Coaster Enthusiasts of Canada

Closed Canadian Parks

ONTARIO


Toronto


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ARTICLE AND PHOTOGRAPHS
MAY BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT
PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR ©


Hanlan's Point Park
(1860s - 1880s - 1937)

Hanlan Memorial Park
(1937 - 1955 - Present)


(Note that the "Hanlan" name was sometimes misspelt as "Hanlon")


    This park was built up over a number of decades on Toronto Island, one of a series of connected "islands" in York Harbour. (Toronto was once known as `York'.) These islands started as a sandbar that jutted out from the shore near an area known as "Cherry Beach". Then during a major storm in 1858, powerful waves washed away the connecting isthmus, isolating it from the mainland.

    The area was first used by local natives as a source of herbs and as a place of recreation. Then after the British arrived, the land was eventually bought by The Crown. Under Lieutenant-Governor John Simcoe, a fort was built in the 1790s at Gibraltar Point on the south west side of the then peninsula. (The Simcoe name may still be found in place and street names in Ontario.) This fort didn't last long because it was destroyed in the War of 1812 by invading American troops. The northern end of Gibraltar Point was the area that would later take on the name "Hanlan".

    As the city of York increased in size, the citizens used the area more and more for recreation. A sandy beach, hunting & fishing, horse races, and (then-illegal) alcohol consumption on Sunday were some of the attractions.

    People also began to put up residences on the island, one of which was built by the Hanlan family in 1862. In 1865, another severe storm washed their home off its foundations and into the water. It was blown ashore near the north end of Gibraltar Point where the family would reconstruct their lives. This would be the site where John Hanlan would build a single-story, 25-room hotel to service those wishing to stay on the island for more than just an afternoon. Some persons had already built summer homes in the area and John saw an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the recreation business. The exact construction date of his hotel has not yet been located, but it appears to have opened in the early to mid 1860s, which means it might have been open before the 1865 storm. This seems unlikely given that before that storm, the Hanlan home was elsewhere on the island.

    Apparently some simple rides and games were put in next to this hotel, possibly inspired by Privat's, which had been destroyed elsewhere on the island by that big storm of 1858. One of the first attractions at Hanlan's was a shooting gallery.

    Business must have been good because in 1866, Patrick Gray opened a larger hotel south of the Hanlan establishment. It was serviced by the ferry Bouquet.

    The islands were transferred to the City of Toronto in 1867, with building lots being sold for houses. By 1873, the first summer cottage was erected by James Morris south of Hanlan's. Eventually, others followed and by 1876 the city had begun to actively improve the island. Fences were installed to protect swimmers at Hanlan's Point Beach and at other locations on the islands, and a boardwalk system was started. A small foot bridge from Hanlan's Point spanned across the lagoon to allow access to the western sandbar for picnickers. It, or a later version, may be seen in the "Far Side" photo near the end of this article.


Hanlan's Point Park
Late 19-0s or Early 1910s


(Image: Paths and a Boardwalk next to the Water)
Shown here is a photo of the park away from the main amusement area. Note the boats to the right.


    As the island's popularity increased things went well for the Hanlan family, despite the father's (John) death in 1872. The son, Ned, was a world-champion rower. He decided to spend some of his prize earnings to build a better hotel in 1880 (1878 from another source). This one would be three stories with exterior verandahs and be topped off with dormers. The island came to be serviced by the ferry Luella starting that same year.


The Hanlan Hotel
1907

(Image: Hanlan's Hotel from across the Water)
Boaters enjoy the water near the Hanlan Hotel. The dormer-style of architecture is clearly evident. Note the turret structure at the left roof line.


A longer shot of the hotel as seen from the side. The tower of a Circle Swing ride is just visible over the trees to the right of the hotel.
(Image: Long Shot Across Water of the Hotel from the Side)

(Image: Tennis Court and Hotel)
Toronto Reference Library #10178

Hotel Tennis Court
1905

Here is a closer view of the hotel, but of the opposite side from that of the first image. It shows the tennis court.


Hotel Hanlan
Date Unknown
(likely post 1909)


(Image: An Enhanced Hanlan's Hotel)
This postcard view shows what is likely the rebuilt version of the hotel, as would be seen after the 1909 fire. It would resemble the old but with some nice improvements. Note the absence of the third-story verandah and usage of a wrap-around second-story verandah. Also, the ground-level entry staircases run the full length of the building.


    Ned's money came from his awards through competitions in Canada, The United States and England. He set a world record at The 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and continued to be undefeated until 1884 when he lost a competition in Australia. The Australians honoured Ned by naming a resort town "Toronto" near where the competition had taken place.

    Another investor was Ned's future brother-in-law, Lawrence Solman. (Solman would later manage Sunnyside Amusement Park). Attractions were added, some of which were operated by J.C. Connor. He at one time had managed The Royal Theatre in Toronto. Connor was able to get a concession lease at the Hanlan Hotel starting in 1885. Some of the new attractions included waterfront boardwalks, a bandshell, a water fountain, a luxury dining room, bowling, dog swimming races, and an open-air theater with operatic performances.

    In 1886 and 87, the city laid out gardens on the island with lawns, flower beds, newly-planted trees, and sculptures. They continued to improve the island further with expansion of the boardwalk, the addition of new docks and a breakwater, dredging of the channels, and filling of low marshy areas. The latter was done to make more land available and to firm up soft grounds not suitable for recreation. Those prone to flooding were filled to raise them above the high-water mark. By 1889, they would reclaim over 15 hectares. In 1888, electric arc lights were installed, but it's not known if Hanlan's received electricity at that time or not. Likely, it did.

