May 17th, 2022

Q2. The Boston Hotel at Kingston Road was named after whom?
5. The first public tramway system in the east end went along what road?

The Lost Villages of Norway & Ben Lamond

Q ueen Street seems to attract most of the action in the Beaches, but if you want to get a real feeling for the area,
take a walk along Kingston Road, a few blocks to the north. It was built along the top of East Toronto bar, which extends from the Scarborough Bluffs for almost 6.4 kilometres and rises more than 56 metres above the lake.
Set on a hill at the northwest corner of Kingston Road and Woodbine is one of Beaches’ most notable and enduring landmarks, the church of St. John the Baptist, Norway. The church and the cemetery at Kingston Road have served the surrounding community since its early days as a tiny settlement known as Norway.

See article St. John’s Norway one of east end's gems...

Walking east towards Victoria Park Avenue you’ll find unique shops and galleries, as well as neighbourhood pubs and coffee shops and a variety of businesses catering mostly to local residents. This is a well-established residential neighbourhood, but it is one that is changing and growing with the recent addition of condos and townhomes.

First Part Of The Beaches To Be Settled

This stretch of Kingston Road was actually the first part of the Beaches to be settled. In the early 1800s Kingston Road was just a narrow trail hacked out of the forest, connecting the settlement of York (now Toronto) with Kingston. The road was built so that troops could be brought in if necessary to defend York from the Americans, and also so that farmers could take their produce to market.

A weekly stage coach line began winter service in 1817, taking from two to four days to travel between York and ingston. In the early 1830s, coaches carrying passengers and mail began making the trip every day. At harvest time long lines of wagons filled with bags of grain slowly made their way to market along the Kingston Road.

In winter, there was an almost continuous stream of traffic, with coaches carrying passengers and the mails, and sleighs taking produce and lumber into the rising young city. As travel increased, inns and taverns sprang up and villages were established along the Kingston Road. One of these villages was the tiny settlement of Norway, which grew up around a toll gate near the intersection of Kingston Road and what is now Woodbine Avenue.

NORWAY Provided Hospitality To Travellers

Weary travellers could find rest and refreshment for themselves and their horses at the Norway House, run by Thomas Smith and later by his son James, on the southeast corner of Kingston Road near Woodbine. There was also James Shaw’s hotel and tavern, described as a long low building painted dazzling white with green shutters, further east on the Kingston Road.

In 1851, a young ex-soldier by the name of Joseph Williams, and his wife and infant son, stopped off in Norway before heading south through the bush in search of suitable land. Williams bought 20 acres fronting the lake, part of which later became Kew Gardens park near Queen Street and Lee Avenue in the heart of the Beaches. The quaint stone cottage built by Joseph’s son Kew in 1902 is one of the most recognizable and beloved landmarks in the Beaches.

By 1850, Norway’s population had increased to almost 100. A 1851 map of the Township of York shows clusters of buildings, including three taverns, a school and a sawmill.

For more about the Sawmill - see article...

The Gazetteer of British North America listed Norway in 1837 as “a post-village in York County, 4 miles from Toronto. It contains one store, one hotel and a brewery. Pop. 80.” Sometime after this, the village acquired those trades essential to every pioneer settlement -- a harnessmaker, blacksmith and wagonmaker.

As Kingston Road ran up the hill to the north east it came to a level at Mount Sullivan, named after Daniel O’Sullivan. Gentleman Dan, as he was known, was described as a genial story teller and an entertaining kindly hearted man who owned considerable property in the area and ran a popular inn and tavern called O’Sullivans, on Kingston Road near Lee Avenue.

From O’Sullivans, travelers could get a good view of the city in the distance, which must have been a welcome sight after several days on the road.

Norway prospered through the mid century. It was listed in the 1857/58 Canada Directory as a small village with a daily mail service and a population of about 100. A new post office at 320 Kingston Road was opened in 1866.

Development Slower To The South

A map of the area in 1868 shows most settlement was along Kingston Road with concentrations at Small’s Corner (now Kingston Road and Queen) and at Norway. Closer to the lake, development proceeded more slowly. East of Woodbine was thickly wooded, with only a few buildings. Some commercial fishermen were living in cottages on Woodbine Beach.

