Free Parking & Free Cokes: A&P Super Markets in 1950s Suburban Toronto

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

Toronto Daily Star, July 5, 1952.
Source: Toronto Star Archives

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.

1953 Aerial Image of 5559 Dundas Street West
Source: City of Toronto Archives

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.

1965 Aerial Image of 5559 Dundas Street West
Source: City of Toronto Archives

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.

Food Basics, 5559 Dundas Street West, 2021.
Source: Google Maps

2022 Aerial Image of 5559 Dundas Street West
Source: Google Maps

25 Glen Watford Drive, Scarborough

Toronto Daily Star, March 20, 1957.
Source: Toronto Star Archives

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.

1957 Aerial Image of 25 Glen Watford Drive and Sheppard Avenue East
Source: City of Toronto Archives

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.

1963 Aerial Image of 25 Glen Watford Drive and Sheppard Avenue East.
Source: City of Toronto Archives

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.

1963 Aerial Image of 25 Glen Watford Drive and Sheppard Avenue East.
Source: City of Toronto Archives

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.

25 Glen Watford Drive, 2021.
Source: Google Maps

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.

2022 Aerial Image of 25 Glen Watford Drive and Sheppard Avenue East.
Source: City of Toronto Archives

2939 Dufferin Street, North York

Toronto Daily Star, March 10, 1958.
Source: Toronto Star Archives

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.

1959 Aerial Image of 2939 Dufferin Street
Source: City of Toronto Archives

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.

A&P Supermarket, 2939 Dufferin Street, 1950s or 60s.
Source: City of Toronto Archives.
Tastee Freeze, 2957 Dufferin Street at Glenbrook Avenue, northeast corner, 1950s or 60s
Source: City of Toronto Archives

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.

2939 Dufferin Street, 2021.
Source: Google Maps

Aerial Image of 2939 Dufferin Street, 2022
Source: Google Maps

Do you remember these three A&P super markets or any other early A&P stores? Leave a comment below!

Sources Consulted

Bradburn, Jamie. “Vintage Toronto Ads: Fabulous Cloverdale Mall.” Torontoist, 19 Nov. 2014, https://torontoist.com/2014/11/vintage-toronto-ads-fabulous-cloverdale-mall/.

2016 Neighbourhood Profile Neighbourhood Yorkdale-Glen Park. https://www.toronto.ca/ext/sdfa/Neighbourhood%20Profiles/pdf/2016/pdf1/cpa55.pdf.

“25 Glen Watford Drive – Zoning Amendment and Site Plan Applications – Request for Direction Report.” City of Toronto.

“Eatonville.” Etobicoke Historical Society, https://www.etobicokehistorical.com/eatonville.html.

“Open $1,000,000 Super Market.” The Globe and Mail, July 11, 1952, p. 20.

“Roller Rinks and Magnetic Tapes.” Roller Rinks and Magnetic Tapes : Dragon Centre Stories, https://dragoncentrestories.ca/stories/roller-rinks-and-magnetic-tapes/.

Strauss, Marina and Gordon Pitts. “Grocery” Metro Musles into Ontario, winning A&P Canada bid.” The Globe and Mail, July 20, 2003, p. B1.

A Quick History of The Iconic Guild Inn in Scarborough

With its history and environment, the storied Guild Inn is one of the most unique places in Toronto. Its ninety-year history has evoked a lot nostalgia, both for its visitors and the city’s built heritage as a whole.

2022 Map of The Guild Inn, Park, and Gardens
Source: Google Maps

The Beginnings

The Guild Inn sits on a tract of land that was known as Lot 13 Concession C on Scarborough’s waterfront. It was part of the Scarboro Village Post Office Community. The lot was owned, among others, by the Humphreys family in the 19th century.

1860 Tremaine’s Map of the County of York, Canada West
Source: Old Toronto Maps

The Guild Inn story begins in 1914 when the property came under the ownership of General Harold Child Bickford. He built a 15-bedroom, two-winged house on the parcel, naming it Ranelagh Park. The home would later go on to be known as The Bickford House.

1956 Guild Inn, Guildwood Parkway, south side, east of Livingston
Source: Toronto Public Library

1944 Main building guild of all arts
Source: Toronto Public Library

The Guild of All Arts

In July 1932, Rosa Breithaupt Hewetson bought the Bickford House and the 40-acre property. Together with her new husband H. Spencer Clark, they began to transform it into The Guild of All Arts.

The Toronto Daily Star described its early concept:

“A unique venture into realms of co-operative living will shortly be attempted by a group of Toronto writers, artists, professors and business men, in protest against the standardization of art, education and industry in modern life….

