Lake Ontario is freezing, with ice floes floating in the harbour, forcing the ferries to Ward's Island to forge their way through a sticky channel. But the boats keep to a strict schedule, and the trip between the Jack Layton Terminal on Queen's Quay and the dock at Ward's (actually the eastern end of Centre Island) takes about fifteen minutes. The new statue of the late NDP leader on his bicycle is a popular subject for photos, and Jack seems to sport a new toque every day!
The boardwalk along the south shore of the island is a beautiful place for a walk at any time of the year. You can see the stone remnants of walls built by the original settlers and used as a breakwater before the construction of the present wall. The engineer who built the existing breakwater also built a two-storey, poured concrete house overlooking the Leslie Street spit. The building has been the residence of the priest at the Church of St Andrew by the Lake, and now houses the offices and meeting room of the island residents' trust, a gallery for islanders' art work, and the Rectory Cafe (www.therectorycafe.com). The cafe serves great food, including a brisket burger that should be illegal it's so delicious, and has a beautiful patio in summer and cosy heaters to help diners enjoy the vista in winter. The service is exceptionally friendly, with a warm welcome for everyone.
The concrete construction of the Rectory saved it from demolition in the 1960s when the City of Toronto pulled down a large number of private houses and cottages to create a public park on the islands. Beginning in the 19th century, the peninsulas and islands in the harbour were a refuge for city dwellers wanting to escape the summer heat on shore. There were two elegant hotels, Ward's and Hanlan's, and the homes of many summer and year-round residents. All these have now disappeared, leaving less than two hundred houses and cottages forming the present Ward's Island community.
In this photo, if you look carefully at the lake, you will see a natural phenomenon, ice discs, that occurs in northern climates when slow moving water freezes. The pieces of ice rub against each other, forming circles tha float in rafts.