The area remained isolated until the 1870s, when it began to take shape as a summer resort for city folk. In 1880, Queen Street was opened west from Woodbine Race Track to the Scarborough township boundary at Nursewood Road. A streetcar line followed and by the end of the 1890s, the Beaches was developing into a year-round settlement with a public school and other amenities.

How Did NORWAY Get Its Name?

No-one knows for sure how Norway got its name. Certainly not from the settlers, who were largely of British and American origin. Most likely, the community was named after the stands of Norway pine (also known as red pine) which soared to a height of 40 metres (120 feet) in the sandy soil and were a specialty of the Norway Steam Sawmill.

The Village of BEN LAMOND

East of Norway, a small community known as Ben Lamond grew up at the corner of Kingston Road and Benlamond Avenue (now Main Street). The village took its name from two prominent landowners, James Lamond-Smith and Benjamin Morton. A 1880 map shows the two families living beside each other on Benlamond Avenue, with a private park to the south. Benjamin Morton was still living there in 1884.
Morton took a keen interest in property development and in local politics. He and Adam Wilson and several other landowners entered into a partnership to
subdivide Wilson’s large holdings and create the residential area of Balmy Beach. He also worked hard to bring about the incorporation of the Village of
East Toronto in 1888. Lyall Avenue was named after his son, Edward Lyall Morton.
James Lamond-Smith may have lived for several years at 57 Benlamond Avenue, a grand three-storey home overlooking the ravine and with a spectacular view of the lake. This building and the gardener’s cottage at 35 Benlamond Avenue are still there – two of the oldest surviving residences in the east end. The mansion was built between 1873 and 1876 for William Stewart Darling, rector of Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity. Most likely it was designed by his son, the illustrious architect Frank Darling. lements of the Italianate and Second Empire styles,
In 1910 the original verandahs were enclosed to form extra rooms and the house became a five-unit dwelling with entrances off Benlamond Avenue and Benlamond Drive (now only off Benlamond Drive). Darling also built the Glen Stewart mansion nearby, around 1872. Yet according to a contemporary
account, in the summer of 1878 he and his family were staying in a small wooden two-storey “villa” south of Kingston Road in the village of Norway.
In addition to property development, an important enterprise in the area was the Toronto Gravel and Concrete Company, which worked gravel pits nearby. Frank Boston, who had come from Yorkshire, England, and settled in Ben Lamond in 1871, became a manager with the company. In 1875, he supervised the construction of a tramway which was to become the first public transit system in the area.
Rails were laid down and horse-drawn trams carried passengers from the Benlamond Hotel (at Main Street) along the south side of Kingston Road as far as the Don River. In 1878 service was extended east to Victoria Park Avenue. By 1893 the Kingston Road service was electrified and passengers could take streetcars into the city as far as Dufferin Street.
In 1877, Frank Boston built a store and boarding house at the corner of Kingston Road and Benlamond. At that time, the village had only a few dozen permanent residents and a scattering of farms. When his hotel burned in 1881, Boston started a bakery, which did a good business for many years.

Urban Growth Spells The End For Villages

Urban growth spelled the end for little communities dotted along the Kingston Road. Norway, Ben Lamond, Leslieville and a dozen other hamlets were
amalgamated into the Village of East Toronto in 1888. Frank Boston became one of the first councillors. In 1909 the Village of East Toronto was annexed by Toronto.
Norway continued on as a suburb into the 1920s and then it simply became part of the city. None of the hotels and early homes
remain. The first Norway post office and postmaster’s cottage built in 1825 were demolished in 1982. They are commemorated with a plaque on the wall of an apartment building at 320 Kingston Road.

By Christine Staddon

The Lost Village of Norway by Paul J. McGrath, from the September 2005 issue of Toronto Tree, published by the Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society
Toronto’s Lost Villages, Ron Brown, 1997
The Beach in Pictures 1793-1932, Mary Campbell and Barbara Myrvold, 1988
The Boardwalk Album, Barbaranne Boyer, 1985
Robertson’s Landmarks of Toronto, published in 1897

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