‘The movement is not communistic” was the first declaration.”

Toronto Daily Star, August 27, 1932
Rosa (seated) and Spencer Clark (middle), later in life, 1979.
Source: Toronto Public Library

Two notable artists who worked at the Guild of All Arts at some point were English sculptor Dorothy Dick and Hungarian-born Torontonian Nicholas Hornyansky.

The Guild of All Arts was accessible south of Kingston Road via a side road (possibly today’s Livingston Avenue) that “twisted into a low forest and glided least into a clearing 1,000 feet from the edge of the cliffs”.

A column by ‘The Homemaker’ in the Daily Star in April 1933 set the scene:

“About forty acres of beautiful countryside, bordered by steep cliffs running down to the water’s edge, surround the house and the barn, which members of the community have been making over into homes, studios, and workshops.

Everywhere there were fine stone fireplaces. In one upper room, beautifully proportioned, we found, under the rafters, a large loom set up, and the weaver ready to talk to us of the possibilities of Ontario wool and Ontario flax – possibilities still, apparently, in the infancy of their development.

About twenty-two residents are not on the place, including a goodly number of children, and visiting children were fascinated by the perfect playhouse that had been built for them. It did seem a fine atmosphere for children, with so much of the real country about them and the real fundamental activities of life from which to learn their lessons, tangible and otherwise.”

Toronto Daily Star, April 29, 1933
1933 Map of Township of Scarboro [Scarborough]
Source: University of Toronto Map and Data Library

1947 Aerial Map of The Guild Inn Estate
Source: City of Toronto Archives

The Guild Inn began as this artists’ colony, a legacy that is perhaps not as visible in the current incarnation of the property. The Osterhout Log Cabin — along with The 1940 Sculptor’s Cabin near the north entrance of the property — is one of those remaining markers. The Osterhout Cabin came with the Bickford property when the Clarks bought it. It later served as the work place for sculptor-in-residence Elizabeth Fraser Williamson. A plaque dedicated to her is displayed nearby. A marker about the log cabin itself places the construction as the oldest building in Scarborough dating to 1795, but further research has rather placed its origin to the Humphreys family in the mid-nineteenth century.

The Guild Inn

By the end of the 1930s, the Clarks began to make The Guild of All Arts into The Guild Inn, running it as an event space and country inn, a rural getaway atop the Scarborough Bluffs. In the following decade, they expanded the building and its operations, making it a vacation destination for bridal couples and more.

The Globe and Mail, January 7, 1938
Source: Globe and Mail Archives

The Globe and Mail, December 16, 1938
Source: Globe and Mail Archives

The Globe and Mail, May 20, 1942
Source: Globe and Mail Archives

The Globe and Mail, June 15, 1943
Source: Globe and Mail Archives

In the latter part of and following the end of World War II, the Guild Inn’s operations were interrupted to aid in the war effort and recovery. Its building and grounds were leased by the Clarks to the Department of Pensions as a ‘convalescent home to restore the health of men nerve-shattered in the Canadian armed services”. The arts were part of the process.

The Globe and Mail, May 3, 1946
Source: Globe and Mail Archives

Guildwood Village

In the 1950s, the Clarks sold the hundreds of acres they acquired near the Guild Inn to a developer to build a new planned community. Spencer Clark managed the project. The new community was called Guildwood Village and opened in the late 1950s.

The Globe and Mail, September 7, 1957
Source: Globe and Mail Archives

Guildwood Parkway runs through the centre of Guildwood Village, curling south from Kingston Road. Part of the road was renamed from Eglinton East, a severed section of the main road to the west. The neighbourhood entrance at Kingston is adorned by the salvaged former gates of the Stanley Barracks (New Fort York). Running off the side of the parkway were curving, tree-lined residential streets, one of which is Toynbee Trail, which hosted a series of model homes collectively called the Avenue of Homes.

1931 Stanley Barracks Gates
Source: Toronto Public Library

The Globe and Mail, September 7, 1957
Source: Globe and Mail Archives

Several landmarks opened in the early years along Guildwood Parkway: the Guildwood Presbyterian Church, the Guildwood Village Shopping Centre, and Sir Wilfred Laurier Collegiate. Interestingly, the school’s opening in 1965 seems to have coincided with the closure of four streets east of Livingston and south of Guildwood Parkway. These streets, particularly Woodvale Road, ran right up to the Bluffs.

