H I S T O R Y
The High Park neighbourhood contains a wealth of history. The area north of Bloor Street was formerly part of the Town of West Toronto Junction, which was annexed by the City of Toronto in 1909.
The historical house at 191 High Park Avenue was built in 1888 for D.W. Clendenan, the first mayor of West Toronto Junction.
The High Park property south of Bloor Street, was purchased in 1836 by John Howard Toronto’s first surveyor. Howard named his estate High Park because of its magnificent view of Lake Ontario.
In 1873 Howard deeded his beloved High Park estate to the City of Toronto. John Howard’s former residence Colborne Lodge is still situated on its original site in High Park, where it is now a museum.
O V E R V I E W
The High Park neighbourhood is home to a wide range of people. Its highly regarded schools including Humberside Collegiate attract many families with school age children to this neighbourhood.
High Park contains numerous rental opportunities that are popular with singles and couples. There are also a handful of seniors accommodations within this neighbourhood.
The topography of the High Park neighbourhood features gently rolling hills, winding streets, and towering Oak trees that enchant and delight all those who live here.
The beauty of this neighbourhood emanates from High Park which is one of Toronto’s largest and most popular parks.
S H O P P I N G
High Park is conveniently located within walking distance of ‘Bloor West Village’, one of Toronto’s most popular shopping districts. The ‘Village’ is known across the City for its European bakeries, delicatessens, specialty food shops, cafes and restaurants.
High Park’s other major shopping area is the ‘Junction Gardens’, along Dundas Street West. This recently revitalized retail district has gone back to its roots as a railway centre by incorporating a railway lantern into the heritage street signs along Dundas Street.
R E C R E A T I O N
High Park encompasses 399 acres of public parkland. This city park includes a fishing pond, an outdoor theatre, an animal paddocks, picnic grounds, playgrounds, a restaurant, an historic museum, flower gardens, an adventure playground and a trackless train.
High Park’s sports facilities include tennis, baseball, soccer, lawn bowling, swimming, and skating, as well as walking, jogging and cycling paths found throughout the park.
You can read all about the rich history of High Park at the Runnymede Public Library on Bloor Street or the High Park Public Library on Roncesvalles. Both these libraries offer a myriad of programs for neighbourhood residents.
T R A N S P O R T A T I O N
The Bloor-Danforth subway line has three stations serving the High Park neighbourhood including the Runnymede, High Park, and Keele stations.
Motorists are approximately five minutes from the Queensway, which connects commuters to Lake Shore Boulevard and the Gardiner Expressway.
Copyright © 1999 by David Dunkelman
Published by Maple Tree Publishing Inc.
1370 Don Mills Road, Suite 300
Cherry Blossoms in High Park in the spring
|Size||398 acres (161 ha)|
High Park is the largest park in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It spans 161 hectares (398 acres, 1.61 km²). It is a mixed recreational and natural park, with sporting facilities, cultural facilities, educational facilities, gardens, playgrounds and a zoo. One third of the park remains in a natural state, with a rare oak savannah ecology.
The park is located to the west of downtown, north of Humber Bay. It stretches south from Bloor Street West to The Queensway, just north of Lake Ontario. It is bounded on the west by Ellis Park Road and Grenadier Pond and on the east by Parkside Drive.
In 1836, John George Howard purchased a 160-acre (0.65 km2) property in the County of York, to the west of Toronto, for a sheep farm, at the cost of $1,000.00. It was here that Howard designed and built Colborne Lodge, a Regency-style picturesque cottage in 1837 to complement its natural surroundings as the residence for himself and his wife Jemima Frances Meikle. The Howards named their property ‘High Park’ as it was situated on the highest point of land along the Humber Bay shoreline. After a successful career as architect, engineer and land surveyor to the City of Toronto, Howard retired here in 1855.
In 1873, Howard and his wife agreed to convey their country property to the City of Toronto. There were several conditions to the conveyance, including that the Howards continue to live at their residence, no alcohol ever be served in the park, and that the City hold the park “for the free use, benefit and enjoyment of the Citizens of Toronto for ever and to be called and designated at all times thereafter High Park”. The city council voted 13 to 2 to accept the Howard’s conditions. The two dissenters felt the park was too far away from the city to be of any use to its citizens. At the time, direct access to the Howard property was only by boat, the Great Western Railway line to the south or a toll road. Soon afterwards the “Road to High Park” was built from the Lake Road to the park lands, today’s Spring Road and Centre Road. Howard received a lifetime pension from the City in exchange for the property.
