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.


A low building on the waterfront, with two large open doors and a peaked roof with a sign saying "Hanlan's Point." Behind it in the water are two ferries with smoking smokestacks.
Hanlan’s Point mainland ferry docks and streetcar loop in 1926, just prior to the TTC takeover of the ferry service in 1927
Fonds 1244, Item 1114.


People are riding a miniature train with a small locomotive and open two-person cars.
The Honeymoon Special children’s train at Hanlan’s Point amusement park
June 14, 1930
Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 7719.
Two people are sitting in a round open cup with flowers painted on the outside. Behind them are visible more identical cups that are moving around in a circle.
The Whip ride at Hanlan’s Point
June 14, 1930
Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 7722.

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.


A small wooden ferry with an enclosed lower deck and people standing on the open upper deck.
Ferry John Hanlan transporting convalescing children to the Island’s Lakeside Home, a fresh air sanitarium
May 18, 1927
Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 4907.
A large wooden ferry with an enclosed lower deck and an open upper deck.
S.S. Jasmine at Toronto Island
June 1, 1927
Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 4935.
A wooden ferry with an enclosed lower deck and an open upper deck. There are two lifeboats on the top roof beside the smokestack.
S.S. Clarke Bros. approaching the mainland ferry docks
June 6, 1927
Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 4966.
At night, a ship engulfed in flames floats on the water. There are fireworks going off beside it.
It was an unusual form of entertainment, but several ships were burned at Sunnyside while hordes of people watched from the shore. Here, the Clarke Bros. ferry comes to its fiery end.
June 30, 1930
Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 7759.


People are boarding a large wooden ferry on a wide wooden pier. People line the railing of the open upper deck.
Passengers headed for Centre Island being loaded onto the side-wheeler Bluebell at the mainland ferry docks
June 11, 1932
Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 9259.


An old wooden ferry with its red and white paint fading is sitting in the water.
Bluebell‘s sister ship, the Trillium quickly became a derelict after it was abandoned in a Toronto Island lagoon.
August 6, 1962
Fonds 1526, File 110, Item 2.


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.


A wooden boat with its deck filled with boxes and parcels sits at a wide wooden dock.
S.S. T.J. Clark is loaded with freight for delivery to the Island
July 7, 1928
Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 5975.
A wide wooden dock with a ferry at the side and several carts waiting for freight. There is a small building with a sign that reads "Island and City freight office."
The T.J. Clark delivered goods to the Manitou dock and TTC freight office on the Island. Manitou Road on Centre Island was the “main drag,” where Islanders and visitors could shop, eat, and stay in their choice of hotels.
May 1, 1928
Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 5793.


People are walking down a street with stores in the background. The store signs read "Island Hardware" and "Clayton's."
Manitou Road on Centre Island
[ca. 1952]
Fonds 1047, Series 1825, File 22.


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.


A large wooden ferry painted white chugs across blue water under a sky filled with fluffy white clouds.
Ferry William Inglis underway in Toronto Bay. The “TTC” monogram is emblazoned on the smokestack. The three diesel-powered ferries delivered in the 1930s and 1950s were more economical to operate than the previous steam-powered ferries, and have proved particularly long-lasting, still in daily service in 2021.
Fonds 536, Item 56.