For many Torontonians, Neville Park means “Yes, I’m going all the way — unless I short-turn at Connaught or Kingston Road.”
Thanks to its long-standing status as the eastern terminus of the 501 streetcar (and, by extension, its place on the rollsign of streetcars heading for the Beach end of the city’s longest route), Neville Park Boulevard is a name that’s likely familiar to ten times more Torontonians than have actually walked the street itself.
Frances Jane Neville was the daughter of former Toronto mayor George Monro. After Monro died, his heirs leased some of the substantial family estate in the city’s east end to the Toronto Railway Company, for the purposes of opening an amusement park. Munro Park (the misspelling stuck — it’s now a street name in the area) operated along the waterfront near the foot of what’s now Neville Park Boulevard for a decade around the turn of the 20th century. It closed in 1906, the same year as nearby Victoria Park — which was located where the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant sits today.
Neville Park is typical of many north-south residential streets in the Beach area. The houses above Queen Street East are humble and well-kept, and some are built so far up the bank of the ravine in which the street lies that they are vitually inaccessible by any means other than an alley to the west called Ed Evans Lane. Viewed from above (which is easy to do — just head to the south corner of Victoria Park and Bracken avenues), this part of the street gives the impression of family-comedy-show perfectness. Who wouldn’t want to live on a cul-de-sac surrounded by tree-lined hills? If E.T. had landed in the Beach, I feel confident he would have ended up in a shed behind one of the houses on this street.
South of Queen, Neville Park sports gigantic, stunning homes. Its southern tip features a public stairway down to the water and couple of genuine lakefront properties — a rarity in the neighbourhood due to the long boardwalk. On the Transit Toronto website, James Bow writes of this area: “In my childhood, when my mother would take me on special streetcar rides, the most special ride of them all was the ride to Neville Park. It was as far as the streetcar could go, and from there one could walk to a beach containing some of the best skipping stones in Toronto.”
Being the end of the line has been a blessing and a curse for Neville Park. Sure, everybody knows its name, but the dirty truth is that the track loop itself is actually one street east, at Nursewood. (There used to be a wye at Queen and Neville Park, but it was removed in 1989 — leaving a length of orphan streetcar track behind.)
No matter where it is, though, the frequent wheel-squeal eminating from streetcars turning on the loop has been known to cause a fair bit of furor among the locals. At other, busier turnarounds, such controversy might seem surprising. But one stroll down quaint and peaceful Neville Park Boulevard makes it easy to see why some of its residents get upset at the noise. Of course, if things had turned out differently, they might have been living in between two amusement parks.
Street Stories is a new regular feature on Spacing Toronto. If you have an idea for a street we should feature in an upcoming installment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.