Spring storm separates mainland from Toronto Islands, destroys island hotel

On today’s date in 1858, John Quinn’s Peninsula Hotel was destroyed when a spring storm coming off Lake Ontario separated the mainland from the what’s now known as Toronto Islands.

In 2005, Canada Post issued five 50-cent definitive stamps (Scott Nos. 2076-2080) featuring the Canadian flag billowing in the wind. One of the stamps (Scott 2080) depicts the flag over Toronto Islands, with a ferry and the city’s skyline in the background.

A story in The Globe on the day after the story explained how the island hotel simply washed away.

“A disaster for which some time has been anticipated, occurred yesterday morning, viz, the washing away of Mr. Quinn’s hotel on the Island. The storm commenced early on the afternoon of the previous day and towards night the breeze freshened, and continued blowing steadily from the north-east. Such was the fury of the tempest on the bay that serious fears were entertained that the hotel would be blown down, but it withstood the violence of the hurricane. Towards morning the waves were breaking on the beach in rear of the house, and about five o’clock the water made a complete breach over the island, undermining the house and leaving it a total wreck, and at the same time, making a channel four or five feet in depth, which will make a convenient eastern entrance to the harbour for vessels of light draught. Mr. Quinn, who was anticipating the catastrophe, succeeded in removing his family, and the greater part of his furniture to a small dwelling which he had erected a short time ago, a little to the west of his late residence.”

The storm’s changes proved permanent, and within one month, steamers were able to pass through the eastern gap of the Toronto Islands.

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