2022 marks ten years for Scenes From Toronto. This year, I committed to a goal of two articles a month when possible. Out of 24 possible articles in the month, I published 17. Although I did not match my goal, I am proud of that output.
2022 also followed the momentum of the previous year in creating original, research-based articles, drawing on primary and secondary sources, as well as the work of great historians and writers. I hope they have added to Toronto’s rich local heritage scene and telling the city’s lesser known (hi)stories.
The Best of 2022
To mark the year, I have compiled my favourite ten articles.
1. “Old” Toronto Streets: An exploration of a peculiarity in Toronto’s geography and streets. This is a multi-parter.
6. The Rise of The Hill District, Toronto: The origin of one of Toronto’s exclusive neighbourhoods is an interesting tale of the who’s who in Toronto history and a period in which Old Toronto’s street grid began to fill up.
A&P is part of Toronto’s retail history, especially so because the franchise does not exist anymore in the city.
In the 1950s, the American-based company, formally called the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., opened several new super markets in Toronto’s outer communities. These stores and their eventful inaugurations offer a lens into not only the history of the brand, but also the emergence and evolution of Toronto’s inner suburbs.
5559 Dundas Street West, Etobicoke
The A&P at 5559 Dundas Street West at Brown’s Line opened on July 8, 1952. As the advertisement notes, it opened at the junction of two highways: Five (Dundas) and Twenty-Seven (Brown’s Line). It also backed onto a Canadian Pacific rail line. At the time of its opening, the intersection was sparsely populated. The larger community at the western edge of the Toronto area was Eatonville, best known for being the farming property of its namesake family and department store barons, the Eatons.
Very much in line with other store inaugurations in the period, the A&P advertisement presented the event as a multi-day spectacle. It was broadcasted over radio, with American singer and radio personality Smilin’ Jack Smith hosting. The famed 48th Highlanders band also played. The opening day flyer touts the supermarket as a “Parking Heaven” with plenty free parking. A map also boasted that “all roads” led to the supermarket, noting all the local major roads and the connecting communities. Many cars and people are depicted, including a long line filing towards and into the large glass store entrance. Altogether, it is very optimistic, with new life and new development now existing outside Toronto’s historic busy core.
The Globe and Mail reported the new super market cost $1,000,000 and included a warehouse building and a rail siding. It wrote: “The huge one-story structure provides consumers with the ultimate in shopping conveniences and affords the company the latest facilities for the efficient distribution of groceries in Ontario.”
By the end of the decade, the area had transformed along with the new store. Brown’s Line and Highway 27 were absorbed by the new Highway 427. The new interchange with Dundas resembled a cloverleaf. This development may have inspired the naming of the adjacent Cloverdale Mall directly across from A&P in 1956, an open air shopping centre whose anchor was another super market, Dominion.
Since 1952, the Dundas Street A&P has undergone a few noted changes. First, it is now Food Basics, which was founded in 1995 as a discount super market subsidiary under the A&P brand. Second, the complex’s area expanded, including an office space. This office is the Metro Ontario Division headquarters. Metro, a Quebec super market chain, acquired A&P Canada in 2005. Interestingly, at the Cloverdale Mall across the street, Dominion was acquired by A&P in the 1980s; the store is now a Metro.
25 Glen Watford Drive, Scarborough
The A&P at 25 Glen Watford Drive at Sheppard Avenue opened on March 21, 1957. It served the historic village of Agincourt, a community with roots in the 19th century whose nexus was the crossroads of Church Street (Midland Avenue) and Lansing Road (Sheppard Avenue). First Street, depicted in the advertisement’s map, was part of an Edwardian residential subdivision. In the 1950s, the community opened its earliest post-war subdivision east of the Agincourt High School. In 1959, bus service ran from Kennedy Road to Sheppard Avenue, looping at Glen Watford, Rural Avenue, and Midland; it was one of the first to serve northern Scarborough.
Like the Dundas Street store, the store opening was a week-long affair. It featured giveaways to shoppers, and a radio broadcast, featuring Scarborough Board of Health Officer and Agincourt resident, C.D. Farquharson. Free parking and parcel pickups were emphasized. Nearly thirty stores in Toronto and area were listed, some with details such as having air conditioning.
The evolution of the area around 25 Glen Watford contains some interesting developments. By the 1960s, Lansing Road became Sheppard Avenue; and Church Street merged with Midland Avenue to the south. First Avenue also became Agincourt Avenue. In 1963, the CP crossing on Sheppard was replaced by a rail overpass; the tracks were temporarily rerouted north during construction. Sheppard Avenue was also widened and Glen Watford was rerouted to curve towards Sheppard.
