Once widely touted as the “Playground of Ontario”, Lakeside Park has been a destination for summertime fun for more than a century. What started as a boisterous port town grew to be a hub of entertainment, leisure, and play that drew thousands of locals and tourists each summer.
What’s your favourite memory of Lakeside Park? Share in the comments! 🌞😎⛱👙🏊♀️🍦🍧
The small peninsula separating Martindale Pond and Lake Ontario came to commercial and industrial significance in tandem with the opening of the First Welland Canal in 1829. In these early decades, the port town, situated at the entrance of the canal, was known for its lively taverns and establishments where Great Lakes sailors and canal workers could gather, connect, and organize together. It wasn’t until a streetcar service connecting Port Dalhousie to Niagara Falls was established in the 1880s, followed by a passenger steamship service to and from Toronto, that a more esteemed clientele became drawn to its beach and lakeshore.
Recreation and leisure were relatively new concepts in the late nineteenth century, but the enjoyment experienced at Lakeside Park caught on quickly. What first started as a beach for swimming and paddling, grew to encompass a sprawling amusement park. By 1925, after the attractions at Lakeside Park were purchased by the owners of the NS&T Railway, the summertime destination boasted several food concessions selling cotton candy, hot waffles with ice cream, popcorn, hot dogs and hamburgers, and more; amusement rides including a roller coaster, bumper cars, row boats, and water bicycles; a 24ft tall wooden water slide, baseball diamond, bandstand, dance pavilion, miniature golf, archery range, picnic shelters, and of course, a carousel, which is deserving of its own History from Here episode.
At its peak, over one million people were descending on Lakeside Park each year by way of streetcar, train, or passenger ship. For well over a century, the park has been the setting for countless day trip destinations, family gatherings, childhood memories, and hot summer days. The backdrop for weddings and summer holiday festivities, the inspiration for rock songs, and the gathering spot for thousands in the Black community celebrating Emancipation Day with the Big Picnic, Lakeside Park has long encompassed our collective love for summertime.