Tag Archives: agincourt

Scenes From Kennedy Road

Kennedy Road between Finch and Linwood Avenues is, at first glance, an inconsequential stretch of street. 1km of nothing. A bit of digging, however, and there’s a story. There’s always a story.

Beginning at the top, there’s the Hugh Clark House. A rural leftover nestled in behind a gas station. The Clark family once lined the north side of Finch with their farms. The first of the Clarks to plant his roots was Hugh‘s father, William, who settled two lots over at Birchmount Road in 1838. I wrote a little bit about the elder Clark while exploring his property at today’s L’Amoreaux Park.

Hugh Clark House
Crossing the street, one comes to an innocent looking parkette. Today’s park, however, is yesterday’s street jog. Kennedy at one time jogged left at Finch, forcing a northbound traveler to turn left and then right before continuing north. At some point Kennedy was reconfigured to run seamlessly through the intersection. An orphaned section of the old route remained south of Finch, however. The old Kennedy bus used to turn around at the loop when the bus route terminated at Finch. The triangular jog was eliminated for good in 1979, leaving us Kennedy Road Parkette.

Finch Kennedy Parkette jog
Next, Lynnwood Heights on Southlawn Drive has been around since 1956. The school’s TDSB webpage notes an original population of 400, a staggering far cry from the current enrollment of 160 pupils. The surrounding subdivision also dates from around 1956, making it one of the older post-war developments in northern Scarborough. One can imagine as the area continued to grow, more schools opened to relieve Lynnwood.

Lynnwood Heights Junior Public School
Huntingwood Drive is an east-west alternative to Sheppard and Finch (at least, between Victoria Park and McCowan), but its existence is a relatively recent thing – around 1967, more specifically. It’s odd in the way it snakes close to Sheppard in some parts and close in Finch in others.

Huntingwood Drive

Kennedy Road & Area, 1965

Kennedy Road & Area, 1965. Source: City of Toronto Archives. The future Huntingwood Drive is pencilled in bottom left. Finch jog at top.

Bookending the kilometre stretch is another farmhouse, Elmridge. This was the Pat(t)erson family homestead. Or, at least, one of them. Like the Clarks, the Patersons were a pioneering Scarboro family who toiled the land on the east side of the street between Sheppard and Finch. Robert Bonis writes in A History of Scarborough that a Thomas Paterson arrived here in 1820 from Scotland, clearing the land with his son. His descendants continued his work at Elmridge, eventually making the Paterson name synonymous with Agincourt. This excellently researched WikiTree entry breaks down the life of Thomas Archibald Paterson, the great-grandson of the original Thomas Paterson.

Elmridge House

Scenes From Tam O’Shanter

Consider this a sequel. Or, maybe a prequel. Whatever the case, if Wishing Well Acres is  the Sullivan in Tam O’Shanter-Sullivan, here’s the Tam O’Shanter part.

We begin at Agincourt Mall. The shopping centre dates back to 1966, likely making it the third enclosed mall in Scarborough after 1954’s Eglinton Square and Golden Mile (Cedarbrae Mall predates Agincourt by four years but didn’t get its ceiling until 1972). The mall’s anchors are Wal-Mart and No Frills, but I can recall a time – in 1994, specifically – when they were Woolco and Loblaws, respectively. Walmart bought Woolco that year. No Frills came in the 2000s.

Agincourt Mall outside

As much as malls like Agincourt are seen as shabby and sad (Agincourt Mall as of 2016 has a number of empty tenants), I’ve found that they are still appreciated locales. A lot of nostalgia fills their walls. The comments in this BlogTO article about Agincourt Mall by Robyn Urback  prove that. Everyone has a story, or a store they enjoyed frequently, or an odd memory about something that isn’t there anymore. Mine is the RadioShack that was there in 1990s and 00s, reminding me of lost Canadian retailers. There is a Source in the mall now, but not in the same space as its predecessor.

Agincourt Mall inside

Agincourt Mall was built on the Kennedy farm, with the farmhouse once located just north of the mall and south of the West Highland Creek. A walk down the street named for the family leads to a trail that lines the creek.

West Highland Creek bridge
The path is sandwiched between an apartment and townhouse complex on one side and the creek and Tam O’Shanter Golf Club on the other. A look down at the shallow waterway produces a shiny sheet of ice over the surface and the occasional group of ducks in the non-frozen bits. But there’s also something that doesn’t quite belong.