In the late 1970s, the Glen Watford A&P was torn down. In its place, a strip mall was erected. A larger building also went up to the south, taking up space formerly occupied by properties on the north side of Sheppard removed in the improvements along the street the decade prior. This latter building was a roller rink called Roller World.
In the mid-1980s, the area experienced its greatest evolution. In 1984, Hong Kong born developers bought the roller rink and transformed it into the Dragon Centre, an indoor Chinese mall (the former rink became a circular walkway for shoppers). It was the first of its kind in Toronto and Canada. The development spurred a change in Agincourt and Scarborough’s demographics, bringing East Asian residents and businesses to the area, including the strip mall to the north which replaced the A&P and the Glen Watford Plaza across the street, today’s Dynasty Centre.
The Dragon Centre wasn’t without controversy in the early years, however. Residents complained about the planning of the mall, particularly the parking and gridlock. There were also racist, xenophobic sentiments. Still, the mall endured, becoming a fixture in Agincourt.
Today, the East Asian nexus on Glen Watford is set to endure another change. A development proposal has two condominium buildings to be erected on the site. A project entitled “Dragon Centre Stories” exists to preserve the memory of the places set to be replaced.
2939 Dufferin Street, North York
The A&P at 2939 Dufferin Street south of Lawrence Avenue opened on March 11, 1958. After WWII, Dufferin north of Eglinton Avenue filled out as an arterial street with commercial and industrial uses, and its surrounding residential streets with bungalows, schools, and churches. The Dufferin Street A&P backed onto Barker Stream, a tributary of Castle Frank Brook.
Like the other A&P stores, the opening of the Dufferin store featured contests and giveaways, including “free Cokes for everyone!” It also praised its car-friendly qualities: a giant parking lot, parcel pickup, and “all roads in North West Toronto” led to it. This automobile haven was in the immediately geography too; directly next to the A&P was a drive-in ice cream spot, Tastee Freez. An archival image of the Dufferin A&P offers a comparison with the image in the 1958 ad; the stores are very similar with a noted difference being the positioning of the logo’d tower.
Today, the A&P store is a Lady York Foods, an Italian grocery store. A Dairy Queen is now on the same lot as the former The Tastee Freez. The transformation to Lady York Foods is particularly intriguing because it represents the general shift in demographics in the Dufferin-Lawrence area: The community is largely Italian-speaking.
Do you remember these three A&P super markets or any other early A&P stores? Leave a comment below!
In January, I looked at the origins of “Old” Streets of Toronto — that is, main Toronto roads that have the moniker “old” preceding their names. In many cases, these stories involved the re-routing of streets to create a more direct path for travellers. In doing so, the old paths were sometimes not eliminated.
Here are six (and a half) more “Old” Streets of Toronto and their quick histories:
Old Dundas Street
Year rerouted: ~1929
Historically, the main crossing over the Humber River on Dundas Street was located about two hundred metres south of the current bridge. This section of Dundas made up the old community of Lambton Mills and served as a main entrance into Toronto from the west on the Dundas highway. There were several versions of Dundas Street bridges here over the years — some made of wood, some iron, but all narrow for traffic and susceptible to the flooding waters of the Humber.
In 1929, a new high-level bridge was completed over the Humber. This altered the main course of Dundas Street to the north. The old course became “Old Dundas Street”. For nearly thirty years, the two Dundas Street bridges existed alongside each other. In 1954, the devastating effects of Hurricane Hazel left the Old Dundas Street bridge in a dilapidated state; it was finally demolished several years later. Today, Old Dundas Street exists on both sides of the Humber River mostly as a quiet residential street. Lambton House, a historic inn turned museum, is a leftover of Old Dundas Street and Lambton Mills’ prominence.
Old Weston Road
Year rerouted: ~1948
Weston Road takes an interesting route through northwest Toronto, running diagonally through its street grid from the historic town of Weston (makes sense, eh?) and creating some unconventional intersections. North of St. Clair Avenue, the route of Weston Road was historically located east of the present road on the other side of the train tracks. It made up the historic village of Carlton with St. Clair and Weston as its nexus. It is highlighted by the still standing, yet altered Heydon House Hotel, built 1890. Weston then ran south to join with Dundas Street.
Around the 1890s, another “branch” of the street was built north from Keele Street running parallel to the railway on its west side. This street took on the name “Weston Road South”. In the 1910s, the street was completed to join with the main Weston Road.
Perhaps because Weston Road South offered a more direct route south into the city, it formally became the more prominent road in the 1940s. First, an “Old Weston Road” began to refer to the section of Weston Road between the railway and Hillary Avenue. This meant that at one time a person could stand at the intersection of Weston Road, Old Weston Road, and Weston Road South. In 1948, Weston Road South became just Weston Road. Also, the entirety of the older eastern section of Weston Road was renamed Old Weston Road, save for the section between the tracks and Hillary which was added to Rogers Road. As the tracks to the south grew, the section of Old Weston near Dundas became severed from the rest of the road. Today, Old Weston Road is a mostly residential street.
