Leuty Lifeguard Station is moving. Ever so slightly.

Published on Friday, 27th Apr, 2018 at 5:10am


Leuty Lifeguard Station surrounded by construction fencing, April 2018

Photo: Beachify

Leuty Lifeguard Station is getting a $200,000 facelift to help protect it from flooding.


The City of Toronto is spending $200,000 to raise and move Leuty Lifeguard Station, in order to prevent damage from storms and high water.

The iconic landmark was threatened in 2017 as record-high water levels and spring storms inundated the structure's foundations and filled the bay with sand and gravel. The dock used to launch lifesaving boats, already damaged by ice, was destroyed. Quick action at the time by the City of Toronto and TRCA in the form of sandbagging and rock armouring operations saved the structure from further damage.

 Waves and floodwaters threatened to inundate Luety Lifeguard Station in May 2017

Photo: Beachify

Waves and floodwaters threatened to inundate Luety Lifeguard Station in this photo from May 2017.

 The lifesaving station was cut off from the water as sand and gravel buried what remained of the dock used to launch lifesaving boats in this photo from May 2017.

Photo: Beachify

The lifesaving station was cut off from the water as sand and gravel infilled the bay and buried what remained of the dock used to launch lifesaving boats. May 2017.

Lake levels peaked last May at 1.4 meters (4.5 feet) above their seasonal average due to heavy spring rain and snow melt. The high lake levels, coupled with a series of southerly storms, created widespread flooding and damage all along the shores of Lake Ontario.

The 98 year-old building, which is constructed on sand, had been slowly subsiding over the years. Infill of the bay with sand and gravel and destruction of the dock created problems for lifeguards attempting to launch boats and rescue craft from the facility.

Leuty Lifeguard Station is the headquarters for some 33 lifeguards of the Toronto Beach Lifeguard Program from mid-May until the beginning of September. Lifeguards use twelve rowboats, five paddleboards, a kayak, and a seventy-five horsepower Boston Whaler to patrol 3 km of shoreline.

Operation of the Lifeguard Service was recently transferred from the Toronto Police Marine Unit to the City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department.

The Plan

The plan by the City and TRCA calls for raising the building by nearly 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) and moving it about 10 meters (30 feet) closer to the lake. A new dock will also be built, and additional stone revetments will be constructed. The work began in late march and is scheduled to be completed by June. On April 26th workers succeeded in raising the structure on temporary shoring.

Workers began by first excavating around the structure, then raising it onto temporary pylons.

Photo: Beachify

Leuty Station sits on temporary shoring in this photo from April 26, 2018. The building was raised about 1.5 meters (4.9 feet).

The station was raised about 1.5 meters (4.9 feet). The building will be moved about 10 meters (30 feet) closer to the water, and a new dock will be constructed.

Photo: Beachify

The building will be moved about 10 meters (30 feet) closer to the water, and a new dock will be constructed.

This is not the first time the station has been moved. Since its opening in June 1920 the station has been moved short distances on at least three separate occasions. By the early 1990's the historic structure had fallen into disrepair and was in danger of being torn down by the City. Local residents formed the "Save Our Station" (SOS) group to oppose the move, raising almost $75,000 to preserve the landmark.

Leuty is one of two remaining examples of this style of Lifesaving Station. A nearly identical station is located at Cherry Beach.

 Limestone boulders await emplacement in revetments (rock-armoured sea walls) at Leuty Lifeguard Station.

Photo: Beachify

Limestone boulders await emplacement in revetments (rock-armoured sea walls) at Leuty Lifeguard Station.

Station History

In May 1919 the city's only life guard station, the federally managed Government Life Saving Station on Ward's Island, was destroyed by fire. Subsequently, the Department of Marine and Fisheries announced that it would discontinue the Life Saving Service. As a result, the Life Saving Service was transferred to the City of Toronto under the direction and control of the Toronto Harbour Commission.

In 1920 the City began construction of three new Life Saving Stations. In April 1920 the Main Life Saving Station at the Western Channel was opened, followed in June 1920 by the opening of two auxiliary stations at the Humber River and Scarboro Beach.

 One of the Life Saving Stations in 1923, just a few years after its construction.

Toronto Archives

One of the Life Saving Stations in 1923, just a few years after its construction.

The Scarboro Beach Station (now Leuty Avenue Life Saving Station) was designed by Alfred Chapman and J. Morrow Oxley of the architectural firm Chapman & Oxley. Its location was chosen because Scarboro Beach was the centre of the popular boat rental business, and the Life Saving Service assisted more capsized boats and canoes than bathers or swimmers.

 Scarboro Beach (now Leuty) Lifesaving Station in 1929, as seen from the foot of Lee Avenue. The large building behind the station is a boat rental business.

Toronto Archives

Scarboro Beach (now Leuty) Lifesaving Station in 1929, as seen from the foot of Lee Avenue. The large building behind the station is a boat rental business. Flooding and erosion were also a serious issue in 1929.

The Life Saving Station was equipped with one small power boat, two rowing dories, and three lookout towers, one at the Station itself, and the other two on the beach. It was originally manned by two seamen from the Main Station and four lifeguards.

The waterfront (southern) elevation of the building contains paired single doors and two pairs of double doors which open onto a projecting deck. This design expedites the launching of lifeboats. The bellcast gable roof features a wooden watchtower that enables lifeguards to survey the beach and waterfront area.

Leuty Life Saving Station was designated a Heritage Building in September 1991.

 Leuty Station in 1978, as seen from the boardwalk.

Toronto Archives

Leuty Station in 1978, as seen from the boardwalk.

 The nearly-identical Cherry Beach Lifesaving Station, seen in a photo from the 1980�s.

Toronto Archives

The nearly-identical Cherry Beach Lifesaving Station, seen in a photo from the 1980's.