    Of course, all this expansion at the park drew competition, so other beaches with facilities opened on the islands nearby. In 1884, a competing hotel was built only 300 metres away from Hanlan's and nearer the beach, to boot. Hanlan's was still the more popular though, and that same year, the city leased a 150-metre stretch of lake front there for bath houses. These would compete with Wiman's Baths, which had opened two years earlier on the eastern tip of the islands. These new ones became known as "Turner's Baths", presumably after the concessionaire or manager. These would remain popular well into the 1920s.

    Hanlan's expanded so that by 1888 it came to include six rental cottages and a number of tenting areas. These tenters, plus others around competitors' hotels, formed The Island Campers Association. They held a water carnival on August 23, 1888 at Hanlan's Point.

    The expansion of Hanlan's came to include gardens with sculptures, picnic facilities, a lagoon boardwalk, a tea garden, dance hall, and a theater. It was now a full-fledged park. An 1888 Toronto Globe newspaper article mentions that games included shooting galleries, those for proving one's strength, or ones testing endurance via the then-new marvel, electricity. Side shows featured The "Museum of Living Curiosities" with a 230-kilo fat lady, a South American wild girl, and an Irish-accented "Zulu" warrior. Music was by various bands of the era. There was of course, swimming and boating to top it all off. The park appeared to be open until 11 PM because that was the time advertised for the last ferry leaving the island.

    Also, mentioned is a regatta course, but no specific dates have surfaced. However, considering Ned Hanlan's rowing profession, it is likely that the course would have been put in by him at the time he invested in a new hotel in 1880. It would last until 1909 when an area called "Long Pond" was dredged to form a new regatta course.

Toronto Rowing Club
Circa 19-0s

(Image: Crowds Fill the Verandah and Shoreline Overlooking
  the Water)

A hand-tinted postcard shows the club building.


    From the 1885 season and onward, rides included swings and a "Switchback Railway". This was possibly by La Marcus Thompson. He had built one at Coney Island, New York in 1884. However, an 1885 Globe newspaper report mentions the ride as being circular. That raises a possible conflict between the name and its design, although a later report refers to sliding down a hill of 158 metres. That sounds as if the ride is linear. Continuing research is trying to resolve this, but nothing has yet surfaced. However, it seems as if the "circular" term is incorrect.

    Also at the park was an enclosed carousel. Likely installed in 1885, but definitely by 1886, this unit, which had horses and elephants among its 20 or so animal compliment, included a band organ, and was likely steam powered, at leat initially. It sat at the water's edge in an enclosed building next to the ferry dock. The coaster and carousel were run by the Doty brothers from 1885 (and 1886 if the carousel was not installed until then) through 1893.

Carousel and Building
1928

This is essentially the way this ride looked for all its life except the overhanging roof was altered and the top of the cupola was changed. The latter originally looked like a turkish roof in a candy-kiss twist style.
Light strings were installed sometime after 1912 to emphasise the structure. Later, the lighted diamonds shown here were added.
(Image: Carousel and Building)

    The Dotys had also managed the Hanlan Hotel in 1887 and ran a ferry company until it was sold in 1890. They had other concessions at Hanlan's and also a carousel at the nearby Centre Island Park.

Doty Brothers Concession
Circa 1890s


(Image: Doty `Hippodrome' Concession)
Patrons enjoy the late afternoon sun near the Doty "Hippodrome" pavilion. Note the ferry in the background.

    The roller coaster had an accident its second season. On May 25th, 1886, nine were injured when a car left the track at its lowest point. Some were dumped into the water left from spring flooding. Others got caught on the barbed wire fence erected to keep people away from dangerous parts of the ride. All survived their injuries. This may have been Canada's first roller coaster accident.

    In 1894 a clothing-optional beach was approved for naturists preferring to bath unclothed on warm days. That lasted until 1930 when successful citizens groups were able to get the permit repealed. Despite that, nude swimming and sunbathing continued for decades afterward. (It has since been officially reinstated.)

    Success breeds investors. So, as did the land-based transportation companies that often used an amusement park at the end of their lines to encourage weekend business, a ferry company wished to do the same with Hanlan's. The Toronto Ferry Company bought Ned Hanlan's share of the resort for $50,000 in 1894. They then proceeded to invest a quarter of a million dollars (an incredible sum for the time) to buy up additional land and to place rides and attractions on the original hotel land and the new parcel. The park, which reopened in 1895, had an area totalling about five hectares and came to include rides such as a miniature train, wet and dry slides, more roller coasters, the "Human Roulette Wheel" "Old Mill", "Giant Swing", and an Ingersoll version of a "Circle Swing".

    The "Circle Swing" was sometimes referred to as a "Swing Around". It appeared in the park around 1905 or 06 where it is seen in photographs. It had six 8-passenger gondolas suspended from a central tower. The cars swung out as the ride turned. (A full description of a Traver model may be read in the Scarboro Beach Park article.) By around 1910, the ride would be reduced to just a tower with gnome theming. Apparently, the Ingersoll models never ran well and other parks converted theirs to similar themes or to fountains to avoid the expense of upkeep or possibility of an accident.


