Monthly Archives: September 2022

The Boardwalk

September 25, 2022

Toronto has a lengthy stretch of beaches that begin near the foot of Victoria Park Avenue on Silver Birch Beach through to Woodbine Beach near Ashbridges Bay. Along the way the names change through Balmy Beach and Kew Gardens Beach, but they are all connected. They have been created over the years by sand that has eroded from the Scarborough Bluffs and has been carried by the lake in its westward spin. The rotation of the lake is known as Longshore Drift and is influenced by the pressure of the Niagara River that pushes water along the southern shore toward the St. Lawrence River. These beaches have been an attraction for city residents for decades and originally were home to amusement parks such as Victoria Park and Kew Gardens. Today they attract dog walkers, swimmers and those who just want to bake in the sun. The Waterfront Trail runs through the beaches and continues for 3,600 kilometres along the shores of The Great Lakes.

The picture below shows the beaches in April of 1929 when homes and cottages existed close to the water’s edge. As early as 1908 the city had built a wooden boardwalk from Woodbine Beach to Leuty Avenue. Storms in 1929 caused extensive damage and many of the homes had flooded basements. In 1931 and 1932 the city proposed the creation of a permanent boardwalk running from Woodbine Beach all the way to Silver Birch. This would allow for a continuous walk of nearly 5 kilometres. Since then, the boardwalk has been repaired many times and a bicycle and jogging path has been added alongside it.

The archive picture below shows people enjoying the early boardwalk along the area of Kew Beach.

Today, the boardwalk is a destination for many people in the city to enjoy but it wasn’t terribly busy on this September afternoon.

Muskoka Chairs were created in 1903 in the Adirondack Hills in New York with a sloping seat and back and large armrests to allow people to sit in a comfortable reclined position. There are several sets of Muskoka Chairs as well as benches and large pieces of armour stone that provide seating along the beaches.

The Leuty Lifeguard Station was built in 1920 and was described in our post Kew Gardens.

We visited the beaches during Windfest 2022 when dozens of kites were being flown on Woodbine Beach. The annual kite flying festival was held on September 17th from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Participants brought their own kites and there was a wide variety from the simple kites to elaborate ones with bright colours and several shaped like various cartoon characters.

There are over 100 volleyball courts at Woodbine Beach. Most of these are subject to usage permits and are dominated by league players. There’s only a few that can be accessed by the public on a “free to use” basis. There is a petition before City Council to change this and make 50% of the courts available for public use. Woodbine Beach also has a nine-hole disc golf course where people can play golf using frisbees that are thrown at metal poles with chains on them. The course had been expanded in November 2021 but complaints that the new section encroached on a sensitive area that is used by migrating birds led to the new section being removed this spring.

The beaches are a great place to relax although there may not be a lot of peace and quiet on some days. During our visit a concert was going on at Woodbine Beach and it was amplified very loudly. Sudden yelling from the microphone caused some of the people on the boardwalk to be startled and made them jump. Someone has created a couple of peace signs and several hearts out of painted rocks. This symbol dates back to 1958 when Gerald Holtom took the semaphore symbols for N and D to create a symbol for Nuclear Disarmament. A semaphore symbol is a system of depicting the alphabet using the arms and two flags.

Parking is available at Woodbine Beach and in various places along Queen Street.

Related posts: Kew Gardens

Google Maps Link: Woodbine Beach Parking

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Markham Museum

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Markham Museum is a 25-acre collection of historical buildings and artifacts that relate to the early history of Markham Township. There are close to 30 buildings which have been collected from various sites around the township over the past 50 years. Many of the buildings have had some restoration to preserve them. Seven of the buildings can be viewed from the inside as part of a guided tour that is free upon request with your paid admission. The museum is located at Markham Road and 16th Avenue. Just to the west of the museum is Markham Heritage Estates which is a subdivision made up of historic homes that have been moved from around the township to preserve them from demolition. These homes are lived in and can often be viewed inside during Open Doors events.

The oldest building in the museum was built in 1824 at McCowan and Stouffville Roads. Christian K Hoover and his wife Anna lived in this house followed by three more generations of the family. During the mid-1870s the house became a stopping point for Russian Mennonites as they emigrated west to Manitoba. In 1975 the house belonged to A.D. Reesor who donated it to the museum.

Inside the house is an open layout where kitchen, eating and sleeping areas are combined. The museum has decorated the home to look like the year 1860, at which time Christian’s son Abraham and his wife Fanny lived there with their three young children.

