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What’s in a neighbourhood’s name?

Once again, we have controversy about the names and naming of certain areas in our East End. I have come to the conclusion that whomever wants to use this name or that name in this vicinity can – this is a democracy in our city and country.

However, when I am writing about something I want to try to get as many facts as possible on the subject. Sometimes I do make some errors – in one case I was taken to task about how the “triangle” could be included in the Beach, as it is not a part of the Beach.

Here is the question: where does the Beach begin? Where does it end, and who is to say?

Streetcars waiting to start for the Woodbine Racetrack. - [1908-1912]

Streetcars wait to bring passengers to the Woodbine Racetrack, at the southern edge of the Beach Triangle.
PHOTO: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 122

Some traditionalists put the western boundary of the Beach at Woodbine Avenue, from Lake Ontario to Kingston Road, then east along Kingston to Victoria Park Avenue, and south to the lake. Or should it be Fallingbrook to the lake?

Let us take a look at the Beach Triangle. It starts in the west at Kingston Road and Queen, then travels in a northeast direction to Woodbine, the south to Queen Street – or to the lake – then west back to Kingston Road.

Is this a fact? We can equivocate on the boundary lines for the triangle or the Beach or the names, but these names have been applied to these areas whether we like it or not, and people are allowed to choose!

Where did the Beach area begin? With the Ashbridge family in the early 1790s, when Queen Street was originally Kingston Road, and there was no Queen east of the present junction of Kingston and Queen, just a dirt path.

The Triangle is steeped in history, so we have to present some facts. A Mr. Small at one time owned all the land from the present Coxwell Avenue to the present Woodbine Avenue, from the lake to Danforth, although in the beginning there were no Coxwell or Woodbine Avenues, these were named later.

Mr. Small had his principal residence at King and Berkeley. His summer home was here in the area, where he had a farm, a saw mill and later an amusement park. Some of this area he called Berkeley.

When you think of the Beach, you likely think of Kew Williams’ cottage, Sir Adam Wilson, the Balmy Beach Club, the town of East Toronto, the Grand Trunk Railroad, Victoria Park, Munro Park, Scarboro Beach Park, and the list goes on. However, let us look at the Triangle.

The Small family eventually sold off one large section of land to Joseph “Deacon” Duggan, whose family were pioneers in the city. Duggan purchased a lot of property along the present Queen Street, from Eastern Avenue to the present Woodbine, around 1870. He made this property his summer home and a special purpose for his horses. Around this time a couple of entrepreneurs rented the property and built a racetrack.

After a few years the pair ran out of money. The track reverted to Duggan, and this was the beginning of the Woodbine Racetrack.

Because of this, a building boom ensued in the area. Thousands of people came to the track, especially on Queen’s Plate day – the social event of the racing season.

A company called the Ontario Jockey Club was formed by local sports and business people, and they took over the operation of the track for many years. This was the beginning of prosperity for the area. The Woodbine Hotel was built for the sporting set at Coxwell and Queen. Businesses were being set up to accommodate the horses, stables were built, and streetcars brought thousands into the area that would become known as the Triangle.

The Toronto and Scarboro Electric Railroad Co. started its route from the present intersection of Kingston and Queen, passing through Norway, East Toronto and eventually Scarborough. This was the making of a great transportation boom for the area.

After many years owning the track, Duggan passed away and the Jockey Club purchased the track from his estate.

The person who sold the track was Duggan’s daughter and son-in-law JJ Dixon, a prominent businessman. Around 1906-1907 Dixon instigated a building boom on the north side of Queen, along Woodbine, Kingston and several streets in between – the major streets of the Triangle. There was no shortage of beautiful houses, and people rushed to buy homes and take advantage of business opportunities on Queen Street.

The streets were laid out in a most unique way, with not many other areas in the city enjoying such a tree-lined neighbourhood.

Take a walk up a street, say Rainsford Road. What is so different about these streets? On the east, for example, you have fine homes, with a front yard, then a sidewalk, and then a little parkette with trees, and then the roadway. The same pattern is repeated on the west side.

Where, pray tell dear readers, do we have elegant street settings like this in the East End? Nowhere but in the area we call the Triangle.

Dixon laid out most of the area we now call the Triangle, and he had foresight and vision as this trendy neighbourhood took on a meaning of its own. There are large stately homes, semi-detached and single houses, making this a much-desired area to live and do business in.

The people who lived in this area were quite formidable and knew what they believed the city fathers should do for their area. They formed one of the first citizen’s associations, called the Beach Triangle, very early in the 20th century, and became a part of what was to become the Beach.

One of their causes was total opposition to the Main Treatment sewage processing plant that they believed would plague them forever. They fought for transportation rights along Queen Street and Kingston Road for residents. They lobbied politicians for better sewers, water supply and roads. They fought to stop the Scarborough Expressway and fought to shut down the racetrack, which eventually happened.

Along Queen Street, two architectural gems were built to service the people: the Mennonite Church and Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church.

The Beach Triangle has now been in the East End for 100-plus years, serving the Beach area. Some are hollering about the Beach Village, with its signs festooned along Queen Street. They say there is no factual history for Queen Street to be called a village. Are they right? You be the judge.

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