West Highland Creek
Several pillars jut out on either side of the creek – two on one side and two opposite them. I count three sets of these abutments along the way. Their meaning isn’t hard to figure out: 3 sets of abutments, 3 phantom bridges. There is one question, though: what’s the story?

West Highland Creek bridge abutments

The answer: In the 1930s to the 1970s, this was the site of the Tam O’Shanter Golf and Country Club, the precursor to Tam O’Shanter Golf Course.

Tam O'Shanter Country Club

Tam O’Shanter Country Club, 1960s. Source: Scarborough Archives.

In addition to golf, the Tam O’Shanter Country Club complex had swimming, ice hockey, and curling. In 1971, the club erupted in flames, destroying some of the complex. In researching the fire, I’ve read many stories about people seeing the flames from afar. Like Agincourt Mall, the country club meant something to many people.

In 1973, the Province of Ontario, Metro Toronto, and Scarborough jointly acquired Tam O’Shanter and converted it into a municipal golf course. In the coming years, the complex would be gradually demolished and a new clubhouse would be built around 1980. Today, a couple of apartment towers on Bonis Avenue stand in the club’s former location.

West Highland Creek Bend 1967

Tam O’Shanter & West Highland Creek, 1967, Source: City of Toronto Archives.

Back to the abandoned abutments, the creek was located just behind the clubhouse and its bridges led to and from the golf course. Shortly after the course’s acquisition, the bridges were removed, presumably because the course layout would be reorganized.

West Highland Creek ducks

But the creek hasn’t always run the same course.

West Highland Creek Bend 1956

Tam O’Shanter & West Highland Creek, 1956, Source: City of Toronto Archives.

The West Highland at one time swung north up into the golf course before dropping back down and resuming in a northwest direction. Around 1967, the creek was straightened and bridges were installed. The orphan bend remained as a sort of oxbox for some time, but since has been mostly filled in. One can still see the imprint of the bend today, though, notably through the pond and the ‘etched’ curved outline north of it.

West Highland Creek Bend 2015

Tam O’Shanter & West Highland Creek, 2015. Source: Toronto Historic Maps.

Tam Shanter West Highland bend pond

There is one remaining bridge, however – a wider, sturdier construction. There is a gate in the fence on the other side, so one can guess that at least it might have been a vehicular corridor. As of 2015, though, both ends have been barricaded to prevent any sort of use.

West Highland Creek big bridge

As the West Highland continues into the golf course and beyond, the trail comes to Ron Watson Park, renamed from Tam O’Shanter Park in 2005 in recognition of the long-time Scarborough resident, trustee, and councillor. Watson was honoured with a star on Scarborough’s Walk of Fame in 2011. The park forms the field of Tam O’Shanter School, featuring a nice playground…and a stone turret.

Ron Watson Park

This viney tower became an instant curiosity to me. It looked old and misplaced. No doors (although, perhaps a sealed opening), a couple of ‘windows’ near the top. What was/is it?

Ron Watson Park tower

I had to do some digging. Google presented nothing, so I consulted some aerial photos to try and date it. It’s been around since at least 1947, the first year on record for aerials in the Toronto Archives.

Ron Watson Turret 1965

Charles Watson Farm, 1965. Source: City of Toronto Archives.

Ron Watson Turret 2015

Ron Watson Park, 2015. Source: Toronto Historic Maps.

Next, looking at the 1878 Map of Scarboro Township, Ron Watson Park was once part of the Samuel Horsey farm on Concession 3 Lot 30. Whether Horsey built the mystery tower is unknown. His house had a parlour, though!

Posting my findings and curiosities on Twitter, answers came in from the Scarborough Archives.

So, Horsey sold his farm to Watson, who likely built the silo. When Watson’s farm was subdivided, the tower was never torn down with it. My guess is the task proved too difficult. It doesn’t fully answer the ‘when?’ part, but mystery solved!

Ron Watson Park silo

Leaving the park and silo, the two-in-one Stephen Leacock  Collegiate/John Buchan Senior Public School has had a place on Birchmount Road since 1970. It is built in the Brutalist (or, Heroic) style that was indicative of Toronto architecture in the 1950s to 1970s. The schools’ namesakes were a Canadian author and humourist and Scottish author and historian, respectively.

Stephen Leacock School Brutalism

And while I’m profiling, Tam O’Shanter is a Robbie Burns poem. Another Scottish connection. The Anglo-Saxon roots and references of the Tam O’Shanter community is interesting though, considering what it became. Today, it is one of the more diverse areas in the city of Toronto.