In 1876 a 120-acre (0.49 km2) portion of the Howard’s property formed the original park, along with 176 acres (0.71 km2) bought from Percival Ridout east of the Howard farm. The remaining southern 40 acres (160,000 m2) of Howard’s property, including Colborne Lodge, passed to the city after John Howard’s death in 1890. The western addition of 71.8 acres (291,000 m2) added in 1930 was purchased from the Chapman estate. The Howards are buried in High Park, under a stone monument that is fronted by a portion of fencing from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England, across the street from Colborne Lodge. Today, Colborne Lodge is a museum containing many of the original Howard furnishings including John Howard’s watercolours of early Toronto. The museum is open year-round.
The landscape in the park is hilly, with two deep ravines extending the full north-south distance of the park.
The eastern ravine starts at the north-east corner at Bloor and Keele Streets as a forested area around a spring-fed pond. The ravine has a small stream winding south to small ponds just north of The Queensway. South of the forested area are the grassy, developed areas for picnicking, the adventure playground, and the zoo. The ponds, which also hold back storm water, drain into pipes and into Lake Ontario.
The eastern ravine lies over a buried river. In 2003, city workers found strong evidence of the pre-glacial Laurentian River System when capping two artesian wells at the pond at the north-east corner of the Park. The wells began spewing a plume of water, sand, shale and gravel 15 metres into the air. With this discovery, geologists finally pinpointed the southern terminus of this ancient river system whose southerly flow begins near Georgian Bay. The watercourse, flowing 50 metres below the surface in pure bedrock, has remained undisturbed for thousands of years. The water probably originates around Georgian Bay; it tastes of iron.
The central section is a large plain encompassing most of the northern boundary, slowly narrowing to a point overlooking the lake, which is the location of Colborne Lodge. While most of the plain is developed for picnicking, gardens and sports fields, it has a stretch of open habitat called oak savannah, of which there are few other examples in Ontario. The towering black oak trees found throughout High Park are a characteristic of this habitat. The savannah is under the special care of the City and volunteer conservationists. Forested areas of High Park are maintained to mimic natural conditions, with downed trees left to decay. Regular controlled burns are done to mimic forest fires and their beneficial effects for oaks. Non-native plants outside the ornamental gardens are weeded out by volunteers. There is, however, no shortage of non-native trees including Colorado Spruce, Scots Pine and Northern Catalpa.
Grenadier Pond, is a large ( (14.2 hectares (35 acres)) ) body of water located on the western edge of the park. It is named after the local Town of York garrison of the 1800s and their use of the pond for fishing. There are two local myths circulating about the Pond. One is that British Grenadiers fell through its thin ice when crossing to defend the city in the War of 1812. Other myths include that the pond is ‘bottomless’, that is, its depth cannot be measured due to the amount of mud. Fishing remains a popular pastime. Fish caught in the pond are safe to eat, and fishing derbies and casting contests have been held there.
Initiatives have been made to improve the Pond’s health and environment. Grenadier Pond receives some of its water from Wendigo Creek, Wendigo Pond and underground streams feeding it from the north. The northern end of the Pond was naturalized, building a wetland to filter the waters the Pond receives from the stream. The southern and south-western shore of the Pond was also naturalized, removing the manicured lawn and concrete bank to improve the Pond’s health and discourage Canada geese. Signs now ask people not to feed the waterfowl. Grenadier Pond is home to multiple species of bird and marsh wildlife.
Wendigo Creek, Wendigo Pond and Wendigo Way are likely named after the wendigo, mythical cannibalistic creatures of Algonquian mythology. Algonquins did not have a settlement in the park, but are believed to have used it for hunting and fishing and cultivating corn on the sandy uplands of the park.
On the hill to the east of Grenadier Pond, extending up to Colborne Lodge Road, is a landscaped ornamental garden area. There is a ‘rock garden’ extending from the top of the hill near Grenadier Cafe, extending south-west nearly to the Pond shore. Along Colborne Lodge Road, is a hanging garden and ornamental garden with fountains, the ‘sunken gardens.’ At the bottom of the hill, nearly at the shore line is a large maple leaf-shaped flower bed, visible from the top of the hill. A grove of Cherry trees exists along a roadway from near Grenadier cafe to the Pond, with spectacular blooms in late April to early May. The area was a tobogganing area in the early 1900s. Toboggan runs were constructed from the top of the hill extending down to the Pond ice surface. Wedding photography is no longer permitted in the hillside gardens area.
North of Colborne Lodge is the High Park Children’s Garden. It offers programs for schools in the fall & spring and day camps during the summer for children to learn about growing plants and Toronto Parks. The Children’s Garden and Colborne Lodge hold an annual ‘Harvest Festival’ in the fall. It includes craft activities, pumpkin-decorating, gardening displays, traditional games, and rides on horse-drawn wagons.
