city edge

Market Square buskers Jan. 25 (640x480)It was deep winter weather. Buskers played as parents un-zipped snowsuits at the Wychwood Avenue entrance.

Market Square Jan. 25 with Kevin compressedmarket square was assigned this table when the baker who uses it cancelled.

Market Square detail Jan. 25 compressedThe table display consisted of a Power Point presentation (reproduced below), a hard copy version in binder and laminated maps and photos.

Room 254 window Jan. 25 compressedActivity room looking out on the market.

Market Square Jan. 25 Gallery of Homes compressedIn this nearby room we offered a children’s activity–draw your home and mark it on the map with a push-pin.

our neighbourhood map w. shadow compressedThe focus was on neighborhood street shapes and open spaces as families and individuals know these through daily activity: What are the routes you take through the streets? What are the spaces in which you linger?

A visitor who is organizing a social ride for this summer  for the advocacy group, Cycle Toronto Ward 21 posted this notice at market square:

Do you have a favourite back alley or laneway? One with character, good graffiti, history or something of interest?  Help me map out a back alley cycling tour. email me at             thanx      Jude

market square will be contributing local history questions for the fifth annual Trivia Open Night fundraiser for Wychwood Open Door on February 22, 2014 at the Barns see

 Today’s program:

Life at the City Edge

The origin of street shapes and open spaces in our neighbourhood through the photographs of William James for The Toronto Daily Star 100 years ago

For William James, the top of Bathurst Hill offered an excellent vantage point on the city. To get here he would have walked from his home on  Major Street along Harbord Street and taken the streetcar north on Bathurst to the Toronto Railway Company’s last stop, at the foot of the hill.  He used Wychwood Bracondale and its surrounding area to record the type of change  that was taking place in the other newly annexed districts of the city. His documentation of modest and grandiose residential building projects is a record of the moment when the fabric of our neighbourhood was woven.

.Bathurst Street looking south to Davenport Road Bathurst street looking south to Davenport Road

Annexation Map, James Lorrimer 1984

James arrived in Toronto from England in 1906. Having been an amateur photographer, he saw an opportunity to turn professional when stereoscopic cards, postcards had become popular and pictorial editions of newspapers were being launched.


The Toronto Star Weekly, a weekend edition of The Toronto Daily Star, was first published in 1910. It chronicled city life with vivid images, occasionally sensationalist writing and a strong human interest focus. The Star had highest circulation among Toronto’s handful of dailies.

below “Press photographers (1907)”

news photographers ca. 1911

“reducing grade on bathurst street looking north” below, documents the achievement of an important step in the struggle to connect the Wychwood Bracondale district to the larger city. The steep grade of the Davenport embankment made Bathurst Hill a difficult climb for all horse drawn and motor vehicles. With the 1909 annexation of the district, road improvement along with other infrastructure enhanced the quality of life and triggered a building boom here.

Reducing grade on Bathurst Street looking north ca. 1908

In this moment of radical physical change to the city,The Toronto Star Weekly ran a photo feature “Old and new landmarks” to orient  readers to the changing landscape. Many Torontonians were transplants from the countryside and would have recognized isolated relics of farming history.

Last Toronto  snake fence

“Last Toronto snake fence in Toronto, Gwynne Estate, Dufferin Street”

old and new types of fences 1911“Old and new types of fences, 1911”

Fences were used to mark property boundaries and protect fields from animals. Snake fences were a sight in common in pre-Confederation Ontario.  Their material and design reflect the large size of farm properties and abundance of wood. By the 1870s snake fences were considered to be wasteful of fields and timber and by 1913 they were admired as memorials to a past rural world.

f1244_it2326“Gwynne Estate (Dufferin St.) famous lovers tree (elm) coming down to make way for new street (1910?)”

The pattern of roads in Toronto was set in through the system for the division of land for settlement. Rural roads were maintained by farmers whose properties bordered on them. The major roads of the urban street grid plan emerged from this land survey checker board.

Atlas of York County 1878 detail largeYork County Atlas,York Township (detail)

North of the city boundary at Queen Street, the land was divided into 100 acre “park lots” to and then from Bloor Street to St. Clair Avenue into larger 200 acre “farm lots”.

Atlas of York County 1878 s.w. detail

Hawthorn Lodge, Atlas of Peel CountyAtlas of Peel County

A typical farm lay-out echoed the geometry of the land survey. The “bush” was at the back of the property. A tree-lined drive from the public street led to the house surrounded by the outbuildings, barn and kitchen garden.


Wychwood street through orchard (1907?)”

Wychwood Avenue–the remains of an orchard is incorporated into the design of the street–a merging of rural and urban landscapes.


“A street in Earlscourt (Toronto) 1910?”

Farms were sliced up and sold as individual building lots or planned residential subdivisions.

Wychwood path 1908“Wychwood path (1908)”

Wychwood Park, just west of Bathurst and Davenport, was a private community for artists. It was designed to feel as though the cottage-style homes there had existed in the forest setting for centuries. The spring-fed pond at its centre and the road that circled the park focused residents inwardly, away from the area transforming around it.

