The Beach, as it has been officially known since the 2007 electoral referendum, has seen a long-standing debate over its name. Even the municipal referendum to determine the neighbourhood street signs had to be held twice in an effort to come to some sort of resolution between the Beach and the Beaches camps.
As the neighbourhood continues through its cycles of rediscovery and reinvention, the debate over its name persists. Theoretically, there is only one long stretch of beach. Yet correspondence between the family members of Kew Williams – so-named for Kew Gardens in Britain and once-upon-a-time resident of the house that remains in the Beach park of the same name – suggests early inhabitants made reference to their location in the neighbourhood through their proximity to one part of the beach, for instance, Balmy Beach, Scarboro Beach or Kew Beach.
Given this, it seems plausible to understand how the controversy may have begun. Conceivably, people may have envisioned themselves as residing in micro-boroughs, which may have led one to perceive their beach-front vicinity as distinct in nature from another – hence, the potentially historically meaningful reason behind calling the neighbourhood ‘the Beaches.’
I will place a special emphasis on my family home at 269 Glen Manor Dr. E.
As early as 1884, the Beach was identified as a part of what is today the City of Toronto on insurance maps. It is not always clear how the specifics between newly appropriated areas and older parts of the City were managed. Evidence suggests the Beach was annexed in the mid 1880s.
Yet Balmy Beach, the name which refers to the entire neighbourhood on the 1884 insurance map and, likewise, on the record illustrating the amalgamation of the area, officially became a part of the City of Toronto through an Ontario Railway and Municipal Board Order dated Nov. 12, 1909.
While Balmy Beach may have been the first piece of waterfront land to be named, the name Kew Beach emerged by 1890. The addition of beach names over relatively short periods of time lends credence to the argument that early inhabitants perceived themselves as living in small communities. The adoption of unique beach names by each community suggests that each perceived itself as a distinct neighbourhood; yet collectively these communities are ‘the Beaches’, a shared identity unified by the beach itself.
Glen Manor Drive is situated in the heart of the neighbourhood and exemplifies the majesty for which the area is known. In essence, The Glen is a ravine with tree-lined streets, and it remains straddled by a bridge that enables pedestrians to cross over its steep hills. (I call it The Glen because that is how it is referred to on maps until the street was officially named.)
In 1884, divisions for the allotment of properties surrounding the park are illustrated on maps of the East End of Toronto. While the area adjacent to The Glen appeared to be earmarked for development in the 1880s, Glen Manor Drive, the street on either side of the park, did not come into existence until somewhere between 1913 and 1924.
In the 1880s, property lines were drawn for Glen Manor Drive East with rear boundaries facing Balsam Avenue. Divisions for the allotment of properties on Glen Manor Drive West were drawn fronting on the ravine and backing on Southwood Drive. Between 1903 and 1913, many of the roads and road names that remain today came into existence.
In the 1880s, maps depict few street names, but those that were already founded include Birch, Beech and Balsam Avenues. By 1913, much of the geography contemporary Beachers are familiar with was established. Examples of later roadway developments include Bellefair, Wheeler, Hambly and Wineva. Nineteenth-century maps of ‘Old Town Toronto’ depict sections of the city in divisions named after Christian saints, such as St. Patrick’s Ward, St. Andrew’s Ward and St. John’s Ward. From the time of its amalgamation to the City, the Beach was incorporated under the system that succeeded the saint-naming tradition; from the outset, the community was simply assigned Ward and Division numbers.
As the neighbourhood grew in population, Ward numbers changed. Glen Manor Drive was in the catchment area of Ward 1, Division 9, until 1919. In 1920 it became a part of Ward 8, Division 3. From 1969 it became a part of Ward 9, Division 3, Subdivision 240, and its ward status has subsequently changed since then.
Tax assessors compiled information on Beach residents for the purpose of property evaluation. The assessment role from 1918 indicates that there was only one taxable party who lived on Glen Manor Drive. Joseph Price, aged 56, a British subject – as opposed to a foreign ‘Alien’ – worked in advertising.
Price was a Protestant and a ‘freeholder’ (not a tenant), who resided at 48 Glen Manor and had a property value (both land and house) of $7, 300.
It was not until the 1932 assessment role that 269 Glen Manor Drive East surfaces, with a value appraised at $11, 530. The owner was Robert L. Kimber.
Kimber, aged 48, resided in the house with three other people (presumably a wife and two children) and, like Price, Kimber was a businessman, Protestant and British subject.
Between 1932 and 1951 the house went down in value from $11, 530 to $11, 346, and this figure remained constant throughout the 1970s. Tax assessment forms did not reflect the market value of the house but the total sum upon which the resident should pay taxable dues.
Given that the Kimbers resided in the house by 1932, it seems fair to suggest 1930 as the probable year of construction. Building permit application stubs indicate that there was much development on the street at this time. Records show permits were issued for the owners of 1, 10, 270, 272 and 352 Glen Manor Drive that year. Elsewhere in the Beach, houses were being constructed on Kippendavie, Kenilworth, Silver Birch, Kingswood and MacLean. The 1930s was an era of much change, a moment of significant movement of people into the area.
Those that moved to the neighbourhood tended to live in their houses for the better part of their lifetime. Anna Kimber, born in 1884, lived at 269 Glen Manor Drive from around 1932 until her death in 1972 or 1973.
With Anna’s passing, the house was sold in 1973 to a retired couple named Robert and Marilyn Francis. They lived at the home from 1973 until 1981, when the house was purchased by my parents, an investment banker by the name of Norman Fraser and his wife, Ruth. The Frasers remained at the residence until the year 2013.
The house at 269 Glen Manor Drive East has enjoyed three generations of ownership and, while its owners may change, the beauty of its locale and tension over whether the neighbourhood is in name the Beaches, or the sum of its parts – the Beach – remains constant.
Wokie Fraser is a local history buff who grew up in the Beach