A Long Branch resident passed along to Barry Kemp this photo of the Eastwood Park Hotel


I had incorrectly assumed until now (June 3, 2013) that this is a photo of the Long Branch Hotel. CORRECTION from C. O'Marra, June 3, 2013: "A correction may have been made since your Jane's Walk report but the photo of the Long Branch Hotel is actually the Eastwood homestead at 37th Street and Lakeshore Blvd. I have the exact photo of it from the old Advertiser newspaper. One of the Eastwood children, and there were at least twelve, is seen in the 1911 picture."

This is a photo that Barry Kemp, past president of the Long Branch Historical Society, received some time ago from a resident of Long Branch.

Update (June 3, 2013): Along with the photo that I received from Barry Kemp was a photocopy of the back of a post card, on which was written the name “Eastwood Park Hotel,” I had forgotten that this information was included with the photo that Barry gave to me. I had assumed, incorrectly, that it was a photo of the Long Branch Hotel.

C. O’Marra has indicated in a message sent in June 2013 that this is a photo of the Eastwood Park Hotel, not the hotel that burned down in 1958. I much appreciate the correction.

Drawing of Long Branch Hotel from 1984 calendar published by the Long Branch Historical Society.

What we see in the first photo is the Eastwood Park Hotel, which is now the Rexall Lakeshore Pharmacy. During the May 6, 2012 South Long Branch Jane’s Walk and the May 2013 Jane’s Walks, Mike James shared stories from years ago about the bar at the Eastwood Park Hotel.

[End of update]

I have an interest in sharing information, related to history, that is in one way or another corroborated by archival evidence or other forms of evidence, including first-hand oral histories from a range of sources. Without such evidence, stories related to history are of minor interest to me.

For that reason, I’ve made a point of not venturing very far beyond the Colonel Samuel Smith homestead site when sharing information about Long Branch, unless I’ve had time to acquaint myself with the evidence.

This blog post seeks to share information in a tentative way, based on what little evidence I’ve acquainted myself with to date, about the history of Long Branch beyond the vicinity of Etobicoke Creek.

The following overview is based on an email that I circulated on Nov. 11, 2010 in connection with the Parkview School story:

Back story related to Smith/Eastwood homestead

Here’s a back story, which you probably know about, about the Smith/Eastwood homestead and the origin of ‘Long Branch.’

Bert Crandall notes that in 1883 three land developers bought about 64.5 acres from James Eastwood expecting to develop it as a summer resort. The land was surveyed and a plan registered as the Sea Breeze Resort. A year later they sold the land to Thomas J. Wilkie. He in turn had the Sea Breeze Resort plan resurveyed and registered as Long Branch Park.

Bert Crandall believes the Sea Breeze developers may have over-extended themselves as they were also seeking to develop St. Albans Park, a community in the Bathurst and Brunswick Streets area.

Robert Gourlay’s headstrong pony

I would add the following comments. In an oft-quoted account of a visit to Samuel Smith’s property, the Scottish writer and reformer Gourlay complains that Smith had been slow to make improvements to his vast property. On his way back to York, Gourlay discovers the trail was so overgrown that he has no choice but to let go of his reins and allow his headstrong pony to find the way. Closer to York, according to one account, the pony refuses to jump into a stream to swim alongside a ferry and Gourlay has to choose an alternative route.

Thomas Wilkie at one point in his career with the YMCA needed take a break to restore his health. He recuperated in a country setting in what is now Long Branch. Around that time he was aware that affluent citizens from Toronto were seeking rest and recreation in Muskoka and Lake Simcoe. He promoted the Long Branch resort, a gated community, as an alternative destination. The resort was part of a trend across North America focusing on the restorative powers of nature in response to the processes of urbanization.

Excerpt from early description of May 6, 2012 Jane’s Walk

Here’s a text related to the Long Branch Hotel based on an earlier blog post related to Long Branch:

In 1871 a son of Colonel Samuel Smith named Samuel Bois Smith sold the Smith house and 500 acres of the colonel’s land to James Eastwood. The latter sold oak and pine from the property and rafted logs down Etobicoke Creek.

[A more recent blog post notes that the clearing of the forests were among the things setting the stage for later flooding at the mouth of Etobicoke Creek.]

In 1883, Eastwood sold 75 acres of the eastern portion of the property, which was subsequently developed into a summer resort named Long Branch Park. There are several versions of how the name was chosen. A generally accepted one is that the developer, Thomas Wilkie, was an American who had reputedly vacationed in Long Branch, New Jersey.

The Long Branch Hotel, a popular destination for Toronto’s elite citizens, was completed in 1887 and destroyed by fire in 1958. The hotel’s dock was a 45-minute boat ride from the end of Yonge Street. A high fence to keep out rowdy intruders surrounded the hotel property.