Circle Swing Ride
1905 or 1906

Behind the ride is part of the lacrosse field and the 1904 stadium. Toronto is in the far background.
(Image: `Circle Swing' Ride)

    Two book sources mention a new roller coaster called The "Big Scream" which opened with the refurbished park. No coaster-specific sources list this ride, so its existence is in contention at this time. As well, there is a possibility that it was not a roller coaster, but some other amusement ride. If it was a roller coaster, it may have replaced The "Switchback Railway", but it's possible both ran for a period at the same time. As well, a newspaper report on the 1909 fire (detailed farther on), mentions the switchback, so that ride may have survived until then.

    The park's miniature steam train is documented in several photos. Below is a photo from a 1906 advertisement. It shows a narrow-gauge railway track running along the park's tree-lined boardwalk, by then illuminated with stringed light bulbs. A small steam locomotive may be seen in the lower left pulling a coal tender and approaching a switch. Visible through the trees is a roller-coaster structure which is The "Figure 8". The ad caption reads in part: "Hanlan's Point: The Coney Island of Canada".


The Miniature Train

(Image: The Park's Train and the Lagoon Boardwalk)

The miniature train approaches a switch as it continues its run along the lagoon boardwalk on a summer's day in 1906. Note the "Danger" sign at the switch point. The structure seen through the trees beyond the fence at the left is The Figure 8 roller coaster.



A hand-tinted postcard from a later era shows a similar view, but just a little farther along the track.
(Image: The Train passes by People seated on Benches)

Compared to the photo before this, vegetation has grown up and there are more benches along the fence on the lagoon side of the boardwalk.

Unknown Year

(A side view of the Park's Train near Concessions)

People pose for a photo near the train in this postcard view. In the right background are Cigar and Ice Cream concessions. The building at the left is not known.

This view looks in the same direction as the second-last photo but is taken from farther down the boardwalk and in a different year. The absence of train tracks suggests this photo is earlier than the previous ones. To the right is a canoe concession, while at the left, the side edge of the first drop of The Figure 8 is visible.
The Lagoon Boardwalk
1905 ?


(Image: The Lagoon Boardwalk from Farther Along)


Below is shown the same area as seen from the opposite direction and from farther down the boardwalk. It was taken around the same year as the above photo. The Figure 8 structure is again seen behind the trees. The carousel building still has its original "twist" style cupola.
Note at Center the person seated by the water's edge at the canoe concession. He was likely the attendant for the canoers.

 
(Image: The Lagoon Boardwalk and Carousel Building)
The Lagoon Boardwalk
1905 ?

Above and along the boardwalk are strings of lights. In the distance, to the right of the light pole, may be seen the dry slide tower. A close up of this attraction is seen farther on.
 

See more of this same boardwalk from the water
side in the "Lagoon" photos, farther on.



    Information has surfaced which suggests the park's train was an Armitage-Herschell model that was the first of its kind produced by the company. The locomotive was a wood-fired, one-metre tall, 381mm gauge steam engine in a 4-4-0 configuration. It hauled a five-car train supposedly including a coal tender and caboose, although one photo here shows four passenger cars, so perhaps the tender was not included in the count. A typical running speed would have been about 10 km/h. Evidence shows it to have been made at the Herschell company's North Tonawanda, New York facilities around 1896 and was discovered in the 1990s to still be in existence.

    According to a News Niagara Bureau article by Harold McNeil, the train was originally shipped to Centre Island in Toronto. The only amusement park operating around this time on the island was Hanlan's, so this was likely the train's first home.

    Photo comparisons suggest that the Hanlan's locomotive was this Herschell model and that it was likely installed for the 1896 or 97 season, which fits nicely with the opening of the freshly enhanced park.

    The treasurer of The Carousel Society of the Niagara Frontier, Edward Janulionis, was able to locate the century-old locomotive in 1999. After the train had left Hanlan's (the year is not currently known), it changed hands various times.

    Research by Ottawa train fans Bruce Ballantyne, Bernie Geiger, David Jeanes and others, shows that this train might have gone to Britannia Park in Ottawa, but photo comparisons don't match. It did though, end up with the Rotary Club in Orillia, Ontario where it was being run as a fund raiser at Couchiching Beach Park. It hauled over 20,000 passengers during the 1999 season alone. Since that, the club planned on exchanging the steam train for a gasoline model and apparently sold it.

    The Island Street Boatyard was secured as a sponsor and committed to buying, transporting and restoring the vehicle as a donation to The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum on Thompson Street in North Tonawanda. The locomotive turned out to have serial number 0001, and is considered the first, and perhaps only, steam locomotive made by the Herschell company. (They were better known for making gasoline-powered locomotives. As of a few years ago, it was planned to run the train in a North Tonawanda park as soon as it was restored. (See more recent photos of the train in the Couchiching Beach Park article.)



    The image below shows two narrow-gauge tracks running over a trestle near the main midway. These are part of The "Grand Scenic Railway", installed in 1907, and later renamed The "Royal Gorge" -- likely to compete with the Toronto Exhibition which had a coaster using that name. The "Grand Scenic Railway" is seen in the right background with The "Figure 8" behind it. A track section runs from within the station building to the trestle at the left where it loops around out of frame to once again cross the trestle in front of the other track section. It runs along in front of the building, makes a sharp left and then presumably lines up with the lift hill seen above the building's roof. (The track loop can be seen in the 1908 stadium photo, farther on.)

