Boundaries: on the north along the CN rail line from Victoria Park, then Danforth Ave to the juncture with Kingston Rd, then south to Rosetta McClain Gardens and Lake Ontario.
Kingston Road became the major thoroughfare through Scarborough in the early 1800s. In January 1817, Samuel Purdy began operating a stage line – a three day sleigh trip from Kingston to Toronto leaving on Mondays, and a return trip from Toronto to Kingston leaving on Thurdays. Stage Wagon travel during the summer was less practical with hazardous road conditions until the late 1830s when the road was planked.
The Toronto Hunt Club was established in 1843 by British Army officers at Fort York to pursue equestrian events such as fox hunting. It acquired its parcel of land by Kingston Rd in 1895. When the Kingston Rd Streetcar was extended to Birchmount in 1898, numerous cottages were erected around the Hunt Club, one of which was named ‘Birch Cliff’ by its owner John Stark. A local post office adopted the same name and Birch Cliff soon thereafter became the name of the neighbourhood. The horses were moved out of the Hunt Club in 1907, after which tennis and golf became the main pursuits of club members. The land south of Kingston Road still has a private 9 hole golf course to this day.
Birch Cliff began developing as a suburban community adjacent to the Beaches in the 1920s. The streetcar ran along Kingston Road as far as Birchmount, and numerous businesses prospered along this route. In 1921 the Township of Scarborough moved its municipal council meeting room from its original site, a tavern called Dowswell’s Inn at Markham Rd and Painted Post Rd to the upper floor of a bank on Kingston Rd in this developing area of Birch Cliff. When Streetcar service was discontinued in 1954, the area became more of a drive through route for cars heading further east.
The foot of Victoria Park Avenue was the former site of Victoria Park, an amusement park until 1906 on the shore of Lake Ontario. To alleviate water shortages and problems associated with unclean drinking water in the city, a water filtration plant was constructed on this site starting in 1932, and became operational in 1941. Its remarkable palatial structure was fashioned in Art Deco style. This plant was named the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant, after the commissioner of Toronto’s public works from 1912 to1945. It still provides about 40% of Toronto’s water supply, after taking in water from pipes extending out into the lake, chlorinating, and pumping it out to various water reservoirs in the region. R.C. Harris died in 1945 after prolonged battles with penny-pinching city councillors over the foul smelling sewage treatment facilities at Ashbridges Bay. See the ‘youtube’ reference below on the controversial practice of water fluoridation at R.C. Harris which started in 1963. The video features a tour of the plant in 2011.
The Rosetta McClain Gardens overlooking the Scarborough Bluffs, off Kingston Road at Glen Everest are a major attraction in the area. Rosetta McClain inherited this farm property from her parents. After she died, and in her memory, her husband offered their property to the city of Toronto as parkland in 1959.
A major recreational hub for the area is located off the east side of Birchmount between Danforth Avenue and Kingston Road. There you will find the Birchmount Community Centre with a fine indoor swimming pool, Scarborough Gardens Arena, Birchmount Park, and Birchmount stadium, a great venue for football, soccer, rugby and track and field events. Further up east along Danforth Avenue past Birchmount Collegiate sits Variety Village which offers sports and recreation facilities for the whole community, but specializes in programs for those with disability challenges.
One of the iconic landmarks of Birchcliff Heights, the part of Birchcliff north of Danforth Avenue and west of Kennedy, is the old Fire Hall at Birchmount and Highview. It was opened on November 2, 1925 with three professional firefighters. A modern fire truck replaced the two wheeled hand pulled cart with hose reel. It was the first modern fire station in Scarborough. Prior to 1925 Scarborough relied upon volunteer fire brigades to put out fires.
Pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly sits on the northwest corner of Birchmount and Danforth Avenue. Much of the company’s early success was based on an agreement it made in 1922 with the University of Toronto scientists who developed insulin treatment for diabetes. Eli Lilly was the first to mass-produce the drug on a large scale in the U.S.
Robert R. Bonis A History of Scarborough Scarborough Public Library 1968
Wikipedia R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant
The Ugly Truth on fluoridation at R.C. Harris (featuring a tour of the R.C. Harris Water Treatment plant on May 29, 2011) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHIgGgFc42A