Bill Rawson’s map shows where the hotel was located

After the May 6, 2012 Jane’s Walk in Long Branch, which Mike James and I led, I was pleased to meet Bill Rawson of Oakville, who has a used furniture store on the south side of Lake Shore Blvd. West near Thirty Third Street.

In preparation for the May 4, 2013 Jane’s Walk in Long Branch, I asked Bill, who grew up near the Long Branch Hotel, to draw a map of the area. We distributed the map as one of the handouts on our walk. You can click on the following maps to enlarge them. Use the ‘Back’ button on your browser to return to the page you are now reading.

Please note the valuable eye-witness report (see below) from Bob Richardson regarding the fire that destroyed the Long Branch Hotel in 1958.

[I would add that I think of 1958 as a year that has another significance. In my pursuit of understanding world military history, I’ve recently been reading Things fall apart, a novel by Chinua Achebe – published in 1958. In reading about colonial history, sooner or later one encounters the work of Chinua Achebe.]

Long Branch Hotel map. Bill Rawson, May 2013

A map from the Long Branch Historical Society shows the shoreline of Lake Ontario as it existed during the years before the Long Branch Hotel burned down.

Part of the route for the May 4, 2013 Jane's Walk in Long Branch is indicated on a Long Branch subdivisions map. The map shows where infill was added to the shoreline at a relatively recent stage of the community's history. It may also be noted that before the infill, Lake Promenade did not extend in front of the property where the Long Branch Hotel was located. It terminated on either side of the property as the previous map, from the Long Branch Historical Society, indicates.


21 replies
  1. Bob Richardson
    Bob Richardson says:

    One summer afternoon in 1958, my buddy, Brian Baker, and I spotted a huge cloud of black smoke rising in the air from the southwest. We were living on Alder Crescent, probably a mile or so away but immediately hopped onto our bikes and followed the cloud, as any inquisitive 9 year olds would. Arriving at the site of the Long Branch Hotel, we were greeted by a massive inferno, the likes of which we had never seen. Held back behind police lines, we still had an unadulterated view of this massive (at least to us) and regal old structure as it burn to the ground over the space of a couple of hours. To this day, the most enduring memory I have was the seemingly hundreds of rats fleeing for their lives. I often wondered where they ended up. Brian’s older sister, after she married, moved into one of the converted old cottages on the perimeter of the estate. Very small but it was a home.

    • jim norris
      jim norris says:

      I grew up in Long Branch at 164 Lake Promenade my Great uncle George Carr built our house in 1949 he lived in the second house to the left of us.I remember the fire I was with Bill O Donnell the rats were as big as some cats.I remember people from the city coming to the park for a picnic and some baseball.
      My Mother went to James S Bell as did I until Christ The King school was built and off I went.
      I remember the old lacrosse box / skating rink in winter was where the Birch Ave.(Lea) apartments are today.I remember Woolworth being built, ice cream at Calfields at the top of 31 ST., cones cost 5 cents,the Royal Theatre cost 10 cents, the old legion was down 35 ST. Long Branch Village Of Long Branch was agreat place to grow up.

      • Jaan Pill
        Jaan Pill says:

        This is a beautiful overview, Jim! I really enjoy the fact that quite a few people have spoken about what a great place the Village of Long Branch to grow up in. I’m pleased that I know a good number of young people growing up in the community now. It’s a great place to live. It adds so much to the quality of our lives to have a chance to know first-hard from people who grew up here much earlier.

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    This is an awesome eye-witness account, Bob. Thank you for sharing this most interesting description with us. These are details that are so valuable to know about.

    I spoke some time back with Bill Rawson, who remembers that day as well. He has described how the fire began when a blowtorch was used in an attempt to shaw frozen water pipes under the building.

  3. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    On Monday, June 3, 2013, I was pleased to received the following email message:

    A correction may have been made since your Jane’s Walk report but the
    photo of the Long Branch Hotel is actually the Eastwood homestead at
    37th Street and Lakeshore Blvd. I have the exact photo of it from the
    old Advertiser newspaper. One of the Eastwood children, and there were
    at least twelve, is seen in the 1911 picture. ( C. O’Marra)

  4. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    I much appreciate the correction! I will look for a photo of the Long Branch Hotel. I seek to ensure that information on this site is as accurate as it can be. For that reason, I am very pleased that C. O’Marra has pointed out the error.

