Prior to 1927, passenger and freight service between the mainland and Toronto Island was managed by a private enterprise, the Toronto Ferry Company, founded by businessman Lol Solman in 1892. In 1926, the City of Toronto purchased the company for $337,500. However, not wanting to be a ferry operator, the City entered into a special agreement with the TTC in February 1927, by which the City assumed financial responsibility for ferry services, while the Commission operated the municipally-owned fleet of vessels. The TTC also assumed control over the Hanlan’s Point amusement park, which was located where the Toronto Island Airport eventually would be built.
Three of the vessels acquired from the Toronto Ferry Company, the John Hanlan, the Jasmine, and the Clark Brothers were found to be in poor condition. They had a sad end, being burned for the enjoyment of crowds at Sunnyside in 1929 and 1930. Two other TFC ferries, the paddle-wheel steamers Bluebell and the Trillium were of a more recent vintage, and both continued in service until the 1950s. After she was retired, the Trillium was left to deteriorate in a lagoon at the Island. In a fortunate turn of events, a restoration of the Trillium was carried out, and she was returned to service in 1976. The TrillIum continues to provide special and occasional service today.
The Commission also provided freight service to the Island. TTC agents would pick up goods at City addresses, transport the shipments across the Bay, and then deliver to the Island destination. Eaton’s and Simpson’s department stores, and several dairies and bakeries had their own delivery services on the Island, but all goods were shipped by TTC vessels.
Newly-built diesel-powered motor ships joined the ferry fleet in the thirties, including the William Inglis and the Sam McBride, and the Thomas Rennie was added in 1951. After many years of serving Island residents and visitors, the TTC relinquished operation of the ferries to Metropolitan Toronto Parks and Culture Department on January 1, 1962.