Also known as “Millionaire’s Row”, the Bridle Path originated as an ultra exclusive neighbourhood in the early 1930’s. Despite its status as one of Toronto’s three wealthiest neighbourhoods, rich Torontonians who reside in more established bastions of wealth such as Rosedale and Forest Hill sometimes see the Bridle Path as an enclave for the ‘nouveau riche’ to enjoy ostentatious and tasteless displays of their affluence. The Bridle Path does indeed contain a spectacular display of fine homes, mostly built from the 1930’s to the 1960’s in every style from Georgian, Colonial, Greek and Tudor Revival, Italianate and Neo Gothic to California bungalows and futuristic modernist houses; what most of the properties have in common is multi-million dollar price tags and huge, two to four acre lot sizes. There are also luxury condominium buildings with stunning details and opulent features that rival those in the surrounding mansions.
One dictionary definition of ‘bridle path’ is “a path suitable for riding or leading horses (but not for cars)”. True to its name, an extensive system of equestrian Bridle Paths, long since paved over, once defined this secluded residential community and have left a legacy of distinctly wide, winding streets that are more conducive to vehicles than pedestrians. Although The Bridle Path is actually the name of a road in the area, the term applies to the surrounding neighbourhood as a whole. Bounded by The Bridle Path on the north, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre on the south, Bayview Avenue to the west and Leslie Street to the east, few roads pass through the area, contributing to its exclusivity.
York Mills Shopping Centre’s modest collection of retail stores provides residents with everything from vintage wines and designer fashions to decadent treats from around the world, with private childcare available to make shopping easier. Nearby Edwards Gardens, renowned for its beautiful gardens, waterscapes and rockeries, is also the entrance to a paved trail that runs through the Don Valley. The trail passes through Sunnybrook Park, home to playing fields for sports such as cricket, field hockey, rugby and soccer, and even riding stables which offer lessons to the public. Acclaimed private, public and Catholic schools are situated in this neighbourhood.
The abundance of the Bridle Path as it is today could hardly have been foreseen by Alexander Milne, who first settled on land that is now Edwards Gardens in 1827. Milne operated wool and saw mills on the banks of Wilket Creek until 1832 when a dwindling water supply forced him to move east to a mill site along the Don River.
The Bridle Path spent the rest of the 1800’s and early 1900’s as unassuming farmland. It wasn’t until 1929, when the Bayview Bridge was built over the sheer Don River Valley, that this area was considered for residential development.
Hubert Daniel Bull Page, a Toronto-based land developer, was one of the founders of the present day neighbourhood. Page saw the Bridle Path as an exclusive enclave of estate homes. In 1929, Page built his own Cape Cod Colonial style house at Number 2 The Bridle Path, in an effort to spark awareness of the new development. Subsequently, the remainder of the area homes were built in the 1930s, 50s and 60s, in a range of styles that reflect tastes at the time and the individual whims of the owners of the homes being built.
The street’s name is frequently misspelled as “The Bridal Path” by those who are unfamiliar with the history of the area.
With backyard tennis courts, huge coach houses, indoor pools and the finest decorative details being commonplace attributes of the Bridle Path’s luxury homes, it’s not surprising this neighbourhood has been home to media tycoons like Moses Znaimer (of City TV), and Conrad Black. A home located in this area served as the main set for the movie “Mean Girls”, a teen flick about ultra-snobby, prosperous youngsters.
The Bridle Path features the greatest number of expensive (i.e. $10+ million) homes in Toronto. Though most lack the sprawling acreage found in equivalently priced suburban communities such as Aurora or Caledon, the lot sizes in The Bridle Path are ample enough to confer the prestige of a true estate home, without requiring homeowners to make long commutes into the city.
The custom mansions, many concealed behind high ornamented wrought iron gates and beneath towering canopies, are among the largest homes in Toronto, and are deeply inset on very deep lots measured in the acres rather than in square feet. The homes south of Park Lane Circle are smaller, but still built with 100 foot frontages (a ‘pool-sized’ lot is widely considered to be 40 feet). The average Bridle Path home is a detached two storey home with four bedrooms; the average sale price for such a home in 2007 was $4,667,500.