The blacksmith shop was built in 1862 by Henry Lapp in the village of Cedar Grove. Between 1866 and 1896 there were 9 different blacksmiths who worked in the Lapp blacksmith shop. Beginning in 1896 Arthur Clendenen took over and he bought the shop from Henry Lapp in 1905. He continued to work there until it closed in 1956. Cedar Grove plays a large part in the Markham Museum and the small community has been featured in several of our blogs in the past including Cedar Grove – Ghost towns of the GTA, Lapp’s Cider Mill, and Cedarena.

Inside, the blacksmith shop is set up to look like it did around 1910. Blacksmiths were important to early communities and there were usually one or more in each village. The blacksmith made horseshoes and installed them in addition to making and repairing all manner of tools. Everything from hammers to belt buckles was created in these little shops. The Cedar Grove blacksmith shop was moved to Markham Museum in 1977.

The Cider Mill at the museum was actually a shed on a property belonging to the Lapp Cider Mill in Cedar Grove. The shed was moved to the museum and outfitted with the inner workings of the Lapp Cider Mill which was built in 1872. The Lapp Cider Mill operated until 1955 producing apple cider, vinegar and apple butter. The cider mill at Markham Museum is operational and is in use every year during their annual Applefest, which this year takes place on September 24, 2022.

The church in the museum was moved from the 9th Line just north of Major Mackenzie Drive. It was built on an acre of land that was purchased from Joshua and Rachel Miller in 1847. The church was opened as Knox Baptist Church the following year and always had a small congregation. In the early years the church shared a minister with two other congregations and the pastor would only teach there every three weeks. By 1958 the congregation had shrunk to the point where the church was closed. In 1981 the church was disassembled and each of the 35,000 bricks were numbered and then reassembled on the museum site.

Most early churches had a drive shed where carriages and horses were kept while the church service was going on. There are very few of these left in their original locations and we have previously featured the one at the Cober Dunkard Church in Vaughan.

James and Euphemia Maxwell operated a grist mill on the Rouge River in the area that is now Rouge National Urban Park. They built a log cabin around 1850 and raised 6 children in it. When James died in 1894 the house and surrounding lands were sold but the cabin was used as a home until 1962 when the Little Family donated the cabin to the Markham Museum. It was moved to the museum site in 1970. The remains of the Maxwell Mill can still be seen along Twyn Rivers Road beside The Rouge River and were written about in the linked story.

Henry Wilson and Clementia May were husband and wife business partners in Markham in the 19th century. They opened a general store in Markham in 1862 and expanded into this building in 1875. Henry operated a variety store out of the first floor while Clementia ran a dress making business on the second floor. Dresses were usually custom designed and sewn in this era and her business was far more profitable than the store downstairs. In 1898 their son Edmund took over the business, but he closed it in 1913 and sold the building to Dr. John MacDonald. When the building was slated for demolition in 1985 it was moved to the museum.

There is a collection of moustache mugs in the Variety Hall. These mugs were invented in the mid 1800s by Harvey Adams in England. In Victorian times, many men wore large moustaches which they waxed or dyed in order to make them more impressive. The moustache mug contains a small moustache shaped ledge with a little hole to allow the men to drink tea without getting it in their moustaches.

Markham Museum is home to the Locust Hill train station which was built in 1936 to replace an earlier station that had burned down the previous year. The first station in the community had been built in 1885 by the Ontario and Quebec Railway which had been completed through town in 1887. Train service through Locust Hill was discontinued in 1969 and the station was moved to the museum in 1983. One of the interesting artifacts in the museum collection is the Canadian Pacific snowplow number 400896. This classic wedge snowplow weighs 20 tons and was built in the Canadian Pacific Angus workshops in Montreal between 1920 and 1929. It cleared a 10-foot path and had blades in the front to clear between the rails. These blades would be raised at intersections to avoid damaging the equipment.

Markham Museum has a fairly small entry fee set at only $6.00 for adults but doesn’t allow you to enter all of the buildings like other heritage villages such as Black Creek Pioneer Village. This is likely due to the lack of staff which, unfortunately, are required to preserve the antique displays to keep them from getting broken or going missing.

Related stories: Markham Heritage Estates, Maxwell’s Mill, Cedar Grove – Ghost Towns of the GTA, Lapp’s Cider Mill, Cedarena, Cober Dunkard Church, Black Creek Pioneer Village.

Google Maps Link: Markham Museum

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