City and Country Life in pre-First World War Toronto

One hundred years ago for the first time in Ontario history, more people lived in cities than in the country.

toronto archives 1244, 4123


The unfolding of seasons and the effect of this on plants and animals is the essential measure of rural life. The keeping of animals and growing of food was relegated to zones separate and apart from residential areas. Country life and city life began to be experienced as counterpoint realities.





Photographer William James and road paving entrepreneur William MacKendrick were born in the 1860s within two years of each other.  Both grew up in rural environments, a fact that made them at home in the outdoors and sensitive to the landscape. Both were talented interpreters of the profound changes that came with Toronto’s urbanization. They understood that, in its essence, modern life pivoted around mobility and time. Each, in different ways, offered the public the experience of a ‘country past’ that could be accessed in the midst of modern urban life.

city of toronto 1244, 3521


Working under deadline, James trained his camera on scenes that reflected Torontonians’ interests. The state of the roads, the beauty of the countryside and the new parks are among his most common subjects. The photos, with their unerring sense of composition, timing and human interest, serve as pictorial collective memory of the city’s origins. One hundred years ago, they helped city residents to picture and so see themselves as part of the new civic outdoor spaces—from the shores of Island Park to Rosedale Ravine Drive to High Park and at its farthest reaches—the scenic Lakeshore Road and village of Oakville.

toronto archives 1244, 9052


Lakeshore Road, the route to Oakville, was particularly promoted through James’ photographs as  a pictorial transit corridor.





While MacKendrick’s roads provided easy passage through the new metropolis and out to its environs, James’ images convinced citizens that, through those roads, all of the surrounding landscapes were within their reach.

To read more go to Menu: “Paving the Way to Paradise…” Introduction

Images of toronto archives fonds 1244, 4123 Casa Loma view looking S 1914?
2. vintage postcard
3. city of toronto archives fonds 1244, 3819
4. city of toronto archives fonds 1244, 3521
5. city of toronto archives fonds 1244, 9052 copyright photos W. James
6. city of toronto archives fonds 1244, 1074   Oakville dirt road 1909?

7. city of toronto archives fonds 1244, 7237  probably Clarkson 1910 or prior

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