North-east of the Grenadier Cafe is a large area for allotment gardens. To the east is the Park’s greenhouse. Surrounding the High Park Forest School are several examples of outdoor sculpture. The sculptures were commissioned and placed around 1970. Many of the sculptures are placed within the forested area.
The park includes several attractions, including a set of baseball diamonds, tennis courts, several playgrounds, hillside gardens, a zoo (not a petting zoo) and Colborne Lodge historical museum. The park is also home to the High Park Nature Centre, a non-profit organization run by High Park Initiatives (the park’s charitable organization). The Nature Centre offers nature appreciation and park stewardship programs to local schools, community groups and families throughout the year. There are 18 designated group picnic sites that can be reserved through the City of Toronto.
There are two main children’s playgrounds in High Park. There is a playground in the northwest quadrant with a wading pool, picnic areas and snack bar. In the south-east corner of the park, an ‘adventure playground’ for children was assembled by volunteers in 1999. The playground is named after Jamie Bell, a volunteer who initially pioneered the idea. In the ravine just north of Grenadier Pond is a small play area.
Dog walking on-leash is allowed in all areas of the park except for the children’s playgrounds. An “off-leash” area is located to the east of Colborne Lodge Road, north-east of Grenadier Cafe.
A large restaurant and outdoor patio area is located in the centre of the park at the intersection of West Road and Colborne Lodge Road. Due to the condition in the Howards’ conveyance forbidding the consumption of alcohol in the park, High Park is the last “dry” area of the City of Toronto, and the Cafe restaurant and banquet hall is not licensed to serve alcohol. An outdoor organic produce market operates during the weekends. Twice a year, plant sales are held at the Cafe of plants native to the park to raise money for conservation activities. The plants are native to High Park and Ontario and cultivation of the plants is encouraged to preserve the species. The Cafe is also used for community meetings.
A municipal swimming bath complex is open during the summertime, with a water slide, a splash pad and a shallow wading area. As of 2008, there is no admittance fee for its use. The pool is supervised by lifeguards.
The practice of keeping animals in the park originated in 1893, with the keeping of deer. Today, the zoo – in a ravine along Deer Pen Road – keeps bison, llamas, peacocks, deer, highland cattle, yaks, and sheep. The zoo is open year-round from 7:00 a.m. to dusk.
During the summer, the Canadian Stage company puts on a selected Shakespearean play in the park’s amphitheatre. This annual event, called “Dream in High Park”, is popular with Torontonians. The amphitheatre is on the hill side directly to the east of the Grenadier Cafe.
In the central area of the park, there are two soccer fields and three baseball diamonds available for organized play. One of the baseball diamonds is home to the High Park Braves baseball organization, providing “Little League” organized baseball programs for children in several diamonds.
There are several tennis courts in two separate locations. There are concrete courts along Colborne Lodge Road, to the north of the Pool, operated by the High Park Tennis Club. Along Parkside Drive, between Howard Park Avenue and Bloor Street, is a set of tennis courts and a club house, operated by the Howard Park Tennis Club.
There are unpaved dirt trails throughout High Park that are for hikers and walkers only – cycling is permitted (by law) only on PAVEd trails and roads in the park to prevent erosion and disturbance. Several of the former roadways within the park have been closed to automotive traffic, but are still accessible to pedestrians and cyclists.
In the winter, an artificial ice rink is operated to the north of the Pool for skating and ice hockey. In the past, skating on Grenadier Pond was an annual tradition. Today, the Pond rarely freezes enough to be safe for skating. Tobogganing, a formerly popular pastime is only done now at the hill at Howard Park Avenue and Parkside Drive. Several toboggan runs existed in the past in the hillside gardens area, and the “bowl” at the bottom of an old toboggan run still exists just east of Grenadier Pond, to the north-west of Grenadier Cafe, for a run that started at West Road, and ended at the bowl next to the Pond. The run is no longer used and trees block the run. The hiking paths are maintained for cross-country skiing.
Originally formed for play on the Grenadier Pond ice, the Club has its own facility on Indian Road, just east of the Park, opened in 1911. It is Toronto’s oldest curling club.
High Park is accessible by TTC:
Automobile access is allowed to most of the park, although several roads are closed to vehicular traffic. Parking lots exist at the Adventure Playground and Zoo, at Colborne Lodge, at Grenadier Cafe, High Park Pool and the north-western children’s playground, as well as along some roads. On Sundays in summer, the roads are closed to traffic.
People can walk or bicycle to the park along roads and streets and enter from the neighbourhood. They can take the Martin-Goodman Trail along Lake Ontario to points south of the park.
