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The Summerhill neighbourhood was named after “Summer Hill” – the country estate of Charles Thompson. In 1842, Thompson commissioned John George Howard, Architect, to build him a country house on 200 acres of land between Yonge Street and Mt. Pleasant Road. The house itself was situated on the street now named Summerhill Gardens. In 1864, Thompson’s heirs subdivided the land and began to develop the neighbourhood. The housing on Shaftesbury Avenue, Ottawa Street, Summerhill Avenue and Summerhill Gardens are part of that legacy.
By the 1880s, life in the neighbourhood was focused around the Canadian Pacific Railway. Residents worked at the North Toronto railway station on Yonge St. just below Shaftesbury Avenue. In 1916, the station was rebuilt with its distinctive 140’ tall clock tower. The station closed in 1930 and was later re-opened as a liquor store.
The Summerhill neighbourhood is nestled between Yonge Street, the CPR tracks and the David Balfour Park and Ravine. There is no through traffic. Off street parking is a luxury that enhances the value of residential property. Mature trees shade the streets that comprise this exclusive enclave of housing and the Summerhill subway station anchors its southwest corner at Yonge Street and Shaftesbury Avenue.
160 years ago, this area was the playground of one family. Today, many families live here. There are detached houses that echo the grandeur of the original “Summer Hill” as well as semi-detached and Victorian row-housing. During the last 30 years, developers have managed to further democratize the neighbourhood by building condominium projects. These developments have enabled many more people to share the wealth of life in Summerhill. Some may challenge my use of the word "democratic". In 2013, prices for housing in Summerhill ranged between over $1,000,000 to nearly $2,000,000. The prices of nearby condominium apartments ranged from above $300,000 to under $4 million.
Summerhill is bordered on the east side by the Rosehill Reservoir and David A Balfour Park. Rosehill Reservoir Park features a children’s playground and a gated garden. David A. Balfour Park’s hiking and jogging trails connect with the Belt Line nature trail. Ramsden Park, located at Yonge Street and Gibson Avenue, offers a children’s playground, a wading pool, tennis courts and an outdoor ice rink. For tennis players in search of the perfect private club, there is The Cottingham Tennis Club, The Toronto Lawn Tennis Club and The Badminton and Raquet Club.
Yonge Street is the western boundary of both the Rosedale and Summerhill neighbourhoods and is populated with stores on both sides of the street. South of the railway bridge are the shops of Rosedale, the North Toronto Railway Station liquor store and the notorious “5 thieves” specialty grocery stores. Further up Yonge Street, the St. Clair Centre includes a supermarket, a pharmacy and a gym. There are many restaurants to be found on both Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue. A number of them feature alfresco dining in the summer months. Sidewalk cafes and patios encourage residents to walk their neighbourhoods and Summerhill is no exception. Lastly, the Deer Park Public Library, located at 40 St Clair Avenue East, has quietly welcomed patrons since 1952.
160 years after Charles Thompson picked this land to be his home, Summerhill continues to inspire us with its unique blend of location and aesthetics.