Communities of “The Lakeshore” and Their Development – An Overview by Paul Chomik (copyright – no portion can be reproduced without permission of the author)
The establishment and development of the communities of ‘The Lakeshore”, which today constitute the southwestern-most neighbourhoods of the City of Toronto, generally followed traditional patterns of community development experienced throughout North America.
The chronological pattern of development in the area was initiated with homesteading, logging and farming; followed by trade and commerce; and then, industrial development. Commercial development was built upon the demand for services that resulted from the labour force created by industrial development. Planned residential development in all the Lakeshore communities followed last, generally at least 20 years later.
Each of today’s Lakeshore communities developed their own unique character based on the influences that were prevalent during their early development.
The five historic communities that comprise “The Lakeshore” area of Toronto are:
Village of Long Branch
Town of New Toronto
Town of Mimico
Alderwood remained a farming community well into the early 201h century. With the presence of the railway at the south end of the community, many industries eventually located there. Residential development followed, consuming the remaining farmland.
The Village of Long Branch developed from the establishment of a summer resort in the late 19th century. Alongside the farming that took place, many summer cottages were built in the area over time to take advantage of the pastoral atmosphere that made it an attractive summer retreat. Many of the old cottages still survive, some in their basic original form, but with most having undergone major reconstruction and additions.
The Town of New Toronto was conceived in the late 19th century as an industrial center that was to rival – if not exceed the manufacturing output of Toronto itself. Originally farmland, the concentration of industry in New Toronto was the catalyst that accelerated the development of the surrounding Lakeshore communities. The original electric streetcar line to the Lakeshore was planned and built to service the workers traveling to New Toronto’s industries. As a result, electricity was brought to the Lakeshore much earlier than would have occurred otherwise. By the late 1950’s, New Toronto became known as having the highest dollar value of manufacturing per square mile in all of North America. This accomplishment was built upon the characteristic and ethics on which the town was based: Intelligence, Industry, Integrity, as stated on New Toronto’s motto.
The Town of Mimico, the earliest founded community in The Lakeshore, developed as a farming community largely on lands granted to the Anglican Church. A gristmill located on Mimico Creek was the first commercial industry in the district. Although a few large summer estates were built by wealthy families along the shore of Lake Ontario, to escape the heat and pollution of the city during the summer months, it was the construction and opening of the Grand Trunk Railway’s railway facilities in 1906 that helped Mimico to grow large enough to become an independent municipality.
The district of Humber Bay, the easternmost of the communities, developed from activities closely tied to the Humber River and Mimico Creek. Boatbuilding, farming, traveler’s accommodations, roadhouses and taverns, as well as fishing and other recreational activities, were the basis for this community.
The portion of Etobicoke Township located in The Lakeshore north of New Toronto remained largely farmland into the 1960’s. After the establishment of a large government farm in the late 1800’s, the area became bordered by some industry to the south along the railway yards and some housing at the east end, which was adjacent to the Town of Mimico. Redevelopment in the 1960’s and 1970’s transformed the remaining farmland into a large industrial area.