Posts Tagged ‘Toronto Islands’

A trip to Toronto Islands on a sunny spring day.
Photos and stories – an eclectic mix of history and nature that resulted from wandering around the eastern portion of the islands.

below: From the ferry, looking toward the glass and steel of the city.

sail boats in Inner Harbour of Lake Ontario, in front of the Toronto skyline with highrises and skyscrapers also ship moored at Redpath Sugar refinery

Toronto Islands is a collection of at least 12 small islands.  In the early years the island archipelago was really a peninsula of sandbars and ponds; it was connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of sandy shoreline. This landform was created over centuries by the action of waves, winds and lake currents – washing away portions of the Scarborough Bluffs and depositing this material to the west in a five-mile-long hooked shape. This process of natural “landscaping” continued until the spring of 1858, when a particularly powerful hurricane created a channel four to five feet deep through the peninsula.  By June of that year, the Eastern Gap was a waterway, and the Toronto Islands came into being.

below: On the ferry between the city and Centre Island.

people lined up along the front railing of a ferry from Centre Island to the city of Toronto, looking at skyline and taking picture of it. Toronto is in the background.

The first buildings on the islands were the Blockhouse Bay garrison built in the 1794 by the British at Gibraltar Point – it included a blockhouse and storage structures.  A second blockhouse and a guard house were built soon after, only to be destroyed by the Americans in the Battle of York in April 1813.   The lighthouse at Gibraltar Point built in 1809 still stands (sorry, no photo).

In 1833 Michael O’Connor built a hotel on one the islands.  He used a horse-drawn boat to ferry customers across from the mainland to his hotel.  At that time, there was still access by road but it was a toll road.  In 1836 it cost sixpence for every four-wheeled carriage drawn by two horses.  Smaller ‘vehicles’ paid less.   In 1858 the hotel (now Quinns Hotel) was destroyed during the same hurricane that turned the peninsula into an island.  The hotels were destroyed but the islands remained popular.  With no road access, ferries were needed and many people ran private ferry services until they were bought out or amalgamated into the Toronto Ferry Company in 1892.  It was privately owned until 1926 when it was purchased by the City of Toronto for $337,500.

ferry, ceiling is full of orange life jackets, railings along edge, Lake Ontario, benches to sit on but no people

blue abstract from two blue doors with cut out where handle should be

Many houses and businesses, (hotels, restaurants, bowling alley, laundry, theatre etc) were established over the years from Hanlon’s Point in the west to Wards Island in the east.   Today, residences are only in the eastern section of Wards Island and on Algonquin Island.

The Ward’s Island community began in the 1880s as a settlement of tents. Up until then, that eastern end of the islands was mostly wetlands.  The first summer colony on Ward’s in 1899 consisted of just eight tenants, each of whom had paid a fee of $10 rent for the season. The number of tents grew each year.  In 1913, the city felt it necessary to organize the community into streets. The evolution from tents to cottage structures progressed in stages with the building of floors, the addition of kitchens and then porches, resulting in the creation of the homes.

two houses on Wards Island, small wood housses, one bright blue and the other is white

grey wood siding on house with white door and small porch. Two yellow and metal chairs on the porch

In 1953 the municipal government changed their policy toward the Toronto Islands landscape and its residents. Businesses were removed and the systematic demolition and burning of homes began.  More of the islands became parkland.    There are 262 houses on Wards and Algonquin Islands today, down from about 630 residences on all the islands.  The last of the Lakeshore houses was removed in 1968 but traces of them still remain.

wood boardwalk along the foreground of the photo with a concrete path leading away from it, into an overgrown area

part of old concrete breakwater, once there was house here, number 170 embedded in the concrete

below: The pier on the Lake Ontario side.

metal fence in the foreground, beach, pier and Lake Ontario in the middle and background

below: Sandbags along the shore.  Last spring there was a lot of flooding here and the island was closed to visitors – sort of.  Ferries didn’t run and the park facilities were closed.  The islands are very flat and low so it doesn’t take much extra water to flood.

large white sandbags along the shore, beach on the other side, Lake Ontario in background with a row of rocks as breakwater a short distance from the shore, sign on the beach

sign fallen over and under water, surrounded by rocks, Lake Ontario

below: There is a small amusement park, Centreville, on Centre Island.