    The photo date is identified as `1907' because 1: The "Figure 8" has a cupola that was not installed until 1906 or 07. (This is discussed farther on.) 2: The coaster in front of that is The "Grand Scenic Railway", which places the photo in at least 1907 when that ride was built. It can't be 1908 because the stadium was modified that year with additional, covered seating in the outfield, none of which is seen in this image. (See these modifications in the 1908 stadium photo, farther on.)

    Note that the "Magic Baking Powder" sign is not there in the "Tecumseh" photos shown here after the "Midway" photo. The first "Tecumseh" photo is dated May 24th, 1907 and shows more of The "Grand Scenic Railway". It appears to have a turnaround in the location behind where the sign would be placed. At some point its track comes back to the station building to emerge as seen in the photo, twice crosses the trestle, and returns to the station where the track aligns with the lift hill.

    This places the photo with the "Magic Baking Powder" sign later in 1907, but not in 1908 because all of that was removed to make way for the outfield seating.

The Midway and Stadium
1907

(Image: A High-Angle Midway View)

Here, the second (1904) stadium may be seen with advertisement billboards at the outer perimeter and the Toronto skyline beyond. At Upper Right may be seen two ferries near the docks that lie out of frame to the right. In front of them is part of the structure for the Figure 8 roller coaster. The ride in front of that is The Grand Scenic Railway. Track for it is again seen in the foreground.
Compare this photo with the next three.




    Besides the rides, park patrons might also be spectators at a sports game in the lacrosse/baseball stadium, which had been built for the 1897 season to replace bleacher seating. This was the home of the Tecumseh Lacrosse Team and the second home for the Maple Leaf Baseball Team, which had been moved by its owner from Sunlight Park on Queen Street in Toronto. He would come to move it back to yet a newer stadium on the mainland in 1926. The team continued until 1967 when it was disbanded.

The Tecumseh and Shamrocks
Lacrosse Teams

May, 1907


(Image: Lacrosse Teams and Roller Coaster)
Here, two teams play against a backdrop of The Grand Scenic Railway built in 1907. Compare this photo with the "Midway" one farther back. Note in the left background that the circular part of the structure (the coaster's turnaround) is not evident in that other photo. This part of the ride's framework is hidden by a "Magic Baking Powder" billboard which had to have been installed later that season.

The Tecumseh Lacrosse Team
1907


(Image: Lacrosse Team and Roller Coaster)
This photo shows the team in the 1904 stadium. The roller coaster in Background Right is The Grand Scenic Railway built in 1907. Compare this photo with the "Midway" one farther back. Again note that the circular structure seen here behind some of the lacrosse team was hidden by a billboard in the "Midway" photo.

The Midway and Stadium
1908


(Image: The Modified Stadium with its New Seating)
Toronto Archives Photo

The modifications to the 1904 stadium are evident in this view. All the outfield billboards have been replaced by covered seating. You can also see that those two tracks in the foreground do join at the left to form a loop.



(Image Left: `Scenic River' Ride Ticket)     Returning to the early Hanlan's: The 1897 Toronto Ferry Company Time Table advertised Band Concerts, Bicycle Races, Baseball, Lacrosse, and a Roof Garden. One ride was called Scenic River which may have been an enclosed dark ride or open trough showing various scenes to riders as they passed by in small boats. A ticket for it is reproduced here, but its date is unknown. This ride might have been a renamed or updated "Old Mill" -- perhaps being repaired or built newly after one of the fires.


    The island's permanent population grew so that it eventually had its own businesses, stores, & churches, and starting in 1900, a volunteer fire department, which eventually came to have three stations. All this spawned proper streets and wooden sidewalks which made their way to the ferry docks.

    One of the multitude of ferries that came to service the island during the park's time was The "John Hanlan". Built in 1884, it was named for the founder of the park and resort. In 1927 it would be acquired by The Toronto Transportation Commission but it was eventually replaced so that in July of 1929, The "Hanlan" would be burned off the beach at Sunnyside Amusement Park as "entertainment".



    The stadium caught fire September 10th, 1903, was lost, and replaced with a larger one, as seen in the photo below. The "Big Scream" apparently survived and possibly The "Switchback Railway". As previously mentioned, the "Switchback" name appears in a newspaper report of the 1909 fire. However, the term "Switchback" was often used interchangeably with the term "roller coaster" during that era, so this report may have referred to one of the other coasters.

The Hanlan's Point Stadium
(1904 - 1909)
Photo Taken: 1905 or 1906


(Image: Stadium & Lacrosse Field)
This structure replaced the 1897 one which had been lost in a fire. The postcard view here is before the 1908 upgrade. This stadium too, would burn during its sixth season.




    In 1905, a Fred Ingersoll "Figure 8" coaster was built, which proved popular enough that two more coasters were added: The "Grand Scenic Railway" in 1907, and in 1908 a "Dip the Dips" joined it, both designed & built by Ingersoll and John Miller. (The "Grand Scenic Railway" was renamed The "Royal Gorge" in 1908 or 1909).

Royal Gorge
and Midway

Late 19-0s


(Image: The `Royal Gorge' Entrance)
  A shady midway leads to the entrance of the Royal Gorge roller coaster.


(Image Left: `Figure 8' Ride Ticket)     A "Figure 8" ride cost about 5 cents, or six for 25 cents. (Note that it is likely that The "Switchback Railway" and "Big Scream" coasters were gone by 1903, and that The "Figure 8" replaced one or both of them, but this is not conclusive.)

