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Discover & Explore Toronto's Waterfront: A Walker's Jogger's Cyclist's Boater's Guide to Toronto's Lakeside Sites and History

Discover & Explore Toronto's Waterfront: A Walker's Jogger's Cyclist's Boater's Guide to Toronto's Lakeside Sites and History

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Discover & Explore Toronto's Waterfront: A Walker's Jogger's Cyclist's Boater's Guide to Toronto's Lakeside Sites and History

220 pagine
2 ore
Apr 1, 1998


Out of print for many years, this much sought-after guide is being brought back just in time for the megacity's first summer. Mike Filey has expanded his original book to include areas that are now the waterfront of the new City of Toronto, stretching from the west end of Etobicoke to the Rouge River in the east. This valuable guide is an essential tool for anyone with an interest in Toronto: tourists, locals, and even out-of-towners who want to learn more about the lakeside sites of North America's fifth-largest city.

The book is divided into three Walks. New and archival photographs and illustrations capture the beauty and charm of the city, while the text provides the history of each site, complete with intriguing and often amusing anecdotes.

For residents and tourists, Toronto continues to be a great city to explore. With Discover & Explore Toronto's Waterfront, exploration is made even more exciting.

Apr 1, 1998

Informazioni sull'autore

Mike Filey was born in Toronto in 1941. He has written more than two dozen books on various facets of Toronto's past and for more than thirty-five years has contributed a popular column, "The Way We Were," to the Toronto Sunday Sun. His Toronto Sketches series is more popular now than ever before.

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Discover & Explore Toronto's Waterfront - Mike Filey

Discover & Explore

Toronto’s Waterfront

Discover & Explore Toronto’s Waterfront

A Walker’s Jogger’s Cyclist’s Boater’s Guide to Toronto’s Lakeside Sites and History

Mike Filey

Copyright © Mike Filey 1998

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise (except for brief passages for purposes of review) without the prior permission of Dundurn Press Limited. Permission to photocopy should be requested from the Canadian Reprography Collective.

Editor: Barry Jowett

Designer: Erich Falkenberg

Printer: Webcom

Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data

Filey, Mike, 1941-

Discover & explore Toronto’s waterfront: a walker’s jogger’s cyclist’s boater’s guide to Toronto’s lakeside sites and history

Rev. ed.

Previously published under title: A walker’s, jogger’s, cyclists’s, boater’s guide to Toronto’s waterfront

ISBN 1-55002-304-7

1. Waterfronts — Ontario — Toronto — Guidebooks. 2. Toronto (Ont.) — Guidebooks. 3. Toronto Islands (Ont.) — Guidebooks.

I. Title. II. Title: Walker’s, jogger’s, cyclist’s, boater’s guide to Toronto’s waterfront.

FC3097.18.F54 1998917.13’541044C98-931512-6

F1059.5.T683F54 1998


We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. We also acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Book Publishing Industry Development Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Care has been taken to trace the ownership of copyright material used in this book. The author and the publisher welcome any information enabling them to rectify any references or credit in subsequent editions.

Printed and bound in Canada.

Printed on recycled paper.

Dundurn Press

8 Market Street

Suite 200

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

M5E 1M6

Dundurn Press

73 Lime Walk

Headington, Oxford



Dundurn Press

250 Sonwil Drive

Buffalo, NY

U.S.A. 14225



Suggested Reading


Walk One: Maps

Walk One: Gooderham & Worts to Palace Pier

Walk Two: Maps

Walk Two: Port Lands to the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant

Walk Three: Map

Walk Three: Toronto Bay and Toronto Island

Alphabetical Reference

For Holly and her soon-to-be new friend.

Special thanks to Michelle Dale, archivist at the Toronto Harbour Commission, Julie Kirsh and her colleagues at the Toronto Sun News Research Centre, and the people at the Toronto Economic Development Corporation (TEDCO).

All photos are taken from the author’s collection.

Maps drawn by Jeff Rickert.


I self-published a variation of this guide book a decade ago. Interest in it was considerable and, thankfully, the work was soon out-of-print. With the passage of time, the book has become seriously outdated with many of the buildings no longer there and once-empty spaces now covered with new structures. For those who have the first edition, not to worry; the historical facts remain unchanged.

As far as I was concerned the ever-increasing activity along the water’s edge as well as the increased numbers of people visiting the waterfront or, indeed, living there, simply meant that the guide book still had a purpose and, hopefully, sales potential, though this time I would approach a proper publisher. Thus it is that Dundurn Press, which has published all of my recent titles, is on the hook for this one.