From spring to fall a “trackless train” — a tractor that tows several wagons decorated to look like a red and white train — is operated making a tour of the Park every 30 minutes, stopping near Bloor Street, the north-western playground, west of the Grenadier Cafe, at Grenadier Pond, south of Colborne Lodge and at the Adventure Playground.
High Park also lends its name to two official neighbourhoods of the City of Toronto, “High Park-Swansea” and “High Park North” adjoining the Park. High Park-Swansea encompasses the area west of Roncesvalles Avenue, to Bloor Street on the north, and the Humber River on the west, which includes High Park itself. High Park North encompasses the area to the east of Runnymede Road, north of Bloor Street, north to Annette Street and Humberside Avenue, and east to the CNR/CPR rail way lines east of Dundas Street.
Residents to the north and east of the Park normally self-identify as living in High Park, while residents to the west self-identify as living in Swansea, which was once a village. High Park North is within the boundaries of the former town of West Toronto Junction.
Roncesvalles Avenue, looking south from Marmaduke Avenue
Location of Roncesvalles in Toronto
Roncesvalles (pronounced /ˈrɒnsəsveɪlz/) is a neighbourhood in the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada centred around Roncesvalles Avenue, a north-south street leading from the intersection of King and Queen Streets to the south, north to Dundas Street West, a distance of roughly 1.5 kilometres. It is located east of High Park, north of Lake Ontario, in the Parkdale-High Park provincial and federal ridings and the municipal Ward 14. An approximate boundary would be High Park to the west, Bloor and Dundas Streets to the north, Sorauren Avenue to the east, and Queen Street to the south. Originally known as ‘Howard Park’, most of this area was formerly within the boundaries of Parkdale and Brockton villages and was annexed into Toronto in the 1880s.
Culturally, the area is known as the centre of the Polish community in Toronto, with prominent Polish institutions, businesses and St Casimir’s Catholic Church located on Roncesvalles Avenue. The businesses along Roncesvalles have formed the Roncesvalles Village Business Improvement Area and hold an annual Polish Festival.
The neighbourhood is predominately residential, with a commercial strip the full length of Roncesvalles, composed predominately of small businesses, churches and institutions. To the west of Roncesvalles, the area is nearly completely residential except for St. Joseph’s Health Centre and a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) streetcar carbarn. East of Roncesvalles along the CN and CP rail lines is an older industrial area that is in transition. Several of the buildings along Sorauren have been converted into loft-style condominiums. At one time a large TTC bus garage was located along Sorauren and the property has been converted into Sorauren Park. Two other old industrial buildings along Wabash are owned by the City of Toronto, and are slated for a future community centre project. One of the buildings currently serves as a clubhouse for the Park.
The City of Toronto defines three official neighbourhoods that have boundaries on Roncesvalles Avenue. To the west, the official neighbourhood is High Park-Swansea. To the east, the official neighbourhood is named “Roncesvalles” – quite often referred to by the locals as “Roncee”. To the southeast of Roncesvalles Avenue is “South Parkdale”.
The street is the centre of Toronto’s Polish community. There are several Polish-speaking restaurants, delicatessens and shops specializing in Polish goods on Roncesvalles Avenue. The sign “Mówimy po polsku” (“We speak Polish”) is displayed in many storefronts. The office of Gazeta, Toronto’s Polish language newspaper, is located on Roncesvalles Avenue as is the headquarters of the Canadian Polish Congress.
In Poland, the Catholic faith is predominant, and this is the case for persons of Polish descent (‘Polonia’) in Canada. There are two large Catholic churches on Roncesvalles. St. Casimir’s Roman Catholic Church offers Polish language masses every Sunday. St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, at Westminster Avenue, holds masses in English and Latin.
The Public Library branch holds a collection of Polish language books and magazines. Polish language lessons are part of the curriculum at St. Vincent de Paul public school.
Pope John Paul II visited the neighbourhood when he came to Toronto in 1984. He dined at the Sir Nicholas Tavern, which is now the site of the coffee shop Tinto. An enormous memorial was held on Roncesvalles Avenue when Pope John Paul II died, with standing room only on the street and sidewalks of Roncesvalles from Marion Avenue to Wright Avenue. The memorial was loosely centred around a statue of the Pope located at the St. Stanislaus-St. Casimir’s Credit Union, a credit union for people of Polish descent. A tribute of candles and flowers around the statue continues today.
At the southern end of Roncesvalles Avenue, at the Sunnyside intersection of King, Queen, Queensway and Roncesvalles streets, two monuments are erected in memory of two events in Polish history. A large monument in memory of the massacre of Polish prisoners of war during World War II, and especially the mass graves of officers found in Katyn forest. Fresh wreaths are placed there regularly. Next to it is a memorial to thousands of Polish citizens deported to Siberian labour camps during the Second World War.
