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Hanlon’s point – A former Toronto resort community and its connection to a champion sculler

April 2023

Hanlon’s Point, on the western end of Toronto Island, has been a popular spot for outdoor summer fun for over a century. While it’s now a small part of the over-all recreational, entertainment and leisure opportunities available on Toronto Island, Hanlon’s Point was once the site of a popular amusement park from the late 1880s to the late 1920s, Hanlon’s Point Stadium from 1897 to 1937 and the Hanlon’s Hotel, built in 1880 by John Hanlon, the father of Canadian professional sculler and future Toronto Alderman Edward “Ned” Hanlon.

The Hanlan family originally lived in a house at the east end of Toronto Island, but a severe storm in 1865, when Ned was 10-years-old, washed their house into the harbour. As there were no schools on Toronto Island, Ned would row several kilometres across the harbour so he could attend George Street public school. By the time he was 18-years-old, Hanlon became amateur champion of Toronto Bay.

For over 25 years, Hanlon was a champion sculler and formidable opponent, becoming one of North America’s best scullers.

After retiring from athletic competition, Hanlon ran the Hanon Hotel, was hired as the first head coach of the University of Toronto Rowing Club, served as a Toronto Alderman (1898-1900) and then as a rowing coach for Columbia University in New York City.

After his death of pneumonia on 4 January 1908, at the far-too-young age of 52, tens of thousands of Torontonians paid their respects as his body lay in state at St Andrew’s Church and along the mile-long funeral cortège. He was buried in Toronto Necropolis Cemetery. 

A statue of Ned Hanlon, a 30-foot-high bronze statue, atop a granite base, was erected in 1926 at Exhibition Place. It was moved to Hanlon’s Point, near the ferry terminal, around 2004.

Hanlon’s Point is a lot quieter that it used to be, with the loss of the amusement park, hotel and the stadium, where baseball legend George “Babe” Ruth hit his first home run as a professional, but it remains a very popular destination for Torontonians, on foot, on bicycles, and for its beach. Hanlan’s Point has been a popular meeting location for Toronto’s gay community, since the 1950s, and was the site of Toronto’s first Gay Pride celebration in 1971.

Since 1999, it has been the site of Toronto’s clothing-optional beach.

Sources: Ned Hanlan – Wikipedia, Hanlan’s Point Beach – Wikipedia, Biography – HANLAN, EDWARD – Volume XIII (1901-1910) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography (biographi.ca), Ned Hanlan (tugboat) – Wikipedia.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/hanlons-point-a-former-toronto-resort-community-and-its-connection-to-a-champion-sculler/

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