Forest Hill, Toronto

Forest Hill is an affluent neighbourhood in central Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Along with Lawrence Park, Rosedale, and The Bridle Path, it is one of Toronto’s wealthiest neighbourhoods. In further depth, census data from Statistics Canada states a median income for all private households in Forest Hill, to be $85,014 compared to the $64,128 income of the Toronto CMA (Central Metropolitan Area).


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Forest Hill was originally incorporated as a village in 1923, and later annexed by the City of Toronto in 1967, along with the Village of Swansea. The village was named after the summer home of John Wickson; previously it had been known as Spadina Heights (a name that continued to be applied to the neighbourhood into the twentieth century). Spadina Heights is a derivative of the First Nations (namely Ojibwe) word ishapadenah, meaning a hill or sudden rise in land. Rather than electing a mayor as in a city, the leading municipal official was the reeve of the village. Prior to World War II, Forest Hill's population was predominantly made up of wealthy Anglo-Protestants. During the 1940s and 1950s, many upwardly mobile members of the Jewish community moved from the Spadina area of Toronto into Forest Hill. Forest Hill has a number of businesses catering to the Jewish community along Eglinton Avenue West. Today, individuals of Jewish heritage make up almost a third of the population of Forest Hill, according to the 2001 census.

In the late 1960s, the City of Toronto planned to construct a highway that would run from Highway 401 to downtown Toronto via the Cedarvale Ravine and Spadina Road. Forest Hill and the Annex would be bisected by the proposed route and numerous local houses would be sacrificed for the new expressway. This prompted local residents to rise to protest and raise the awareness of the greater public. The provincial government was forced to withdraw its support for the so-called Spadina Expressway in 1971. When the neighbourhood was annexed by the City of Toronto, the annexation agreement granted local residents the right to have their garbage picked up from their doorstep rather than from the curb. It wasn't until 1993 that the public learned that this extra service cost $420,000 a year and was paid for by the municipal government. This time, the public opinion of other Torontonians forced the city to discontinue this favour to Forest Hill residents.

The neighbourhood's original boundaries were Bathurst Street to the west, Upper Canada College to the east, Eglinton Avenue to the north, and Lonsdale Road and a portion of Montclair Avenue to the south (the original boundaries of School Section 30). Neighbourhoods north of Eglinton are sometimes though not unanimously regarded as Forest Hill. In 1999 Robert Fulford compared Forest Hill to Rosedale, the other traditional home of Toronto's elite: "While Rosedale has remained stable for half a century, Forest Hill's prestige has been growing steadily. There's a key tonal difference in the architecture of the two places: where big Rosedale houses shout 'history,' big Forest Hill houses shout 'grandeur.' More than any other district in the central city, Forest Hill has become the site of spectacular new 'neo-traditional' homes built on a grand scale, usually with lawns to match."


Forest Hill North and South Overview

Currently, for the purposes of social policy analysis & research, the city of Toronto’s Social Development & Administration division divides Forest Hill into two neighbourhoods: Forest Hill North and Forest Hill South.

Forest Hill Village - The Lower Village was completely developed by the 1930sand is known for its upscale shopping and dining, although the actual mix of stores includes several modest enterprises. The Lower Village has attracted extensive residential development (especially of apartments), both within the original boundaries of Forest Hill and in adjacent neighbourhoods to which developers have now extended the Village and Forest Hill names. The Upper Village was slower to develop due to the fact it had previously been occupied by the old Belt Line Railway, and then by industry. Its houses were built mostly in the 1940s and 50's. Many homes have been, or are being significantly renovated, with some being torn down completely to make way for monster 'neo-classical' homes.

Boundaries of Forest Hill North

Forest Hill North extends from Briar Hill Avenue in the north to Eglinton Avenue West in the south, and from Latimer Avenue in the east to Allen Road and Marlee Avenue in the north-west and south-west, respectively. For administrative purposes, Forest Hill North is Toronto neighbourhood #102.


Boundaries of Forest Hill South

As the name would imply, Forest Hill South is directly south of Forest Hill North. It extends from Eglinton Ave West in the north to Tichester Road in the south, and from Bathurst Street in the west to Elmsthorpe Road in the northeast and Avenue Road and the Oriole Parkway in the east. There is an additional stretch of Forest Hill South between Bathurst Street and Spadina Road, north of Lonsdale Road.


