Sunnylea is one of Toronto’s magical neighbourhoods. It’s protected from the noise and congestion common to the city where residential streets tend to be crowded with tiny homes on tiny lots. Instead, this gem of an area boasts quiet streets, an ancient shady tree canopy and generous lots. The picture-perfect homes meet the serenity of nature thanks to Mimico Creek which wends its way through the neighbourhood. Streets sans sidewalks keep things at a slower pace, yet you’re close to one of the best kept shopping and dining secrets -- Kingsway Village. This vibrant, yet oh so posh strip of Bloor Street West offers a clear upscale vibe sure to meet the needs of the most discerning residents. This ideal mash up of country and city life finds you just 15 minutes from the downtown core, providing everything you want in a neighbourhood, and nothing you don’t.
Sunnylea sits between Bloor Street to the north, Berry Road to the south, the Humber River to the east and Mimico Creek to the west. The area was reserved by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1796 as the King’s Mill Reserve. The trees were needed for the British Government seeking an ongoing timber supply for ships and government structures. Lumber was produced at the King’s Sawmill which supplied timber to the shipyard on the Humber River.
The area was also part of the land leased by the government until the 1830s when they began to sell off the land to farmers. This included tracts of the Reserve. At the turn of the 19th century, a large portion was owned by market gardeners who each had about five to 25 acres. Here, they grew vegetables and fruit orchards
In 1907, the area of Etobicoke was still rural, consisting of market gardens on what is now Prince Edward Drive South. A school was built on the east side of Prince Edward, at Sunnylea Avenue West in 1915 consisting of just two classrooms. The school remained in its original state until 1939.
As the area continued to attract more families, a second school was built in 1943. The new design based on the award-winning Crow Island School in Winnetka, Illinois became the prototype for over 200 schools in Ontario. A major feature of the school was the use of large windows positioned to provide natural light to classrooms.
In 1803, one of the first settlers in the area, Alexander Thompson, received 200 acres of land as thanks for service during the American Revolution. The property was situated between Bloor Street south to Leland Avenue, and Islington Avenue and Royal York Road. Here Thompson built his farm, Rose Bank. He sold 100 acres in the south area of his property in 1805 which was repurchased by his grandson in 1855. He named his farm Spring Bank and built a two-storey home in 1861. The house is still located at 7 Meadowcrest Road featuring the original oak front door, soaring 10-feet ceilings and sturdy cherry banister. The Thompson orchards owned by the family was the name inspiration for Orchard Crescent.
As large farms were subdivided, they made way for smaller market gardens providing homes and an honest living for many farmers and their families. Many of these farmers built homes in the area as well as places of worship. The property owned by James Johnson was subdivided in 1948 creating Glenellen Drive and Kirk Bradden Road.
The original cemetery still stands at Bloor and Prince Edward which was first opened on 50 acres of land in 1892. Today it features 73 acres and maintains a parklike feel as one of Toronto’s largest cemeteries. Although the cemetery was threatened to be destroyed and the graves moved in 1912, the Humbervale Cemetery Defence Association was formed to sue the new owner. They won and a few years later the cemetery was purchased and renamed Park Lawn Cemetery.
As the mid-20th century rolled in, market gardening was slowly rolled out and new generations of some of the original farmers began to subdivide their properties. This provided land for residential neighbourhoods which still maintain the charm of the old garden farms on shady streets featuring lovely single-family homes and tons of beautiful green parkland.
You can’t find a more convenient Toronto neighbourhood with a small-town vibe just minutes from the city. Bus lines run along Prince Edward Drive, Royal York Road and Islington Avenue taking you to subway stations on the Bloor-Danforth line. By car, it’s about 15 minutes to downtown along either Lake Shore Boulevard or the Gardiner Expressway. The Gardiner/QEW will also take you out of the city when traveling west.
Beautiful homes aside, Sunnylea is also close to the Kingsway Village shopping district on very upscale Bloor Street West. You can stroll along Bloor where you’ll find a very luxe selection of shops and restaurants, fresh produce, bakers, and coffee shops. The Village maintains its high-end vibe with fancy schamncy cast iron streetlights, evergreen trees, and perfectly placed park benches.
The area is known for its outstanding schools and the recreational services they offer the community including the pool at the Norseman Community School, and tennis courts/ice rink at Park Lawn. The beautiful Humber River and Mimico Creek bring you close to nature but there are also idyllic parks where you’ll find playgrounds, trails, and lovely, tranquil trees. The local library is another family attraction with ongoing programs all year round.
This is a family friendly neighbourhood where you’ll live alongside many young professionals. The average income is slightly higher than the average for Toronto. There’s a strong European influence here, with many people of Eastern European, Spanish, and Italian descent. However, as with most Toronto areas, it continues to welcome a diverse selection of families.
The Best Part
It’s luxe, it’s green, it’s peaceful, it’s convenient, and it’s just downright beautiful.
The Worst Part
This is an area that’s highly desirable, so it’s also an area with a higher price tag.
The Real Estate
Sunnylea is known for its shady streets and impressive selection of post war and mid-century bungalow, split-level, one and a-half storey and two-storey houses. This is detached house central, where picturesque homes sit on generous lots with private driveways and a good 30-feet of frontage. Many streets lack sidewalks, which means no snow shoveling. Just another perk of living in one of the lovely Tudor style houses near Bloor Street West. Many homes feature river stone exteriors and charming front porches or bay windows and stone chimneys. You’ll also discover elegant wrought iron railing and unheard-of mature trees towering over the pastural lawns. The unique feel to the streets is protected by the Thompson Orchard Community Association to ensure site specific zoning by-laws keep things just as they are. Combine all of these high demand qualities and you’ll find homes averaging about $1.1 million but the real gems are above $1.5 into the multi-millions.
Sunnylea is known for its highly rated schools which include:
JK to Grade 5
Sunnylea Junior School, 35 Glenroy Avenue, 416-394-3850
JK to Grade 6
École élémentaire catholique Sainte-Marguerite-d'Youville, 755 Royal York Road, 416-393-5418
JK to Grade 8
Park Lawn Junior Middle School, 71 Ballacaine Drive, 416-394-7120
Bishop Allen Academy, 721 Royal York Road, 416 393-5549
Kingsmill Secondary School, 721 Royal York Road, 416-394-6900 (no website for some reason)
Are you thinking about calling Sunnylea your new home?
Contact us today, and we can get started on finding you a home in this one-of-a-kind Toronto neighbourhood