Toronto’s First McDonald’s

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?

McDonald’s locations of Toronto as of 2019.

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 first McDonald’s — centre of image — was located at suburban Keele Street and LePage Court. Credit: City of Toronto Archives, 1971.

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.

The original London location and its golden arches look as they appeared when it opened in 1968. A time capsule and plaque marks its significance. Credit: Google Maps, 2018.
Credit: Globe & Mail, February, 10, 1971

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.

McDonald’s and its famed clown mascot draw up a Toy World contest. Note the list of restaurants in existance at the time. Credit: Toronto Daily Star, November 21, 1969.
Credit: Toronto Daily Star, August 9, 1969.
Credit: Toronto Daily Star, November 6, 1970.
Credit: Toronto Daily Star, June 3, 1970.

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.

McDonald’s locations of Toronto as of 1971.
A growing Bathurst and Steeles area in 1971. McDonald’s is situated at the bottom of the image. Credit: City of Toronto Archives.

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.

A look at the architecture of early McDonald’s Drive-Ins. Credit: Toronto Daily Star, November 13, 1970.

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.

Credit: Globe & Mail, November 30, 1971.

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.

Credit: Toronto Star, October 22, 1977.

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.

McDonald’s at Yonge Street and Grenville Street between 1977 and 1983. Credit: City of Toronto Archives.

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.

The oldest McDonald’s in Toronto, Bathurst and Steeles Avenue. Credit: Google Maps, 2018.

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.

Bateman, Chris. “That Time Toronto Got Its First Taste of Tim Hortons.” BlogTO.

Bradburn, Jamie. “Vintage Toronto Ads: McLower Prices at McDonald’s.” Torontoist, 14 Aug. 2012.

Bullock, Helen. “Arch enemy: A counter atteck repels Big Mac in the battle of Markland Woods” The Toronto Star, 22 Oct 1977, p. A10.

Cohon, George. To Russian With Fries. McClelland & Stewart, 1999

“Dining with Liz.” Toronto Daily Star, 9 Aug. 1969, p. 32.

Gray, Stuart. “Maple leaf forever.” The Globe and Mail, 5 Jul 1973, p. 39.

Howlett, Karen. “Subway Plan Could Benefit Sorbara Family.” The Globe and Mail, 23 Apr. 2018.

Job Advertisement for McDonald’s, Toronto Daily Star, 03 June 1970, p. 61.

Job Advertisement for McDonald’s, Toronto Star, 28 Aug 1979, p. C19

Johnson, Arthur. “For the man on the beat, meals are cheap.” The Globe and Mail, 10 Aug 1976, pg 1.

Lancashire, David. “Burgers, Chicken Pizza Boom: Fast food is tops with Canadians.” The Globe and Mail, 23 May, 1979, p. 7.

Mirsky, Jesse. “Original Harvey’s Restaurant Demolished to Make Way for Condos.” National Post, 13 Mar. 2012.

Moore, Michael. “Pace slowing as fast food meets snags” The Globe and Mail, 05 Aug 1970, p. B1.

Moore, Michael. “Supermarkets can be major factor as burger giants battle to keep growing.” The Globe and Mail, 06 Aug 1970, p. B3.

Parsons, Anne. “Fears swallowed: McDonald’s is picked to cater in new zoo.” The Globe and Mail, 6 Jul 1973, p. 1

Penfold, Steve. “‘Are We to Go Literally to the Hot Dogs?” Parking Lots, Drive-Ins, and the Critique of Progress in Toronto’s Suburbs, 1965–1975 – Urban History Review.” Érudit, Urban History Review / Revue D’histoire Urbaine, 17 May 2013.

Rasky, Frank. “McBreakfast: Fast food grabs the morning rush” Toronto Star, 02 April 1979, p. C1.

Rauchwerger, Daniel. “The Architecture of ‘McDonald’s’ – Architizer Journal.” Journal, 7 Nov. 2017.

Roseman, Ellen. “The man who’s eating up Canada’s fast food industry.” Toronto Star, 22 Feb 1975, p. B1.