Old Eglinton Avenue
Year rerouted: ~1957
For an east-west street that has become so vital to Toronto’s street grid and home to many neighbourhoods, it is difficult to imagine that Eglinton Avenue did not always exist in one harmonious stretch of road. However, it took some doing to make it into the street of today. Until the 1950s in the eastern half of Toronto, Eglinton Avenue terminated near Brentcliffe Road in Leaside and did not resume again until Victoria Park Avenue in Scarborough. The area in between them was about a five-kilometre stretch of farmland and two ravines — that is, both the east and west branches of the Don River. In the mid-1950s, a massive project was undertaken to join the two sections.
While an “Old Eglinton Avenue” seems to come out of the events of the 1950s, it seems a little unclear why. The street runs parallel to the “new” road for about half a kilometre west from Bermondsey Road. Like the surrounding area, it mostly houses industrial buildings. As Eglinton did not seem to exist between Leaside and Scarborough (at least not in any formal sense), the story of Old Eglinton is a bit of a mystery. Hiking The GTA has located an old roadbed for an “Old Eglinton Road“. This may have been a farm road or a line that divided farm lots. It is also notable how Old Eglinton Avenue aligns with a “pencilled in” Eglinton Avenue between Victoria Park and Leaside, so a theory may lay in that idea.
Old York Mills Road
Year rerouted: ~1972
The valley near Hogg’s Hollow has proven to be an obstacle to road transportation several times in its history. As I previously noted, Yonge Street was realigned in 1835 after skirting east to better tackle the West Don ravine’s topography. Because of this same geography, Wilson Avenue terminated at Mason Boulevard, meaning there was no direct east-west crossing at Yonge Street as we know it today. In 1972, a project was undertaken to extend Wilson to meet with Yonge and York Mills Road.
To make this extension happen, a curved road was constructed from Wilson Avenue which then crossed Yonge Street and joined York Mills Road between Campbell Crescent and York Ridge Road. This meant the straight section of York Mills near Yonge Street was effectively separated from the main route, becoming “Old York Mills Road”. Today, Old York Mills houses a trailhead, a passenger pickup zone for York Mills Station, a condominium, and a church.
Old Kennedy Road
Year rerouted: ~1987
Kennedy Road just north of Toronto is a prime example of how of a noticeable curve in a street sometimes denotes a street was re-engineered. Kennedy existed in two separate sections north and south of Steeles Avenue, the Scarborough-Markham town line. The roads were about six hundred metres apart, meaning a northbound traveller from Scarborough had to jog east and then north again to continue into Markham. The area as a whole is and was known as Milliken, a historic community with the uncommon characteristic of existing within both municipalities.
In 1987, the two sections of Kennedy Road were connected by a curving road running north from Steeles which veered east to meet the Markham section of Kennedy just north of the newly created Denison Street. The circumstances behind the re-alignment were unclear, but given Kennedy Road’s history as a ‘highway’ in Scarborough and the tendency in and around Toronto to harmonize streets within bordering jurisdictions, it is easily conceived why the jog was removed.
The eastern section of Kennedy became “orphaned” and was renamed Old Kennedy. Old Kennedy stops at Denison and continues on as Fresno Court, which in turn ends at a cul de sac. A fence separates it and Kennedy Road. Old Kennedy Road is an interesting mix of industrial and residential, with several older-looking houses near Steeles, perhaps lending back to the days when it was a hub in the village of Milliken.
Old Finch Avenue
Year rerouted: ~1993
Finch Avenue in Scarborough is relatively straight for much of its course from the North York town line to the Pickering town line — except in its most eastern part. Where Finch passed through Staines Road, the street at one time did a triangular job around the CPR tracks (the detour seems to have been created in the 20th century).
Further along, Finch did another jog up Sewell’s Road before meandering across the Rouge River and around its valley. It continued straight toward Kirkham’s Road (today’s Meadowvale Road). As there is today, there was an uncleared section of land across to Beare Road, thus one would have to jog up again to Plug Hat Road and back down to reach Finch again. The street resumed once more on its way to the Pickering Border. This stretch of Finch between Sewells and Kirkham’s made up the historic community of Hillside which had a church, school, and mill. The village made up much of the Rouge lands today from Sheppard Avenue/Twyn Rivers to Steeles Avenue.