The Globe, February 11, 1964
Source: Globe and Mail Archives

1955 Realtor’s map of Metropolitan Toronto : showing schools, churches, shopping, transportation
Source: City of Toronto Archives

1959 Map of Scarborough
Source: York University Archives

1965 Aerial Image of the Guild Inn and Wilfred Laurier Collegiate
Source: City of Toronto Archives

The Sculpture Garden

On the Guild’s grounds themselves, the Clarks had great plans as well. In 1958, The Globe reported that “a funicular railway, an outdoor Amphitheatre that will seat 1,500 persons, and a copy of the Hampton Court maze” were part of “the third stage of Spencer Clark’s dream”. The incline railway would have ran 300 feet from the top of the bluffs to the base where a cabana night club would be located. It was never built. The maze, however, did become an attraction in the early 1960s and onwards. The amphitheater would have to wait. In 1965, they also added a six-storey hotel addition.

1965 Aerial Image of The Guild Inn
Source: City of Toronto Archives

Hampton Court Palace maze
Source: Historic Royal Places

Perhaps the biggest change was the addition of a unique sculpture park. In the 1960s, Spencer Clark began to collect architectural fragments from demolished buildings in and around Toronto. His method was laborious:

“Sometimes it meant standing all day long, often in a bitter winter wind, cajoling, begging and bribing workmen to bring them down, from some great height, in one piece. This would be after Mr. Clark had arranged with the wrecking company for the purchase of the piece. But the final arbitrator was the man swinging the wrecker’s ball, he discovered. And once down, these enormous pieces – each weighs anywhere from half a ton to six tons – had to be carted many miles to the collector’s Scarborough property.”

The Globe and Mail, August 6, 1970

Spencer Clark, in front of carvings from the former Bank of Nova Scotia, 1980
Source: Toronto Public Library

More than just preserving the intangible heritage of the buildings, Clark’s goal was to save the craftmanship and skill inherent to the buildings, an objective which directly fit in with the initial vision of The Guild Of All Arts. The collection is a notable what’s what of iconic former Toronto landmarks:

The Banker’s Bond Building, formerly at 60 King Street West

1940s Barclay’s Bank (Banker’s Bond Building)
Source: City of Toronto Archives

The Temple Building, formerly at Bay Street and Richmond Street West

1970 Temple Building, Bay Street and Richmond Street West
Source: City of Toronto Building

The Old Toronto Star Building, formerly at 80 King Street West

1960s Toronto Star Building, 80 King Street West
Source: City of Toronto Archives

The Old Globe and Mail Building, formerly at York Street and King Street West

1972 Corner of York St. and King St., looking north-east, showing the Globe and Mail building
Source: City of Toronto Archives

Victoria Park School (S.S. 23), formerly at Victoria Park Avenue and Highway 401

1956 School Section 23 (1873-1964), Victoria Park Avenue, west side between York Mills Road & Sheppard Avenue East, Toronto, Ontario

The Granite Club, formerly at St. Clair West near Yonge Street

1947 Granite Club, south side of St. Clair Avenue West
Source: City of Toronto Archives

The Registry of Deeds and Land Titles Building, formerly at 90 Albert Street

1950 Registry Building at 90 Albert Street
Source: City of Toronto Archives

In 1977, with the Clarks growing older and business costs rising, the couple sold the Guild Inn to the Metro Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and Metro Toronto City Council. The goal was to protect the site by keeping it in the public trust. Spencer Clark had been thinking about how to best ensure the Inn and its grounds’ future, including a plan in 1971 to bestow some lakefront parkland to the province.

The Toronto Daily Star, September 22, 1971
Source: Toronto Star Archives

Clark continued to manage it for another five years, however. In 1982, in time for the The Guild of All Arts’ fiftieth anniversary, they added the park’s centrepiece: The Greek Theatre. The sculpture was made from salvaged columns of the Bank of Toronto building, formerly at King and Bay Streets, which was demolished to make way for its ambitious successor, the Toronto-Dominion Centre. The theatre is located on the former spot of the Hampton Court maze. It serves as a backdrop for performances and photoshoots.

1962 Toronto Dominion Bank, King Street West and Bay Street
Source: City of Toronto Archives

A Future Uncertain

From the 1980s, the prevailing theme surrounding the Guild Inn was its future. In an interview with the Globe and Mail in 1981, Mr. Clark himself expressed his desire to “make sure they don’t change this place into just another commercial motel or glorified hamburger stand.” Rosa Clark died in that year, followed by her husband five years later. The City of Toronto leased the site to a developer who managed and operated the Inn. It was a money-losing operation in need of repairs until its closure in 2001. Although the park remained opened, the Inn was boarded up while proposals came through about how to revitalize it.

The Guild Inn in November 2016

Revitalization

In 2017, the Guild Inn finally reopened as an event venue to much adulation. The 1965 hotel was demolished and in its place a new modern entertainment space was established. The Clark Centre for The Arts opened in 2022 as cultural facility in a 1960s era storage building on the property.

