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Part of The "Beaches" District in present-day eastern Toronto, Balmy Beach was a summer play area that was built up in the 1870s as streetcar and boat service began to infiltrate the district. In 1876, Adam Wilson owned a large waterfront lot on Lake Ontario bounded by Victoria Park Avenue on the east (just west of present-day Scarborough) and Queen Street on the north. He specified part of it to become Balmy Beach, which would be like a small village with summer residences and a recreational expanse. This recreational area was at the bottom of what would become Beech Avenue and is designated on an 1880 map as "Private Promenade". Wilson wanted it set aside for the use of the residents. Within three years, two other parks would also open in the Beaches area: Kew Beach and Victoria Park.
The neighbourhood began to grow, which prompted the opening of the Scarboro Heights Hotel in 1879. It was about one kilometre north of the recreation area. Many more public and private buildings were erected in the 1880s through the 19-0s. The beach district, which was/is east of a protected arm of Lake Ontario called Ashbridge's Bay, drew summer visitors who tented, or stayed in boarding houses while taking in the recreational activities.
By 1902, some residents wanted Beech Street to continue to the water right through the promenade. However, others petitioned the area council to obtain legislation from the province declaring the stretch to be preserved as a recreational area. An act passed in 1903 did just that by forming The Balmy Beach Park Commission. It provided for squatter building demolitions, an enclosure for the park, breakwaters, tree clearing, and other improvements, as well as setting the hours of operation. The park officially opened June 20, 1904.
A loan was secured for further improvements. These grew to include a baseball diamond with a home team, bicycle trails, and lawn bowling through an organized club. Fireworks were displayed on special occasions. A boat club had been formed in 1903 and they had a small boathouse which had to be demolished under the new act. A new beach clubhouse was built which opened August 17, 1905. It had improved facilities for sailing, rowing & paddling, and was the site of social activities such as dancing, recitals & concerts, and card games.
The club became so powerful and the focal point of the park, that in 1907, an agreement was signed with The Commission to run the park jointly. Although the club house was torn down in 1936, the association still exists today as The Balmy Beach Canoe Club with a building on site. I don't have a date for this new building, but in the late 1940s club members had a distinctive style of dance known as the "Balmy", so there must have been some facility for dancing, which suggests a new club house was built within a decade or so of the 1936 demolition.
Year-round residents and winter visitors could enjoy curling & hockey (each with its own team & club), and skating. Balmy also had a Bachelor's Club and a gun club. Being so close to Kew Beach, the teams often had sporting matches against one another. Balmy's athletes were world known, with them competing in bowling, hockey, rugby, and volleyball, among others. They attended seven Olympics with gold and silver medals awarded, and its football team won Canada's Grey Cup in 1927 and 1930.
All this prompted the building of more residences (many occupied year round), which required more streets and services such as a waterworks (1905) and sidewalks. A permanent firehall was built in 1902 and a telephone exchange was installed in 1903. Both the exchange and waterworks were shared with Kew Beach, By 1908, the City of Toronto annexed East Toronto to which Balmy Beach relied upon for some services. In 1909 Balmy Beach too was annexed and over the next few years services improved.
The area still exists today as part of Beaches Park (1932), although it continues to be administered by a separate board. This was part of the agreement between the City of Toronto and Balmy Beach when Toronto annexed the area. It's unclear if amusement rides were there. Research continues.
|Thanks to authors Mary Campbell and Barbara Myrvold for information.|
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