A brief history of Preston Lake
Preston Lake has been around for thousands of years and is a natural glacier kettle lake. A view of a map containing the area's rivers and streams indicates that there are no major rivers flowing into the lake. The exception is water that runs from ditches and a small stream that flows off of Warden Avenue into the lake. The lake's bottom is comprised mainly of clay which helps keep the water in it's place. Preston Lake is one of many kettle lakes found on the Oak Ridges Moraine, which is named in large part to the high number of oak trees that line this vast area, which spans from Rice Lake to the Niagara escarpment. The Moraine supplies water to over 400,000 people in York Region alone. Several towns pump water from the moraines' aquifers (underground streams). Over 30 headwaters for rivers and streams begin from the moraine as well, including the Rouge and Humber rivers. A main peak of the Oak Ridges Moraine is at Bloomington Road (approx. 958 ft. above sea level). All rivers south of Bloomington Road travel into Lake Ontario and to the north - flow into Lake Simcoe.
One of the first group of people to live around Preston lake were Seneca (Iroquois) Natives (1500-1650 AD). The lake served as a perfect location in which to prosper and this being one of the highest point's of the moraine, was ideal for defending against intruders. In the 1800's, European settlers came to the area, one of the first pioneers to arrive were the Van Nostrand family. Their property remains here today, located just north of the North Road. Indian artifacts have been found to the south of their home and some of these historical remnants can be seen at the Whitchurch-Stouffville museum. An Indian burial ground is situated approx. 200 meters east of Woodbine Ave. between Preston lake and Van Nostrand lake.
Prior to being named Preston Lake, the lake was known as Reesor Lake, named after Peter Reesor, who bought the land from an ex-officer of the British Army in 1802 for a horse, saddle, and bridle. Peter along with his wife, raised their family at Preston Lake. His brother-in-law, Abe Stouffer help to found Stouffville. At the turn of the century, the Reesors' sold their land to the Middleton family, thus becoming Middleton Lake. In 1920, the Middleton's then sold their land to George and Annie Preston.
The Preston's developed their lakeside property as a summer tourist resort in the early 1920's. Annie looked after the 11 room red brick farmhouse (still standing) which was the first to have electricity in the area in 1923, operating on a Delco generator from the basement. The lane to their house was the only access to the lake during the 1920's. George would pick up a 25 cent toll for cars and 10 cents for horse and carriage. On August 29, 1930 Plan 232 was approved by Whitchurch Township. The plan envisioned a number of small cottages to be used for summer vacations. Original access to the cottages was given through an informal right of way across the Van Nostrand farm. The Preston's then built a public and private beach, installed a wharf, diving facility and stocked the lake with bass. Several dance halls were built during that time, the last burning down in the late 50's. The Preston's then promised the lot owners access from a proposed road off the north end of Plan 232.
However another road was constructed known as the South Road, and as a result of a court order dated in October of 1957, another road (as first promised) was built in 1958, known today as the North Road. Eventually the construction of a canal made the South Road impassable and the bridge was wiped out.
In 1955, the lake area was immortalized by the Group of Seven artist A.J. Casson who recognized the uniqueness of the area by painting the Hennessy homestead. The house still stands on the west side of Woodbine Avenue, little resembling the house he painted.
During the mid 1960's, one family on the North shore fought with the Town for the right to live by the Lake all year round. They won that right and soon others quickly followed.
In the '70's the west shore of the lake had become a trailer park and public beach. The tree-lined lane entrance was off Woodbine Avenue. Admission was $5 per car.
Two tragic drownings during the public beach days, serve as a reminder that although Preston Lake is relatively small (approx. 50 acres), it should never be taken for granted. Always follow the rules of safe boating and swimming.
The south shore community began forming with cottages in the 50's and today has a wonderful blend of both traditional and modern homes. If you were to venture onto the lake you may be surprised at what you might find. Remnants of the old public beach playground or the stakes from the old south road bridge.
In the mid 1980's, Landford Development purchased the property on the west shore of the lake, which was the start of the new west shore community. With the trailer park gone, the completion was well underway for one of the premiere communities in all of southern Ontario.
PPL committee members urge you to participate in keeping our neighborhood both safe and clean by becoming an active member.
- If you have any stories, pictures or articles, please submit them to our webmaster or one of our committee members. We always welcome contributions to our web site and newsletter. Pictures submitted for scanning will be returned within two days.