The Village of Long Branch is a neighbourhood and former municipality in the south-west of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is located in the south-western corner of the former Township (and later, City) of Etobicoke on the shore of Lake Ontario. The Village of Long Branch was a partially independent municipality from 1930 to 1967. Long Branch is located within a land grant from the government to Colonel Samuel Smith in the late 18th Century. After Smith's death, a small portion of it was developed as a summer resort in the late 1800s.
Before Long Branch became a village, it was the home to Loyalist Col. Sam Smith, who was one of the earliest settlers in Etobicoke. His cabin was located near Etobicoke Creek and survived into the 1950s. Col. Smith was granted a large tract of land for his service in the Queen's Rifles in 1797, which eventually extended from what is now Kipling Avenue to the original course of the Etobicoke River (now Creek), and south of Bloor Street to Lake Ontario after Col. Smith acquired additional parcels of land. The southern portion of this tract would include all of Long Branch and the westernmost portion of New Toronto, south of the railway line.
In 1887, the 'Long Branch Hotel' was built, set back from the waterfront near Beach Road (now Lake Promenade) and Long Branch Avenue. It survived until 1958, when it was destroyed by fire. In 1891, the Long Branch post office was opened to serve the Long Branch Park summer resort. Beginning in 1910, other lots south of Lake Shore Road around Long Branch Park began to be subdivided. In the 1920s, the land surrounding the mouth of Etobicoke Creek, known as the "Etobicoke Flats", was sub-divided for cottages and housing.
In 1895, the Toronto & Mimico Electric Railway and Light Company radial railway's single-track service was completed along Lake Shore Road from New Toronto through Long Branch to the current location of Long Branch Loop. In 1927, this line was amalgamated by the Toronto Transportation Commission (TTC) and double-tracked in 1928.
In 1915, the Long Branch Aerodrome was established to the west of the village in Toronto Township, today's Mississauga. The aerodrome was Canada's first and was operated by the Curtiss Flying School until 1917.
The Village of Long Branch was incorporated in 1930, after the other lake shore municipalities of Mimico (1917) and New Toronto (1920) were incorporated as towns. After the incorporation, some of its streets were given new names. In 1931, north–south street names were standardized by continuing the ordinal numbers of New Toronto's streets, picking-up at Twenty-Third Street in the east through to Forty-Third Street in the west. For example; Lansdowne Avenue became Thirty-Third Street and Lake View Avenue became Thirty-Fifth Street. Long Branch Avenue has remained the same (it could have been Thirty-Fourth St.). Thirty-Seventh St. was formerly called Robert Street, after Robert Eastwood. Today, a drugstore is located at the corner of Thirty-Seventh St. and Lake Shore Blvd. West on the site of the former Eastwood Park Hotel, which Robert Eastwood opened in 1910. Today, other local streets such as James Street still bear names of members of the Eastwood family. Twenty-third Street was called Government Road even after the 1931 incorporation.
Hurricane Hazel was particularly destructive in Toronto, as a result of a combination of a lack of experience in dealing with tropical storms and the storm's unexpected retention of power. Hazel had travelled 1,100 km (680 mi) over land, but while approaching Canada, it had merged with an existing powerful cold front. The storm stalled over the Greater Toronto Area, and although it was now extratropical, it remained as powerful as a category 1 hurricane. To help with the cleanup, 800 members of the military were summoned, and a Hurricane Relief Fund was established that distributed $5.1 million (2009: $41.7 million) in aid.
In October 1954, more than forty homes in Long Branch were lost at the mouth of the Etobicoke Creek by Hurricane Hazel, which caused the largest flood experienced to date. Long Branch's dead from the hurricane were: Mr and Mrs Ed Crymble and their daughter Clifford; Patricia and Robert Thorpe; and Mrs. Thorpe's mother, Mrs. Robert Johnston. The Thorpe's baby daughter Nancy survived. The baby had been handed to 17-year-old Sylvia Jones while the area was being abandoned. Jones climbed onto a nearby roof and the two were later saved by fire fighters. The Thorpe's house was one of the ones washed away into Lake Ontario. Nancy Thorpe was later adopted by her aunt and uncle. The O'Farrell family escaped when their house floated down the river, by climbing onto trees that their house crashed into. Thirty-five persons survived on the roof of one house that was held back from Lake Ontario by two trees the house had crashed into. According to Long Branch Reeve Marie Curtis, "if it hadn't been for the trees, which held the houses back, half of them would have been swept out into the lake." 147 cottages at the mouth were declared unfit for habitation after the flooding when sanitation facilities broke down.
