Cottage Country years of Etobicoke Creek and Long Branch Park came to an end

Below are bullet points for a brief talk I gave on June 13, 2015. I share them for your interest. I just chose a few things to focus on, during the actual talk. I didn’t much refer to my notes. The talk went well. We had a good sound system.

We just showed one or two PowerPoint slides. Often, that’s all that you need.

All the speakers were great and so were the musicians! Everybody had a great time.

Jaan Pill – June 13, 2015

Cottage Country Paradise

Overview

  • My story focuses upon the two forms of Cottage Country communities that existed at in Long Branch in the past.
  • The first community was at the mouth of Etobicoke Creek.
  • The second community was on both sides of Long Branch Avenue, between the Lake Ontario shoreline and Lake Shore Blvd. West.

Etobicoke Creek

  • The mouth of Etobicoke Creek was once known as one of the finest wetlands and wildlife habitats along the Lake Ontario shoreline.
  • In the past, when the area was in its natural state, annual spring floods brought nutrients to the lands at the mouth of the creek
  • Marshes in the area provided spawning grounds for fish.
  • Salmon would travel upriver to spawn.
  • First Nations peoples grew corn, and later also squash and beans, on the floodplains at the mouth of the creek.
  • After the arrival of European settlers, most of the forests that had existed for 10,000 years in the area were soon gone.
  • The mouth of Etobicoke Creek, once known as one of the finest wetlands and wildlife habitats along the Lake Ontario shoreline, was in time polluted and engineered pretty much out of existence.

Long Branch Park

  • Another chapter, in the story, begins to the east of Etobicoke Creek, around where Long Branch Avenue is now located.
  • The Long Branch Park development was started in the late 1880s and became a summer resort – Cottage Country at its finest – for wealthy people from Toronto.
  • In those days, Long Branch was totally out in the country.
  • As time passed, the Cottage Country years of Etobicoke Creek and Long Branch Park came to an end.

Colonel Samuel Smith

  • Colonel Samuel Smith was the first landowner in the area, starting in 1793, under the British system of land ownership.
  • His property covered all of Long Branch and areas beyond that as well.
  • Originally, big forests of oak and pine covered all of his land.
  • The colonel left most of Etobicoke Creek as he found it
  • Starting in 1797, he built a homestead not far from the creek.
  • The colonel, and his family, also decided to make some money by allowing the cutting of timber on his land.
  • By 1842, half of the great forests of the area had been cut down.
  • Because the trees were cut down, serious flooding problems, at the mouth of Etobicoke Creek, began about 1850.

Lake Promenade

  • Lake Promenade is a roadway that runs east to west in Long Branch along the Lake Ontario shoreline.
  • Currently, if you stand at the corner of Lake Promenade and Forty Second Street, you are standing at the western end of Lake Promenade.
  • That’s where Lake Promenade ends.
  • In previous years, however, Lake Promenade extended far to the west of where it now ends.
  • It extended all the way to the west almost as far as Applewood Creek, which is close to where the boundary between Mississauga and Toronto, at the Lake Ontario shoreline, is located.
  • The roadway used to run along a spit of land that extended a long way along the shoreline of Lake Ontario.
  • In the past, Etobicoke Creek didn’t run in a straight channel, from the north to the south, directly into Lake Ontario, as it does now.
  • Instead, there was a western branch to the creek, which has now been filled in, as well as an eastern branch.
  • The two branches of the creek formed an island, on which many summer cottages were located.
  • At the south end of the island, Etobicoke Creek made a turn, and ran for quite some distance, to the west, before it emptied into Lake Ontario. The southern branch of the creek has also been filled in.

Flooding along Etobicoke Creek

  • The story, as it relates to the cottages, begins in the 1850s, when half of the original forests were cut down and sold for lumber.
  • After the trees were removed along the floodplain, at the mouth of Etobicoke Creek, people began to build small shacks in the area.
  • Once the trees were gone, however, the floodplain at the mouth of the creek began to experience major flooding on a regular basis.
  • As well, some work was done in 1929 that set the stage for even larger amounts of flooding.
  • In 1929, the sandbar that extended along the Lake Ontario shoreline began to be built up, in order to enable Lake Promenade to run all the way from Forty Second Street to Applewood Creek.
  • What that work meant was that, when flooding occurred, there was no way for the water to find its way to Lake Ontario.
  • Severe flooding occurred in the area in 1948 and 1952.
  • After Hurricane Hazel arrived in 1954, all of the houses were removed from the mouth of the creek and the area was turned into Marie Curtis Park.

Cottage country in the 1950s

  • The moral of the story is that a floodplain is not a good place to build houses.
  • That being said, such houses did give people an opportunity to spend enjoyable summers in our local cottage country, as many former residents have remarked.
  • Some people have told that playing at the most of the Creek, in the early 1950s as young children, were among the happiest times of their lives.

Long Branch Park

  • So, we turn now to Long Branch Park.
  • Samuel Smith passed away in 1826.
  • In 1871, James Eastwood bought 500 acres of land from the Colonel Samuel Smith family.
  • In 1883, James Eastwood sold 75 acres of the eastern portion of the Eastwood property, which was summer developed into a summer resort called Long Branch Park.
  • There is evidence that the park’s name may have been copied from a summer resort, called Long Branch, New Jersey, in the United States.
  • The Long Branch Hotel, a popular destination for wealthy citizens from Toronto, was completed in 1887, and destroyed by fire in 1958.
  • The development of cottages in the surrounding area, close to Long Branch Park, began in 1910.
  • The cottage era in this area lasted until the 1930s, by which time many cottages had been made into permanent homes.
  • Some of the cottages are still standing along Lake Promenade and elsewhere.

Lakeview in Mississauga

  • If you want to see what the future holds for the Lake Ontario waterfront, a good place to look is to the west of Etobicoke Creek.
  • Many exciting things are happening in Lakeview in Mississauga, to the west of Long Branch.
  • If you want to learn more about these projects, you will find extensive information about them at the Preserved Stories website.

 

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