While recognized as the centre of the Polish community, the ethnic makeup of the area around Roncesvalles Avenue varies widely, as is the case throughout Toronto, one of the world’s most ethnically diverse cities (see Demographics of Toronto).
The Roncesvalles Village Business Improvement Area holds an annual Roncesvalles Village Polish Festival each fall, closing Roncesvalles Avenue to vehicular traffic. The festival features amusement rides, clothing, craft and food stands and outdoor musical entertainment, including polka music. In 2006, over 75,000 people attended the festival. The honourary patron of the festival is the Polish Consulate. It is considered the largest Polish festival in Canada.
Roncesvalles Festival in 2006.
Westside performing at the festival in 2006.
View of the crowds in 2008.
The popular repertory movie theatre Revue Cinema, at the intersection of Roncesvalles and Howard Park Avenue first opened its doors in 1911. It recently closed for a year as part of the dissolution of the Festival Cinemas chain. It reopened as a non-profit operation of the Revue Film Society. The Society laboured for a year to find a way to reopen the Revue, and partnered with a local couple which purchased the theatre and now leases it to the Society.
Another theatre, the Brighton, closed in the mid-1980s. It is in use as a convenience store, although it has not been renovated, other than its marquee signage removed.
The High Park branch of the Toronto Public Library, a Carnegie library, is located at Wright Avenue. It was opened in 1915, and renovated in 1980.
Graduates of these schools most often move on to the nearby Humberside, Parkdale, Western Tech and West Toronto high schools.
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Elementary School is a Catholic elementary school on Fermanagh Avenue east of Roncesvalles. It was founded in 1914 operating out of a storefront on Roncesvalles Avenue, across the street from the church. With the end of the war in 1918, a separate building was constructed for the school behind the church on Westminster Ave., which was run by Sisters of Loreto. The school was extended to Fermanagh Avenue shortly after. Problems with low enrollment threatened the existence of the school which was considered for closure during a reorganisation of the Metropolitan Separate School Board (which became the Toronto Catholic District School Board) and general changes of demographics. St. Vincent de Paul is a feeder school for Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton, on Dundas St, just north of Roncesvalles.
The Annunciation Of The Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Cathedral is located at Sorauren Avenue and Galley Avenue. Until 1961, it was the North Parkdale United Church, when it was purchased for $160,000. It was elevated to Cathedral status in 1967. Its interior was damaged by fire in 2000 but was refurbished.
Emmanuel – Howard Park, located at Wright Avenue, operates a mission and a daycare. The church was renamed Emmanuel – Howard Park in 1972, following the merger of its congregation with that of Howard Park United Church. Cheri DiNovo was the pastor of the church until she was elected as the current MPP of High Park-Parkdale in 2006. The former Howard Park Church is located at Sunnyside and Marmaduke and is being converted into housing.
High Park Baptist Church, located at Hewitt Avenue, founded as the Hewitt Avenue Mission in 1908, was originally an outpost of Walmer Road Baptist Church. At the time, Roncesvalles was largely unpopulated, with the Eaton family home on Indian Road being one of the only residences in the area. The original building has been expanded several times, culminating in the construction of a unique circular sanctuary in 1927. High Park Baptist holds Sunday services, small group Bible studies in the church and local homes, and hosts “Room To Roam” a drop-in for parents and children in the neighbourhood, a popular food and clothing bank, summer day camps for local children, and more.
St. Casimir’s Roman Catholic Church at Garden Avenue, offers Polish masses on Sundays. Its origins begin in 1944 when the Oblate Mission decided to create the third Polish parish (and first in the west end) in Toronto. The lot on which the church stands today was purchased for $15,000 in 1948 and construction on the parish hall began the same year. The first mass was held in the church hall in 1949. The church was completed and officially began offering mass on May 23, 1954. The founder and driving force behind the creation of the parish and church was Father Michael Smith who later went on to found Copernicus Lodge. The parish and church were important in the beginning of the Polish community in Toronto’s west end.
St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church, at Westminster Avenue, offers Latin masses on Sundays.
The large St. Joseph’s Health Centre at Sunnyside and The Queensway in the south of the district has been on the site since the 1840s, being first the site of the Sisters of St. Joseph Order, then an orphanage and later the hospital. The Order still operates the hospital. It occupies the site of Sunnyside Lodge, the first home of John Howard.
On the south end of Roncesvalles, one will find Copernicus Lodge, a large chronic care and nursing home facility that primarily serves the Polish community although not exclusively. The Lodge is a monument to the community that in large part was responsible for its creation.