Roseman, Ellen. “The Consumer Game: Salad bars good news for waist watchers.” The Globe and Mail, 13 Mar 1979, p. 14.

Shepherd, Harvey. “51 Canadian outlets: Merger brings McDonald’s units under single direction.” The Globe and Mail, 10 Feb 1971, p. B1.

Shepherd, Harvey. “Speed the crux as McDonald’s anticipates costumers’ orders, healthy profits.” The Globe and Mail, 10 Feb 1971, p. B13.

Slover, Frank. “McDonald’s expects profit near $6 million” The Globe and Mail, 03 May 1973, p. B3.

Stern, Beverley. “The Canadian Jewish News, Thursday, May 15,1980 – Page 9.” SFU Digitized Newspapers.

“Truce called in hamburger fray.” The Globe and Mail, 3 Dec 1971, p. 5.

Whelan, Peter. “The hamburger drive-in and the quiet street.” The Globe and Mail, 30 Nov 1971, p. 5.

Mentally Mapping Toronto: Part I

I started this blog with the goal of exploring Toronto. Within that, I wanted to also uncover more of the hazy, black fog that presides over parts of my mental map of Toronto (which actually reminds me of charting through new terrain in the old Command & Conquer games I used to play).

As an exercise, I decided to recreate the map of Toronto from memory – that is, its main road- and highways, railroads, waterways, and some parks. Gotta say: It was hard and certainly not pretty! This is how I did:

Mental Map Toronto

To create this, I drew – that is, recalled – from personal experience in physically being in these places as well as my interest in looking up the paths of railroads or ravines (although, even then it’s hard to recall where two rail lines meet or where a river branches off or curves; for this reason I didn’t bother at all with the smaller ravines like the Highland or Mimico). You can see my corrections as I remember ‘Hey, Dundas West meets Bloor near High Park, not in Etobicoke!’.

The eastern part of the city – my home base – looks pretty decent. South Scarborough is a bit fuzzy, though; it was challenging to remember how much and where Kingston Road curves – even almost forgetting that it meets highway 401 (and forgetting how much the 401 winds and dips too). If I were to draw the north-south throughways, I probably couldn’t remember all their southern termini. I believe everything east of Kennedy stops/starts at the Bluffs (because Kennedy itself stops/starts near Kingston and Danforth). And truthfully, in my mind, the southern end of the borough does feel another city despite existing within the same borders.

The west-er I go, the more empty the map gets. This was expected because, aside from Downsview in the northwestern reaches of North York (which I know from spending five years at York University), I haven’t spent much time in the west end. I couldn’t tell you what a Weston or a Thistletown or a Rexdale looks like or where their hearts are located. Part of it is I haven’t had a tangible reason to travel there: I don’t know what’s there and literally cannot visualize them. I know North Etobicoke, if it’s anything like North Scarborough, has likely a lot of apartment towers. Are there old bits too? Possibly, but I don’t know. The other part is it’s so far in both my mind’s eye and in the real world.

Still though, I should tread through those dark spots, no?

‘Millions Put in New Buildings: Toronto’s Growing Business Must be Accommodated’ – The Globe: March 19, 1907

While digging up some info on a separate topic (expectedly, a look into a former factory in Toronto’s east end), I came across an interesting article in the March 19, 1907 edition of The Globe. It speaks to the growth of Toronto’s built character in that year. It makes reference to many prominent buildings in the story of Toronto then under construction – some still with us, some not.



What fascinated me most is that the article speaks directly to the economic, industrial, and commercial expansion of Toronto in the early 20th century. It’s my theory that this period – that is, the Edwardian era through to the interwar years – was massively transformative on a number of levels – social, economic, and political –  and maybe the most crucial period in the city’s history.

Just off the top of my head, one sees the annexation of numerous communities into the grand City of Toronto, the introduction of the automobile, the emergence of Toronto Hydro, the prominence of neighbourhood theatres (and, with that, vaudeville theatre), and, through my own research into Toronto’s industrial history, the erection of countless manufacturing establishments. Such a topic – the expansion of Toronto from 19oo to 1930 (or, pushing it more, 1940) – I believe is deserving of a book or, at least, a scholarly paper. Perhaps I should take this up.