    Sometime after the first or second season, The "Figure 8" had a small cupola placed at the top of the lift hill. Early photos don't show this cupola (see the "Figure Eight" postcard, below), while later photos do. (See the "Lacrosse Team" photo farther back, and "Lagoon" photo farther on.) As may be seen on top of a frame at the peak of the lift, there originally was a large number `8.'


    Along with the rides in the newly refurbished Hanlan Park, were attractions like the "Tours of the World" simulator. Jim Abbate of Chicago says: "Patrons boarded a railroad passenger car in a building. After being seated, they were jostled as if riding the rails and they watched a variety of scenes pass them by as they gazed out their windows." Afterwards, patrons could hear music at the bandstand, see a play or other performance at the theater, swim or canoe, or enjoy themselves at the dance hall.

Behind & to the left of the coaster is the lacrosse field, as just seen above. The building immediately to the left is the "Tours of the World" attraction.
On the right is the breakwater, past which the ferries would come to dock just out of sight to the lower right. The Toronto skyline of a century ago appears across the water.
Figure 8 Roller Coaster
1905 or 6

(Image: `Figure 8' Coaster)

This photo must be 1905 or 06 because there is no cupola on The Figure 8 nor any additional coaster between it and the lacrosse field.


Hanlan's Point Lagoon

1905 or 06

(Image: A Ferry Dock and the Lagoon)
This is a shot of The Lagoon from another angle. It looks toward the right of the above view. One of the ferry docks is in the foreground and so this photo was likely taken from the ferry. Note the life preserver at extreme Lower Left. This same part of the dock and the white fence may be seen in the "Bluebell at Hanlan's Point Dock" photo, farther along.
The Figure 8 coaster is seen behind. It sports the `8' and not the cupola at the top of the lift hill, and there does not appear to be another coaster beside it, so this shot was likely taken in 1905 or 1906.
To the extreme right is part of the breakwater.

The Lagoon is seen from a similar angle as above, taken as the ferry approached or left the Hanlan's dock. More of The Figure 8 coaster may be seen at the left. A car is just about to crest the lift hill. Note the cupola at the top of the lift; this differs from the `8' in the photos seen above and earlier. This cupola was likely added in 1906 or 07. Just behind may be seen The Grand Scenic Railway. A train is on its way to the drop visible to the right of the Figure 8 lift.
Circa 1908

(Image: The Lagoon)

The boardwalk lining The Lagoon goes to the carousel building and the ferry docks, out of sight to the left.

1905 or 06

(Image: Lagoon and `Figure 8')
This poor-condition postcard is being reproduced here because it shows something unusual: The Figure 8 coaster has neither the `8' nor cupola at the top of the lift hill! Was the `8' damaged and then eventually replaced with the cupola? Was this shot taken by chance during regular upgrades in the short interval between the time workmen removed one and added the other?
On the other hand, this is a hand-tinted postcard; might the artist have painted out the `8', or is it simply that the image is so poor that the `8' is unable to be resolved?



(Image: The Lagoon at Night)

Circa 1910+



Here is the side of Hanlan's near the ferry docks, which are just out of frame to the left. This photo was taken from the breakwater. At Center Left is the carousel building. The Dips lift hill is at the right, with the Circle Swing behind.  

    Another attraction took the form of a new slide. This was a dry slide. A photo taken in or after 1905, but before the fire of 1909, shows a big tower across from the "Figure 8" station. (In fact, the "Figure 8" photo showing the station front and the "Circle Swing" image, both farther back, were likely taken from it.) The tower sported a long staircase leading to a covered-top landing. Leading down to the midway was a slide with a big `S' curve. Called The "Hurgle Gurgle", it's not clear if this was in addition to the old water slide or a dry replacement.

    Next to the tower is what appears to be a water tank which may have been a game. Beside that is one with a sign saying "BALL GAME FOR CIGARS". Next to it is The "GLASS BALL GAME". The background shows a ferry close to the dock. It appears to be The "Mayflower" or "Primrose", double-ended ferries launched in 1890.


Here is the Hanlan's boat dock area. At Upper Right is the Hurgle Gurgle dry slide and at Center Left are the entrances to Tours of the World and just beyond, The Figure 8. The ferry (Center, background) appears to be The Mayflower or Primrose.
Boat Dock and Dry Slide
Circa 1906 - 09


(Image: Boat Dock and Dry Slide)


Dry Slide and Concession Games
Circa Mid to Late 19-0s

(Image: Dry Slide and Games)
This is a closer view of the games and Hurgle Gurgle slide.

The Hurgle Gurgle slide from the front. Note the Canadian "Red Ensign" flag above the roof. Canada would replace it in 1965 with today's "Maple Leaf" flag.
Hurgle Gurgle Slide
Date Unknown

(Image: Colourised Photo of the Dry Slide)



Billboard Advertisement
Circa 1908


(Image: Billboard Advertisement)
This depicts the ferry Bluebell (Launched 1906), on its way to Hanlan's. The building and coaster in the background are unidentified. The coaster may be a representation of The Grand Scenic Railway.

    Unfortunately, on August 10th, 1909, another fire claimed the second stadium when the Gem Theater next door caught fire around 1 or 2 PM. By the time a bucket brigade had been formed, the fire had grown too large to contain.