The street is home to several independent drugstores, including the fixture Solarski Pharmacy which is one of Toronto’s oldest pharmacies. There is also a Guardian Pharmacy just a few stores south of Solarski.
There are a myriad of small businesses, most of which are independently owned and operated. These include specialty gift shops, pharmacies, grocers (including organic specialty), health food stores, clothing and shoe boutiques, cafes and restaurants, book and music stores, video stores, art shops, hardware stores and law offices. The former S.S. Kresge store, now a Royal Bank, was built in 1936 and retains its original Kresge signage. The majority of shops are accommodated in two or three-storey structures built in the first half of the 20th century, with the retail portion on the ground floor and apartments above.
Roncesvalles is very well-known for the large number of small restaurants, cafés and specialty food shops of various cuisines. There are several bakeries and delicatessens found along the full length of Roncesvalles.
The Roncesvalles area has several parks and sporting facilities. The schools of the neighbourhood also provide facilities, including swimming pools for school-age children.
The largest park in the area is 400 acres (160 ha) High Park west of Parkside Drive, with playgrounds, Grenadier Pond, a zoo, baseball diamonds, outdoor swimming pool and forest. A new park, Sorauren Avenue Park, was created at the intersection of Sorauren Avenue and Wabash Avenue on the site of a former bus garage. It now holds two tennis courts, two soccer fields and a fieldhouse. A playground is across Wabash from the park. At the site, a former linseed oil factory is now in the ownership of the City and is earmarked for a future recreation centre. To the south of the area, the Sunnyside lakefront provides playgrounds, picnic areas, the Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion, a boardwalk, a recreation trail and beaches.
High Park provides baseball diamonds and organized youth baseball programs. High Park also has two soccer fields, tennis courts and an artificial ice rink in the winter. West Toronto Collegiate on Lansdowne Avenue to the east provides an all-weather track and a soccer field. The closest hockey arena is at McCormick, east of Lansdowne.
There are several club-run facilities. High Park Curling Club on Indian Road is Toronto’s oldest curling club. The current rink was opened in 1911. There are two tennis clubs in High Park. Along the lakefront, there are rowing clubs including the Argonaut Club. The Boulevard Club operates tennis and boating facilities.
The intersection of Roncesvalles, Queen and King streets has long been a transportation hub of the city of Toronto. Passenger trains first served the area in 1855. In the 1890s the location became the hub of commuter streetcars going as far west as Port Credit. In 1895, Toronto Railway Company (forerunner of the TTC) built the Roncesvalles streetcar yards, which continue to dominate the northwest corner. The intersection itself is famous for its huge number of streetcar tracks, possibly the most numerous in the city. The area has also been home to two other TTC yards, one streetcar yard in the triangle formed by Howard Park Avenue, Dundas Street West and Ritchie Avenue, and the bus garage on Sorauren Ave on the current site of Sorauren Park.
Today, the area is well served with the Dundas West and Keele subway stations to the north at Bloor Street. The 501, 504, 505, 506, and 508 streetcars provide frequent service and the Queensway bus provides service along Parkside Avenue from Keele station.
GO Transit operates trains along the Lakeshore rail line, although no longer stopping at Sunnyside, now stopping nearest at Exhibition Place. There are GO trains operating along the CN/CP lines to the east, stopping at Bloor Street and Dundas Street West.
There once was an inter-city bus depot at the northwest corner of Roncesvalles and Queen, now converted to a fast-food restaurant. This took over from the commuter streetcars, although streetcars do travel as far west as Long Branch from Roncesvalles.
The former Toronto – Sunnyside passenger train station, providing intercity train connections, on the Great Western line opened in 1910 at the foot of Roncesvalles. It replaced the railway station located at Jameson and Springhurst, that opened in 1879. Sunnyside station shut in 1971 and was demolished in 1973.
Roncesvalles Avenue is being reconstructed in 2009-2011, partially owing to the need to replace the sewer pipes and water mains and the streetcar tracks. The roadway re-construction will incorporate roadway narrowing and sidewalk improvements. ‘Transit platforms’ will extend to the streetcar doors at transit stops. The street is currently limited to a one-way north configuration, and the street is being served by a temporary 504 bus which travels south from Dundas West station to Queen along Lansdowne, west on Queen and north on Roncesvalles.
