From Summer Cottage Colony to Metropolitan Suburb: Toronto's Beach District, 1889-1929

By Luka, Nik | Urban History Review, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

From Summer Cottage Colony to Metropolitan Suburb: Toronto's Beach District, 1889-1929

Luka, Nik, Urban History Review


Over four decades beginning in the 1890s, the east-end Toronto district now known as "The Beach" was transformed from a summer second-home setting into a metropolitan suburb dominated by the middle classes (occupationally defined). Using a systematic random sample drawn from the municipal property tax assessment rolls for the study area at six intervals from 1889 to 1929, along with narrative examples and illustrative analyses of growth and change in urban form, this paper examines three compelling aspects of this transformation. First and foremost, this district is a fine example of pre-Second World War suburban growth: slow, piecemeal, and inconsistent in pattern and form, as now reflected in its eclectic built form and fine-grained mix of housing types. "The Beach" is also a place-based example of how metropolitan social geographies were being sorted out from within by user groups early in the twentieth century. Without becoming exclusively or solely a middle-class district, the Beach came to be dominated by the middle classes--typifying the "weave of small patterns" that characterized the social fabric of the early North American metropolis. Finally, the term cottage colony is used quite deliberately, for it appears that the Beach's role as a summer leisure destination was instrumental in spurring its transformation into a middle-class suburb, imbuing it with particular qualities that enhanced (or ensured) its desirability. In effect, this district's "summer cottage" period was a telling prelude to its emergence as a markedly middle-class district in Toronto of the 1920s and later.


Comment les lieux de villegiature sont-ils devenus des banlieues metropolitaines? Cette etude de cas porte sur un secteur de Toronto localise au bord du Lac Ontario--The Beach--soit une zone de chalets d'ete etablie au cours des annees 1880. Pendant une periode de 40 ans, cette zone s'est progressivement transformee en une banlieue peuplee majoritairement de residants de la classe moyenne (ainsi definis en fonction des occupations de ces derniers). En utilisant des donnees issues du role municipal d'evaluation fonciere et de l'histoire locale, croisees avec l'analyse de la croissance de la forme urbaine du secteur, cette etude avance trois enonces. En premier lieu, The Beach constitue un exemple typique de la croissance des banlieues qui datent d'avant la deuxieme guerre mondiale: un processus de developpement lent et eparpille, integrant a peine les caracteristiques le plus souvent associees aux banlieues pavillonnaires, comme en temoigne, d'ailleurs, l'eclectisme actuel de la forme des tissus qui composent ces secteurs. En deuxieme lieu, la geographie sociale des grandes agglomerations industrielles resulte d'une appropriation collective par ses usagers entre 1890 et 1930. Finalement, le chapitre discute du role des lieux de villegiature comme antecedents de la banlieue metropolitaine. Peut-on en conclure que l'origine de ces middle-class suburbs reste ancree dans les usages et les representations de l'espace en lien avec les notions de loisir et de detente?


The rise of metropolitan suburbs is at once well-scrutinized and neglected in studies of Canadian urban history. In general terms, the literature is abundant, as recently exemplified by Creeping Conformity: How Canada Became Suburban, 1900-1960, in which Richard Harris presents an excellent overview of suburbanization in Canada's metropolitan areas. Yet on how general patterns of socio-spatial sorting, emergent types of urban form, and processes of transformation all played out in specific places, we are somewhat lacking. This paper presents one such case study by examining how factors intersected in the east-end Toronto district known as the Beach (map 1). (1) Named for the wide strand lining the Lake Ontario shore, it is now a sought-after neighbourhood with an upper-middle-income population and a surprisingly fine-grained mix of built form, housing types, and architectural styles.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

From Summer Cottage Colony to Metropolitan Suburb: Toronto's Beach District, 1889-1929


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?