By the 1980s, changes came to Finch Avenue. Morningside Avenue curved from the south to meet Finch. Then, in or around 1993, the street was extended further north of Finch. This changed the alignment of the Finch/Staines intersection and effectively split Finch Avenue. Travellers moving east on Finch had to now follow the curving street north to Morningside Avenue and then curve back south via the same street. The east-west street on the other side was “Old Finch Avenue”, following the older, winding alignment. Because of this, the street bunks the trend of “old” streets which were leftover sections of the re-routed street; there is/was not ever a “newer” Finch Avenue that existed alongside the street. Old Finch terminates at Meadowvale Avenue; after Beare Road, it becomes Finch again and continues into Pickering for another eight kilometres.
Today, Old Finch is mostly known for its ‘haunted’ Bailey bridge and being the northern border of the Toronto Zoo, whose postal address is 361A Old Finch Avenue. The reconfiguration at Staines also facilitated the Morningside Heights neighbourhood.
The Older Finch Avenue
Year rerouted: 1977
Old Finch Avenue in the Rouge Valley was not the first Old Finch in the city. There was once a severed section of the street near Victoria Park in the old community of L’Amoreaux when the street was realigned directly across the Scarborough-North York border. This curved realignment eliminated a jog along the town line for east-west travellers. This Old Finch Avenue was closed in 1977; Pawnee Avenue roughly follows its old right of way.
For a Google map of “Old” Toronto Streets, click here.
If you have any information to add or have any stories from any of these locations, leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Toronto’s street grid is over 200 years old by colonial standards and even older with its Aboriginal trails. There have been additions and extensions, widenings and improvements. They have also been named to reflect the city’s past and present and it values (by those who do the naming, that is) – and to help the postal service.
The city is not a static object and neither are street names. Revisions and renamings have been an understated part of Toronto’s history. However, not all street renamings — proposed and actual — have gone over well. What is the mainly reason for this opposition? Simply put: History and Tradition. Whether successful or not, these episodes in Toronto’s history inform us how the city operated and why Toronto’s geography is as it is today.
Here are seven examples of controversial street name changes:
Old and New St. Patrick Street
In 1917, modern Dundas Street was created by amalgamating and connecting several smaller streets. One of these roads was St. Patrick Street, which ran between McCaul Street and Bathurst Street.
One group opposed to changing St. Patrick to Dundas was the St. Patrick’s Old Boys’ Association, which attended the old St. Patrick’s School on William Street. The group deputed to City Council, but was unsuccessful. The story was not all bad as William Street was later renamed to St. Patrick Street to keep the tradition.
In 1929, a dispute over the renaming of 54 Mimico streets spanned several council meetings. At issue, Toronto’s postal service requested the changes after Mimico and Long Branch were placed in the Toronto postal region. The difficulty was the added municipalities added duplicate street names to the region and potential confusion for postal workers. An ex-mayor attended a September 1929 council meeting arguing why the inclusion of ‘Mimico’ in the mailing addresses would not be sufficient enough for postal workers. Matters got heated in an October meeting when Mimico Mayor and Liberal candidate W.A. Edwards accused Minister of Health and Conservative candidate Dr. Godfrey of “insincerity” when Dr. Godfrey opposed the name changes when the mayor rejected Dr. Godfrey’s wish to have Stanley Avenue changed to Godfrey Crescent.
It is unclear whether the by-law change went through, but in the October council meeting, it was moved and seconded that a second reading for the proposed by-law change be conducted. The Mimico street grid remains generally intact since the 1920s, albeit with notable changes: Church Street is now Royal York Road, Salisbury Avenue is now Park Lawn Road, Brant Street is now Dalesford Avenue, and Winslow Avenue is now Douglas Avenue.
Long Branch Street Changes & Disappearances
In 1952, a ratepayers association in Etobicoke protested the changing of part of Lake Promenade Road to Island Road in Long Branch. Lake Promenade existed in two sections on either side of the main branch of Etobicoke Creek, running all the way to Applewood Creek. To eliminate confusion for postal workers, it was proposed for the western section of Lake Promenade be added to Island Rd, which it already connected to.
Residents of Island Road did not like the idea as a recent storm severely damaged and condemned several homes on Lake Promenade and the association with that event to their properties was unwanted. The change ultimately took place by 1955, although it ultimately did not matter as the fallout of Hurricane Hazel caused the expropriation of homes on Island and Lake Promenade near Lake Ontario and Etobicoke Creek, as well as the complete removal of Lake Promenade west of Forty Second Street, James Street west of Forty Second Street, all of Forty Third Street, and Island Road parellel to the lake. Today, much of the area is parkland.
The Pioneers of Scarborough
In 1957, Scarborough Council was tasked with submitting a list of alternate names for 210 streets duplicated elsewhere in the City. Metropolitan Toronto was standardizing operations and services across the city in the decade, including eliminating duplicates of street names.
