Tuesday, April 14, 2009

West Hill's "Main Street"

By a strange quirk of nomenclature, West Hill stands as the eastern most gateway to the City of Toronto. Most visitors entering the city via the Kingston Road exit from the 401 have their sights set on the massive towers of the downtown core.

Lets take a moment to see what they may be passing by in their haste.

Today, as always, West Hill has much to offer---

From the West, reaching out toward the very centre of the community is the "Main Street" of West Hill, the Kingston Road. The view here is from the railroad bridge at the Guildwood train station, looking toward where Kingston Road forms a triangular intersection with Lawrence and Morningside to form the Commercial Centre of the community. The City of Kingston was, for a time, the capital of Canada and West Hill was one small community along the long route there from the City of Toronto. The commercial backbone of the community, Kingston Road changes its personality several times as it moves through the heart of West Hill.

Where the major thoroughfares of Kingston Road, Lawrence and Morningside Avenues intersect, the commercial centre of West Hill has grown. Here banks and stores, supermarkets and hardwares, florists and department stores have all found a home. The West Hill Shopping Centre is situated on the north east corner of Lawrence and Kingston Road.

The heart of the triangle is inhabited by a major supermarket and its adjacent plaza. Now a No Frills, the supermarket was for most of its life, a Loblaws. It was here that I and many of my friends got our first jobs and worked our way through high school on Thursday & Friday nights and all day Saturday. The plaza is also home to a drugstore, Brewers retail, Chick'n' Joy, McDonalds and a Pizza Pizza among others

The new Morningside Crossing was completed on the site of the former Morningside Mall. The Mornigside Crossing proper was opened in the summer of 2008, anchored by Shoppers Drug Mart and a Food Basics Supermarket.

Then commerce gives way to trees and lawns, churches, restaurants and motels. This is near the traditional centre of the community where the first homes in the area were constructed and where the West Hill Hotel provided the only social life for miles around. The hotel was torn down many years ago and, after remaining a vacant lot for decades, was replaced by a modern housing development in 2001. West Hill is the first glimpse of the City of Toronto for travelers from the east. Its motels provide an opportunity to rest up from the drive, while its restaurants offer a wide selection from elegant dining to fast foods.

The Kingston Road bridge across Highland Creek is the most distinctive feature of the eastern most entrance to the City of Toronto from the 401 highway. And here our Main Street reaches its Easternmost end and we leave West Hill behind us, with a sad farewell.

But maybe you'd like to stay and party with us a bit longer? Here is a little video I shot of the opening ceremonies at Morningside Crossing last summer.

1 comment:

i write for you online said...

Some local history about the triangle and the West Hill area:

1. Bob Warner, better known as Captain Highliner in commercials that aired during the eighties, used to attend my former church at Lawrence and West Hill Dr. He has since passed on (approx. 15 years ago).

2. The Swiss Chalet managers' training center at one time was at the Swiss Chalet located at Kingston and Lawrence. Yes, that's right, some of the cooks and servers there were managers learning the different stations before they were assigned a management position at another restaurant.

3. When Scarborough got low in spots for public housing, refugees were housed in the motels along Kingston Rd.

4. I knew an elderly gentleman who died in a hit and run in the triangle area. I'm still not sure if it was at Morningside/Lawrence or just south of it (at the crosswalk), but I always considered the pedestrian crossing improvements at M/L were a direct result of his death.

5. In high school cross-country running meets the hill in Morningside Park was known as "Mount Olympus"--and yes we had to run up it.

Aaron C.