Toronto Islands

Toronto Islands, Ontario | C.1976

Photo Credit: @yuli.marubashi

These human-like binoculars look out over Lake Ontario from Centre Island, one of three islands collectively known as the Toronto Islands, the city’s go-to summer day-trip destination for over 150 years.

The first horse-powered ferries began carrying people across the harbor in 1833, and by the turn of the 20th century the western side of the Islands was already a bustling resort area, anchored by the Hanlan family hotel.

The main stretch of the Island actually started as a peninsula, formed by deposits from the Scarborough Bluffs over thousands of years. It wasn’t until two huge storms in the 19th century ripped through the city that the Eastern Gap was formed.

Although the Coney-Island-like atmosphere on the Islands died when the Hanlan’s Point Amusement Park closed in the late 1920s, the area still retained a sizable residential community until the 1950s, when Metro Toronto Council sought to convert the Islands into city parkland.

Over the next 20 years, numerous homes were demolished. But residents on Ward’s and Algonquin Islands continued to battle the city until late 1981, when the province granted them the right to stay until 2005. Later litigation granted the islanders 99-year leases on the land. 

The Island airport, which opened in 1937, has also seen its fair share of controversy over the years. Like the homes, however, it’s not going anywhere. With the exception of Centreville and a few other businesses, the rest of the Islands are now tranquil parkland with ample beach areas and views of the Toronto skyline.

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