    A cashier, Clara Andrews ("Andres" from another source), lost her life when she returned to her ticket booth to save the money and tickets from the fire. According to newspaper reports, this ticket booth was for The "Switchback". This likely meant The "Switchback Railway" roller coaster, which means that ride survived until this date. Adversely, it was common at the time for the general public to refer to any roller coaster as a `switchback', even if it was a continuous layout. This is borne out by the fact that one source says the booth was for the "Figure 8" roller coaster.

    The fire destroyed not only the theater and stadium, but also lost were three coasters (five, if The "Switchback" and "Big Scream" still existed), The School of Fun, the Restaurant, Penny Arcade, Shooting Gallery, The Amusement Hall, Toronto Rowing Club, "Giant Swing", "Human Roulette Wheel", "Old Mill", Pavilion Band Stand, some sort of Studio, (possibly a photo studio ?), a bar and refreshment booth. Also lost was Ned Hanlan's Hotel. This was apparently rebuilt after the fire. (See a photo near the start of this article.)

    Damages were approximately $200,000, with insurance only covering $50,000. The baseball team was forced to play out the remainder of the season on the mainland at Diamond Park.


The New Hanlan's Point

    Rebuilding after the fire meant of the addition of new rides and attractions. These included a dance pavilion, stadium and two roller coasters. An aerial photo shows some of these and what appears to be a ferris wheel in a wooded setting. Personal recollections of Toronto resident Bill Durnan confirm that a ferris wheel was indeed at the park.

    The new stadium, made of concrete and with a capacity of 18,000 (10,000 from another source), was built and ready for the 1910 season. It was known as "Maple Leaf Park" in honour of the home baseball team. It is said that Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run out of this stadium in 1914 while with The Providence Grays. Note that some sources give the "Maple Leaf Park" name to the modified second stadium. If so, it continued on with the third one.

Maple Leaf Park
(1910 - 1937)
Photo is Circa 1910

(Image: High-Angle View of Maple Leaf Park)

This hand-tinted postcard gives a high-angle view of the new stadium. The building at Lower Right is the dance hall. Above and beyond the grandstand roof at the right may be seen some of the Dips coaster structure.


    The carousel survived the fire, along with The "Circle Swing". By 1910, it had been converted to just a themed structure with huge heads sporting gnome-like faces mounted on top of what had been the central motor room. The outer room housing itself was sculpted of the same material to resemble a rocky, brick-like base for the heads.

    It's unknown when this change occurred, but it was likely after the fire because the ride had been next to the stadium, which burned. Possibly the ride cars were destroyed, but the tower and mechanism survived. However, the ride never thrilled passengers again because, as mentioned at the first, apparently the Ingersoll models never ran well and were prone to tipping, so some parks converted them to fountains.

Maple Leaf Park
(1910 - 1937)
Photo is Circa 1910


(Image: Maple Leaf Park)

In front of the new stadium is the re-themed Circle Swing. Note the gnome heads and lights outlining the upper structure.
Although not discernable in this photo, signs show "Lacrosse" over one of the side entrances, and that Star Beer was sold at this facility.



This is the stadium interior. The Circle Swing tower may be seen above the bleachers at Center Left. The purpose of the tower at the extreme left is unknown.
Maple Leaf Park
(1910 - 1937)
Photo is 1910 or 1911


(Image: Stadium Playing Field and Seating)


    Between the stadium and one of the new roller coasters, was a huge pavilion which housed a dance hall, and possibly a theater and restaurant to replace those lost. Included in, or next to this, was a Japanese Garden. It may have been part of the restaurant or perhaps a tea room connected with the restaurant. At least part of it was outdoors.

    The dance hall's main floor was on the second level and was accessed via an exterior lattice-covered stairway. The top landing was covered by an open-board peaked canopy. Inside was a grand, slat-floored expanse with pendant lighting and a large mirror ball.

Light from surrounding windows reflects from an empty dance pavilion floor. Note the mirror ball covered with spaced, irregularly-shaped glass. It hangs just left of center in this photo.
Date Unknown

(Image: A View of an Empty Dance Pavilion)


    Other attractions were "Hamburg's Big Spectacular Water Show" with acrobatic diving, Madge MacDonald's underwater strip act, and "Dancing Waters". That may have been a fountain effect. This attraction was located close to the carousel building.

These next two photos show a view to the right of the
earlier "Midway" photo near the middle of this article.


The carousel building is still seen here because it survived the fire. To the left is the new performance stage, while farther to its left would be the location of the water show in later seasons. The building at Center Right is a concession that sold beer. The ferry docks lie behind it.

Hanlan's Point Midway
Circa 1910


(Image: The New Midway and Stage)

Hanlan's Point Midway
Circa 1912


(Image: The Water Show and Performance Stage)
This is a view farther to the left of the above picture. The carousel building and stage are visible, with acrobats performing on the latter. The water show with its high- diving tower is at Center Left, while another water tank enclosed by a curved fence is just visible at far Center Left.
Behind the building with the "Edelweiss Beer" sign at Center Top may be seen the wheelhouses of two ferries at the docks. (The `beer' building appears to have been extended compared to the previous photo.) At Upper Right, the small, two-story structure is unidentified but there appear to be musicians seated in front of music stands on the top level.
 

    The main new coaster was variously called The "Racer", "Rainbow Dips", and "Dips". (Likely the latter two names referred though, to the actual "Dips" coaster that stood where the "Figure 8" had been.) Once again, it was Fred Ingersoll and John Miller who designed & built The "Racer", which was so large its length nearly spanned the width of the point. Rides were 10 cents. Despite the "Racer" name, the ride was only single tracked.