CN tower in the background, people on the Skyline ride at Centre Island passing over water, with large boats docked farther up the river

below: Island transport that can be rented if you don’t want to walk.

people cycling in 2 quadricycles, a four wheeled bicycle like vehicle, on paths,

the orange and white wall tile pattern of Pizza Pizza with a red bike parked in front of it.

below: Boats moored QCYC (Queen City Yacht Club), one of the three yacht clubs on the islands.

sailboats moored at a wood dock, QCYC

below: Sakura trees in bloom.   The trees were donated by the Sakura Project.  The aim of this project was to strengthen Japanese Canadian relations by planting cherry trees in visible locations across Ontario.   Between 2000 and 2012,  3,082 trees were planted at 58 locations.  The trees on Centre Island were planted in 2011.

path, sakura (cherry) trees on either side with their pink and white blossoms, other large trees around them with pale green of new leaves

below: Catkins from a red alder tree.  They almost look like raspberries packed tight together.

red fuzzy blossoms droop from the end of a tree branch

new yellowish green flowers on a tree, also leaf buds just opening,

ants in the bud on a tree

below: An early family of Canada geese.

family of Canada geese, 2 adults and 7 or 8 fluffy little goslings swimming in the water

below: The pier at the eastern end of Wards Island is bad need of repair.  To the right is the entry into the Eastern Channel (or Eastern Gap).

broken concrete pier into Inner Harbour of Lake Ontario, with Toronto skyline and CN Tower in the distance

below: Looking over to Algonquin Island.  Once upon a time this island was just a sandbar.

waterway, orange life ring and ladder on one side of the river, houses and docks, and boats on the other. r

two people standing on the shore of Center Island, looking at the Toronto skyline and taking pictures of it.

and back to the mainland.

people exiting a ferry, from above

Lake Ontario is still higher than normal and one of the areas of the city most affected by this is Centre Island.   All of the islands have been flooded to some extent but the low lying Centre Island was the worst hit.

below: Sandbags along the shoreline by the Ward’s Island ferry dock.

sandbags along the shoreline by the Ward's Island ferry dock.

below: Sandbags in the water too.

three small trees are in the water, with sandbags at their bases, most of the sandbags are covered by water. on the shore of Lake Ontario, Toronto skyline is in the background

below: Ward’s Island beach

an empty lifeguard station on a flooded beach. it is in the water of Lake Ontario and is surrounded by water

Although the water level has gone down a bit since early May, large sections of Centre Island are still flooded.   The ferries to Centre Island and Hanlons Point are not running and the Centreville amusement park is closed.

below: The Centreville train tracks are under water.

a sign says danger stay off the bridge, sign is sitting in a pond of water caused by clooding of Centre Island, train tracks from the amusement park train ride are partially under water too

below: Waiting for the next train arriving on platform one. The train is late and it may be a long wait.

large white boats in the shapes of swans are stored on shore, beside a train track and station for the Centreville amusement park. It looks like the swans are waiting for a train

below: Making the bees go round!

a young woman site in a child's amusement park ride where the seats are the shape of bumblebees. her hands are in the air. Another woman is pushing the bee to make it go around like it would if the ride were were operating

below: The ducks are happy!  So are the geese, swans, and other wildlife (if you can call them wild!).   Carp have been seen spawning in the flooded areas.

a male mallard duck stands in a puddle of water outside a building with an open door and a red set of stairs.

yellow fire hydrant in a pond created by flooding. buildings of the amusement park, centreville, are in the background

two blue benches back to back in a flooded section of a park, lots of trees also in the water, reflections, another bench in the background.

picnic tables are stacked in piles beside the water, willow trees and a red maple are also in the picture

picnic tables in a flooded section of a park

below: This is the view across to the Royal Canadian Yacht Club which is on its own island. Two chairs hang overhead.  In the background is the Toronto skyline.

view across channel towards island yacht club and then the Toronto skyline beyond,

below: The constantly changing Toronto Skyline as it is today.

a few shrubs along the flooded shoreline of Centre Island in the foreground with the Toronto skyline across the Inner Channel, CN Tower, Rogers Centre and many condos and office towers.

below: Waiting for the water to recede.  The Centre Island website says that the amusement park and all facilities (food vendors, washrooms, etc) are closed until further notice.

three muskoka chairs sitting in a line, a blue, yellow and pink chair. trees and grass behind them

stickers on a pole. One is a photo of an eye and eyebrow and the other is a drawing of a very pink face with crooked nose and open mouth with teeth showing.