Some of Toronto’s most prestigious addresses are to be found in Forest Hill. One of the city’s prettier districts, it boasts gently sloping hills, winding roads and numerous charming parkettes
The neighbourhood is divided into Upper and Lower Forest Hill. Upper Forest Hill’s boundaries are Briar Hill Avenue in the north, Eglinton Avenue West in the south, Latimer Avenue in the east to Allen Road, and Fairleigh Crescent in the north-west and south-west, respectively; Lower Forest Hill is bounded by Avenue Road to the east, Bathurst Street to the west, St. Clair Avenue to the south and Eglinton Avenue West to the north.
In Lower Forest Hill, large old homes with character and charm are everywhere, with many being renovated to modern standards while preserving their original personality. Styles are diverse, from traditional Tudors and Georgians to terra cotta-tiled French Colonials, English country manors, and even ultra-modern designs. Sculpture gardens, porte-cochères and gated entrances denote the locals’ love of luxury. The foresight of village planners in the 1920s and ‘30s is responsible for the majestic trees which line the streets. Houses in Upper Forest Hill are generally more modest than their more southerly counterparts, but lot sizes are comparable.
Previously known as Spadina Heights, Forest Hill was the name of resident John Wickson’s summer home, built in 1860. It was incorporated as a village in 1923 and later annexed by the city in 1967. Current boundaries are shaped from the old Spadina Heights school district. (“Spadina” is a derivative of the First Nations word “Ishapadenah,” which means a hill or sudden rise in land.) Lower Forest Hill was completely developed by the 1930s, but Upper Forest Hill was slower to developmental completion because it had previously been occupied by the old Belt Line railway, and then by industry.
The Belt Line Trail is a 14 ½-kilometre-long track which passes through Forest Hill on its way down to Rosedale. It follows the route of the former Belt Line railway, Toronto’s first commuter train, and is enjoyed by both nature and fitness enthusiasts across the city.
Cedarvale Park west of Bathurst is a deep, naturalized ravine with steep sides, and a heavily-used footpath down the middle.
Forest Hill’s public library (700 Eglinton Avenue West) has a myriad of programs for adults, children, and preschoolers.
Forest Hill has several private and public schools, but catchment boundaries are strict. If there is a specific school in which you are interested in enrolling your child, please call ahead to determine if they are eligible.
Situated on a five acre site surrounded by park and woodland, North Preparatory Jr. (1100 Spadina Road) has an arena, soccer field, baseball diamonds and full track for students in JK to Grade 6. Academically, its dual foci of literary arts and the environment are succinctly expressed by the school as “Science through the Arts.”
Forest Hill Jr. & Sr. (78 Dunloe Road) has a 470-seat auditorium with a proper stage and spacious grounds for its youngsters in JK to Grade 8 to enjoy. The grounds include two separate baseball diamonds, soccer fields and a full running track.
The Forest Hill Collegiate Institute (730 Eglinton Avenue West) offers teens excellent arts and music programs. Completely renovated in 1992, the school boasts a double gymnasium and swimming pool.
Canada’s oldest day and boarding school for girls is Bishop Strachan School (298 Lonsdale Road). Affiliated with the Anglican Church of Canada, this private school was established in 1867 and focuses on teaching college-preparatory courses in the arts, business, religious studies and technology.
Forest Hill’s most acclaimed private school is Upper Canada College (200 Lonsdale Road). Founded in 1829, it is Ontario’s oldest independent school and is widely regarded as the most prestigious prep school in Canada, teaching boys from Senior Kindergarten to Grade 12. Famous alumni include the late cable mogul Ted Rogers, Loblaws head Galen Weston and Liberal party leader Michael Ignatieff.
The commercial heart of the Lower Village is centred on the intersection of Spadina and Lonsdale Roads. Shops and restaurants here cater to the area’s most affluent residents. The Eglinton West Village has stores to suit every taste and budget.
Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is the namesake of Frida (999 Eglinton Avenue West). Professional servers offer up authentic, market-fresh Mexican food in a vibrant space as musicians play traditional music. Menu highlights include fresh guacamole, cerviches and slow-braised lamb.
A Gallic option in the area is Le Pain Quotidien (508 Eglinton Avenue West). The Toronto outpost of Chef Alain Coumont’s chain sells Parisian-styled breads and all manner of tempting, doughy creations that have no place in a diet.
Both the morning and evening menus are tempting at Hope Street Café (324 Lonsdale Road). Soups, sandwiches and eggs of all sorts populate the daylight menu, while regulars flock to the baby back ribs and six different kinds of Caesar salads at night. Attention, nighthawks: it’s open until 2 a.m. six nights a week.
The high-end Toronto sushi chain EDO-Ko (431 Spadina Road) brings a quiet vibe to Forest Hill Village that is distinctly casual. The Edo Appetizer is seaweed-wrapped tempura shrimp, while local faves include nasu dengaku (baked eggplant with a sweet miso sauce) and lobster tail tempura. Ask for wines and sakes to complement each course.
Owner-trainer Ashlee Paterson-Meadus’s Forest Hill Fitness (675 St. Clair Avenue West) is an elegant and tasteful sweat shop complete with Body Sculpt, resistance training, Pilates, yoga and sculpting ball classes.
Once the rest of you is toned, your next destination will be the Forest Hill Spa (435 Spadina Road), a 4,000-square-foot facility that offers perhaps the finest facial in Toronto: the 90-minute signature Darphin facial ($155) which involves two warm masks and expert massages to the scalp, feet and hands.
Trust the staff at Kitsch Boutique (325 Lonsdale Road) to solve your last-minute fashion crises. New clothes are flown in weekly from Paris, New York, Milan and Los Angeles, making this perhaps the best women’s clothing boutique in the city.