Forest Hill is among the city’s most prestigious neighbourhoods. It is characterized by gently sloping hills, winding roads, large brick and stone homes on spacious lots, and numerous small parkettes all add to the charm of the neighbourhood. Forest Hill’s old building codes and by laws, dating back to the 1920’s and 30’s, required all Forest Hill houses be designed by an architect, and a tree be planted at the front of each property leaving a legacy of beauty that enhances its reputation as one of Toronto’s three wealthiest and most exclusive communities.
Along with outstanding public schools, two of Canada’s most prestigious private schools are located in Forest Hill. They are Upper Canada College for boys and Bishop Strachan School for girls.
Forest Hill is divided into two neighbourhoods, Forest Hill North and Forest Hill South. Forest Hill Village is the commercial part of Forest Hill, a short block along Spadina Road, on either side of Lonsdale. Forest Hill extends roughly from Briar Hill Avenue in the north (the Upper Village, officially part of Forest Hill North) to Heath Street in the south (the Lower Village, officially the major part of Forest Hill South along Spadina Road between Bathurst Street/Cedarvale Ravine (whichever is further east) and Avenue Road. The designations Upper and Lower are based on height of land and not on positions on a map or along a watercourse.
Forest Hill Village was completely developed by the 1930’s and is known for its upscale shopping and dining, although the actual mix of stores includes several modest enterprises. Forest Hill Village has attracted extensive residential development (especially of apartments), both within the original boundaries of Forest Hill and in adjacent neighbourhoods to which developers have now extended the Village and Forest Hill names.
The Upper Village was slower to develop due to the fact it had previously been occupied by the old Belt Line Railway, and then by industry. Its houses were built mostly in the 1940s and 50’s. Many homes have been or are being significantly renovated, with some being torn down completely to make way for very large ‘neo-classical’ homes.
Forest Hill’s documented history dates back to the 1860s, when John Wickson built his summer residence at the junction of Eglinton Avenue and Old Forest Hill Road. Previously, the area had been known as Spadina Heights, which derived from the First Nations, Ojibwe’s word ishapadenah (meaning a hill or sudden rise in land), Forest Hill was originally a small village in the 1920s. The population was predominantly made up of wealthy Anglo-Protestants, and later many members of the Jewish community moved here. The strong sense of community protected the neighbourhood from being bisected by the proposed Spadina Expressway in 1971. In the late 1960s, Toronto planned to construct a highway that would run from Highway 401 to downtown Toronto via the Cedarvale Ravine and Spadina Road. The proposed route would bisect the heart of Forest Hill and the Annex and cause the demolition of dozens of local homes. As the city began construction, local residents protested and successfully focused public opinion against the expressway. In 1971, the province withdrew its support for the Spadina Expressway defeated by the powerful citizens’ force.
Forest Hill wasn’t annexed by the City of Toronto until late 1967. In the 1990s, the neighbourhood’s prestige as the traditional home of Toronto’s elite continued to grow. Many of its properties are spectacular new “neo-traditional” homes that have been built on a grand scale. The Upper Village part of the neighbourhood is dominated by Tudor and Georgian styles, but the overall neighbourhood’s architectural styles range from French Colonial with terra cotta tiles to English country manors with sweeping lawns.
Forest Hill’s old building codes and bylaws, dating back to the 1920s and 1930s required all Forest Hill houses to be designed by an architect and a tree be planted at the front of each property leaving a legacy of beauty that enhances its reputation as one of Toronto’s three wealthiest and most exclusive communities.
The Upper Village was slower to develop due to the fact it had previously been occupied by the old Belt Line Railway, and then by industry. Its houses were built mostly in the 1940s and 50’s and are more modest than their Lower Village counter parts however the lot sizes are comparable between the two districts. Many homes have been or are being significantly renovated, with some being torn down completely to make way for very grand ‘neo-classical’ homes.
This prominent neighbourhood has a harmonious mix of beautifully crafted, luxurious mansions built in different architectural styles from traditionalTudor and Georgian styles, to everything from French Colonial with terra cotta tiles to English country manors with sweeping lawns. Luxurious details such as sculpture gardens, porte cochères and imposing gated entrances are quite widespread.
Forest Hill also contains a fair number of luxury condominium buildings, located west of Spadina on Lonsdale Road near the boutiques and shops that cater to the specific needs of Forest Hill’s affluent residents.
Shopping and Lifestyle
The Forest Hill Village shopping district is located around the intersection of Spadina Road and Lonsdale Road. The ambience of this private enclave of stores is that of a small town rather than a big city.
The Village’s boutiques and shops cater to the specific needs of Forest Hill’s affluent residents.
The Eglinton West Village shopping district has a large variety of stores to suit every taste and budget. This street also contains many fine restaurants and food stores.
Parks and Recreation
Cedarvale Park is a very large, green area in the Cedarvale neighbourhood, bordered by steep hills that are covered with some of Toronto’s finest contemporary architecture (these homes have scored some great views of the ravine). The park is a popular destination for families, dog-walkers, and joggers, and its large, open fields are heavily used by the community for everything from sports like cricket games to flying kites. Ernest Hemingway himself used to walk these very paths during the time he lived in Toronto. The original ecosystem of the ravine was somewhat changed after the construction of the Spadina Subway in the 1970s below it (between St. Clair West and Eglinton West stations).
Sir Winston Churchill Park located at the southeast corner of Spadina Road and St. Clair Avenue is a popular park for many locals. The gravel paths along the park offer a great jogging route and are always full of joggers working their way through the three kilometres of soft running track. The three sets of stairs here are a true test of your fitness. Start with a little cardio, taking the stairs when you enter the park just off Spadina Road. There is an abundance of green field space for running drills, group sports, or mat exercises for groups coming too enjoy an outdoor lesson. Running down the gravel path, you pass along a big fenced-in dog park, a busy tennis court, and a little playground. This park is perfect little piece of woodland paradise near Forest Hill residents’ homes. Wrapping all around the park is the Nordheimer Ravine, which offers some quality picnic spots and a rustic wood path for a lovely walk.
Forest Hill Road Park is part of the Kay Gardner Beltline Park. Visitors to Forest Hill are greeted by the Upper Canada College clock tower on Avenue Road.
Some of Forest Hill’s schools are among the best in the country. They combine great curriculums with a high degree of parent involvement. The two oldest schools in Toronto, Upper Canada College and Bishop Strachan School draw families from all over Canada and the world to Toronto.
|Upper Canada College||200 Lonsdale Road||(416) 488-1125|
|Bishop Strachan School||298 Lonsdale Road||(416) 483-4325|
|North Preparatory Junior Public School||1100 Spadina Road||(416) 393-9230|
|South Preparatory Junior Public School||78 Dunloe Road||(416) 393-9335|
|West Preparatory Junior Public School||70 Ridge Hill Drive||(416) 393-1633|
|Forest Hill Collegiate Institute (public)||730 Eglinton Avenue West||(416) 393-1860|
|Holy Rosary Catholic School||308 Tweedsmuir Avenue||(416) 393-5225|
|St. Michael’s College School (private)||1515 Bathurst Street||(416) 653-3180|
For motorists, the Allen Expressway is within a five minute drive from Eglington Avenue West. The area has a number of bus routes that connect the neighbourhood with Toronto’s subway system from St. Clair West Station and Eglington West Station on the Yonge line.