For administrative purposes, Forest Hill North is Toronto neighbourhood #102. Politically, the residents of Forest Hill North are represented either in the Eglinton-Lawrence ward or in the St. Paul’s (west) ward. Meanwhile, Forest Hill South is neighbourhood #101. Similarly, the residents of Forest Hill South are represented in either the St. Paul’s (west) ward or the St. Paul’s (east) ward.


Housing and Streetscape

Characteristics of housing as well as streetscapes are dominant in providing the outsider a simple yet strong image of the Forest Hill neighbourhood. In other words, neighbourhoods in Toronto are sometimes characterized by their housing types and/or streetscape. For instance, the Leaside neighbourhood is noted for having lots of trees or the Rosedale neighbourhood being noted for distinct and large lot housing.


Throughout Forest Hill, one housing type makes up the majority of the area. This is the Conventional Suburbs type, but without the aspect of homogeneous households. In simplicity, Forest Hill housing has dominant traits of the conventional suburbs housing type. In further analysis, characteristics of low density, large lots, being car oriented, as well as having segregated land uses are all evident in the neighbourhood. In regards to Forest Hill, a lot of the residential housing is based on the conventional suburbs type. However, what makes it distinct from housing in other parts of Toronto, is its characteristics of singularity. In other words, houses, schools, places of worship and other building types are all architecturally built with different styles. Each building is distinct from one another. For instance, the town houses located in the East York neighbourhood or the semi detached housing in Davisville, are more or less homogeneous in design compared to the housing style of Forest Hill.


Density & Mixed uses

The density in Forest Hill is fairly low as composed of mainly low-density housing. The housing is predominantly detached houses with several semi-detached and town homes. Although it is mainly low-density housing, the lots are not as large as the ones found in suburban Richmond Hill. Forest Hill detached homes are mostly on smaller lots with houses closer to each other. Higher-density and mixed uses are found at the major roads and nodes of the neighbourhood mainly on Eglington Ave, St Clair West and Spadina Ave. At those major roads, it is the only place we see different uses other than residential. There are grocery stores, convenient stores, coffee shops and offices in those areas.



Forest Hill is greatly defined by its streetscape. Several elements that contribute to the unique character of the area are its sidewalks and local roads, as well as landscaping and natural environment.

Sidewalks and Streets - Sidewalks are important in every neighbourhood, whether in Canada or China, sidewalks help connect the community and helps foster interaction with one another. In the case of Forest Hill, the contrary is apparent as a majority of the area often has no sidewalks. Simply, the lack of sidewalks contributes to the exclusiveness and uniqueness of the neighbourhood. In “Looking at Cities”, it may have been a decision by the designer of the area, the housing developer, or the community to achieve some preconceived image of a desired environment. Streets on the other hand are often very wide within the residential interior of the neighbourhood. Additionally, the streets of the area are littered with a bunch of stop signs as well as a fair amount of speed bumps. Essentially, this would lead to a safer neighbourhood, as vehicles would not be able to go beyond the speed limit.

Landscaping and Natural Environment -Like sidewalks and streets, landscaping and the natural surroundings are also a big part of the character of the neighbourhood. First and foremost, landscaping is frequent at many homes. More often than not, properties have unusual trees and plants as well as intricate designed pieces of foliage that run along the front, sides as well as back of the house. Further, simple yards are also well maintenance on most homes. Overall, explicit landscaping and good maintenance of yards contribute are indicators of economic status and with regards to Forest Hill, it reinforces the idea of a neighbourhood with higher incomes.


Neighbourhood Elements

According to Lynch, he defined five elements that observers used to understand their neighbourhood by making mental maps. These elements include districts, nodes, paths, landmarks and edges.

Districts and Nodes

Like many neighbourhoods found within Toronto, there is always a correlation between districts as well as nodes. In other words, where there are nodes, then there most likely will be a district. In further depth, a node can be defined as strategic foci into which the observer can enter, typically either through junctions of paths, or concentrations of some characteristic”. On the other hand, districts can be defined as areas that have some common character. They can be recognized internally, and occasionally be used as a reference point (Source: The Image of the City). In the case of Forest Hill, this is one primary characteristic of the neighbourhood. Unlike many neighbourhoods, where interaction of people and the overall community is spread throughout, such as Riverdale, Forest Hill is unique in that a lot of its interaction is observable in clusters (most noticeably around nodes).