(Image: `Racer' Entrance and Midway)

Hanlan's Point Midway
Circa early 1910s



Shown is The Racer entrance. In the distance is the entrance & roof of the dance hall, and unseen below that is The Japanese Garden.
Beyond the trees, lies the re-themed Circle Swing and new concrete stadium, both seen close up in a previous photo. The former ride's metal skeletal structure is visible above the tree line.

 


Here is an overview of The Racer. As can be seen, it stretched nearly the width of the point. In the foreground are the ferry docks and park entrance.
The Racer
1915
(1919 from another source)


(Image: `Racer' from the Air)


Far Side of Hanlan's Point
1910s


(Image: Far Side of Hanlan's Point)
Here is the side of the park across the point from the ferry docks. The coaster is The Racer. This is its far turn-around.
Note the tracks winding around the pier. They are likely for the park's miniature train. The ramp in the foreground is for Gorman's diving horse show. In the background above Right Center is the footbridge to the western sandbar.


    The other new coaster was also a Fred Ingersoll and John Miller design. This was simply called The "Dips". Not much is known about this ride, but it was approximately on the site of the "Figure 8" and was apparently built in 1910. No date has surfaced as to when this ride was removed but it seems to have closed in 1926, the same year that The "Racer" was demolished.

The Dips
1910


(Image: View from the `Dips' During Construction)

This postcard photo is titled "View from The Dips". We are looking down from the top of the lift hill toward a long white roof beyond the guard rail. That is the station; approach track can be seen leaving it at the left and curving to the bottom of the lift hill.

Looking elsewhere, notice how barren everything is after the fire and razing of the ruins. To the right are the Circle Swing tower, dance hall and stadium, and in the background is the Racer coaster.


    By this time period, signs advertised "Edelweiss Beer" and and "Star Beer", as previously mentioned. So considering this, presumably the alcohol selling ban had been lifted. Perhaps after all the fires, owners were able to persuade officials to allow the sale of beer to aid the park's recovery.

(Image Right: Ferry Ticket)     One of the island's many ferries was "Trillium". Built by The Polson Iron Works, it was the sister ship of the earlier "Bluebell" (1906). Each ferry had a capacity of 1,450, which gives an idea of how popular Toronto Island was. "Trillium" was launched June 18th, 1910 and first saw service that year on Dominion Day (now Canada Day), July 1st. Both would go out of Toronto Island service in 1955, whereafter Trillium" would be sold to The Metro Toronto Works Department for 4,200 in 1957. It would be slated to become a garbage hauler, a fate "Bluebell" would suffer in 1956. (Note that after 1928, Bluebell" service would be switched from Hanlan's Point to Center Island due to declining numbers at the Point.)

Trillium at Hanlan's Point Dock
1911 - 1913


(Image: `Trillium' Ferry)
Hordes leave Trillium's lower deck on a sunny morning to line up at the entrance to Hanlan's Point. This photo has several dates attached to it by various references, with August 1913 being the most specific.
The red-roofed, round building at Center Left contains the carousel.


This higher angle shot is of an adjacent dock. The ferry is the Bluebell. Note the wheeled cart at Center Right. It may have been a concession cart selling peanuts or the like. Alternatively, it may have been a luggage cart, although this dock is not the closest to the Hanlan Hotel. The breakwater is in the background at Center Left just to the right of the trees.

Bluebell at Hanlan's Point Dock
1906 or 07


(Image: `Bluebell' Ferry)

    However, garbage duty never happened to "Trillium". For some reason she was towed to one of the island's lagoons and left to rot, be pirated by thieves, and damaged by vandals. Perhaps it was found that "Bluebell" could handle garbage duty all by itself. After a local effort, the ship would be restored in the 1970s and resume service in 1976 where it would continue to run even today. Interestingly, in 1973, while "Trillium" was being taken to the shipyard where restoration would begin, it was towed by a tugboat named "Ned Hanlan II".




A Promenade
Circa World War I ?


(Image: Patrons on a Walkway)
Park-goers stroll a tree-lined promenade on a warm day. The man next to the baby carriage appears to be in uniform. Note what appears to be a bandstand or gazebo at the right. The same or a similar structure may be seen below in a photo that could be the same area.

(Image: Woods and a Gazebo or Bandstand)


    Hanlan's continued to prosper until the opening of Sunnyside Park on the mainland in 1922. More and more people owned cars by then and they did not want to bother with a ferry when they could drive to, and park at, a mainland attraction. As well, Hanlan's relied on live theater for a good part of its entertainment, but vaudeville was being supplanted by the motion picture and there were plenty of movie theatres in town.

    Another loss came when the Maple Leaf ball team moved to their new mainland stadium following the 1926 season, after which the grounds were used for picnics and other events. That season would also be the last for the "Racer" roller coaster, which was demolished. A 1933 high-angle photo taken from the mainland shows Maple Leaf Stadium. Within sight across the water is the old Hanlan's Point Stadium and a large clear area behind where the coaster had stood.


Mainland Ferry Terminal
1929


(Image: Mainland Ferry Dock and Tram Car Stop)
This shows the ferry terminal for Toronto Islands. Note the Hanlan's Point sign above the terminal building's main entrance, and the Island Ferries sign at the left side of the parking lot beside the pedestrian entrance. It appears just above this end of the Witt tram car seen in the foreground. Two smaller signs on the terminal read Ward's Island and Island Park. Parking was 25 cents.
The ferry belching smoke is Primrose. In the background, two more ferries ply the harbour between here and the island.