  5. Alistair Thomson
    Alistair Thomson says:

    I lived at 282 Lake Promenade from 1948 to 1968. The house was one of the original summer homes built in 1887. I lived through hurricane Hazel when I watched the huge 80 feet tall trees tumble into the lake. The next day I was standing close to a huge Walnut tree as it fell in. There was a row of farm fence nailed to the tree which I grabbed and climbed up the embankment. Half-way up a water main burst but by that time I had scampered back to the road. I was about 12-years-old at the time. The Toronto Telegram sent a reporter to interview me. I was a local celebrity.
    It was a great place to grow up. We were the wildest bunch of kids. But most of the old gang is dead.

  6. Alistair Thomson
    Alistair Thomson says:

    My family’s house was on the corner of Lake Promenade and 35th St. On the opposite corner 278 Lake Promenade lived Harris Burgess, who, at 99-years-old, passed away. At the other end of the block, 294 Lake Prom., lived the Horchover family. Great people. Salt of the earth. I think they are all dead now. It was a magical place in which to grow-up. The summers were like something from Mark Twain. One time we decided, we were like a real-life group of little rascals, to have an Indian Club. there were vacant lots everywhere and we appropriated the lot next to the Horchovers.. We built Tee-pees and wigwams and dug fire pits and in general made a mess of the place. No one bothered about the mess though. We were just the neighborhood kids.

  7. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    This is wonderful to know about! what a tremendous amount of great information you’ve shared, Alistair. I’ve heard from many sources that kids used to have a wonderfully good time growing up, often making up their own games and activities, in Long Branch.

    I did an interview this morning (Oct. 18, 2013) with Bernice Law, who was born in 1924 and lived at 86 Forty First Street, at a house that her father built. We drove around Exmoor Drive and along Forty First Street and then down James Street, after which we drove along Lake Shore Blvd. West to the parking lot at the west side of Marie Curtis Park. We would stop the car to talk, at different points along the way.

    Bernice explained to me the changes in the configuration of the land, and told me about the garages that were located to the west and east of the corner of Forty First and Lake Shore Blvd. West. I was able to show a map of where the radial railway used to run and where it crossed Etobicoke Creek. She also told me great stories about the three police officers including a great police chief who patrolled the area and were very helpful in ensuring the safety of children as they travelled about the community.

    Bernice Law mentioned that in the 1930s, the cottage community on Lake Promenade – in days when Lake Promenade extended westward, along where the south branch of Etobicoke Creek used to run – were a very active community. This was especially the case for residents living on the south side of Lake Promenade at that location.

    They would organize all manner of events including regattas and one where people try to climb a greasy pole. She told me all kinds of things that we’ll be able to share on future Jane’s walks. She arranged for the interview so that I would have some additional details, that I didn’t know about, to share at future Jane’s Walks.

    The next Jane’s Walk is on May 3 and 4, 2014, starting at the East Parking Lot at Marie Curtis Park, not far from the corner of Forty Second Street and Lake Promenade. The walks begin at 10:30 am each of the two days, and end at 12:00 pm. A Jane’s Walk is a walking conversation. Everyone who has an interest in Long Branch is most welcome to attend.

  8. Alistair Thomson
    Alistair Thomson says:

    In the ringletted days of my youth, when I was young and easy under the apple boughs I lived in a wonderful place called Long Branch, where folks burnt their leaves in autumn in the ditch beside the road, I can remember still the scent of burning leaves in the air. The Salvation Army would play on street corners much to the chagrin of middle aged males who were awakened from their Sunday afternoon nap. My friend’s father raked the leaves into a pile, one Salvation Army Sunday, set them on fire and smoked the musicians out as they played on the corner by his house.

    Every neighbourhood boy had a bike and some of the luckier ones had a dog.
    I had a dog called Scotty who was an unrepentant thief. He once stole a chicken from a butcher shop. He lived to he ripe old age of 15.

    My father, a little Lowland Scot, who never weighed more than 140 pounds in his life decided to cut down some of the huge trees, and I mean huge, 60 feet high, Oaks, Maples and Walnuts, on our property. He cut them down 10 feet at a time with a buck saw, Yes, you read it correctly, a buck saw. He did it in the evenings, after work. People had to be self-reliant in those times. We had no money to pay anyone to remove trees

    In winter, in the 1940’s and early 50’s, before the village used road-salt we would play hockey on the streets where the hard-packed snow had a glaze on the surface on which a person could skate. My hero was a long-forgotten Major Leaguer, Terry Sawchuck. The local drivers were always cautious as they drove by.

  9. Alistair Thomson
    Alistair Thomson says:

    The Police Chief that Bernice Law referred to was probably Bob Smythe. He was a fine gentleman and one of my Dad’s customers at the Service Station’

    • M. Smith
      M. Smith says:

      Ah, yes. Old Bob Smythe and his ’55 Pontiac. Used to live in the big place on the north side of Park Blvd. just west of 31st. He could almost yell hello at Marie and Bryce from his porch.