Confusion over postal delivery was again at issue, but names on the list included Brumwell St, Cornell Avenue, Harris Avenue, Kennedy Road, Little’s Road, Lennox Avenue, Muir Drive, and Paterson Avenue — streets named for Scarborough pioneers. Most streets seem to exist today, save for Lennox Avenue and Agincourt’s Paterson Avenue, which became Reidmount Avenue.
The Many Orioles
In 1958, duplication was at issue again in midtown Toronto with a proposal to rename the similarly named Oriole Crescent, Oriole Gardens, and Oriole Road. The names were to become Holmfield Crescent, Lower Canada Gardens, and Campus College Road, respectively.
Fifteen “angry” women of the three streets united to protest the move, even going as far as saying they’d be willing to go to jail for taking down the new signs if they ever went up. They cited the beauty, history, and fame of the “Oriole” name and the inconvenience it’d cause for people living on those streets to having to change addresses on documents. Ultimately, the names remained as they were and as they are today.
A Mega-Maxome Avenue
In 1962, Willowdale residents protested the renaming and merger of Halstead and Maxome Avenue to Harkness Street. The three streets were disjointed and together would “form a mile long thoroughfare north of Finch Avenue.”
A resident of Maxome, representing 37 others on the street, argued the historical naming of the street, which was honouring a surveyor who laid out the original blocks of the area. Ultimately, the proposal did not go through. Curiously, Halstead and Harkness have disappeared from the map, having the name Maxome Avenue instead. Today, Maxome has a windy course, like it was strung together from a few different streets, creating a mega-street of sorts.
The family wrote North York Council a letter, outlining the connection and how several Scraces were even on North York Council. The street was renamed to Skymark after the development on the street, as the old street had a confusing spelling and was not easy to find. North York Controller Esther Shiner said the new name was “such a pretty name” and she would find something else to name after the Scraces. Of irony, Esther Shiner would later become the subject of a street herself.
“Citizens Protest Against Change In Street Name.” The Globe, 9 Oct. 1952, p. 12.
“’Godfrey Crescent’ Causes Verbal Tilt At Mimico Council.” The Globe, 15 Oct. 1929, p. 16.
“Keep Traditions: Opposes Renaming Traditions.” The Globe, 6 Mar. 1957, p. 4.
“Petty Politics Involved In Changing Street Names.” The Toronto Daily Star, 15 Oct. 1929, p. 5.
“Sees Lakeshore Trustees ‘Trying to Hoodwink Us’.” The Toronto Daily Star, 9 Oct. 1952, p. 26.
“St. Patrick Old Boys Form Strong Body.” The Globe, 7 Apr. 1917, p. 21.
“Street Name Change Bruises Family Pride.” The Globe and Mail, 10 Dec. 1979, p. 4.
“Street Name Change Fought By Residents.” The Globe, 8 Feb. 1962, p. 4.
“Would Go To Jail: 15 Angry Women Save Their Street Names.” The Globe, 5 June 1958, p. 23.
With restaurants located in nearly every pocket of Toronto, McDonald’s — for better or worse — is ubiquitous in the city. Although Torontonians may not give their existence a second thought, the origin story of this mega-chain is largely unknown. Just how did McDonald’s get its start in Toronto and where was the first eatery located?
The first McDonald’s opened in Toronto was in North York at 3777 Keele Street near LePage Court (just south of Finch Avenue) in May 1969. The Big Mac had just made its way onto the hamburger chain’s menu.It was also several decades into Toronto’s post-WWII suburban growth and a fast food boom was already underway.
The event came after a couple of other Canadian McDonald’s milestones. The first ever outlet in the country (and indeed, outside of the United States of America) opened in Richmond, British Columbia in 1967, spearheaded by future Keg founder George Tidball. The premiere franchise in Ontario (and Eastern Canada) opened its doors at 520 Oxford Street West in London. The date was November 11, 1968. The man in charge of that operation and growing McDonald’s in Canada was George Cohon. He opened another locale at 344 Queen Street East in Brampton in the same year, which was the first in the Greater Toronto Area. In 1971, Western and Eastern Canada operations merged to create McDonald’s Canada with Cohon at the helm.
Subsequent Toronto McDonald’s locations opened in the same year as Keele Street. There were eateries at 6170 Bathurst Street, 3660 Dufferin Street, 1068 Islington Avenue (originally 170 Islington Avenue South), 2116 Kipling Avenue (originally 1466 Kipling Avenue North), and 2701 Lawrence Avenue East. The latter was also the first McDonald’s in Scarborough. Two more locations — 5955 Leslie Street and 2870 Eglinton Avenue East — opened in 1970. Advertisements in those years marked contests, store openings, a reduction in menu prices, and job openings (oddly, many were targeted to mothers). Adding to these original eight locales, McDonald’s Canada would continue to steadily open more franchises as the decade marched on.
