Clubhouse Moves

Excerpt from Centennial book, pages 39 - 43:

By the end of World War I, Queen City's focus was still across the harbour toward the islands. The club was more determined than ever to find a new site, and in 1920 the board finally decided to move the city clubhouse to Sunfish Island (now Algonquin Island). To endear itself to its future neighbours across the lagoon on Ward's Island, QCYC made overtures to the Ward's Island Association to participate in club activities. The possibility of QCYC's merging with Alexandra Yacht Club was also raised but discarded. The impetus to move to the Island wasn't entirely from within the club, however. In the spring of 1920, the Toronto Harbour Commission had finally begun its harbour reclamation project. Blake Van Winckle reminisces in club records that the dredging was handled by two of the biggest suction barges in the world at the time. Certainly they seemed overly efficient as far as the Queen City board was concerned. It grew increasingly alarmed over the fact that the sand the barges were slurping up was causing the harbour bottom beneath the clubhouse to shift.

At about 2:30 am on July 7, the board's worst fears came true when the pilings beneath the clubhouse gave way and the three-storey clubhouse sagged into the harbour up to about the top of the first storey. Fortunately, the club steward and his family escaped. The $275 Heintzman piano and club trophies were also saved. Naturally, the clubhouse's collapse ended forever any notion of physically moving the building; it would eventually be sold as scrap for $275. But the loss of the city quarters lent a new urgency to re-establishing on the Island…
Sunfish Island, QCYC's new home, was starkly different from the Algonquin Island we know today. In 1906, a plan had been hatched to create more lots on Ward's Island, then a summer tenting community, so the city could collect more rent. To improve Ward's, which was then a long spit exposed to the harbour, dredges sucked sand from along the shoreline and spewed it to the south on Ward's and to the north, creating Sunfish Island. There is a certain irony in the fact that the city clubhouse had met its end due to dredging, yet the new clubhouse was built on land created through dredging.

When Queen City arrived, the only other inhabitants of Sunfish were a YMCA boys' camp and an airplane hangar at the far western end. Even as late as 1937, it was disparaged by locals as, "sand, just sand". Not until 1938 (when Sunfish Island became Algonquin Island) were houses added -- floated from Gibraltar Pt., as the current area occupied by the airport was then known. But it wasn't until the end of World War II that returning veterans occupied all the remaining lots. Many of the residents would become a valuable component of QCYC…

by Wayne Lilley
Copyright 1991
ISBN 1-895161-01-0
Excerpts and photos with permission from Wayne Lilley and Steve Manley