In addition to being a guide book of the standard what’s that over there variety, I have included references to "what was that over there as well as what will be over there." Because of the continuing evolution of Toronto’s waterfront that latter question is a particularly difficult one to answer without a crystal ball. Nevertheless, where ideas are firm, or as firm as their spokespersons will admit, I’ve included them. With Toronto being a living, breathing entity, and thankfully so, there’s little doubt that a decade from now this version of the guide will be as dated as my first effort. But for now, have fun, and I hope you learn something about one of the most fascinating places in my city.

* * * * *

NOTE: On June 9, 1998 Royal Assent was given to federal legislation that would create a new Port Authority of Toronto. This new body will replace the Toronto Harbour Commission effective January 1, 1999. The new Authority, similar to sixteen others operating across the country, will have a board consisting of seven members with one member each selected by the federal, provincial, and municipal governments and four by the Toronto business community. This differs from the Toronto Harbour Commission version (established in 1911) that included five commissioners, three of whom were municipal appointments (latterly all elected officials) with the remaining members appointed by the federal government with one of those endorsed by the local board of trade.

Suggested Reading

While this book is chock full of facts, figures, and, hopefully, fun, I would like to draw attention to a couple of other publications that will further enhance the reader’s knowledge and appreciation of Toronto’s, and Lake Ontario’s, ever-changing waterfront:

The Waterfront Trail

(Waterfront Regeneration Trust, 1996)

More Than an Island by Sally Gibson

(Irwin Publishing, 1984)

Trillium and Toronto Island Mike Filey

(Peter Martin Associates, 1976)

I Remember Sunnyside by Mike Filey

(Dundurn Press, 1996)

The Great Toronto Bicycling Guide by Elliot Katz

(Great North Books, 1995)

The Beach in Pictures 1793–1932 by Mary Campbell and Barbara Myrvold

(Toronto Public Library, 1988)

Historical Walking Tour of Kew Beach by Mary Campbell and Barbara Myrvold

(Toronto Public Library Board, 1995)


When John Graves Simcoe, the province’s first lieutenant-governor and the founder of our city, sailed through the old Western Gap and into the harbour on May 2, 1793, one of the things on his mind was how to keep the pesky Americans he had fought against in the recent war (called either the Revolutionary War or the War of Independence, depending on which team you were cheering for) from overrunning his new province. This concern resulted in the establishment of a naval shipyard at the east end of the harbour. His need to defend the shipyard and the small community of artisans and their families that developed on the nearby shoreline was to result in changes to the waterfront — changes in the form of a pallisaded fort, a pair of unpretentious wooden Parliament Buildings, storehouses, wharves, and some additional buildings in which to house his (and King George Ill’s) loyal subjects who continued to arrive on the now altered shoreline of the new community. Thus, from Toronto’s very inception, changes to the waterfront have been part of the city’s ongoing development.

In the city’s formative years, 1793 to 1850, decisions as to who could do what with lands along the waterfront were left pretty much up to the property owners themselves. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who those decisions favoured. And while the colonial government did legislate some controls those same officials had many other provincial matters on their collective minds. In addition, what rules they did concoct were usually enforced haphazardly at best and not always with concerns for the city’s future in mind. In 1850, it was obvious that a change in the way people thought about the harbour was necessary. Control was placed in the hands of an assortment of officials, some representing the city government, others the newly created harbour commission. Other members looked after the interests of the owners of the newly arrived steam railways (regarded as the wonder of the age) with a couple of not-totally dispassionate business types thrown in for good measure. The results were both predictable and chaotic. The impact on Toronto’s waterfront became apparent as wharves, slips, sewers, industrial sites, train tracks, and rail crossings began to cover virtually every inch of available space from Dufferin Street on the west to Ashbridge’s Bay on the east. To say the situation was a mess is an understatement of fearful proportions.