To get a better sense of the locations in the piece, I referred to the ever resourceful Toronto Historic Maps site.

Striking here is the author’s suggestion that the number of building projects underway is unprecedented – upwards of 3 million dollars. There was a push to rebuild Toronto after the Great Fire of 1904, but looks as though in 1907, the expansion was far more accelerated.

There’s, of course reference, to Eaton’s and Simpson’s, both manufacturing and commercial juggernauts in Toronto at one time. The former’s holdings at what is largely now the Eaton Centre has been completely wiped out, including the mentioned factory at Yonge and Albert. It’s an intersection that no longer exists either! For the expanding Robert Simpson Co., the writer talks about James Street upcoming extension to Richmond, which did indeed happen according to the 1913 Goad’s, but it’s now  back to its original terminus.


Familiar to me are the Christie, Brown & Co. factory (now George Brown College) and the Queen City Vinegar Co. (now lofts). Both impressive structures. Also, Riverdale and Leslieville experienced quite a bit of growth in the early century, and that’s reflected here.


Aside from the Canada Foundry Co., located up at Lansdowne between Davenport and Dupont, many of these look to be in what is now the Entertainment District. I’m surprised there’s no reference to the Massey-Harris plants as they surely expanded in this period.


MillionsPutInNewBuildings52I don’t know if that 20-storey office was ever built. And where this Monarch Bank is/was. I do like the early adaptive re-use though, even if a store to a bank isn’t the hugest stretch!

MillionsPutInNewBuildings6A couple of E.J. Lennox properties appear in the King Edward Hotel and the Victoria Orange Hall at Queen and Bond, a grand building which stood as a testament to Protestant Toronto. Nearby, Mr. Shea’s theatre was the aptly named Shea at Victoria and Richmond, now lost. The new theatre on King Street West is undoubtedly the Royal Alexandra. The very final point refers to Lol Solman, the man behind Hanlan’s Point Amusement Park.

City building, expropriation, and lost histories

For all the houses, farmland, communities that been sold or expropriated to build infrastructure in and around Toronto – roads, highways, subway lines, airports, even our city hall – there isn’t a lot made of the losses that went into the gains. At least, I haven’t encountered a lot. Historian Jay Young explores the expropriation of homes to build Toronto’s underground transit network in his dissertation “Searching for a Better Way: Subway Life and Metropolitan Growth in Toronto, 1942-1978” . It is a fascinating read and I wonder if there’s more out there (Young does cites another article by Jason Gilliland about expropriation in Montreal). If history is about telling stories that haven’t been told yet and recounting perhaps lost perspectives, then I’d like to hear these stories and perspectives. Where are they and where did they go?

They are important ones and vital to how we see and experience the city today. When waiting for a plane at Pearson International’s Terminal 1 or for a bus at Pape Station’s loading bay, it isn’t obvious to think about the structures and the lives that pre-existed those grand transportation hubs. There’s no marker for their sacrifices. Urban landscapes shift and streetscapes change as the new replaces the old. And when the tangible goes, often so does the intangible. But they were here and I wonder what became of them. Progress shifted their life paths. How many of them expected to live in their settings for many years to come? There’s a segment of the population today that boast multi-generational ownership of their homes; perhaps that number could have been higher.

To be clear, I’m not lamenting the construction of the Yonge-University-Spadina line or YYZ or Highway 401. They move people around and are needed to accommodate a growing metropolis. I’m just left with the questions about the people that made it happen. How was the dialogue with the city to give up their homes? What was it like looking at their empty houses and properties for the last time? Where did they even go after? How did their lives differ? What was the good? What was the bad? Are there relatives today that claim those stories? I think those are stories worth hearing and remembering.