Next, a derelict structure stands across the school. I don’t know its full context, but it’s most definitely another rural leftover.

Abandoned building Birchmount Avenue

On Bonis Avenue, there’s Agincourt Library and another great turret. Although the building opened in 1991, the library itself dates back to 1918. Within that time it has moved locales a few times, including a stay in Agincourt Mall. The branh carries three copies of A History of Scaborough. Its editor is a Mr. Robert Bonis, who lends his name to the street.

Agincourt Library

Down at Birchmount and Sheppard, a strip mall has gone through a makeover in the last few years. It’s about to get a new tenant, too: Starbucks. The sight is initial shock for me, if only because it’s strange to see one in this neighbourhood. My mind shoots to the old idea that a Starbucks is tell tale sign of gentrification, but I question whether it applies here. We’ll have to see.

Starbucks Birchmount and Sheppard

Foregoing a stroll down Sheppard,  I backtrack to Bay Mills Boulevard. The curved street offers a sort of ‘backstage’ view of Tam O’Shanter, showing off the apartments, church, school, field, playground that all front Sheppard. The intersection of Bay Mills and Sheppard is the start of the Sheppard Avenue East Avenue Study zone. On one side there’s another strip mall; on the other, a car dealership. They’ll surely be part of the plans.

Bay Mills Boulevard

Warden Avenue is further down the way, but that adventure lies in the mentioned Wish Well exploration. For now, that’s a wrap on this one.

Sheppard and Bay Mills

If you have memories of Agincourt Mall, Tam O’Shanter Country Club, Stephen Leacock School, or Tam-O’Shanter-Sullivan in general, I would like to hear about it. Leave a comment below or tweet me!

Aerial Scenes From My Neighbourhood (1947 to 2013)

Having already conducted and written about a walk around my neighbourhood in Agincourt, I was looking for new ways to understand my surroundings. The City of Toronto Archives website has aerial photographs dating from 1947 to 1992 . I was already aware my local subdivision grew out of the post-WWII suburban boom, but this was a very visual way to track that growth and development.

Fulbert1947

1947

I had to stitch together two portions of the atlas to retrieve this image. The street running north-south on the left side is Kennedy Road and is the only route that exists – other than what appears to be a farm road for one of the two properties in the area. The CNR track runs north-south on the right hand side. Also of note is the landscape in the lower left corner – quite distinct from the adjacent farmland on the east side of Kennedy. Today this is the Tam O’Shanter Golf Course.

Fulbert1953

1953

We have roads! To the north Linwood Avenue springs up and south of that, Havendale Road. The farm is now not the only residence either.

Fulbert1957

1957

Fulbert1962

1962

Other than the angle of the first image, there is very little difference in nine years. The houses are quite  set back from the street which leads me to believe that during the next decade at least some were lost. Also, I especially enjoy the consistency in the topography of the golf course.

Fulbert1971

1971

The rise of the subdivision – at least partially. There is a portion of a side street – Fulbert Crescent – that has not yet been built due to the existence of a farm or an orchard on Kennedy Road south of Havendale. I am fascinated by what went on there between the owner and the city that made that portion of the street develop later than the surrounding environ, and whether this sort of event happened in other parts of the city. In addition, there are ‘gaps’ in the street, where houses now exist, which have been pointed out by a darker set of markings.

Fulbert1983

1983

The subdivision (I’m picturing the Rush song with the music video partially set in Scarborough) is complete! The park in the northeast portion of the image now has a baseball diamond! Also, according to this post on the Golf Werks website (I was unable to track down more supporting sources), by this time in 1980, Tam O’Shanter Golf Course would come into existence after being redeveloped from the old Tam O’Shanter Country Club.

Fulbert1992

1992

Fulbert2013

2013

Having lived here for nearly the last twenty years, the neighbourhood is well past its growth period. As a final note, I will say that the property mentioned in the 1947, the one south of Linwood Avenue, still exists. Growing up I thought it was odd because unlike the rest of the houses on the row, it is set back from the street and has this long driveway. I have still never seen the house. Who knew it was a heritage farm property!

Scenes From Agincourt

Edwardian country houses, post-war bungalows, 1960s apartment buildings, East Asian businesses, modern homes, condominiums, and LRT lines. A stroll through “old” Agincourt is enough to showcase the layers of this neighbourhood’s history.

Agincourt Drive Sign

Agincourt began as 19th century farming village far from the reaches of Toronto. The Edwardian homes are beautiful and unexpected pieces of architectures. With their great verandas, colourful gardens, and sizable backyard lots, it is fun to stop and examine them.