Nodes in the Neighbourhood - The notable nodes found in the neighbourhood include the intersection of Lonsdale and Spadina Road, St Clair Ave West and Bathurst Street, as well as Eglinton Ave West and Bathurst Street. In further analysis, the node of Lonsdale and Spadina Road is enhanced with the cluster of small independently owned stores and various services such as banking, fitness, etc. Similarly, the intersection of Eglinton Ave West and Bathurst Street is strengthened with high end retail shops. Finally, the node of Bathurst Street and St Clair Ave West is further reinforced with the establishment of a Loblaws as well as the accessibility to the subway, St Clair West Station.

Districts in the Neighbourhood - Subsequently, these nodes have led to the development of many well known districts within the area, such as Forest Hill Village, located in the intersection between Lonsdale and Spadina Road. Secondly, the commercial strip line on Eglinton Ave West, as a product of the Eglinton Ave West – Bathurst Street intersection. Lastly, the development of low rise apartments district found along the corner of Bathurst Street and St Clair Ave West. Ultimately, beyond these clusters of interaction, Forest Hill is a quiet residential area.


Not just monumental structures, like Toronto’s CN Tower, but even small details can be used and considered as landmarks. As lynch states “it is an external point reference in which it involves singling out of one element from a host of possibilities". In other words, they are they are point of references that are unique and memorable in the context, and contrast with their background. In the Forest Hill Neighbourhood, landmarks serve a critical importance to outsiders and even new owners in the area. Essentially, the interior residential areas of the neighbourhood are very similar. For instance, a street corner found in the northwest midsouth part of Forest Hill South can almost be identical to a street corner found in a street corner found in the north-eastern part of Forest Hill South.

Absence of Landmarks - Evidently, there is a minimal amount of way finding indicators, with the exception of street signs. Consequently, it is a necessity for outsiders as well as new home owners to pick up on small details, to provide a sense of direction when walking through the neighbourhood. In Forest Hill, a notable indicator would be the Loblaws on St Clair Ave West. It is a great indicator for outsiders and home owners of the neighbourhood because of several reasons. One, the building is big in size. Two, it is the only big market place in the area, Lastly, it is also very accessible as the St Clair West Station is located beneath it, as well as the station being the only one in the neighbourhood.

Notable landmarks in the Forest Hill neighbourhood include:

Upper Canada College

Bishop Strachan School

Timothy Eaton Memorial Church

Grace Church on-the-Hill

Paths and Edges

A notable path of Forest Hill is St Clair Ave West, due to its commercial and retail activity. It is also an edge for residents because it acts as a boundary of the neighbourhood. The reason being. Spadina Road is a major path in the neighbourhood due to several reasons. One being it has a variety of uses ranging from coffee shops, fitness and independent retail stores along the road. Secondly, it is the only transit route running through the neighbourhood. Located in Forest Hill South, Cedarvale Park is known for some residents as a landmark for its public space. But for drivers, it acts as an edge because it obstructs their path through to the other side. They are forced to drive around the park to continue their path.

Environment and real estate

Forest Hill, like Rosedale, is considered one of the finest and most prominent neighbourhoods in Toronto. While the Forest has long been replaced by luxury residences, the neighbourhood, with its undulating topography, remains one of the prettiest and most appealing places to live in Toronto. Forest Hill Road Park is part of the Kay Gardner Beltline Park. Visitors to Forest Hill are usually greeted by the Upper Canada College clock tower on Avenue Road.

The Upper Village is dominated by Tudor and Georgian styles, but the architectural styles range from French Colonial with terra cotta tiles to English country manors with sweeping lawns. Luxurious details such as sculpture gardens, porte-cochères, and imposing gated entrances are quite widespread. Forest Hill also contains a fair number of luxury condominium buildings located west of Spadina on Lonsdale Road. Within Forest Hill is a smaller community known to locals as Cedarvale. Homes in Cedarvale are slightly smaller than those in Forest Hill, and the ravine that cuts through the neighbourhood is a source of local pride. Notable institutions located in Forest Hill are the local Montessori School, Upper Canada College, the Bishop Strachan School, and Forest Hill Public Library. There are numerous churches and synagogues and two theatres. In 2007, the average sale price for a Forest Hill South home was $4,320,000, although renting a place in the neighbourhood is still relatively affordable as of 2011.


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