Ward’s Island Clubhouse and Island Café destroyed by fire

Constructed in the 1930s, the Big Clubhouse stood as a testament to time, hosting an array of events that have woven into the fabric of Ward’s Island’s rich history. From weddings to talent nights, from circus camps to community theatre performances, the Clubhouse has been a hub of activity, fostering connections and memories for generations.

Olivia Chow and fire chief Matthew Pegg survey the damage on Ward’s Island

Among the devastated is the Island Cafe, a beloved family business that has called the clubhouse home since 2010. As proprietors of this establishment, the Freeman-McIntyre family has been deeply moved by the overwhelming support pouring in from near and far in the wake of this tragedy, as expressed on a Facebook post.

Zorah Freeman-McIntyre, owner of the Island Cafe, shared a poignant message on social media, expressing gratitude for the outpouring of love and reminiscence from patrons and well-wishers. “Today we’ve been humbled by the outpouring of love and support we’ve received from near and far. It is meaningful and deeply appreciated,” she said.

The loss of the Big Clubhouse is not just a blow to Ward’s Island; it impacts people across the broader Toronto community who share memories of summers on the island. It represents more than just a physical structure — it symbolizes a shared heritage, a shared space that has touched countless lives over the years.

Freeman-McIntyre spoke of the possibility of rebuilding and recreating the vibrant atmosphere on Ward’s Island.

“Keep sharing your memories, it’s inspiration for tomorrow,” read the message, in part. “While the Clubhouse and Island Cafe are in ashes, the spirit of each is intact. As we mourn, we dream of a future site of summer fun. We dream of a season opening dance at the new Clubhouse, and the first cup of coffee at the new Island Cafe.”

That message was reinforced by Mayor Olivia Chow who visited the site on Sunday with city councillor for Ward’s Island Ausma Malik.

“Islanders are resilient,” Chow said, on social media. “The Ward’s Island Clubhouse and Café were the heart of the community and a meeting point for visitors—and they will be again.”