The City of Toronto continues to manage the grounds with the advocacy, help, and promotion from The Friends of Guild Park. The group’s motto for the park is ‘Where Art Meets Nature’, which neatly captures intersection park and its great trails with the artistry all over the grounds and its in history. Today, The Guild Inn Estate is a marvel for visitors old and new who may get a taste of its past and present.

A Quick History of Controversial Toronto Street Name Changes

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.

St. Patrick Street looking west to Spadina Avenue, circa 1911.
Source: City of Toronto Archives
1913 Goad’s Fire Insurance Map.
Source: Goad’s Toronto

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.

Dundas Street, looking east towards McCaul Street (home of St. Patrick’s Church with the new St. Patrick’s Street behind it), 2021.
Source: Google Maps

Mimico Mixups

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.

1924 Goad’s Fire Insurance Map
Source: Goad’s Toronto

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.

Mimico, 2021.
Source: Google Maps

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.

1953 Aerial Image
Source: City of Toronto Archives

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.

2022 Aerial Image.
Source: Google Maps

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.

1957 Map of Metropolitan Toronto
Source: University of Toronto Map & Data Library

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.

Kennedy Road, looking south to Reidmount Avenue (which amalgamated with the former Paterson Avenue), 2021.
Source: Google Map

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.

1957 Map of Metropolitan Toronto.
Source: University of Toronto Map & Data Library

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.

Looking east down Oriole Gardens at Oriole Road, 2021.
Source: Google Maps.

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.”

1955 Map of Metropolitan Toronto.
Source: University of Toronto Map & Date Library

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.

Maxome Avenue, 2021.
Source: Google Maps.

North York Pioneers

In 1979, Scrace Hill Drive in North York was renamed to Skymark Drive, prompting the opposition of the Scrace family. The Scarces had historical roots in the Finch Avenue and Leslie Street area formerly known as L’Amoreaux, donating land for a church and cemetery, still standing today as Zion Church.

1916 Map of The Townships, York, Scarborough, and Etobicoke.
Source: University of Toronto Map & Data Library

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.

Skymark Drive, 2021. The Skymark Towers are behind the shot. Zion Methodist Church is on the left.
Source: Google Maps.

Sources Cited

“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.

A geographic history of a North York neighbourhood

Note: This article is written without any prior affiliation to or contextual knowledge of the history of the Highland Memory Gardens or the family farms of North York. Their inclusion is as a reference tool to show change.

This is Highland Memory Gardens. It is located near the intersection of Don Mills and Steeles Avenues, in Toronto’s north end. The development of this cemetery and its surrounding area is an interesting look into the creation and evolution of this inner suburbs.

This is the area around Highland Memory Gardens in 1860. Historically, the area consisted of lot 21 (at today’s Finch Avenue) to lot 25 (at Steeles Avenue) of the Third Concession East of Yonge Street (Leslie Street), which were generally 200-acre lots extending to the Fourth Concession East (Woodbine Avenue/Highway 404). Notably absent is a middle road (now Don Mills Road) between the two concession roads. The cemetery itself is located along the east side of the top half lot 23 and the bottom half of lot 24.

1860 Tremaine’s Map of York Country.
Source: Old Toronto Maps

As seen this 1878 map, the area was part of the larger community of L’Amoreaux (also spelled L’Amaroux). The village crossed both sides of the North York-Scaborough townline, with its spine running along Finch Avenue and lots extending to Steeles and Sheppard Avenue.

The L’Amoreaux Post Office stood just west of Victoria Park Avenue on the south side of a lost section of Finch Avenue (it would be re-aligned through the townline in the 1970s). Further west, a Methodist Church and cemetery, a Temperance Hall, and School House stood near Leslie Street.

1878 Illustrated Atlas of York Country.
Source: Old Toronto Maps
Looking west across Finch Avenue, 1955. The road jogs at Woodbine Avenue. In the distance, York School Section 12 (now Zion Schoolhouse) stands on the left of the street and Zion Primitive Methodist Church (now Zion Church Cultural Centre) stands on the right.

Below: York School Section 12 and Zion Primitive Methodist Church, 1957.

Source: Toronto Public Library.

Cutting diagonally through the large block was a creek, now named Duncan Creek. It ran from near Leslie and Steeles (where its namesake’s farming lots stood) to its terminus near Victoria Park and Finch. It does not to seem to have been a major source of industry, compared to the adjacent Don River which hosted a number of mills. In the 1916 map below, the creek slinks its away across lots, although its course is a bit off compared to the earlier maps and later aerial photographs.