In a bold move to rescue the city’s waterfront from total oblivion, in 1911 the federal government created a new harbour commission that submitted to city council the following year an all-encompassing plan that promoted acres and acres of new parkland at the eastern and western extremities of the city (todays Beach and Sunnyside districts, respectively), a magnificent Boulevard Drive (partially realized in Lake Shore Boulevard West), and the creation of industrial and commercial sites along the shoreline of the central and eastern sections of Toronto Harbour. Without question, the parkland at Sunnyside as well as the promised commercial and industrial components were realized. Unfortunately, the 350-acre waterfront park proposed for the stretch of waterfront between the Eastern Channel to well east of Ashbridge’s Bay, shall we say, missed the boat. Some damage control was done in later years with the creation of Tommy Thompson Park and public spaces at Ashbridge’s Bay Park and Woodbine Beach. In all, the Toronto Harbour Commission, through a series of massive landfilling projects carried out over many years, created new land along the water’s edge that would be equivalent to that portion of Toronto bounded by University Avenue, Dundas, Jarvis, and Front streets. Alterations to the waterfront understandably slowed during the war years, but were revived in the 1950s. In the following decade, the vision of high rises all along the central waterfront section began to materialize. Some of the proposed stuctures would go up on a 12-acre (4.8-hectare) parcel of land between Yonge and York streets that years earlier had been proposed as a public park that could have been, as one scribe touted, a beautiful entrance to the city.

Then came 1972 and the pre-election gift of something that would be called Harbourfront (among other things). It was a concept that outgrew its britches.


Walk One

Gooderham & Worts to Palace Pier

While we really could start this tour of Toronto’s waterfront virtually anywhere along the 12-mile (18-kilometre) stretch between the Humber River to the west and the R.C. Harris Water Treatment plant to the east, I’ve chosen to begin our tour close to where it all began more than two centuries ago — in fact, at one of the most historic, and least known, intersections in Toronto, the corner of Mill and Trinity streets. In our community’s earliest days, this intersection was a mere stone’s throw from the water’s edge. Over the years numerous landfilling projects have pushed the waters of Toronto Bay further and further south so that today the old corner stands high and dry. Nearby could be found the first Parliament Buildings, the first major industry (see 1) and some of the Town of York’s (Toronto’s name until city status was achieved in 1834) first residences.

TRINITY STREET: So named for Little Trinity Church at the southwest corner of Trinity and King streets. The church was built in 1843 and today is the oldest church building in the city. One of the benefactors of this historic church was George Gooderham, a co-founder of the Gooderham and Worts distilling company.

MILL STREET: Shortened from the original Windmill Street, so named for its proximity to the original Worts and Gooderham windmill.

* * * * *

The Gooderham and Worts complex from an 1896 lithograph. The white stone structure still stands.

GOODERHAM AND WORTS LIMITED, 55 Mill Street (1). Until its closing on August 31, 1990, this company was recognized as Toronto’s oldest industry in continuous operation. It had been a part of the Toronto scene since 1832. One year earlier, James Worts had arrived in York, as Toronto was then called, looking for a place where he and his brother-in-law, William Gooderham, who had remained in England, could establish for themselves a new business enterprise. Worts decided on a milling operation and soon thereafter, William, accompanied by a contingent of family members, arrived in York to help with the new venture, which was originally known as Worts and Gooderham. By the end of 1832, a large four-vaned Dutch-style windmill, complete with several grinding stones, had been erected on the water’s edge so that wheat brought by local farmers could be ground into flour. This windmill was located approximately 250 feet (76.2 metres) south of the main gate, stood over 70 feet (21.3 metres) in height and became a prominent feature of the young city’s waterfront. The so-called Windmill Line, an imaginary line that connected the old windmill with a point of land due south of the old French fort at the foot of today’s Dufferin Street in the Exhibition Grounds, was created to define the southerly limit of any and all piers and wharves built out into Toronto Bay. Throughout the 19th century, this Windmill Line was realigned further and further south reflecting the continuous development of the inner harbour. In 1837, following five very successful years in the milling business, Messrs. Worts and Gooderham decided to shift operations slightly and go into the distilling and malting business. Following the tragic suicide death of Worts in 1834, William Gooderham took charge, brought young James Gooderham Worts into the company, and renamed the enterprise Gooderham and Worts. Within a couple of decades, Gooderham and Worts had become the largest distillery in the world and their products were known and sold far and wide. In 1924 the company was acquired by Hiram Walker Limited of Walkerville, Ontario. In the company’s latter years, distilling operations changed from the production of rye whiskey to rum. Molasses, purchased in the West Indies, was transported by tanker at the Port of New York, then barged through the Erie Canal and across Lake Ontario to the Gooderham and Worts dock at the foot of Parliament Street. From here it was pumped to huge storage tanks just west of the distillery building from which it was drawn as needed to manufacture Maraca and Government House brands of rum. Today, the oldest structures on the site are the two buildings with large green cupolas on their roofs. Both were erected 1858. At the south end of the property stands the white distillery building constructed of Kingston, Ontario, limestone in 1859–60. Following a major fire in October of 1869, the wooden interior of this stone building

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