The city is locked in debate about whether Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport at the foot of Bathurst and Lakeshore should be allowed to expand and let jets take off in the space. It’s such a fractious topic that the yay and nay sides are split almost evenly. According to a new survey commissioned by the city, the plan was supported by 47 per cent of respondents and nixed by 45 per cent.
But before we got to a time of pedestrian tunnels and raccoon mascots, the airport was a Depression-era work project, a training base for the Royal Norwegian Air Force and a starting off point for fast trips to Newark, Quebec City and Montreal.
Here’s a look back at the airport’s history:
A photo of Hanlan’s Point on October 1, 1937. Back then, the space was home to houses, an amusement park and the stadium where Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run. Photo: City of Toronto Archives.
Though the Toronto Harbour Commission came up with an island airport proposal in 1929, the airport didn’t open until 1939 .O’Ryan, Harbour Commissioner Thomas Jenkins, and pilot-owner O’Connor at the opening. Photo: City of Toronto Archives.
An aerial picture of the airport from the rooftop of nearby grain elevators, 1939. Funding came from the federal government’s Canadian version of the New Deal. Photo: City of Toronto Archives.
A 1944 photo of the Toronto Islands airport and Centre Island. The original terminal building was a designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1989. Photo: Wikicommons.
Pictured here in November 1940, the space was used at the start of World War II as a training facility for the Royal Norwegian Air Force after the Nazis occupied Norway. Photo: Wikicommons.
Expansion has been a hot topic since the late 1960s. The Leslie Street Spit was even floated as a potential expansion site. Photo: City of Toronto Archives.
The airport in the 1970s. Photo: City of Toronto Archives.
While the 1970s island airport didn’t have free cookies and wifi, there was unlimited tanning (weather permitting). Photo: City of Toronto Archives.
Contrary to what this image suggests, the de Havilland planes did not fly to Russia during the 1970s. Photo: City of Toronto Archives.