Future site of Pape Subway Station, 1927. Credit: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 4828
Future site of Pape Subway Station, 1927. Credit: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 4828
Future Site of Dupont Subway Station, 1954. Credit: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 33b, Item 425
Future site of Dupont Subway Station, 1954. Credit: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 33b, Item 425

For additional reading of a sad modern-day example, check out the expropriation of the Meyers farm to expand the CFB Trenton air force base.

A Grand Geographic Timeline of Toronto History?

This is just me trying to get down some ideas. It may be rough and unclear, but hopefully something to build on.

As a follower of Toronto’s history, I come across a lot of dates – when something was built, when a town is incorporated, when a park is founded etc.

What’s interesting, though, is I’ve started noticing how certain years come up in different stories across the city.

Take the year 1858 as an example. A storm splits Toronto Peninsula to create the Toronto Islands. 26 km to the northeast John Hill founds a post office in Agincourt which signals the start of that community.

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.

A View of York (Toronto) Upper Canada, 1820
Edmund Wyly Grier’s “A View of York (Toronto) Upper Canada, 1820” Credit: Toronto Public Library

What’s In A Street Name?

A city’s streets can tell a lot about that city and its residents: who we are, where we came from, and who and what we value. In other words, names are a huge part of understanding our heritage. At least, that’s what I’ve discovered when looking at Toronto’s roads.

In general, Toronto streets fall into one of three  themes: (1) throwbacks to our British roots; (2) our city and community builders, and (3) literal descriptions (usually of the surrounding environment). If we really wanted to, we could also include a fourth category of streets that do not really have a rhyme or reason that we can tell, or their story has simply been lost.

First, some streets don their names after British royalty. Victoria Street and Queen Street are after Queen Victoria. The ‘King’ in King Street is King George (who might potentially also lend his name to George Street). Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany is honoured by, you guessed, Frederick and York Streets. These streets are the historical bigwigs across the pond.


In the second case, we have places like John and Simcoe Streets named after the city’s founder John Graves Simcoe, Cummer Avenue after Joseph Kummer of Willowdale, Leslie Street after arborist George Leslie of Leslieville, Bloor Street after brewer Joseph Bloore of Yorkville (and a seriously scary looking fellow), Denison Avenue after the George Denison the original owner of the land now known as Kensington Market (many other streets in area are named after his family as well), and Jarvis Street after the Jarvis family. Austin Terrace is named after the Austin Family who built and resided in the manor known today as Spadina House and Gardens Museum. At even a more local level, in early maps of Leslieville, we find streets that have now been redubbed, like Morley Avenue (now Woodfield), after men who were active in the community’s clay industry.


We don’t need to look any further than Old Toronto to see the last category play out. We find streets like The Esplanade. Sometimes near water, the esplanade (basically meaning road or waterway) nickname makes sense because at the time of its founding, the waterfront wasn’t as far out. Speaking of, Front Street was originally named because it followed the original coastline of Lake Ontario. Church Street one time housed many churches (leading to the Toronto ‘the Good’ moniker for the city) and at the foot of Parliament Street was Ontario’s first government buildings. River Street alludes to the adjacent Don River. Don Mills Road, which was once what we know today as Broadview Avenue (titled for the ‘broad view’ one sees of the city when passing over Riverdale Park East), refers to the early industrial mills situated on the Don River. Lot Street, a street we know today as Queen, referred to the parcels or ‘lots’ of land that ran to Bloor Street. Finally, Spruce, Elm, Oak are the names of roadways in the downtown area alone – presumably titled after the trees that lined them.

So what does this all say about us?

Our ancestors loved to pay tribute to the regime that founded the city as well as the Canadians that started the communities within the city’s confines…and that sometimes an unoriginal descriptor is perhaps the best name. This is all rightfully so. We should pay homage to our community founders and as much I support dumping the monarchy, they were instrumental in our history. And yes, it is fun and easy to be literalist.

What’s missing?

In Athens, I stayed on a street called 28 October Avenue – a date in which the Greek government said OXI in refusal to the Mussolini Fascists in 1940. Other cities employ the dates of revolutions from dictatorial or colonial rule (in the case of Latin countries, both). In other words, dates that resonate in the national and local consciousness of people. Do we have that in Canada and Toronto?

