FacebookTwitter

History of the Humber Bay Neighbourhood

neighbourhoods-300x253Etobicoke has a long and storied history.  Many groups of First Nations peoples used the land at different times, and it is thought that the French explorer, Étienne Brûlé, was the first European to visit the area in approximately 1615.

The name “Etobicoke” was derived from the Mississauga word wah-do-be-kang (wadoopikaang), meaning “place where the black/wild alders grow”, and was used to describe the area between Etobicoke Creek and the Humber River.  It was adopted as the official name of the area in 1795 at the direction of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe.

The township of Etobicoke was incorporated in 1850.  In 1954, Etobicoke Township became a part of the newly-formed regional government, the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, and in 1967, the township of Etobicoke was merged with three small lakeside municipalities, Long Branch, New Toronto, and Mimico, to form the Borough of Etobicoke. The borough was reincorporated as a city in 1983.  In 1998, six local municipalities (including Etobicoke) and the Metropolitan Toronto government merged to form the amalgamated City of Toronto.

Below are brief descriptions of the smaller communities, each with its own profile, unique history and special landmarks, that are our neighbours, namely Humber Bay Village, Mimico, New Toronto, Long Branch, Alderwood, The Queensway, and Sunnylea.

humberbayvillage-300x204Humber Bay Village is bound on the west by the Mimico Creek, and on the east by the Humber River valley. These natural boundaries have shaped the topography of this area, which features rolling hills and many mature trees.  Well known to all of us within the HBSCA community are such neighbourhood landmarks as the motel strip along Lake Shore Boulevard, the Ontario Food Terminal, situated just south of The Queensway, and the Humber Sewage Treatment Plant, discreetly tucked away north of The Queensway next to the Humber River.

The history of the Humber Bay neighbourhood began in 1888 with the opening of the first Humber Bay schoolhouse on High Street. The old Humber Bay school was demolished in 1986, to make room for a new housing development. While the cornerstone of this neighbourhood was lost, its sense of history and community spirit live on.

Humber Bay farmers grew mostly vegetables, and maintained a few apple and pear orchards and the occasional strawberry and raspberry patch.  It was appropriate that the first Farmers Market for the Toronto area began in Humber Bay at Park Lawn Road and The Queensway. By the 1920s, Humber Bay had grown to include a brick yard and a cement block factory, a library association, a volunteer fire brigade, churches, and a golf course on the site where South Humber Park and the Humber Sewage Treatment Plant are now located.

mimicovilliage-300x2231Mimico was originally known by the First Nations people as “Omimeca”, meaning “the resting place of the wild pigeons”, or passenger pigeon, which is now an extinct species whose memory lives on in the name of this community.

The present day Mimico neighbourhood began to be developed in the 1890s south of Lake Shore Boulevard, where many of Toronto’s wealthiest families built their summer homes.  Some of these estates are still intact, however, most were lost to development after World War II.

Mimico began to emerge as a year-round community in 1906, when the Grand Trunk Railway opened the Mimico Yard.  This led to a building boom as houses were needed to accommodate the influx of workers who found employment at the Mimico Yard.  Its meteoric growth led to its incorporation as a Town in 1917, and retained its Town status until 1967, Mimico is the gateway to Toronto’s west-end waterfront neighbourhoods.  It is well known for its scenic lakefront parks and excellent recreational facilities.  It is within a short commute of downtown Toronto, and features its own Go Transit train station located two blocks south of the Gardiner Expressway on Royal York Road when it was amalgamated with the Township of Etobicoke.

Residents come out in droves to show their community spirit at a number of local events including the annual Lakeshore Community Festival, the Etobicoke-Lakeshore Christmas Parade, and the Mimico Festival, held every August in Amos Waites Park.  This event is always followed by a kite flying contest held the next day at Humber Bay Park.

Mimico was originally known by the First Nations people as “Omimeca”, meaning “the resting place of the wild pigeons”, or passenger pigeon, which is now an extinct species whose memory lives on in the name of this community.

newto-300x275New Toronto is located along Toronto’s western beaches.  It is a neighbourhood in transition as the industrial corridor at the north end of the neighbourhood has been converted to residential zoning.  Some of the selling features of this neighbourhood are the walking and bicycle trail, convenient TTC and Go Transit service, affordable homes, and quick access to downtown Toronto.

New Toronto’s history dates back to the 1890′s when it was planned as a working town.  This plan became a reality in 1906, when the Grand Trunk Railway opened repair shops, a roundhouse and a freight yard in New Toronto. The railway attracted industry. The area’s largest employer was the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, which established a plant here in 1917.