All these initial locations were purposely situated outside Toronto’s downtown core. As was the case in the United States, McDonald’s policy was to find “suburban situations” with a “backup community”. The idea was captured in the company slogan: ‘We count the church steeples and station wagons’. In other words, McDonald’s restaurants were to be located within a built-in market of families and traffic flow. According to Cohon, they were to be active parts of their new communities.
The McDonald’s origin story goes back to a hamburger and fries stand in 1940s San Bernardino, California. Two brothers, Richard “Dick” McDonald and Maurice “Mac” McDonald, invented the ‘Speedee Service System’ — a Henry Ford-eque approach on food production. No carhops, no tables, no plates, and no half-hour wait times. People only had to drive to the lot, place their order at the window via a very streamlined menu, receive their meal, drive away, and enjoy wherever they wanted. With this, fast food and the drive-in restaurant was born. Ray Croc — the McDonald brothers’ ambitious business partner until he aggressively bought out the company from them in 1961 — made the entreprise into a national and international icon.
To be sure, McDonald’s was not the first to enter the drive-in, fast-food restaurant market in Toronto. The first Harvey’s in Canada opened just north of the city at Yonge Street and Observatory Lane in Richmond Hill in 1959. Tim Horton’s originally failed in the 1960s because of competition from other drive-ins. McDonald’s did, however, help to increase the profile of fast food at a time where it was not yet at modern day levels. A 1970 Globe and Mail article explained the 1960s had seen a buzz around fast food but that had slowed by the end of the decade as land, food, and construction costs rose and the market was over-saturated with eateries. It also went into detail about the specific criteria of fast food, as if the concept was not fully developed. With competitor Burger King opening their first Toronto restaurant a year after McDonald’s and now defunct Burger Chef giving both a real run for consumer dollars, a new era was on the way. The look of the McDonald’s Canada restaurants mirrored their American counterparts. Buildings were usually one storey, highlighted architecturally with two golden arches. Following the drive-in model, parking spaces surrounded the structure and a large, recognizable ‘M’ sign stood at the end of the driveway. However, a key difference with Canadian franchises was more space to eat meals inside the diner. As the 1970s progressed, McDonald’s restaurants came to be more sit-down eateries.
Despite McDonald’s commitment to be contributing members of their new communities, not all neighbourhoods were receptive to the Golden Arches. In 1971, residents of suburban Roe Avenue argued against a McDonald’s that was set to go on their street at the corner of Avenue Road. The company took over a defunct gas station and subsequently bought and demolished two houses to make a parking lot. Residents argued that the area was zoned for residential use and the drive-in would only bring noise to the quiet neighbourhood. The McDonald’s ultimately went in as planned.
A similar battle took place in Markland Wood in Etobicoke in 1977. Residents fought against a location at a mall at Bloor Street and Mill Street. They argued the restaurant did not fit zoning bylaws (McDonald’s argued it was a sitdown restaurant rather than a drive-in). They almost won too, but like Roe Avenue, a McDonald’s is still there today.
These battles highlight the theme of the McDonald’s — and drive-ins in general — as evolutionary by-products of automobile-centred suburbs. By the arrival of the 1970s, ‘quiet, tree-lined’ suburbs had grown to encompass new uses for the car, which now included a new method of food consumption. Steve Penfold writes they were a part of a new transformed landscape of “gas stations, car washes, and other drive-in uses”. As highlighted by Roe Avenue and Markland Wood, the placement of parking lots to serve these new spaces and the implications on zoning became serious issues. Politicians like North York Controller Mel Lastman, Alderman Paul Godfrey, and Scarborough Mayor Paul Cosgrove waged some sort of battle to curtail the expansion of more drive-ins.
By the end of the 1970s, McDonald’s dropped its exclusivity of suburban locations. The first downtowner was on Yonge Street south of Bloor around the middle of the decade. Others would open up on the street near King and Adelaide Streets and further north near St. Clair and Eglinton Avenues. Fifty years and around a hundred frachises later, McDonald’s fingers extends into Toronto’s modern and heritage buildings, food courts, strip malls, Wal-Marts, subway stations, and even the Toronto Zoo.
The original Keele Street McDonald’s closed around 2006. It would however relocate to a new building slightly to its north. Outlets at Islington, Dufferin, and Leslie each converted to other restaurants too. The Bathurst and Steeles location is now the oldest continually operating site in Toronto, although the building — like many others in the city — has been heavily altered.
