Home » Toronto’s Bridle Path started out in early ’30s with homes that cost as much as $10,000

This 30,000-square-foot mansion located on The Bridle Path, once owned by late financier Robert Campeau, had an asking price of $35 million when it was listed in 2017.

Toronto’s Bridle Path started out in early ’30s with homes that cost as much as $10,000

Neighbourhoods usually clamour for better roads, but not The Bridle Path, among Canada’s most affluent residential districts, located in North York’s Bayview-Lawrence area. There are more street names, but the whole is referred to as The Bridle Path after the main street.

It was started in 1933 by Hubert Page, a land developer, and his architect brother Forsey. Despite it being the Great Depression they were confident there were still enough plutocrats for their upscale project. The then-rural area was popular with Toronto’s wealthy horsey set, leading the brothers to call their venture The Bridle Path. It had riding trails, much larger than standard lots, and individualistic styles rather than conventional cookie-cutter models. Homes cost between $7,500 to $10,000 versus $2,500 for modest Toronto homes. Prices are now in the multimillion range.

Drivers from elsewhere used it as a shortcut between the two sections of Lawrence Avenue East, which is bisected by the Don Valley at Bayview. The homes were well set back from the street and protected from encroachment by tall elaborate iron fences with big, locked gates, but it no longer was a tranquil oasis away from the masses. The community had a brainstorm: let the roads deteriorate to keep out outsiders.

North York’s then-mayor Mel Lastman grumbled in April 1997 to The Globe and Mail, “I’m continually receiving calls from drivers complaining that I’m pandering to the rich by not fixing the roads.” North York councillor at the time Joanne Flint, whose ward included the Bridle Path area, quipped the same month to the Globe, “The broken asphalt roads are the ultimate in traffic calming.”

During 1997 North York and other Toronto area municipalities spent reserve funds on pet projects before amalgamation on Jan. 1, 1998, subject to approval by a provincial financial advisory board. Lastman allocated $5.6 million to improve The Bridle Path’s roads, and install storm sewers and sidewalks.

“If the board objects, council will tell them to stick it in their ear,” North York’s chief administrator Wanda Licyzk told the Toronto Star in July 1997.

It’s still a popular shortcut plus the TTC’s number 162 Lawrence-Donway bus route goes through.

Susan Goldenberg is a director and membership chair of the North York Historical Society, which preserves North York’s heritage. The author of nine books, her latest being “Deadly Triangle: The Famous Architect, His Wife, Their Chauffeur, and Murder Most Foul,” has won both a Canadian Authors Award and a Canadian Business Press Editors’ Award.