House styles range from stunning forward-thinking creations sculpted to a great extent from glass, to sprawling “bunker-bungalows.” The most common design themes in The Bridle Path are the use of splendid columns for supporting vaulted entrance ways, and the modeling of residences as contemporary interpretations of elegant French chateaus. The avant-garde is also popular in the Bridle Path: a 2008 listing at 83 The Bridle Path, offered at $10,800,000, boasts three storeys, six bedrooms and ten baths; built in 2006, the 18,000 square foot home has all the modern amenities including a 4-car garage, in-home health club, basketball court, private gym, steam room, indoor pool, tennis court, and billiards room. In terms of design, the home has been described by the Toronto Star as perhaps the most technologically sophisticated residence in Canada – designed and built by TAS Design Build (which has made a specialty of constructing sprawling Bridle Path retreats) in a minimalist style incorporating the five elements, it includes such features as a piano-curved zinc and glass outside wall, a designer kitchen and the highest quality finishes throughout.
This is one of the most appreciated features in the Bridle Path neighbourhood – that the homes are not cookie-cutter luxury mansions but eye-catching, stunningly unique properties. Some of the majestic abodes in adjacent Hoggs Hollow actually date back to the late 19th century, lending history and perspective to the newer Bridle Path. Indeed, the Bridle Path is surrounded by older, less prestigious but still prized neighbourhoods including York Mills, and Bayview. For those seeking an entry point into this vaunted area, the best area to look would be south of York Mills and west of Bayview, where an entry-level home can be found for just over $1 million.
The community has two luxury condo developments: the 42-unit French chateau-inspired One Post Road, and the Chedington Place Condominiums on the north-east corner of Bayview and Lawrence Avenues overlooking the Don Valley Ravine.
Inside the Bridle Path
With upscale amenities like the Bayview Country Club Golf Course, an easy commute downtown, quiet tree-lined streets and large parks, the area has a plenty to offer those who can meet its expenses – and who appreciate living in relative seclusion. Few pedestrians can be seen strolling the broad avenues; traffic flowing in from Bayview Avenue spills onto Post Road and deeper into the Bridle Path, with late-model cars whizzing by at astonishing speed for a residential neighbourhood. Deep behind stone walls and iron gates, residents are shielded from this noise by towering coniferous trees and well-groomed privacy hedges. With the Toronto real estate market increasingly favouring buyers, For Sale signs are in evidence and affordability is increasing for the first time in recent years.
Bridle Path residents shop, play, and educate their children along Bayview Avenue, whose landmarks include the upscale York Mills Shopping Plaza, the luxurious Toronto Granite Club with its swank facilities, and the private Crescent School for boys. The Toronto French School is located just off of Bayview at Lawrence Avenue, and York University’s Glendon campus is nearby, behind which the Crestwood School is nestled in a wooded valley where the children’s day camp provides youngsters with a summer getaway.
This community overlooks West Humber River Valley, with abundant green space everywhere: Edwards Gardens Park is an oasis of tranquility just east of The Bridle Path, featuring a rose garden, nursery, greenhouses, and the Toronto Botanical Gardens. This park is the starting point for a 9-kilometre paved recreational trail down the Don River Valley, leading east up the Taylor Creek Ravine to Warden Woods Park in Scarborough. Banbury Park and York Mills Park flank the north of the neighbourhood; to the south is Sunnybrook Park, with sports fields for cricket, field hockey, rugby and soccer, as well as the famous equestrian facilities. Further proximity to green space includes Glendon Forest.
In addition to the York Mills Shopping Centre, which includes the gourmet Nortown Foods (a high end butcher shop), Swiss-Master Chocolatier and Chapman’s Essential Foods, locals also shop at the Bayview Village Shopping Centre at Bayview and Sheppard Avenues, which features designer clothing stores and an excellent selection of restaurants. Residents also enjoy easy access to well-loved dining spots such as the Miller Tavern on Yonge Street, which has a giant patio and the feel of a country club, plus an oyster bar ($$); The Monkey Bar & Grill (an intimate bistro, $$$), Coppi (great service and a loyal following of mature residents, $$$) and Trio (a chic Italian restaurant with a family-friendly vibe, $$).
The Bayview bus connects commuters to the Davisville subway station as well as the Bayview station on the Sheppard line. By car, downtown is approximately a 20 minute drive, but Highway 401 and the Don Valley Parkway can be reached in about 5 minutes. The York Mills bus admits passengers to the York Mills subway station and GO Bus.