Edwardian Architecture on Lockie 2

Extended Backyards of Original Edwardian Lots
Edwardian Home on Lockie Avenue
I like to imagine the lives their original residents in the late 19th and early 20th century on streets like Agincourt Drive, Lockie Avenue, Ross Avenue, and Donalda Avenue: how they walked the same streets and went to some of the old landmarks that still exist, like Agincourt Jr Public School, built in 1914.

AgincourtPublicSchool

Agincourt Jr Public School, undated. Source: City of Toronto Archives

Agincourt Public School

But while this area is lined with historic century old structures and streets,  it’s important to note that almost along side them are houses – many of them bungalows – built in the post-WWII suburban boom.

Bungalow and Newer Home
Steps away from the Agincourt Jr Public School – ‘Little A’, as it’s locally known – is its younger ‘big’ brother Agincourt Collegiate Institute. It has the distinction of being the oldest high school in Scarborough, beginning in 1915 on the second floor of Little A, before getting its own building (known then as Agincourt Continuation and later Agincourt High School) on Midland Avenue, which was in turn demolished in the 1950s to make way for the current expansive school.

Old Agincourt Continuation School built in 1929.

Agincourt Continuation School, undated. Source: Scarborough Archives.

Agincourt Collegiate Institute
Further down the way on Midland is Knox United Church, another of the old landmarks of Old Agincourt. Although the church has had a presence here since the mid-19th century, the current building dates from 1872 when it was known as Knox Presbyterian Church.

Knox United (Presbyterian) Church 1

Knox United (Presbyterian) Church 2
Up Glen Watford is the Agincourt Recreation Centre. It’s the second of its kind as a neighbourhood gathering spot, following the old Agincourt Community Centre. There’s a neat little gate from 1951 in front which serves as a great tribute to North Scarboro (note the spelling) and Agincourt.

Agincourt Recreation Centre

North Scarboro Memorial Agincourt Recreation Centre

Also on Glen Watford, one can find the Dynasty Centre – a largely East Asian commercial centre reflective of the cultural and culinary diversity of Agincourt and Scarborough as a whole eventually came to known for. It’s home to One2 Snacks, a reputable and delicious Malaysian eatery.

Dynasty Centre 1

Dynasty Centre One2 Snacks

Midland and Sheppard is the western border of the Sheppard East Village BIA, and many Asian enterprises hold membership in it. Many of the businesses display dual languages as a result.

Chinatown Strip

Chinatown

On the southwestern corner of Midland and Sheppard is an empty, abandoned, derelict flea market. One wonders what’s to come of it.

Abandoned Flee Market

The stretch of Sheppard between Midland Ave and Kennedy Road has seen a lot of activity lately. The recently completed railway underpass project has returned traffic to non-chaotic levels. The Sheppard East LRT should run through it – eventually.

Converted homes to businesses

Sheppard East Underpass

The railway was an important marker in the village’s growth, and today there is a GO Station to move people and in and out. One can also pass by several old homes that have been (horribly) converted to commercial enterprises as well a very depleted and urbanized Highland Creek.

Agincourt Go Station 1

Agincourt Go Station 2

Highland Creek Depleted

At the corner of Kennedy and Sheppard stands Agincourt Mall. My memory recalls when Walmart was a Woolco, No Frills was a Loblaws, and the complex with Shopper’s Drug Mart and BMO did not exist. There was also a gas station on the northwest corner where the path and greenery exists.

Kennedy and Sheppard and Condos

Agincourt Mall Addition

This area also houses the Agincourt Library (on the second floor is a small exhibit on the history of the village) and an adjacent condo construction project. A selling point in the billboard lining the site is that it is “steps from the proposed LRT.”

Agincourt Public Library Exterior

                                   History of Agincourt Exhibit 2      History of Agincourt Exhibit 4      LRT Ad

Condo Construction

On the west side of Kennedy north of Bonis is a bridge with a great view over the Highland Creek. The trail it leads to offers a nice escape. It’s hard to imagine that this creek at one time might have been vital to the original residents and their crops. Today their farms are covered by the houses and businesses (including the Tam O’Shanter Golf Course) of later generations.

Highland Creek 1

Highland Creek 2

Tam O'Shanter Golf Course 2

Tam O'Shanter Golf Course 1

Related Links

Toronto Neighbourhood Walks Project – Agincourt Part II: Agincourt South