What Sunnyside looked like before the Gardiner arrived
Although still a well-known beach, the Sunnyside of today only hints at the area's former glory. As one makes his way from the Humber Bay Arch Bridge heading east across the Boardwalk or the Martin Goodman trail, it's difficult to imagine that he's approaching what was once the city's most popular amusement area, a place that could look almost Coney Island-like on its busiest of days.
Opened in 1922 (the name predates the amusent park), some landmarks from Sunnyside's early days remain — the Bathing Pavilion chief among them — but with the arrival of the Gardiner Expressway in the 1950s, the so-called "poor man's Riviera" was confined to memory.
Sunnyside's demise can't, however, be attributed solely to the war-path of urban development that accompanied the foundation of Metro Toronto in 1954. To a great degree the area's faded lakeside glamour can be attributed to the rise of car-culture and the burgeoning tradition of heading north to cottage country. The park's heyday came at a time before personal car ownership was widespread, and city-bound Torontonians were desperate for accessible summer entertainment.
There's plenty of good reading about this bit of Toronto's lost history out there. Along with a host of web articles, Mike Filey's I Remember Sunnyside probably provides the most in-depth account of what an exciting place this really was (just picture Duke Ellington playing the Palais Royale on a steamy summer night). From a photographic standpoint, we're less spoiled. Although the Toronto Archives has a decent supply of scanned images of the area dating back to its days as lazy swimming area dotted with hydro poles, there are precious few that capture the notorious nighttime scene and the park's attractions.
Even without them, one gets the sense that this would be an extraordinary place to visit should one manage to get his or her hands on a time machine.
Sunnyside bathers, 1907
Meyhers Hotel, 1911
Hydro poles, 1914
Sunnyside layout, 1914
Sunnyside Station, GTR
West Sunnyside, 1920
Sunnyside Pavillion, 1922
King, Queen and Roncesvalles leading to Sunnyside Bridge
Sunnyside Bridge, 1923
Bathing cars, 1924
Bathing station, 1924
Sunnyside traffic, 1924
The Boardwalk, 1925
Lighting up the night, 1920s
Miss Toronto, 1926
Swimming tank, 1929
Julia B. Merrill and swimmers, 1931
Sunnyside pool, 1940s
Aerial view, 1949
The Gardiner runs through it, 1960s