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October 17th, 2017
A Growing Neighbourhood Born From A Cottage

A Growing Neighbourhood Born From A Cottage

The first neighbourhood in Scarborough, across Victoria Park Avenue and the township line, was Birch Cliff. This neighbourhood began to be developed in 1895, after the Toronto Hunt Club relocated here.

In the late 1890s and early 1900s Toronto residents built summer cottages on properties adjacent to the Toronto Hunt Club. These cottagers were attracted to the area by the magnificent Scarborough Bluffs, and by the convenient access provided by the Kingston Road Radial.

One cottager, John Stark, named his cottage "Birch Cliff" after the birch trees that lined the crest of the Bluffs. Mr. Starkwas a wealthy financier - a director of the company that built the Radial line. He headed an investment brokerage bearing his name on Toronto Street.

There has been speculation that Birch Cliff cottage is still standing on Springbank Avenue, but that it has been altered so extensively as to become unrecognizable. The name was adopted by the local post office, which opened in 1907 in Arthur Mitchell's grocery store, at the corner of Kingston Road and Birchmount Avenue.

From Resort to Suburb

In the 1910s and 1920s Birch Cliff emerged as a year-round residential suburb. Birch Cliff Public School opened in 1916 to serve the families of British commuters in the growing bedroom community. The population burgeoned, and enrollment in the public school rose from 53 in its first year to 590 in 1928. That year the TTC took over commuter service along Kingston Road as far as Birchmount, and laid new two way tracks. This was needed to replace the single-track of the old Kingston Radial line, which was no longer sufficient for the traffic.

Between 1922 and 1947, Scarborough Municipal Council moved its meeting place from Woburn, near the centre of the township, to Birch Cliff, the new and growing population centre. Birch Cliff's residential development slowed shortly after World War II, as the streets were full of neat new houses. Since then the neighbourhood has remained stable, although new developments have continued to infill along the Kingston Road axis.

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