By Peter Dean
From the late 1880s on, many Torontonians built summer homes on Toronto Island to escape the summer heat in the city. Wealthy families like the Masseys and the Gooderhams, who were among the founding members of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, built grand, summer homes along Lakeshore Avenue (on the Boardwalk) from Ward's west to Centre Island on 50 by 200 foot lots from the lakefront to Cibola Avenue and the lagoon.
Before the Second World War, 750 summer homes and more modest cottages existed on the Island extending from Hanlan's Point to Ward's. In response to Toronto?s post-war housing shortage after the war, many Island houses became occupied year-round.
Soon after the creation of the Metropolitan Toronto government in 1953, the new Metro Parks department decided to demolish all the houses on the Island to eliminate problems caused by periodic flooding (in 1947 and 1952, for example) and to create a vast, empty public park, even though at the time more than half the Island was public space.
In 1954 Metro parks started demolishing Island homes on Hanlan's Point and proceeded easterly.
By 1968, they had reached Lakeshore. You can still see stone remnants of front walls built to protect residents from waves before the seawall was raised in 1952, remnants of gardens (lilacs, spirea, mock orange, raspberries) and even some original house foundations.
The Rectory and the Shaw House to the west are the only survivors of Metro Toronto's raizing of the Island in the 1960s.
The Rectory is a two-story, stucco residence built in 1948 by the engineer who rebuilt the seawall along the boardwalk. Presumably, he used the same construction techniques in the house as on the seawall - poured reinforced concrete. Thus, Metro couldn't demolish his house with their bulldozers as they did the other, wood-frame houses at Hanlan's, Centre and along the Boardwalk. For many years after the demolitions, the Rectory housed the priest in charge of the Church of St. Andrew-by-the-Lake at Centre hence, its name. Later it served as an annex to the Sunshine Seniors Centre (to the east). Eventually, after the community-saving legislation was passed in 1993, the building became part of the Land Trust, and now contains offices and community meeting rooms as well as The Rectory Café and Island Art Gallery
Peter Dean, a thirty-year Island resident is co-author with Linda Rosenbaum of
The Essential Toronto Island Guide.
For over ten years, The Rectory has been owned and operated by three partners; Sarah Willinsky and Ken McAuliffe (Toronto Island Residents) and Mark Samuel (Historic ties to the Island Yacht Club). The Rectory has evolved into a special "Escape by the Lake" and has consistently been voted one Toronto's best patios throughout the last decade. We invite you to RELAX and enjoy.
Executive Chef: Scott Cooney