New Toronto’s rapid growth led to its incorporation as a Town in 1920.  Frank Longstaff, in Villages of Etobicoke, recalls that during this period of prosperity, New Toronto touted itself as having the “highest value of manufacturing per square mile in North America.”  New Toronto was amalgamated with the former Township of Etobicoke in 1967, but it never lost its sense of identity as a working class town.

longbranch-300x197Long Branch is a well-established neighbourhood located along the Toronto waterfront at the extreme south-west part of the city. It was first settled in 1797 by Colonel Samuel Smith, a loyalist officer with the Queens Rangers, who served two terms as administrator of Upper Canada.His five hundred acre tract of land spanned the entire present day neighbourhood.  Smith built a modest regency style cottage at the southeast corner of 41st Street and Lake Shore Boulevard where Parkview Public School is situated today.  Colonel Smith died in 1826, and his children retained possession of the estate until 1871, when it was sold to James Eastwood.

The industrious Eastwood timbered the pine and oak forest that covered this land. He then rafted the logs from the mouth of the Etobicoke Creek to the Toronto Harbour where the lumber was sold for a tidy profit.

In 1883, Eastwood sold part of his property to developers who created Long Branch Park, a summer resort modelled after its namesake in New Jersey.  Ferry boats ushered thousands of Toronto vacationers to their summer cottages, a grand hotel, a boardwalk, and numerous amusement rides including a Coney Island Carousel.

Long Branch became more accessible in 1916, when Lake Shore Boulevard was paved. This transportation corridor helped turn Long Branch into a year-round community. This neighbourhood was developed largely from the 1920s up to the 1950s.

alderwoodAlderwood is a situated in the southwest part of Toronto. This family oriented neighbourhood is bordered on the west by the Etobicoke Creek valley and to the east by light industry. The name officially came into use in 1933 when the local post office was opened. Robert Johnson, a long time resident, is credited with originating the name.

Alderwood’s farms began to be subdivided for residential development in the 1920s; however, most of this neighbourhood’s development occurred after World War II. Many of the streets are named after the original farmers in this area, including Brown, Evans, Lunness, and Horner.

Alderwood residents are proud of the Sir Adam Beck Centre. This multi-use recreational facility, built on the former Sir Adam Beck School Grounds, features a primary school, a public library, a day care centre, and fitness facilities, which are connected to the newly renovated Alderwood Pool.

queensway-300x176The Queensway is an affordable west end neighbourhood that offers convenient access to downtown Toronto, and numerous recreational opportunities at the nearby South Humber Parklands.  This relatively low-profile neighbourhood has quietly earned celebrity status, with many television, movie, and commercial productions having taken place in the residential pocket around Queensway Park.

The Queensway began as a small farming community in the late 1800s.  One of the few reminders of its rural past is the white stucco cottage that sits in an old farmers field at 694 Royal York Road.

In 1912, the urbanization of The Queensway led to the creation of the two-room Queensway Public School.  This school was expanded in 1923 and then again in 1948. After a long period of growth, The Queensway experienced a decline in population during the 1960s, which led to the closing of the Queensway Public School in 1969.

The former Queensway School was demolished in the 1990s to make room for the giant Costco retail complex.  Ironically, Costco, like the school before it, has become a landmark in The Queensway, and has helped to revitalize this neighbourhood.  The arrival of a large movie complex accompanied by upscale roadhouse-style restaurants has also contributed to the community’s development.

sunnylea-300x122Sunnylea is a highly sought after neighbourhood that is especially popular with young families.  It has a country charm thanks to Mimico Creek, which gently meanders through the centre of this neighbourhood.  Sunnylea’s many mature trees and the exclusion of sidewalks add to its country-like ambience.

The history of the Sunnylea neighbourhood revolves around Alexander Thompson who purchased two hundred acres of land in this area in 1803 after his discharge from the Kings Rangers.  Alexander Thompson lived in a distinguished residence, known as Rose Bank Cottage, just south of Bloor Street at Royal York Road.  His son’s Georgian farmhouse, Spring Bank Cottage, just to the south of his father, is still standing today at 7 Meadowcrest Road.

The Thompson property was renowned for its apple, cherry, pear and plum orchards.  In the latter part of the 1800s, the Thompsons were joined in Sunnylea by families who cultivated thriving market gardens filled with fruits and vegetables.  Some of these old Sunnylea farmhouses are still standing along both Prince Edward Drive and Isllington Avenue.