge, remains within the grounds.

The quote below is from the novel “Arse Over Teakettle – Book One – The Toronto Trilogy,” which relates the adventures of a boy growing up in 1940s Toronto. This section tells of his teenage memories of Sunnyside.

Today, the images of Sunnyside, from those early years, remain indelibly imprinted in my memory: popcorn, Kik Cola, gritty sandwiches, and the endless stretches of hot sand. However, I also have reminiscences from my teenage years.

The beach was adjacent to the famous twenty-foot-wide boardwalk. Beside it was a narrow strip of grass alongside Lakeshore Boulevard. Across the boulevard, on the opposite (north) side, were the amusement rides, among them the fabulous rollercoaster, The Sunnyside Flyer. Constructed of wood, it was said that near the end of the ride, referred to as the “home stretch,” the rollercoaster cars attained a speed of over sixty miles (96 km.) an hour. From the two highest points, the ensuing steep plunges could tear the bottom out of the cast-iron stomachs of those who dared to ride its rickety rails. By contrast, there was the merry-go-round, which

What a pity they eventually sold the Sunnyside merry-go-round to Disneyland, in California, where today it continues to delight children, and soothe the savage breast of elderly women. Other Sunnyside rides included the Bumper Cars, the Roll-O-Plane, and the Swooper. The names adequately revealed their gut-churning capabilities. The lakeside playground had other attractions, including miniature golf, canoeing, and swimming in either the Olympic-size pool or the “breast and ball-shrinking” waters of the icy lake. Other attractions were restaurants, a tea garden, dancing pavilions, and nightly entertainment at the bandstand.

The foods at the concession stands were the envy of the gastronomic world. The excellent vintages of Hire’s Root Beer, Vernor’s Ginger ale, and Honey Dew, rivalled the cellars of Dom Perignon. Red Hots (hot dogs), Downy Flake Donuts, and hamburgers “a la grease,” were beyond compare, and if properly ingested, could produce a stomach ache that was worthy of the Jolly Green Giant. Popcorn was fresh, buttery, and salty. Candyfloss was a cloud of sweetness. Taffy-apples could pull the molars from a mule, and a cone of chips (french fries) contained sufficient cider vinegar and salt to pickle cucumbers into dills or mummify a stomach. Sunnyside was the home of “comfort food.” However, when a person was young, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and girdles to reduce the waistline were so far in the future that they did not exist.

When the sun dipped beyond the horizon, the sparkling lights magically transformed Sunnyside into an enchanted land of dreams. People danced under the stars at the outdoor clubs, or swayed to the “big band” rhythms at the Palais Royale. Young bodies pressed against soft flesh as young couples rocked slowly to a romantic song. Lips gently touched as the final chord of the music signalled that the ballad was over.

Sunnyside was a place where older folks relived their memories, and the young created their own. Everyone should have a time and a place in their past that evoke tender remembrances of the romance of their youth. For many in 1940s Toronto, Sunnyside was the spot. What a pity it was demolished in the late 1950s to indulge the whims of the most worshipped god in Toronto, the Almighty Automobile.  

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                            The Palais Royale in 2011

For a link to the book “Arse Over Teakettle” :http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodrome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

 

 

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