  10. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    It’s wonderful to read the additional details, Alistair!

    That’s the Smythe, I’m certain, that Bernice Law (I had misspelled her name) spoke with me about.

    Dogs are resourceful. I’m wondering if people got to know each other through dog walking in days gone by in Long Branch, as they do now.

    I remember the name Terry Sawchuk, the Ukrainian-Canadian goaltender who played for the Detroit Red Wings. I grew up in Montreal and hockey was a big thing in those days. I was in primary school when I heard about the riot at the Montreal Forum occasioned by the suspension of Maurice Richard. It was been described as the beginning of major changes starting in those years in the political and economic structure of Quebec.

    Bill Rawson, who has a used furniture store on Lake Shore Blvd. West (currently under renovation following fire damage from a fire in an adjoining building) has told me many great stories about businesses along Lake Shore Blvd. West in the 1930s and 1940s, and about Lake Promenade. He has many details that he’s shared about the fire that burned down the hotel not far from the shoreline. We shared some of his stories at a Jane’s Walk in Long Branch in May 2013.

  11. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    One of my favourite Bill Rawson stories is the story of the time his younger brother was on the front porch of their house, north of Lake Shore Blvd. West. The brother – and this was around the 1930s, if I remember the story correctly – was in a baby carriage on the porch. A horse from a nearby property was curious to have a look at the baby. The horse trotted up to the house and stuck its head right into the baby carriage to have a closer look. Years later, his brother would tell Bill (I paraphrase), “Bill, tell me again the story about the baby carriage and the horse.”

    Bill has also explained how many people used to raise chickens in Long Branch. There was a place on Lake Shore Blvd. West where you could buy chickens for the purpose of raising them in your back yard.

    Bill Rawson drew a map that we used for one of the Long Branch Jane’s Walks in May 2013. I interviewed him at length before the walk. He took me on a guided tour of where the hotel and tennis court used to be. He had lived in the area in the 1940s. Here’s background about the walk (after you visit the link, you can return to the page you are now reading by using the ‘Back’ button on your browser):


    The map is included here:


    Bill Rawson’s furniture store, on the south side of Lake Shore across from the Long Branch Library, is a wonderful place. It serves as a place where many old-time Long Branch residents love to hang out and shoot the breeze. Wonderful people. Carol Milroy, who was on the May 2012 Long Branch Jane’s Walk, introduced me to Bill. I’m really pleased I got to know him. He’s a tremendous resource for stories about Long Branch, including stories about cars, car collisions, judicial decisions, and the Long Branch police service.

    I look forward to knowing when his store will reopen. It’s a great place to hang out. He’s got some great furniture (currently in storage) to sell, and he’s always happy to buy used furniture.

  12. John Stewart
    John Stewart says:

    Our family grew up on 31 Arcadian Circle from 1939 to 1998. I remember the Long Branch hotel fire and even have slide pictures of it. It actually was during the winter early in the new year as I too remember how big the rats were and how bitterly cold it was that the rats ran back in. My father in law Harold Hall a volunteer fireman fell from the top floor into the basement when the floor caved in and injured his back.The next day all that was left standing were the old cast iron pipes still sticking up and the basement walls thick with ice. My sisters and I went to the old James S. Bell school where I met my future wife June Underhill of Ash Crescent in Mrs. Salter’s grade six class. My wonderful memories of Long Branch are more than I could ever hope to put on line. I now live in Wiarton and love to tell my friends there the stories of growing up in Long Branch. Thanks for creating this site.

    • Jaan Pill
      Jaan Pill says:

      Thank you, John, for posting this comment. I am delighted to read your corroboration of a previous comment regarding the rats. It is comments such as your that truly add value to this website. Would it be possible for us to post some of the slides that you mention? Please contact me if it may be possible for me to arrange to get jpeg images of the slides. I am very pleased that this website enables us to share such great stories about Long Branch of years ago. I have made a point of posting your comment as an additional, separate post, by way of bringing attention to the current post and all of the great comments that have been added to it.

  13. Gary Hannam
    Gary Hannam says:

    Born in Alderwood Raised in trailer park across from Marie Curtis Park. My teens and pre married lived in Long Branch & New Toronto. Worked at Goodyear Tire & Canadian Wallpaper What a feeling when your reading about memories you have I grew up with Bill O Donald the only person i know hair turned white in his late teens.

    • Jaan Pill
      Jaan Pill says:

      It’s wonderful to visit this post again, which I’ve done just now on reading your comment, Gary. The memories we have from when we grew up warrant sharing and celebration. I lived in Long Branch from 1997 to 2018. I’m really pleased that through this website we continue to share thoughts and recollections about days gone by.


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