The Kew Beach Fire Hall, today known as Toronto Fire Station 227, is located at 1904 Queen St E (at Herbert Ave on the northwest corner, just east of Woodbine Ave) in The Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto.
The History & Architecture of Kew Beach Fire Hall
In 1904, after many appeals from the residents of Kew Beach, the city allocated $25,000 to purchase a site and build a new fire hall in the neighbourhood. That same year, the northwest corner of Queen St E and Herbert Ave was purchased at the cost of $3,100.
Built in 1905/06, the fire station was designed by the City Architect’s Department under the direction of Robert McCallum. While its style of architecture is Queen Anne Revival, the building also features Flemish Renaissance elements, including contrasting red brick with pale stone trim and a crow-step gable.
Then known as Fire Station No. 17, the main three-storey building initially had one bay. The tower was topped with a cupola, and there was space for a clock. The purpose of the 24 m or 80 ft tower is to hang the hoses in to dry, plus it also has excellent views of the neighbourhood.
Other architectural highlights of Kew Beach Fire Hall include varied rooflines, an ornamental stone carving with the year “1905” (near the top of the gable), and full-height bay windows on the building’s east side.
The city supplied a team that included a Captain, a Lieutenant, a driver, firefighters, and a two-horse hose wagon. They were responsible for the area bordered by the railway crossing at De Grassi St to the west and the then city limits on the north (Danforth Ave), east (near Victoria Park Ave) and south (Lake Ontario) sides.
Due to budget issues, the four clock faces in the tower were not added until 1912.
The Addition, Restoration & the Fire Station Today
In the early 1960s, a single-storey bay was added on the west side to accommodate an aerial truck. Additional staff was also required once the new bay was completed.
By the time the 11,800 square-foot fire station reached a century old, it needed repair. So in 2009, a $2+ million restoration began, which took two years to complete. The majestic building’s exterior was restored to its original condition with new paint, mortar, flashing and brickwork.
For over 115 years, the firefighters of Station 227 have been serving The Beaches community and Toronto. Their duties include responding to fires, medical and rescue, and other emergency and non-emergency-related calls primarily in the area bounded by Coxwell Ave to the west, Gerrard St E to the north, Fallingbrook Rd to the east and Lake Ontario to the south.
Fire Protection Before the Kew Beach Fire Hall
In 1891, a group of 20 men formed the Kew Beach Volunteer Fire Company. They operated out of a fire hall they constructed near Queen St E and Lee Ave.
In 1896, the volunteer fire brigade leased a piece of property in the northwest corner of Kew Gardens, on Queen St E, opposite Bellefair Ave (near the Cenotaph). On that site, the volunteer firefighters built a new fire hall.
The city granted them $8 a month for expenses and paid no salary; however, it was up to the volunteers to pay the building’s rent, taxes, and interest. They held concerts and parties to raise funds for equipment. The volunteer group practiced often and was regarded as very effective.
By the early 1900s, there were 1,200 year-round residents and approximately 350 buildings mainly made of wood in The Beaches area. Along with requesting police protection and faster mail service, residents in what was considered an outlying area repeatedly asked for a permanent fire hall branch for the neighbourhood.
During the Great Fire of Toronto in April 1904, the Kew Beach Volunteer Fire Company received high praise from mayor Thomas Urquhart for their rapid response. Soon after, the city began construction on the historic Kew Beach Fire Hall/Fire Station No. 17. After its completion, the Toronto Fire Department took over the area’s fire protection from the volunteer fire brigade.
Did You Know?
- When the station’s foundation was being constructed, enough concrete was poured so that an eight-storey structure could be supported before builders realized it was being swept away into Lake Ontario through an underground stream. The builders had to dig to bedrock to complete the fire hall’s base.
- In 1906, the city’s Controller said that if they put a clock in Fire Station No. 18 on Cowan Ave, they’ll have to put one in at the Kew Beach Fire Hall. The cost was $2,000, so it was delayed.
- The Kew Beach Fire Hall was one of the 490 buildings on Heritage Toronto’s initial induction list in June of 1973. It’s a neighbourhood landmark.
- The horses were once stabled in an area at the back of the main hall. Today the space is used for lockers.
- Fire Station 227 still uses the tower to dry the hoses. To do this a firefighter climbs onto a high platform, lowers a rope with a hook down to ground level, pulls up the wet hoses and then hangs them to dry.
- Kew Beach Fire Hall is one of the oldest working fire stations in the city, the oldest being Yorkville Fire Hall.
Kew Beach Fire Hall/Toronto Fire Station 227 Photos
- Special thanks to Larry Lalonde, a retired firefighter from Station 227
- City of Toronto Heritage Register: 1904 Queen St E
- The Globe Newspaper Archives: Nov 25, 1903, pg 12
- The Globe Newspaper Archives: Jul 30, 1904, pg 21
- The Toronto Daily Star Newspaper Archives: May 1, 1906, pg 2
- The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Apr 5, 1960, pg 7
- Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Sep 6, 2011, pg GT5
- The Beaches in Pictures, 1793-1932 by Mary Campbell and Barbara Myrvold, pg 24
- Historical Walking Tour of Kew Beach by Mary Campbell and Barbara Myrvold, pgs 12-13
- The History of the Beaches District by Marjorie Howard (undated manuscript from Toronto Public Library LOCHIST-BE-090)
- Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
- Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives & Toronto Public Library