Clockwise from top: Hanlan’s infamous stomach-churning ride, The Whip; the view from the gondola ride at Centreville and the water chute ride at the Scarboro Beach Amusement Park
Following a recent decision by the city to welcome competing bids to run an amusement park on Centre Island, the future of the family-oriented and long-running children’s amusement park Centreville is uncertain. If it ends up closing down, corralling the swan rides and mopping up the water chute ride, it won’t be the first amusement park to bite the dust in Toronto. Looking back, there has been a long line of historic midways and water rides that have come and gone.
Probably the most memorable amusement park was located at Sunnyside and ran from 1922 to 1955, when it was demolished to make way for the Gardiner Expressway. The centrepiece of Sunnyside was the massive roller coaster known as the Sunnyside Flyer. Although the park is long gone, the Sunnyside pool, Bathing Pavilion and Palais Royale remain as a legacy. Not bad.
Further east, the Scarboro Beach Amusement Park was closing down right about the same time Sunnyside was getting started. It opened up in 1907 and featured a massive stone tower as a focal point to draw in the locals, as well as the ever-popular tunnel of love, water chute ride and much more. It closed up shop in 1925, when it was purchased by a developer, razed and turned into a quiet residential neighbourhood. A plaque on a large boulder alongside the boardwalk commemorates the park.
There was also an amusement park located at Hanlan’s Point on the Toronto Islands that opened up alongside a hotel and operated from the 1880s to the 1920s. It included one of the city’s only horse diving exhibitions, in addition to a number of rides, including the Whip (pictured above). The park was eventually purchased by the city and was subsequently closed.
Unique to Centreville is that it is a children’s amusement park, catering to pint-sized thrill-seekers. Countless locals have memories of riding the mechanical swans with their young children, or mustering the courage to take their first spin on the vintage ferris wheel. How can you replace that?