Toronto History Walks hits the Beaches for a stroll down memory lane

Tour organization educates attendees on the history of Toronto's neighbourhoods

Two people passing a lifeguard station on Woodbine Beach
Two pedestrians walking through the beach passing the Leuty Lifeguard Station at Woodbine Beach. This building will be seen during Toronto History Walks' tour on Feb. 19. (Arin De Castro/TorontoObserver) 

A Toronto tour organization that highlights neighbourhood histories is hosting a walking tour of The Beaches area on Feb. 19.

The event is organized by Toronto History Walks, and is called “Walking in the Historic Beaches.” Attendees can see and learn stories about the history of Toronto’s east-end beaches, such as the former amusement park called ‘Scarboro Beach’, the development of the area, murder stories, the history of Balmy Beach Club, and other high-profile events that occurred.

This will be Toronto History Walks’ 17th tour of the neighbourhood. The founder of the organization said the tours help connect people to their city and each other.

An Image from Scarboro Beach Park taken from an aeroplane in 1919. (Toronto Public Library)

“I believe strongly that walking builds communities, I really believe that and that is exactly what we’re doing,”  Harley Karulis said.

Karulis is the main guide for Toronto History Walks. The organization started tours highlighting Toronto’s history in July 2019. Karulis continued doing walking tours during the pandemic and said many attendees were grateful as it was helpful to get people out of the house.

He first decided to do these tours in hopes to educate people about the history of the city. He started with his own neighbourhood of Parkdale because he saw people forming the wrong impression about his area.

This is the Balmy Beach Canoe Club, a men’s junior war canoe team from 1936
(Toronto Public Library)

Parkdale is a former village that was established in the 1800s, and had been through a period of neglect before its gentrification in recent decades, according to a publication by the University of Toronto’s Centre of Urban and Community Studies.

Karulis used his own knowledge of the area in hopes of possibly changing people’s perspective of Parkdale. From there, the tours started to cover more areas of Toronto.

Karulis hopes to eventually offer tours of all of Toronto, and to preserve the city’s history.

“I think that we are losing our stories with all the development that’s going on, not only with just putting up buildings but we are also losing those stories from those sites,” Karulis said.

More than 212 routes

The city of Toronto’s history spans 5,000 years, when Indigenous Peoples began settling in the area, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia. European settlers established trading posts in the 1700s.

The name “Toronto” comes from the Mohawk word tkaronto, the Canadian Encyclopedia said. It means “Where there are trees standing in the water.”

Toronto History Walks have more than 212 guided routes within the city. They have routes in all neighbourhoods to provide those who want to know more about the city’s evolution. 

The organization recently held its 1,000th tour milestone on Nov. 20 and will continue hosting more tours.

The history doesn’t cover any recent changes within Toronto, Karulis said. The most recent news you will hear from the tours will be info about Former Mississauga mayor Hurricane Hazel McCallion from 1954.

McCallion passed away at age 101 on Jan. 29.

Karulis and Toronto History Walks will continue to host tours every day, sometimes twice a day. The organization has tours scheduled up to Apr. 16, with several more to come after.

To attend the ‘Winter of the Historic Beaches’ event or find one of your interest, Toronto History Walks lists them on their Meetup account:

About this article

Posted: Feb 19 2023 9:20 am
Filed under: Affordable East York Business Education Features Things to do Unique Business