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Tag Archives: Sunnyside Amusement Park 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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A pictorial journey to Toronto’s old Sunnyside Beach-1922 to 1955

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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

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                   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

DSCN1104

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.

DSCN1122

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.

f1257_s1057_it0090[1]

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

f0124_fl0003_id0027[1]

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)

                                 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: ,