Named after a house built by a Canadian transportation baron, Summerhill is probably the only neighbourhood in Toronto that is centred around what is now an outlet of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.
But with its historic Edwardian and Victorian-style houses built around the turn of the last century, and with its park and greenery and proximity to the attractions of downtown Toronto, Summerhill is a neighbourhood in demand for those seeking quiet and serenity, while maintaining a connection to urban excitement.
Bordered on the south by the Canadian Pacific rails that have marked much of its history, on the west by Avenue Road, on the north by St. Clair Avenue and on the east by Mount Pleasant Road, Summerhill has the placidity of a small village, but is bisected by major thoroughfares like Yonge Street and is easily connected to the attractions of downtown.
History and Social Profile
In 1842, Canadian transportation baron Charles Thompson decided to build a cottage — or mansion, depending on one’s perspective — which he christened “Summer Hill.” The 200-acre estate stretched from what today is Yonge Street to Mount Pleasant Road. Thompson ran stagecoaches and steamboats for passengers, freight and mail delivery, but
By the 1850s, rail transport was cutting into his profits. Thompson responded by selling off parts of his estate, and opening an amusement part, which he called the “Summer Hill Spring Park and Pleasure Grounds.” This included rides, games, swimming pools and even a dance hall located in his drawing room.
Upon his death, Thompson’s heirs declined to stay in the amusement park business, preferring to subdivide his estate, beginning in the 1880s. The neighbourhood’s popularity skyrocketed in 1916, when the North Toronto Railway Station — which today is an LCBO outlet near Summerhill subway station — was opened by Canadian Pacific Railway. The historic building — built in the Beaux Arts style from limestone imported from Manitoba — was distinguished by its stone carvings, its 40-foot ceilings and the 140-foot clock tower, which still today towers over the neighbourhood.
Traffic began to drop with the opening of Union Station in 1927, and by 1930, the station had closed, reopening only briefly as an arrival point for World War II soldiers. In 1931, Brewers Retail took over the building and it has remained a liquor store — currently, in fact, the largest in Canada — ever since, although freight trains continue to operate just behind it. The building was restored in 2004, and the Ontario government is currently considering plans to restore it to its original function, this time as a possible link for Via Rail or GO Transit, or as part of a link to the airport.
Neighbourhood growth slowed with the closure of the railway staion in 1930, but the opening of the Summerhill subway station in 1954 revitalized the community. Since then, residents of the quite community have continued to enjoy the historic homes, and amenities such as the Rosedale Reservoir Park — which features a footpath, a playground, reflecting pools and connects to the trails running through the Vale of Avoca Ravine — and the Summerhill Food Market, which will mark its 60th anniversary in 2014.
Most houses in the neighbourhood are detached or semi-detached single family dwellings — with many being built between the 1880 and 1915 — but, in recent years, Summerhill has seen a modest influx of low-rise luxury condominiums and more modern townhouses. The neighbourhood remains upscale, however, and is still popular with families and those seeking a place of repose in the heart of the city.
- Il Monello
- Mare Monti Trattoria
- Rangoli Haute Indian Cuisine
- Capocaccia Café
- The Monk’s Table
- Summerhill Station
- St. Clair Station
- Buses run along Yonge Street, Mount Pleasant Road and Avenue Road
- Streetcars run along St. Clair Avenue
- Deer Park Junior and Senior Public School, 23 Ferndale Avenue, 416-393-1550
- Northern Secondary School, 851 Mount Pleasant Road, 416-393-0270
- North Toronto Collegiate Institute, 17 Broadway Avenue, 416-393-9180
- Hodgson Senior Public School, 282 Davisville Avenue, 416-393-0390
- Eglinton Junior Public School, 223 Eglinton Avenue East, 416-393-9315
- Brown Junior Public School, 454 Avenue Road, 416-393-1560
- Davisville Junior Public School, 43 Millwood Road, 416-393-0570