    The same year (1927 from another source), the park was sold to The City of Toronto which operated it through The Toronto Transport Commission until the mid 1930s. Some of the attractions at the park at the start of the 1930s were miniature golf, the carousel, a Whip" (Mangels), and a miniature railway called "The Honeymoon Special".

    This seems to be the same as the miniature railway that was in the park at the turn of the century, although one photo shows the locomotive with what appears to be a 4-4-2 configuration, rather than 4-4-0, as mentioned earlier. As well, the locomotive appears to be slightly different from earlier photos, and rolling stock consisted of only three cars, as opposed to the original five cars. Perhaps this was a different locomotive and rolling stock, and the Herschell unit had been sold earlier than the park's closing, making this a replacement train.


Roller Rink
1934

The rink was an open-air building with wooden slat flooring. Note the sound system speaker above the skaters, Center Top. In the background is the stadium.
(Image: Roller Rink)

    At that time, despite the addition of more rides such as The "Autocars" (likely a Traver "Auto-Ride"), popularity had decreased to the point where the park was closed -- The Depression being the final blow. The city also wanted to construct an airport on the island which eventually opened in 1939, so demolition began, apparently with the stadium in 1937 and the moving of over two dozen houses to another island. Another sign that the park was at its end was that the Island ferries Mayflower and Primrose (both launched in 1890) were removed from passenger service in 1938 to become freight haulers.

Auto Ride
Circa Early 1930s


(Image: Electric Car Ride)

Boys smile for the camera as they drive "twice around" in their electric cars. The manufacturer is unknown but the cars appear to be an early Traver Manufacturing design. Note the wood-slat track.

    However, the carousel was left (and stayed until the 1980s but was then demolished according to at least one reference), and for a time (apparently until 1955) an area was operated as Hanlan Memorial Park. This was owned by D.A. Peters and had picnic facilities, along with a ballroom, penny arcade, roller rink, 8 games, 2 fortune tellers, boat rentals, and 10 refreshment stands. (Note that one mid 1940s reference shows the Toronto Transport Commission as running some devices and food/refreshment establishments, so Peters may have been a manager or another concessionaire, not the owner.)

    Other items mentioned for the island in the 1940s were The Manitou Hotel and Ginn's Casino, but it's unclear if they were part of Hanlan Memorial Park. Since it would seen odd that new facilities were built at a failing park, I would have to say that the ballroom and rink may have been the same structures as at Hanlan's. Modern maps show that the airport property does not cover all of the former Hanlan's Point amusement area.

    This park was south of the then new (1939) Port George VI Airfield, which is the present-day Toronto Island Airport, officially: "Toronto City Centre Airport". It occupied the southern part of the original Hanlan's Point Amusement Park.

    Another tidbit of information is that the carousel that was here supposedly went to Florida's Walt Disney World. After conferring with Greg V.G., Richard Concepcion of New York, and some other sources, I now believe the Hanlan's carousel was destroyed. Although Richard mentioned that Centreville Amusement Park on Toronto Island has a carousel, he says that this ride came from Bushkill Park in Pennsylvania. The "Disney World" story may be confused with the fact that Sunnyside's carousel went to Disneyland in California after that park closed.

    The National Carousel Association says that a carousel was at Hanlan's from 1903 until 1921 and it went to Lakeside Park in St. Catherines. This seems to be wrong as Lakeside's carousel most likely came from Scarboro Beach Park and there are photos of the Hanlan carousel taken after 1921. Investigations are continuing.

    By the 1950s, the beaches were allowed to overgrow with vegetation giving a swampy appearance and so patronship declined. It now seems that the rink and remaining rides were destroyed or removed during that decade, most likely in 1955. That was the same year Sunnyside Amusement Park closed, of which its opening had been a major cause of the decline of the original Hanlan's Point.

    The park was transferred to The Metro Parks Commission in April of 1956. They developed it into a day-use park. This was the fate of many amusement parks in Canada which were, or became, government owned. Beaches and bathing facilities were tidied up, New signs were installed. Swamps and flood-prone areas were filled in. Picnic areas sported new playground equipment, tables, and washrooms. The city continued to buy up private land and by the early 1960s, the remaining houses were removed. Since then, the islands have also seen the creation of a marina, an amusement park (Centreville) and a petting zoo. Also established were nature areas and wildlife preserves.

    Today the Hanlan park has a cook-out picnic section and a beach with two wading pools. In 1999, the clothing-optional beach status was restored. There are also walking and biking trails, softball diamonds, tennis & volleyball courts, and refreshment stands. The area is still known as "Hanlan Memorial Park".


    It should be noted that, as with Sunnyside Amusement Park
on the mainland, Hanlan's amusements were not open on
Sunday, although the park itself was for picnicking and bathing.



    Here's a 1999 press release regarding the
clothes-optional beach at modern Hanlan's Point:
Hanlan's Point Press Release


    I'd like to credit Toronto historian, Mike Filey as a major source of Hanlan's Point information in this article. Michael has written many books and articles on the history of Toronto and the surrounding area.

    Thanks to Janna Rasmussen of Buffalo, New York for submitting the Herschell train information.

    Thanks to Ben Fullerton of Fletcher's Lake, Nova Scotia and Paul Lindsay of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia for postcard scan work.




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