A question might be if a historical marker like the ones in London or Richmond is warranted on either the first or earliest surviving Toronto McDonald’s. The proliferation of fast food and the chain itself has certainly had negative impacts on society, and this is a case against ‘celebrating’ McDonald’s significance as something of deep value. But in a more neutral sense, the geographic and cultural reach of the company, its impact on daily Toronto life, and its association with the development of suburban Toronto may bring on at least a closer recognition of its significance and existence. And with existence comes the origin story.
Advertisement for McDonald’s, Toronto Daily Star, 21 Nov, 1969, p. 37.
Advertisement for McDonald’s, Toronto Daily Star, 06 Nov, 1970, p. 11.
Advertisement for McDonald’s, Toronto Daily Star, 13 Nov, 1970, p. 11.
Advertisement for McDonald’s, Toronto Daily Star, 04 Oct, 1975, p. 19.
Near the western terminus of the 501 streetcar line at the foot of Kipling Avenue is Humber College’s Lakeshore Campus Welcome Centre. The LEED Silver certified building, completed in 2016, is a Moriyama and Teshima design, and the latest addition to an institution that dates back several decades and an overall area that’s even centuries older.
Across from the Welcome Centre is another introduction of sorts to the history of the place. On the walkway leading to the hospital’s former Assembly Hall, itself incorporating a glass addition, are messages etched in the sidewalk. The quotes, presumably from patients, date to as late as 1979 (when the hospital closed), and make for a nice yet sad exercise in telling the stories of this lost locale. More on that later.
A tour through the campus is a look into how this old asylum was re-adapted into a learning institution – even down to the old stables/garbage, now a Tim Horton’s.
The main part of the campus though consists of the Lakeshore Hospital’s majestic administrative building and the defining cottages which flank it. They now host classes.
These buildings were erected as early as the 1890s when they were a part of the Mimico Branch Asylum, the successor to the Provincial Lunatic Asylum in Toronto (now the site of CAMH). Since then it has appeared in maps and records as the Mimico Asylum (or simply the Asylum), the ‘Lakeside Sanatorium’ (albeit, never officially taking on the title), and the ‘Ontario Hospital’, perhaps reflecting shifting attitudes towards mental health. The last naming change to the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital took place in 1964 – quite recent.
Beyond the main hospital/school buildings, the campus boasts at least two other connected heritage buildings. The Cumberland House, a beautifully restored Victorian residence, once housed the Asylum’s superintendent. Now it’s home to Jean Tweed Centre, which only continues the property’s association with mental health.
Second, the 1930s Power House, a gorgeous industrial construction, now serves as a recreational centre. There’s a path outside it which floods in winter to create a skating trail.
When a place ceases to functiom under its original purpose or even exist at all, the narratives associated with it risk being lost. The potential for story-telling is diminished. With the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, there is fortunately a movement towards commemorating this important site.
Asylum By the Lake compiles the history of Mimico Asylum, offering insights into evolution of uses in the built heritge as well as great archival maps and images. It also tells the stories of some of its patients, which is the main focus of the Lakeshore Asylum Cemetery Project. Heritage Toronto recognized the work of the LACP’s volunteers in maintaining the property, which is located off Kipling Ave on Evans Ave, with a Community Heritage Award.
Similarly, the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre, located in the Welcome Centre, has mandate to uncover (or rather recover) and present the Asylum’s lost narratives. The organization has hosted fascinating tunnel tours of the hospital grounds. Lakeshore Grounds’ Behind the Walls exhibition looks like an excellent interpretive endeavour.
As 2015 has come and gone, I think it’s an appropriate exercise to take stock of my year of exploring the city.
My adventures were concentrated once again within the borders of the Old City of Toronto, which was expected, because even in the context of the MegaCity, Toronto Proper still has many stories to discover and relay. A huge highlight was attempting to peel back of the layers of the Fort York area. For an area that has had two hundred years of history and is important in the grand story of Toronto, it’s development into a neighbourhood is only a recent development.
I took a similar approach in meandering through Yorkville, which has been a ‘village’ for more than a hundred years, but has layers of natural, industrial, cultural, and built heritage.
Towards the end of the year, however, I got outside of the downtown core and started to explore areas that were closer to home. This ultimately began with a guided Heritage Toronto tour through Etobicoke’s Sunnylea, but it really took off with a look into Passmore Forest and then shortly followed by Brimley Woods. The existence and evolution of these greenspaces and their environs in the context of Scarborough’s farming past and suburban present is fascinating. In the case of Passmore Forest, there’s even a pre-contact history with the Alexandra Site!
East York’s Crescent Town and North York’s Peanut and environs was a further investigation into suburbia, particularly in the history of tower building in Toronto. Although located in different parts of the city, both their constructions interestingly necessitated the extension of two main roads – Victoria Park Avenue for Crescent Town and Don Mills Road in The Peanut and area.