1916 Map of Toronto, York, Scarboro, and Etobicoke.
Source: University of Toronto Map & Data Library.

This 1954 aerial photograph is a visual of the area and tells us that even by this decade, the area still maintained its largely rural character. A more precise view of the creek is visible along with the greenery running along its course.

1954 Aerial Image.
Source: University of Toronto Map & Data Library.

For the area plot that would become the Highland Memory Gardens, 1953 was last year it existed as farm fields. A key reference point is the small roadway leading from Woodbine Avenue to a farm near the banks of Duncan Creek. This roadway was the divisor between lots 23 and 24.

1953 Aerial Image.
Source: City of Toronto Archives

The cemetery found a home to the west of Woodbine Avenue, with an entrance leading off the street. The initial layout of the cemetery is a circular path. Some “offshooting” paths seem to laid out as well.

1954 Aerial Image.
Source: University of Toronto Map & Data Library

By 1956, an “arm” shoots off the southern half of the main circle, looping west to connect to the main roadway.

1956 Aerial Image.
Source: City of Toronto Archives

By the close of the decade, the layout of the cemetery increased more with off shoots on the north of the main circle.

1959 Aerial Image
Source: City of Toronto Archives

In 1962, more acreage is added westward and a pond on the north east corner of the plot seems to be more completed. The lawns of the ground look to be landscaped. A tiny building, potentially the administrative centre, appears at the top of the lot.

1962 Aerial Image
Source: City of Toronto Archives

The midpoint of the decade saw few geographic changes, but the notable start of residential development to the west of the creek.

1965 Aerial Image
Source: City of Toronto Archives

By 1968, the cemetery expands again to the west. It would be its last major territorial expansion. The subdivision to the west of the creek appears complete, clearly stopping at the property line midway between Woodbine and Leslie.

1968 Aerial Image
Source: City of Toronto Archives

By the start of the 1970s, development starts to grow to the south of the cemetery, replacing the longtime farm buildings. An early Don Mills Road begins to curl in from the the south as well as an early McNiccol Avenue slinks from west to east.

1970 Aerial Image
Source: City of Toronto Archives

By 1973, the farm buildings near the creek are razed as the land is about to be filled in by housing. The creek itself disappears under the subdivision to the south of the cemetery. The land north of the cemetery also sees new subdivisions.

1973 Aerial Image
Source: City of Toronto Archives

By 1976, Don Mills Road is completed, seemingly bending through the area to provide a second access point to the cemetery. Townhouses are built between the creek and Don Mills Road.

1976 Aerial Image
Source: City of Toronto Archives

By the 1980s, Highland Memory Gardens took on the form seen today. Highway 404 was completed in the late 1970s replacing the former Woodbine Avenue right of way. With that, the main entrance to the cemetery shifted to Don Mills Road with the old entrance off Woodbine being built over. Several other buildings would later fill the northeast corner.

1981 Aerial Image
Source: City of Toronto Archives

Today, Highland Memory Gardens is part of the Hillcrest Village neighbourhood of Toronto, an area roughly encompassed by Steeles Avenue, Finch Avenue, Leslie Street, and Victoria Park Avenue.

The Zion Church and Schoolhouse still stand today as 19th century reminders, but references to the area as L’Amoreaux are non-existent today. The post office and its street are gone, with the Old Finch Avenue closed in 1977 and Pawnee Avenue roughly replacing it as the two Finches were connected. (The L’Amoreaux name does live on in Scarborough, of course.)

“Borough of North York Notice of Road Closing”, The Globe and Mail, September 9, 1977.
Source: The Globe and Mail Archives

There is a trail and parkland which follows Duncan Creek; the Seneca Newnham Campus, founded in the late 1960s, now runs over a buried portion of the creek. The property lines of the 40-acre Highland Memory Gardens reference the old concession lots, offering a forgotten link to the past.

1975 Aerial Image of Victoria Park and Finch Avenue
Source: City of Toronto Archives

“Know Agincourt, but Their Maps Ignore Toronto”: A Quick History of The Agincourt Magnetic Observatory

When one thinks of the history of Scarborough, the intersection of Midland Avenue and the 401 might not be the first thought. However, a site that once stood there for more the half the 20th century literally put the local community on the international scientific map. This was the Agincourt Magnetic Observatory.

Aerial image of the Agincourt Magnetic Observatory, 1957.
Source: City of Toronto Archives

The story of the Agincourt Magnetic Observatory begins not in Scarborough, but on the grounds of King’s College in downtown Toronto in 1840. The school became the University of Toronto in 1850. Contrary to the dense district of today, the university was then sparsely populated – in other words, perfect conditions to minimize interference. The University granted 2.5 acres for a site that was located on the southwest side of today’s King’s College Circle.