To prevent any future floods from having similar disastrous results, cottages and houses from the floodplain, the sand bar and around the mouth of the river were removed and the area was turned into parkland. In 1959, the park was named for village Reeve Marie Curtis in recognition for her longstanding municipal service and her efforts to have the park built. A trailer park north of Lakeshore Road, Pleasant Valley Trailer Park, was also destroyed when flooding caused a dike to break. The trailer park is now the site of Maurice J. Breen Park.
Forty-Third Street, along the eastern bank of Etobicoke Creek, was closed up and only a stub north of Lake Shore Boulevard exists. West of Etobicoke Creek and south of Lakeshore Road is Island Road, which today is an access road for parking and a boat launch for Marie Curtis Park. It was built in the early 20th century to serve the sub-division built on the banks of the Etobicoke Creek and an island within the channel of the creek. As part of the park development, the island of Island Road became part of the west bank of Etobicoke Creek, as the western channel was filled in. At the same time, a sand bar at the mouth was connected to shore by fill. The sand bar is Marie Curtis Beach today. Etobicoke Creek originally turned at a right-angle to the west at the shore, but now is channelled straight out to the lake. A new section of Island Road was built to connect to Lakeshore Road to the north, as its prior connection to Forty-Third Street on the eastern bank was closed.
After World War II, an influx of immigrants from Europe came to Toronto. One of the largest Orthodox churches in Canada, St. Demetrius Ukrainian Orthodox Church (not to be confused with St Demetrius Byzantine Rite Catholic church, also in Etobicoke), was built on Lake Shore Road (now Blvd. West) opposite 27th Street in 1958.
In 1967, the Village of Long Branch along with the Towns of New Toronto and Mimico were amalgamated with the Township of Etobicoke to form the Borough of Etobicoke. That year, the new GO Transit commuter train service was established and the Long Branch GO Station was built next to Long Branch Loop, connecting Long Branch west to Oakville and east to downtown Toronto.
In the late 1980s, some industry started to relocate out of Long Branch. Lake Shore Boulevard West today is a major thoroughfare and business strip in transition, with plans, some controversial, to change its character from a low-density industrial-commercial corridor to higher-density residential uses including some limited commercial space.
The primary source for basic documents (vital statistics, land records, wills) for people who lived in the Province of Ontario is the Archives of Ontario, 134 Ian Macdonald Blvd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M7A 2C5.
Civil registration did not begin in the province until 1869. Before then there may be church records of baptisms and burials. For the most part these are still held by the denomination who recorded them. Copies of marriage records made pre-1869 had to be sent by individual clergymen to the registrar of the county in which the marriage took place. These marriage records are available through Ontario Archives, on micorfilm through LDS libraries, and on paid and unpaid websites, but because they were copied at the registrars' offices, they cannot be considered a primary source.
Vital Records after 1869
Birth, marriage and death registrations are not open to the public until a specific number of years after the event occurred. Births to 1915 are now available [October 2014]; dates for marriages and deaths are later. Birth and death registration was not universally carried out in the early years after its adoption. Deaths were more apt to be reported than births for several years. The more rural the area, the less likely it would be that these happenings were reported to the authorities.
Land Records and Wills
Information on how to access land records and wills is best sought on the Archives of Ontario website. An ancestor's land holding might be found on Canadian County Atlas Digital Project if he was in occupancy circa 1878.
Association for the Preservation of Ontario Land Registry Office Documents (APOLROD). A list of Land Registry Offices for all Counties of Ontario.
The original censuses are in the hands of Library and Archives Canada, known to Canadians as "LAC". Copies of original microfilms are online at the LAC website for all censuses up to 1911. Each census database is preceded with an explanation of the geographical area covered, the amount of material retained (some census division material has been lost), the questions on the census form, and whether there is a name index. Census divisions were redrawn as the population increased and more land was inhabited. The 1921 census is only available through Ancestry.ca, but it is free-to-view.
E-books and Books
Websites with more local information on the City of Toronto