Toronto’s first Highway to the west was Dundas Street starting at Queen Street along today’s Ossington and west along its current path west to Dundas (near Hamilton). While Toronto’s boundary was Dufferin Street, a very early village mostly built around hotels sprang up along Dundas just before it met Ossington and entered Toronto; this was Brockton. The Subdivision of land for Brockton included the portion of the neighbourhood east of what is now Roncesvalles Avenue. although little of this was built on. The rest of what is now the Roncesvalles neighbourhood began as farm lots given to Toronto’s prominent Ridout family and the architect John George Howard. These men had careers in the city so little was done with their farmland most of which was never even cleared of the natural forest. Two houses were built by John Howard on these farms: Sunnyside (where St. Joseph’s Hospital is now), and Colborne Lodge (Mr. Howard’s own cottage built 1837) in what is now High Park. A path running through Sunnyside Farm was an Indian trail (now Indian Road) thought to have originally been an ancient Mississauga Indian path, leading from Lake Ontario north. In the 1850s, concurrent with the building of the railway, the central part of Brockton was separated from the Roncesvalles subdivided lands except for a small strip along Dundas between the railway and Bloor.
In 1850, Colonel O’Hara acquired the land north of Queen from Roncesvalles Avenue to just east of Lansdowne Avenue. In 1874, Colonel O’Hara died and his land was subdivided. Following the subdivision of two other farms south of Queen, a new village was rapidly took shape that in 1879 was incorporated, despite protests by the City of Toronto, as the Village of Parkdale. The subdivision of O’Hara’s land and the streets laid out after his death had names related to his family, largely superseded the Brockton subdivision south of the railway between Roncesvalles and Sorauren. Development in Parkdale crept up Sorauren Ave and there was even some building on Roncesvalles Avenue before a series of annexations brought Parkdale (1889), Brockton (1884) and the surrounding farmland (including Sunnyside farm) into the City of Toronto. In all there were 13 separate annexations by the City of Toronto between 1883 and 1893.
When Parkdale was annexed to Toronto, streets were laid out or extended to Keele Street (this section later renamed Parkside Drive) and the street grid took the shape it has to this day. In the 1890s the intersection of Roncesvalles and Queen became more important as a Lake Shore streetcar was built enabling residents of Toronto to travel to the west for recreation more easily. A streetcar yard was added at the intersection in 1895. The Sunnyside railway station at the intersection was opened in 1912.
At the turn of the century the first school was built in the neighbourhood, the Old Howard Park school on Boustead Avenue. Although a number of Victorian homes had already been built extending north from Parkdale, the neighbourhood was largely built from 1900 until the First World War with almost all houses built in the ‘foursquare’ style. Originally these homes were designed for the middle class while wealthier homes were found in Parkdale. Also at this time, the first four Carnegie Libraries were opened in Toronto. Apart from the Central Library all (three) libraries were identical, one of them being the High Park branch on Roncesvalles Avenue. The three original churches were also built at this time; St Vincent de Paul (Roman Catholic), St Jude’s (Anglican) and Howard Park Emmanuel (United Church). In the later years of its development, Roncesvalles began to attract some wealthier families and many impressive homes were built from 1910-1930 on High Park Gardens and High Park Boulevard.
The lakefront was developed by the Toronto Harbour Commission in the 1910s, leading to the development of the Sunnyside Beach and Amusement Park in 1922. Its popularity spurred development of the area commercially. The foot of Roncesvalles became a commercial and transportation hub, with a train station, a bus depot and the streetcar loop. The Park was demolished for the Gardiner Expressway project in 1955 and the Sunnyside intersection bypassed, leading to a decline in commerce and residential values in the area. The wealthy moved away from the area to newer suburbs further west and many local large homes being divided into apartments. However, Roncesvalles has remained largely middle class, attracting an influx of successful immigrants especially from Poland reversing the relationship between Roncesvalles and Parkdale. St Casimir’s Catholic Parish was established in 1944. The construction of the church and church hall began in 1948 and was completed in 1954 by which time the Polish community had become well established in the area. It was the construction of the church was attracted the Polish immigrants to the imemdiate area.
|— Neighbourhood —|
|Incorporated||1887 West Toronto Junction
1889 Toronto Junction
1908 West Toronto
|Annexed||1909 into City of Toronto|
The Junction, is a neighbourhood in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, that is near the junction of four railway lines in the area known as the West Toronto Diamond. The neighbourhood was previously an independent village, town and city until amalgamating with Toronto in 1909. The main intersection of the area is that of Dundas Street West and Keele Street.
As with most Toronto neighbourhoods outside of the central downtown core, the area was primarily rural up until the 1870s. Much of the area that is now the Junction once was the site of the Carlton Race Course from 1857-1876, which was owned by the Keele family. The track was the site of the first Queen’s Plate. Following the arrival of the railways in the 1880s, the old racetrack and surrounding area was developed by Daniel Webster Clendenan. The approximate locations of the two main straightaways of the track are now High Park Avenue and Pacific Avenue.