“The Old Toronto Observatory” painted by William Armstrong, 1852.
Source: University of Toronto Archives
Boulton Atlas, 1858.
Source: Goad’s Toronto

The Globe described the laboratory:

“The first observatory was of logs, rough cast on the outside and plastered on the inside; it was completed during the summer of 1840 and observations were begun in September.”

The Globe, October 1, 1898
University of Toronto Campus Map, 1859.
Source: University of Toronto Archives

The second observatory was built in the autumn of 1853, replacing the wooden observatory on the same site. It was built of stone and the nails and fastenings were of copper and zinc.

The Toronto Observatory as seen looking south from University College, 1857.
Source: Toronto Public Library.
Dominion of Canada Observatory, 1880s.
Source: University of Toronto Archives

In 1892, Toronto’s growing infrastructure began to spell the beginning of the end for the observatory. To be sure, as early as 1876, new structures on the university grounds began to impact the observatory, but it was nothing like the electric railway to come. Streetcars were electrified, first beginning with the Church Street line opened on August 17, 1892, and then the College Street line only steps from the building. Instead of recording magnetic changes, the observatory recorded the starting and stoppings of the trolleys. In 1896, Sir Frederick Stupart, the director at the observatory, took up the issue with the government. There would be no action until a report was received from a committee of meteorologists visiting from England that year. This report recommended the centre be moved far away — to Scarborough.

Goad’s Fire Insurance Map, 1889.
Source: Goad’s Toronto.

The observatory was relocated just south of the Agincourt Village centre at the current intersection of Midland Avenue and Sheppard Avenue where a Presbyterian Church and nearby Canadian National and Canadian Pacific stations stood. It was perfect in that no electric railway lines existed – at least not in seven miles and there was little prospect of any lines for many years (the railway did not interfere either). The observatory stood in a 4-acre field at the north end of the southern half of lot 16 (Midland Avenue) and Concession II (Ellesmere Avenue), belonging to the Forfar family. It was constructed over the summer of 1898 and opened in September. The first observations were made on September 10 and by the end of the month, all instruments had been moved from Toronto to the new site.

Map of the Townships, York, Scarboro, and Etobicoke, 1916.
Source: University of Toronto Map & Data Library
Aerial image of the Agincourt Magnetic Observatory, 1947.
Source: City of Toronto Archives

This Observatory was described in The Globe:

“…[It] consists of two parts, a circular stone collar nineteen feet in diameter, the walls two feet in thickness, the floor concrete and the roof covered with felt and gravel, in which on stone piers sunk in concrete to a depth of six feet below the floor are place the self-recording photographic instruments, namely, the declinometer for recording changes in the direction of the magnetic needle and the bifilar and vertical force instrument, for registering respectively changes in the horizontal and vertical components of the earth’s magnetism: above ground and connected with the cellar by a flight of steps is an erection which divided into two portions, in the larger of which absolute magnetic determinations will be made, piers being provided on which to place the necessary instruments, and an adjustable opening on the roof for transit work – and the smaller, an office, which will be heated by a copper stove.”

The Globe, October 1, 1898
The Agincourt Magnetic Observatory, The Globe and Mail, November 26, 1952.
Source: Globe and Mail Archives
Basement of Magnetic Building, Agincourt, early 20th Century.
Source: City of Toronto Archives

The old Toronto Observatory continued to serve as the central office of the Dominion Meteorological Service. All photographic records from Agincourt were sent there for development. It also conducted astronomical studies. In 1908, the observatory was dismantled to accommodate an extension to King’s College Circle and possibly a new physics building. It was reconstructed brick by brick near Hart House, where it stands today as a students’ union. Some installations stand near its former location between Convocation Hall and the Sandford Fleming Building.

Convocation Hall – East side and Old Observatory, 1907.
Source: University of Toronto Archives
Goad’s Fire Insurance Map, 1930.
Source: University of Toronto Archives
Louis B. Stewart Observatory (UTSU), 12 Hart House Circle, 1980s or 1990s.
Source: City of Toronto Archives

In 1899, severe earthquakes in Alaska were recorded at the Agincourt Magnetic Observatory. In 1903, the observatory recorded the largest magnetic storm on October 30 and 31, which Director Stupart “intimately” connected sunspots and magnetic disturbances on earth. The centre recorded more such magnetic storms attributed to sun sports on Aug 8, 1917. The Agincourt labs were useful in World War II against Germany for “calibration of master compasses and other apparatuses”.