In regards to where I’ve been, in June I attempted to draw out Toronto from memory. In constructing this mental map, I identified the holes in my concept of the city. More than half a year later, the western reaches of the city still draw blanks. A resolution for 2016, perhaps?
Toronto west of the Humber River fails in my mental map of the city, which is the reason I elected to trek cross-town to hear about Sunnylea, the area south of Bloor near Royal York. It’s also a relatively recent yet important history, one that perhaps gets overlooked because it wasn’t so long ago in the grand view of things. It’s maybe a bit closer to home in my own story, having grown up in a post-war borough myself.
Our tour leader, Don Waterfall, opens with a contextual stat about the great suburban migration: in 1941, the total population of Etobicoke was 19,000; in 1951, it was 54,000; in 1956: 100,000; and in 1961, it was 155,000. The migrants were primarily young Anglo-Saxon couples, white-collar, Protestant, with one or children. Yep, that’s a nuclear family, ain’t it? As you hope a neighbourhood would do, housing and services sprang up in Sunnylea to cater to the new demographic.
We start our own migration down the Kingsway BIA shopping strip. The heritage walk is about the emergence of this suburb, but the shops – or the buildings they’re housed in, anyways – are akin to the structures that line Bloor in the old city of Toronto. They look to me to be from the 1920s and 30s, which our guide confirms. Clearly there was some settlement in this area pre-WWII, because if it wasn’t Sunnylea itself, the Kingsway shops were servicing some other community. A short distance away, the Kingsway Theatre has existed among them since 1939.
At Bloor and Prince Edward Drive is All Saints Anglican Church, which looks older than it actually is. I certainly noticed its tower from the subway station and guessed it’s been around for a hundred years. It was actually built here in 1952 in a Neo-Gothic style. The original church however burnt down in 1966 and was rebuilt.
Across the way we find Park Lawn Cemetery, a site I already know a bit about, even if I haven’t visited myself. It predates the modern neighbourhood by sixty-ish years, opening in the 1890s as Humbervale cemetery. It’s designed in the garden style similar to St. James or The Necropolis. The bombastic Harold Ballard and Maple Leaf Gardens builder Conn Smythe (his namesake park existing on the other side of the Humber) are buried at Park Lawn.
A trip down Prince Edward produces a very familiar site to me, even if I haven’t been here before. Bungalows and two- and three-storey homes line the way. Adjacent to a few residences is the 1959 Firestation 431, which in itself sort of looks like a house.
But it’s not all new stuff. The great part of Toronto is spotting the layers of its past. Recently developed areas still show their roots on occasion. We come to an old farmhouse. It’s been altered a lot and the yard might need some TLC, but its continued existence is a plus.
Up on Glenroy Avenue, Sunnylea Public School is a highlight, says our walk leader. It’s history and Modernist design make it so. It’s not the first Sunnylea School, the first existing as a two-storey white building on Prince Edward. A naming contest won by a little girl gave the school its name and eventually the entire community. Not too shabby on her part.
The new Sunnylea opened in 1943 with an addition coming in 1948. Its architect is John B. Parkin, whose work on the school became a model for schools around the province. Parkin really stripped things down with the project – Sunnylea is only one-storey, not flashy or ornate, a hallway with classrooms on either side, and tons of natural light.
The final stop is Royal York United Church. Like All Saints, it looks old, but actually dates from just after WWII (in 1954). It’s got the overall look of a traditional church, but is done in a Modern Gothic design. The neat lines and simpler aesthetic mimic the surrounding neighbourhood.
The tour ends and I return to Bloor and Royal York. The northeast corner strikes me a bit. It’s an older building, a bank if I had to guess, that looks to have been annexed by the adjacent Shopper’s Drug Mart. The glass design of the Shopper’s has even creeped in on it. A 1958-2010 Then and Now blog piece proves my suspicions right and provides a good window into the transformation of the entire intersection.
It’s fun to think about what was happening in different parts of the city at the same time. You have communities with no formal connections to each other growing alongside each other. Communities that eventually form the modern City of Toronto.
Wikipedia’s page on the History of Toronto has articles on History of Neighbourhoods, Historic places, Oldest buildings and structures, and Timeline of Toronto History. It would interesting to combine these into a giant timeline of events in Toronto’s history. More than that, because this relies on displaying information tied to places, I’d like to see the information displayed on a map (because really, who doesn’t like looking at maps?). I imagine being able to look at map of a given year and clicking on different nodes placed on that map. Then, being able to explore the map from the following year.
I imagine being able to draw observations about how the city developed, what was settled when, what areas were industrializing/de-industrializing, when and how natural landforms were shaped (think the burial of creeks) etc..
In all, it would be another way to capture the story of Toronto. Just an idea.