The Village of West Toronto Junction was founded in 1884 at the intersection of Dundas and Keele Streets. In 1889, it merged with the nearby villages of Carlton and Davenport to the north-east to become the Town of West Toronto Junction. It grew further, into the Town of Toronto Junction in 1892, then the City of West Toronto in 1908 before it was annexed by the City of Toronto one year later in 1909.
The Junction was a manufacturing community that boomed during the late 1800s. Foundries, mills, wire factories, and industries, such as Canadian Cycle & Motor Co., Campbell Milling Company and the Heintzman piano company began moving into the area. Other firms came because land, labour and taxes were cheaper than in Toronto, and the Canadian Pacific established a major operation there, establishing yards from Keele Street as far west as Scarlett Road. In addition, the town acquired an official port of entry in the 1890s, allowing local businesses to clear their goods locally as opposed to using the downtown Toronto port. These factors also attracted many immigrant or second generation Irish Catholics to the area, many of whom moved there from then poor, crowded tenement housing in areas of the city such as Cabbagetown and Brockton Village during the 1880s. Many also came from working-class English industrial cities such as Birmingham and Manchester. They were soon followed by many from non-English speaking countries, including Italians, Poles, Macedonian and Croatian immigrants, many of whom worked in the meat industry.
The Junction was prone to booms and busts during its tumultuous history; while the period between 1888 and 1890 was a prosperous one, the period between 1893 and 1900 saw significant poverty in the area due to an economic recession. The Long Depression saw the closing of factories and the end to construction in the area, and the municipality could not support its citizens because of a large civic debt.
Pubs and taverns became permanent fixtures in The Junction, as was the case with many railway and factory workers’ towns. By 1903, alcohol was such a serious problem for families and a public embarrassment (as drunks were visible from passing trains), that a temperance movement grew in the area, lead by the strong Methodist community. The town voted to go dry in 1904, and continued to enforce local option as late as 2000, being at the time the last area of Toronto to ban the sale of alcohol.
Toronto annexed The Junction in 1909 and the two have gradually grown together, though residents have retained their community identity and remained very loyal to the neighbourhood, despite further economic hardship. The commercial stretch of Dundas Street went into decline, attributed at least partly to the prohibition. The prohibition law dissuaded restaurants from establishing themselves there, and bars were not permitted.
The area between Keele, Runnymede Road, St. Clair, and the CP railway lines, was for many decades the location of the Ontario Stockyards. For a time, this was Canada’s largest livestock market and the centre of Ontario’s meat packing industry, and reinforced Toronto’s nickname as Hogtown. The Ontario Stockyards closed at this site in 1993 (moving to Cookstown, much further north of the city), and most of the meat-packing plants that surrounded it closed shortly thereafter. Much of the lands has been redeveloped with new housing and retail uses. The main Stockyards site is now the location of a large bloc of big-box stores, including Metro, Home Depot, Canadian Tire, Future Shop and Rona, along with several smaller stores. There are still some smaller meat-packing facilities in the area and the name “Stockyards” is still used for the area.
Since the early 1920s, the area by Dundas and St. John’s Road has been known as “Little Malta” (getting signs to that effect in the 1990s) with several Maltese-Canadian businesses present, as well as a distinctly Maltese church. The Maltese-Canadian community has partially spread out to Mississauga and other Toronto suburbs, but still has a visible presence in this area.
As a consequence of the local abattoirs and other industries which produced volumes of toxic waste, the residents of the neighbourhood are highly concerned about pollution issues, and the city of Toronto has put significant efforts into cleaning up former industrial sites.
The elimination of prohibition has had a positive effect on the community, however. Rapid gentrification has meant new chic restaurants and bars have opened up along Dundas Street, attracting young hipsters, while lower rents make the neighbourhood appealing to artists. Some see The Junction as the next big “hip place to live” with a surplus of vacated industrial space and warehouse loft conversion possibilities.
In 2009 the West Toronto RailPath opened, providing a direct link for pedestrians and cyclists from the Junction to the Dundas and Lansdowne area. There are plans to eventually extend the path further south to the Liberty Village neighbourhood.
Today, the term “Junction” is generally applied to the area north of Annette, south of St. Clair, and between Runnymede Road and the Canadian National Railway corridor to the east. Historically, the boundary lines cover a considerably larger area. The City of West Toronto as annexed by Toronto in 1909 had a northern boundary well past St. Clair to Rowntree Avenue, an eastern boundary zig-zagging along the Canadian National tracks, a southern boundary of Bloor Street, and a western boundary as far as Jane Street in the southwest between Bloor and Annette. Since the 1920s, the commercial development on Bloor Street has caused the area between the Junction and Swansea to rise in prominence, and thus many current residents of the former Junction area identify more with Runnymede-Bloor West Village.
The Junction hosts a variety of public events during the year including: