One of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in the city, Forest Hill was also one of the last areas to join what we now think of as Toronto. Only annexed by the city in 1967, Forest Hill is renowned for its large houses with a stunning variety of architectural styles, its wide tree-lined streets with few sidewalks, its sloping hills and for the extensive parks and nature trails meandering through the neighbourhood.
Roughly bordered by Briar Hill Road to north, Avenue Road and Oriole Parkway to the east, St. Clair Avenue to the south and Bathurst Street to the west, Forest Hill is officially divided into two parts, Forest Hill North and Forest Hill South. To confuse matters even further, the original village of Forest Hill crosses both parts and is further sub-divided into the Upper Village and the Lower Village. But while the divisions make for amusing comparisons, the entire neighbourhood of Forest Hill remains one of the most desirable in Toronto.
Most of the houses in Forest Hill were built between the 1930s and the 1950s. Most are detached homes, many with landscaped grounds, although in more recent years, a number of upscale condominiums have been built in the western part of the neighbourhood, and older apartment buildings blend into the architectural atmosphere of the neighbourhood. The combination of quiet luxury, natural settings and privacy combined with convenience have led to a number of celebrities — including Nelly Furtado, Drake and Kurt Browning — and wealthy families like the Westons, Rogers, Rotmans and Munks making their homes in Forest Hill.
History and Social Profile
The area was first settled in the 1860s, and was originally known as Spadina Heights, from a First Nations word meaning a hill or sudden rise in land. The area was incorporated as a village in 1923, borrowing its name from the summer home of resident John Wickson.
Prior to World War II, Forest Hill was largely populated by well-off Anglo-Saxon Protestants. In the post-war years, a sizable number of Jewish families moved east from the Bathurst and Spadina area into the fashionable neighbourhood to the east. Today, Forest Hill has a sizable Jewish population, and contains some of the city’s most prominent synagogues and kosher restaurants and grocery stores.
In the late 1960s, city planners developed a scheme to run a highway, called the Spadina Expressway, through the heart of the city. The expressway, which would have bisected both the Annex and Forest Hill, was bitterly opposed by residents in both neighbourhoods, who banded together to successfully defeat the proposal. Around the same time, in 1967, Forest Hill was finally annexed by the city of Toronto.
Today, Forest Hill is one of the city’s most charming mixture of quiet residences and natural attractions. The Belt Line Trail — a 14 and a half kilometre track which passes through Forest Hill — follows the route of the Belt Line Railway, which was the city’s first commuter train. Forest Hill Road Park is part of the Kay Gardner Beltline Trail, which surrounds the neighbourhood with what amounts to a forest in the heart of the city. As well, Cedarvale Park, just west of Bathurst runs through a steep ravine, with a heavily-travelled footpath running down the middle.
Forest Hill is also home to two of Canada’s best-known private schools, Bishop Strachan, Canada’s oldest boarding school for girls and Upper Canada College for boys, Ontario’s oldest independent school. The two schools stand out in the neighbourhood for their design and architecture, and, in fact, the UCC clock tower has come to symbolize the entry to Forest Hill along Avenue Road.
- Hope Street Café
- Sotto in the Village
- House of Chan
- Le Pain Quotidien
- St. Clair Station
- Eglinton Station
- St. Clair West Station
- Davisville Station
Buses and streetcars also run along St. Clair Avenue, Eglinton Avenue, Yonge Street, Avenue Road, Spadina Road and Bathurst Street.
- Forest Hill Junior and Senior Public School, 78 Dunloe Road, 416-363-9335
- Forest Hill Collegiate Institute, 730 Eglinton Avenue West, 416-393-1860
- North Prepatory Junior Public School, 1100 Spadina Road, 416-393-9230
- Northern Secondary School, 851 Mount Pleasant Road, 416-393-0270