The Toronto Daily Star, September 12, 1917
Source: Toronto Star Archives.

The Globe and Mail, November 26, 1952.
Source: Globe and Mail Archives

The significance of the Agincourt Magnetic Observatory and its activities were very well documented and even world-renowned. In 1919, the Observatory was threatened by a proposed Toronto to Port Perry Hydro Radial, which had officials looking for a new site where electricity would not penetrate that observatory’s environment. It was of significant alarm as the Agincourt Magnetic Observatory was one of two of its kind in Canada and by far the more important of the pair. In 1957, a contagion of scientists from around the world visited Agincourt as a part of some sessions by the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics held at the University of Toronto. They asserted that they knew Agincourt better than Toronto as the village appeared in “thousands of International Geophysical maps” around the world.

Despite its importance, city growth once again spelled the end for the site. Meeting a similar fate to the Toronto Observatory seventy years before, the Agincourt Magnetic Observatory closed in March 1969. In the 1950s, Highway 401 was constructed next to the laboratory. Farms adjacent to the observatory began to turn into housing. Factories were built on either side of the property in the 1960s. On July 1, 1968, a new observatory opened in Ottawa. By 1971, the Agincourt structures were gone completely. Today, government offices stand in its place, hiding the great landmark once housed there.

Aerial image of recently demolished Agincourt Magnetic Observatory, 1971.
Source: City of Toronto Archives.
Site of Agincourt Magnetic Observatory, 2022.
Source: Google Maps

Works Referenced

“Astronomical Conversation.” The Globe, 21 Jan. 1903, p. 12.

“Chilly Weather.” The Globe, 14 Dec. 1898, p. 2.

Dobson, Jack. “Magnetic Observatory One of Canada’s First.” The Globe and Mail, 26 Nov. 1952, p. 3.

Government of Canada, Natural Resources Canada. “Government of Canada / Gouvernement Du Canada.” Government of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Hazards Information Service, Government of Canada / Gouvernement Du Canada, 1 Mar. 2019, https://www.geomag.nrcan.gc.ca/obs/ott-en.php.

“Heritage of 315 Bloor Street West.” Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, 28 June 2018, https://munkschool.utoronto.ca/at-the-observatory/.

“Know Agincourt But Their Maps Ignore Toronto.” The Globe and Mail, 12 Sept. 1957, p. 7.

“The Mounted Police.” The Globe, 7 Mar. 1900, p. 9.

“The New Observatory at Agincourt.” The Globe, 12 Dec. 1898, p. 2.

“The New Observatory.” The Globe, 1 Oct. 1898, p. 5.

“New Radial Line Will Compel Removal of Observatory.” The Globe, 2 Apr. 1919, p. 9.

“Safe From Wires.” The Evening Star, 27 Sept. 1898, p. 1.

“The Spots on the Sun.” The Globe, 6 Nov. 1903, p. 7.

“Studying Magnetic Storms By Diagram.” The Toronto Daily Star, 12 Sept. 1917, p. 2.

“To Remove Observatory.” The Globe, 1 May 1906, p. 14.

“Toronto Magnetic and Meteorological Observatory.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Oct. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto_Magnetic_and_Meteorological_Observatory.

Torontoist. “Historicist: The Toronto Magnetic Observatory.” Torontoist, 13 Oct. 2012, https://torontoist.com/2012/10/historicist-the-toronto-magnetic-observatory/.

“University of Toronto.” Google Books, Google, https://books.google.ca/books?id=kZ61LfzVhJkC&pg=PA353&lpg=PA353&dq=Agincourt%2BMagnetic%2BObservatory%2Bdemolished&source=bl&ots=J5xhggL2Kp&sig=ACfU3U3shyLGTOksTCogpU3LkY1g-zYbSA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjL3KiDx_31AhVZkYkEHcsiDGIQ6AF6BAgPEAM#v=onepage&q=Agincourt%20Magnetic%20Observatory%20demolished&f=false.

“University of Toronto: An Architectural Tour (the Campus Guide) 2nd Edition.” Google Books, Google, https://books.google.ca/books?id=ZTKODwAAQBAJ&pg=PA66&lpg=PA66&dq=toronto%2Bmagnetic%2Bobservatory%2Bking%27s%2Bcollege%2Bcircle&source=bl&ots=T4jfUxams4&sig=ACfU3U0gAQKK9gQj9HbunIK0Z4YFwkdfpQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi3iI682_31AhWEk4kEHXmTBDEQ6AF6BAhOEAM#v=onepage&q=toronto%20magnetic%20observatory%20king’s%20college%20circle&f=false.