The 1st of July would be the most obvious choice. If anything most Canadians identify most with at least that day. I’d throw out a couple of other possibilities of a more local affiliation: 6 March Avenue and 27 April Street. The former reflects the day in 1834 when the Town of York was incorporated as the City of Toronto while the latter is in reference to the Battle of York in 1813 which marks the little known (and only) occasion when The Town of York was occupied by opposing American military forces.

Would these work in Toronto? Likely not. Although I sense that there is a growing connection between the population and its history, I somehow doubt most people could list off Toronto’s birthday or that a battle once took place on its land. Plus, not to discount their places in this city’s story, they do not have the “draw” that a revolution does. But it would be interesting to have anyways.

The other notable omissions are cultural icons within our streets. I can think of three: Mike Myers Drive in the Kennedy and Lawrence area, named after the famed Scarborough-born actor and comedian; Ed Mirvish Way, located beside the Royal Alexandra Theatre, is an homage to the great performing arts promoter; and the Martin Goodman Trail after the Toronto Star Editor-in-Chief. While the last of these is not a motor vehicle way, it is still a method people get around in the city and thus I have included it. I’d like to see more though. How about a Michael Snow Way? A Neil Young Boulevard? An E.J. Lennox Street? All three have made grand contributions to Toronto’s visual arts scene, music scene, and streetscapes respectively.

Lastly, I wonder about homages to the Aboriginal presence in the Toronto area. Yonge Street and Davenport Road were both originally Native trails, although their names do little to alert of that (although there is plenty of work done that tell those stories). Spadina comes from ishpadinaa meaning “be a high hill or sudden rise in the land” in Ojibwe.  The High Park neighbourhood features several ‘Aboriginal’ and non-PC-named streets including Indian Trail, Indian Road Crescent, and Indian Road. The latter intersects with Algonquin Avenue, one of the Native groups of Ontario. In the Weston Road and Rogers Road area one can find Seneca and Cayuga Avenues. These are of course two tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy. The Iroquois connections continue with Hiawatha Road in Leslieville, as Hiawatha is the legendary leader who united the groups.

SenecaCayuga    AlgonquinIndianRoad

I quite honestly expected a lot less representation than I discovered. This is of course only a start, however. Aside from Spadina, which is actually situated on a hill near Casa Loma, their situations within the city are questionable. Do the ‘Indian’ streets follow a historical Aboriginal trial? Cayuga, Seneca, and Hiawatha are all in historical working class, industrial areas, ironically near brick yards. I wonder if there were any reason for the selection of those names in those areas.

How do we name streets anyways?

Not surprising, the way we get our streets names goes through Toronto City Council. According to the City’s Honourific and Street Naming Policy, names should reflect the culture and heritage of the community they are located, have the support of that community, be positive, and not be made into any inappropriate nicknames or abbreviation. In terms of content, the document outlines more guidelines:


Streets should generally be named after people, places, events and things relatedto the City and citizens of Toronto. Proposed names should meet one of the following criteria:

1. to honour and commemorate noteworthy persons associated with the City of  Toronto;

2. to commemorate local history, places, events or culture;

3. to strengthen neighbourhood identity; or

4. to recognize native wildlife, flora, fauna or natural features related to the community and the City of Toronto.

In other words, these are the same categories I have identified through my own observations while examining maps of the city. A proposal can be put forth by a councillor or members of the community at large. These proposals eventually reach a Community Council (consisting of the four former municipalities of Metro Toronto; Toronto and East York consisting of one). They might also reach City Council at large for a final say.

There are several things to note in terms of the points I raised already. First, the policy goes on to say in redubbed streets, names of living persons should be avoided. This makes my Neil Young suggestion perhaps a bit difficult, even though a commemoration of Mike Myers seemed to get through. Second, there is no explicit mention of the use of dates, but looking at section 6.1.2 (b), the argument could be made. Again, I do not think there will ever be a 6 March Boulevard. The connection to the city’s heritage does not seem to exist in that form.