A Century-long Rally Continues History of Tennis in the BeachesBy Beth Parker
Walking along the boardwalk at Kew Beach you can’t miss seeing the tennis courts. From as early as when the snow first melts, to the hottest of summer days, to late in December it seems like there are always some people on the courts. It is the home of Kew Gardens Tennis club. The venerable courts have been in operation for over 60 years, much longer if you take into account how many years the tennis courts have existed in Kew Gardens Park. It’s all part of the Beaches community and over a hundred years of enjoying outdoor activities like pick-up hockey, rugby, swimming, kayaking, sailing on the lake, etc.
The story of the Kew Gardens Tennis Club starts with the history of Kew Beach. Shortly after Confederation in 1867, Kew Beach became a popular place to visit because “city folk” from Toronto could reach its sunny beach by tram and ferry boat. Like Balmy Beach, Kew Beach turned into a little village, with churches, schools, a post office, its own fire fighting service and several public and private buildings.
Around the same time, a local landowner, Joseph Williams, opened up “The Canadian Kew Gardens”, named after his son, Kew Williams. At his lovely 20-acre property between Queen Street and the lake, visitors could come for a day or even stay for a vacation. There were tents to rent for the weekend and small cottages available for summer boarders. Kew Gardens also became a favourite spot for picnics.
In 1907, the city of Toronto bought Kew Gardens from Williams, and combined with other properties along Queen Street, created the park we know today. It continued to offer many pleasures for visitors and Beach residents, with several new added attractions. A bathing/skating pavilion was built in 1913, and two tennis courts were established bordering on Queen Street, just west of the current location of the Beaches Library. (see photo from 1914). This photo was taken before the Beaches Library at Queen and Lee was built in 1916.
Tennis continued to be so popular in the park that sometime after the 1920’s the tennis courts were moved down halfway between Queen Street and the Boardwalk, now with five grass courts. The boom did not stop here - when the city built the lake front parks they established the 10 tennis courts where they are now.
Grass Courts become Grass Roots
During this time, the courts became part of a much more organized tennis club. Members of the tennis club soon wanted a proper clubhouse. In 1959, Bruce Child, long time president of the club along with club instructors Murray and Wed Davis, were the driving forces behind getting the funds together for the project.
Child, who at the time was also a charted accountant by trade, created and helped sell $50 (about $500 today) bonds with interest of 2% to members in order to raise money. An architect, Ray Hall, designed the current clubhouse, which was opened in 1959. The members who bought multiple bonds received all their money back shortly after completion.
Each July for the past 30 years, the club has hosted the Ontario Junior Closed Provincial Tennis Championships, one of Ontario’s premier junior tennis events of the summer season. The tournament is also used for the selection of Team Ontario to represent the province at the national championships.
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