History of Swimming Toronto

A visual history of swimming in Toronto

As the temperature creeps above the 30 degree mark, I often imagine what a nightmare it must have been to endure a heatwave in Toronto before the advent of air conditioning. Unlike today, when most of us who lack AC at home at least have it at work (or can impose upon more successful friends for a temporary cool down), the opportunities for reprieve back in the day were few and far between. Short of standing directly in front of fan or heading down into a dark basement, the only way to escape the heat was to hit a pool or the lake.

Perhaps it's not surprising then that the Toronto Archives is chock full of images of people bathing, as was the more common parlance a century ago. Whether it be on the Toronto Islands or at Sunnyside — two of the city's prime destinations for water-based activity — there are scores of images that demonstrate just how important public swimming was prior to around the 1970s or so, when more and more suburban homes were outfitted with private pools and air conditioning started to become more common in general.

Although I certainly wouldn't want to turn off the AC right now, there's something rather romantic and exhilarating about the prospect of getting so frustratingly hot that one must simply surround himself with water just to remain sane. In honour of that past reality, here's a little history of swimming in Toronto. May it remind you at once of the joys of air conditioning and what we lost when it became ubiquitous.

PHOTOS

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YWCA, 1907

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Swimming at Hanlan's Point, 1907

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YWCA swimming class, 1908

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Kew Beach, 1908

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Scarborough Beach water chute, 1908

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John Innes Pool and Recreation Centre, 1908

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High Park Mineral Baths, 1911

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High Park Mineral Baths, alternate angle

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Private swimming pool, 1911

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Sunnyside, 1912

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Swimming in the Don, 1912

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Life saving drill, 1914

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Toronto Island Swim Race, 1914

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YMCA Swimming Championships, 1915

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Waterslide, 1920

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Sunnyside, 1924

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TTC Bathing Cars at Sunnyside, 1924

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Toronto Ladies Swim Club, 1925

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Sunnyside, 1926

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Sunnyside, 1926

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Humberside Collegiate pool, 1930s

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CNE Marathon Swim, 1930

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CNE Marathon Swim, 1930

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Sunnyside, 1940s

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Swimming in Brampton, 1930

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Aqua Parade at Maple Leaf Gardens, 1940s

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Aqua Parade, 1948

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CNE Diver, 1950s

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Marilyn Bell, practice swim in 1956

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The suburban dream, 1960s

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Northview Heights swimming pool, 1960s

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Sunnyside / Gus Ryder, 1960s

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Dovercourt Boys Club, 1960s

Photos from the Toronto Archives


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