“World Weather.” The Globe and Mail, 26 Nov. 1952, p. 3.

“A World-Shaking Earthquake.” The Globe, 27 Sept. 1899, p. 8.


“Old” Streets of Toronto

Across the map of Toronto, there are several “Old” versions of major streets: Old Yonge Street, Old Leslie Street, et cetera. These are smaller and certainly older streets that predate yet still exist alongside their longer, newer counterparts.

How old are these “old” streets anyways? Why were they built as they were in the first place? Why were they replaced?

Tremaine’s Map showing old courses of Toronto’s streets.
Source: Old Toronto Maps

Here are five examples of “Old” Toronto Streets and their histories:


1. Old Yonge Street

Year rerouted: 1835

When Yonge Street was laid out in the 1790s, it was not the continuous straight path we think of today. The sheer length of the street almost welcomed obstacles. At York Mills, the challenging topography around the West Don River caused it to divert east just south of York Mills Road. It curved north and back west to join the original course. In 1835, the street was realigned and straightened. It seems in the 1920s, Yonge Street was re-routed again slightly to the west to allow for better automobile navigation.

1851 JO Browne Map of the Township of York.
Source: Old Toronto Maps
1950 Aerial showing Old Yonge Street and “new” Yonge Street.
Source: City of Toronto Archives.
“Yonge Street, at York Mills, Again Takes Altered Course” The Globe, February 26, 1921.
Source: Globe & Mail Archives.

Today, the old, “orphaned” course remains as part of Mill Street and Old Yonge Street. Old Yonge’s narrow, curvy course in parts maintains a rural quality. While at one time Yonge and Old Yonge once connected at its north end, this connection is now a roundabout. Finally, because of its length in the province, there are other Old Yonge Streets in Thornhill and Aurora.

Old Yonge Street, 2021
Source: Google Maps
Yonge Street, 2021.
Source: Google Maps.
Source: Google Maps & Bob Georgiou


2. Old Sheppard Avenue

Year rerouted: ~1934

Sheppard Avenue once existed in two separate sections on either side of the Scarborough-North York border. A traveller wishing to travel east or west through the two streets had to jog about 300 metres on Victoria Park to reach the other section. In 1934, the two roads were joined through a curving road running from just past Woodbine Avenue to the lower street in Scarborough. The move was the idea of Ontario Premier George S. Henry whose estate stood where the new Sheppard Avenue connection ran.

1965 Aerial showing Old Sheppard Avenue and “new” Sheppard Avenue.
Source: City of Toronto Archives

Today, the orphaned North York section of the old road now exists as residential Old Sheppard, albeit with small parts removed around Highway 404.

Old Sheppard Avenue, 2021
Source: Google Maps
Sheppard Avenue, 2021.
Source: Google Maps
Source: Google Maps & Bob Georgiou

More reading: Scenes From O’Sullivan’s Corners & Muirhead’s Corners


3. Old Lawrence Avenue

Year rerouted: ~1961

Lawrence Avenue is and was one of many streets which was impact by Toronto’s ravines. West of Victoria Park Avenue, Lawrence once took an interesting route across the East Don River Valley. Like Sheppard Avenue, there were two sections of the street: the Scarborough section which exists today and a North York section. The North York section jogged up Victoria Park over the Canadian Pacific Railway, ran briefly next to the track, and continued west for 1.5 kilometres. From here, it took a rather curvy route south down the East Don Valley, crossed the Don River via a bridge, and curved back north and west before continuing towards Don Mills Road. Presumably, this was easiest way in the 19th century to navigate the valley.

1860 Tremaine’s Map showing Old Lawrence Avenue
Source: Old Toronto Maps
Looking southwest at intersection of Victoria Park Avenue and Old Lawrence Avenue exit, 1958.
Source: Toronto Public Library
1959 Aerial showing Old Lawrence Avenue
Source: City of Toronto Archives
Lawrence Avenue E., bridge over East Don River, looking northwest,1955.
Source: Toronto Public Library

In 1961, Lawrence Avenue was straightened with a road directly connecting Victoria Park and Woodcliff Place, curling northwest from Scarborough with several new bridges to accommodate the Don River and CPR.

1960 Aerial showing Old Lawrence Avenue and “new” Lawrence Avenue under construction.
Source: City of Toronto Archives.
Lawrence Avenue East and CPR bridge under construction, circa 1960.
Source: City of Toronto Archives.

Today, the orphaned old road exists as roughly as part of Roanoke Road and, more famously, a short access road to the East Don Trail named Old Lawrence. The remaining section west of the river along with the old bridge itself have been lost.

Old Lawrence Avenue, 2021
Source: Google Maps