Before the Muskokas There Was Longbranch



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It was a Muskoka before the Muskokas, and only a short ferry ride from downtown Toronto.

Long Branch Park Hotel, 1953, Courtesy Toronto Public Library

The Long Branch Resort was the brainchild of Thomas Wilkie, who saw an opportunity in the 1880s to provide affluent citizens of Toronto with summer recreation beyond the city limits. Wilkie purchased a parcel of land from James Eastwood, subdividing it into 219 lots with a 10-acre park along Lake Ontario.

Originally known as Sea Breeze Park, the cottage resort community was designed by architect Richard Ough, known for the Masonic Hall on Yonge Street. The Long Branch Hotel, which inspired the community's contemporary name, was equipped with electricity and a telephone connection to Toronto. A week's stay cost $15.

To arrive at Long Branch Resort, vacationers and residents embarked on a Grand Trunk Railway train or travelled by steamer, sailing down the lake from the foot of Yonge Street. Streetcar lines first reached Long Branch in 1923. The improved access made it worthwhile to winterize some cottages. Others were demolished and replaced with better-insulated buildings. Promoted as both a summer and year-round resort, the Long Branch played home to business leaders, industrialists, and government officials. In February 1958, a two-alarm fire destroyed the hotel. Though some original cottages were demolished, many still line the streets of the Long Branch neighbourhood.

By Kaitlin Wainwright

Long Branch Park Hotel, 1953, Courtesy Toronto Public Library View the image gallery