Long Branch: A Short History
Its singular mix of modest and larger homes, and residents from all income brackets, perhaps help explain Long Branch‘s small-town charm.
What began as one man‘s dream for a cottagey escape outside the city has evolved into a picturesque lakeside community stacked with more charm and heritage than anywhere else in the GTA. Inspired by the summer resort area of Long Branch, New Jersey, Thomas Wilkie developed an exclusive summer vacation community for Toronto‘s elite in 1884 with fashionable cottages, tennis and croquet lawns, elaborate fountains and a dance pavilion.
More than 100 years later the community retains its small-town vibe and uniquely historic roots as a neighbourhood home to residents from all income brackets and walks of life. It‘s inimitable village-like charm and strong sense of community coupled with an abundance of tranquil parks and lakeside trails make it a residential gem just outside the core of the city that‘s impossible to overlook.
Its often said what‘s past is prologue. And nowhere is that more in evidence than Long Branch, which is presently building on its unique heritage to create an even more welcoming and sustainable community. It‘s a beautiful neighbourhood offering lakeside living mere minutes from downtown Toronto, and at an affordable price.
The Allure of Lakeside Living
In two of Toronto‘s great sister cities on the Great Lakes, Chicago and Detroit, almost all of the most exclusive and elite residential districts hug the shoreline of their respective lakes. Historically, however, that has not been the case in Toronto where the city‘s exclusive residential neighbourhoods marched ever northwards: Jarvis Street, in the 19th century, then The Annex, Rosedale, Moore Park, Forest Hill, Lawrence Park and finally, way north, to the Bridle Path.
But in the last few decades that has begun to change, and as a result of its “gentrification” The Beaches, in the East End, is one of Toronto‘s most coveted, and expensive, areas, and a similar transformation is underway in Leslieville.
In Toronto‘s Great Trek Back to the Lake, the best has been saved for last. Long Branch is one of the city‘s most historic, and unique, lakeside communities. The Word is Out that this beautiful neighbourhood offers lakeside living mere minutes from downtown Toronto - and still at an affordable price. Moreover, it‘s not an instant town, uncrated yesterday.
It‘s a historic old district with an inimitable village-like charm and a strong sense of community. And, of course, the other unique characteristic of lakeside communities like this one is that they‘re in short supply. No one is building them anymore, certainly not minutes away from the pulsating heart of the GTA.
Long Branch‘s Tiny Perfect Houses
As Long Branch “gentrifies,” an interesting phenomenon has emerged: the proliferation of what can only be described as “tiny perfect houses”. Walk the streets of the village and what were once quite modest houses have not been expanded so much as “embellished” with elements like cedar shingles, copper detailing and lush landscaping. Inside, of course, these old homes have doubtless been completely updated. Some gentrifiers, of course, do tack on big additions but many, perhaps surprisingly, opt to retain the village‘s classic “cottagey” ambience. And that is in perfect sync with the district‘s past.
In its initial incarnation in the late 19th century, Long Branch was the classic summer colony for city folks and as it transformed into a year-round residential neighbourhood in the early 20th century, the district‘s modest workingman‘s homes retained a similar aesthetic. Such elegant “bijoux houses” are quite a common occurrence in the most exclusive neighbourhoods of cities like London and Paris where 18th and 19th century stables behind grand aristocratic town homes have been transformed into very chic, expensive and coveted mews houses.