Wychwood Park Star Weekly 1912 Oct. 26 pics

“Residences in Wychwood Park, Toronto, the Only Private Colony of Its Kind in Canada”The Toronto Star Weekly  October 26, 1912

Garrison Creek, between Christie and Dufferin Streets, flowed through settler John Bull’s large property, inspiring the farm’s name, “Springmount”, that was passed on to one of the streets  built on the buried creek.

Garrison Creek

Farms were subdivided into building lots and, before the 1909 annexation, sold without access to city services. Low taxes and the possibility of building a home out of wood rather than the more expensive brick, the only alternative in Toronto, attracted many buyers.

house made of soap boxes 1907“House made of soap boxes 1907”

Moving house on Wychwood Ave.“Moving a house on Wychwood Avenue 1910”

Land speculators sold market-garden sized building lots by appealing to workers’ desire for self-sufficiency at a moment when food prices were rising steeply.  They also promised buyers that, as others joined them in the outlying districts, they too could act as “subdividers” by selling portions of their land as smaller building lots.

Pratt Estate July 10, 1913

Once annexation was assured, a different form of subdivision began to shape the neighbourhood.  Land, especially along the top of the Davenport embankment, attracted developers who had the funds to put together more elegant subdivisions. The value of properties rose exponentially with the addition of parks, sidewalks, street lamps, mature trees and strict building restrictions that guaranteed the construction of large brick homes.

map Atlas of toronto 1910

In general, the straight streets emerged from farms while the curving ones were carved more artistically from large estate properties situated in the rise above the city. A founding partner of Wychwood Park broke off his segment of land converting Braemar Avenue to, Braemar Gardens, a crescent of homes in the typical garden fronted house phalanx that turned its back to the park and connected to the thoroughfare, Christie street.

The winding Davenport Road marks the edge of a pre-historic lake. It evolved from aboriginal trail to settlement route to commercial toll road that was, by 1913 a suburban road with a streetcar line that connected this area with the factories in the Dupont and Lansdowne area. Farmhouses were still visible on the edges of its embankment-hugging route.


Davenport east of Bathurst

East of Spadina and north of Davenport street patterns were affected by the Nordheimer Ravine.

entrance to Nordheimer estate 1910“Entrance to Nordheimer Estate (1910)”

This estate, from which the ravine gets its name, was built by the largest manufacturer of pianos in Canada at a moment when piano were a must-have item for every respectable home. The southern tip and stream of the Nordheimer Ravine was buried in the 1970s when the Spadina subway line was built.

Another ravine-set private park estate was “Ardwold”, home of Sir John Eaton and Lady Eaton on Spadina Road.


Ardwold Star Weekly

Beautiful New Home of Toronto Merchant Prince” The Toronto Star Weekly June 29, 1912

map neighbourhood currentArdwold Gate (lower right)

Ardwold Gate, like Casa Loma, became too expensive to maintain with the post-Annexation rise in the tax rate. Unlike Casa Loma it was razed and the land sold to developers. The shape of the carriage drive is the only remnant of the home of “Toronto’s merchant prince”.

Road widening and streetcar line installation on St. Clair involved moving massive amounts of earth. The connectivity of the road and transportation system trumped that of the ravine system and Nordheimer was truncated from Cedar Vale Ravine.

Ravines truncated

Below in a “Old Landmarks Giving Place to New” photo spread in The Toronto Star Weekly, July 19,1913   it is announced that Sir Henry Pellat’s Casa Loma, on Spadina Road rising above Davenport, is near completion.

1913 July 19 p 6 barns full

1913 July 19 p 6 barns resized

Another photo is captioned     “The Site of the Civic Car Barns for the Car Line on St. Clair Avenue, Toronto  The corner of Bracondale and Benson avenues on the Bathurst Street hill, Toronto, which the city is about to expropriate as a site for car barns for the St. Clair avenue civic car line. The St. Alban’s Cricket Club is opposing expropriation. The building at the right is the Edwards factory. Bracondale avenue, the street on the left, leads south to Wychwood Park, the beautiful little private…”

Toronto’s transit system grew from an assortment of private companies developing their own lines into districts that had sufficient guaranteed ridership to turn a profit. Toronto Civic Railway was set up as an agency of the City to install and run the St.Clair streetcar line and so spur economic investment and settlement in its newly annexed north west region.

Map of Toroto 1916 detail

1916 Toronto streetcar routes map produced by Chiclets company (detail)

The mash-up of transit lines as well as the cost of electricity was such a source of discontent that there was a widespread call for utilities to be regulated and run by City owned companies.

Map routes Nov. 26, 1913 p.6diagram showing web of transit lines, The Toronto Daily Star  November 26, 1913

In 1913 Home Smith struck a deal with the City, in exchange for road and other infrastructure along with annexation of the Bloor-Humber district he would donate valuable park land along the river which, with some expropriation of adjoining lands, the City could transform into a landmark scenic drive.

Toronto postcards-Views on the Humber R. front

1912 Oct. 12 Home Smith

“The Beautiful Bend in the Humber at Bloor Street—one of the prettiest spots on the Humber River is the valley in which lies the much discussed property of Mr. Home Smith’s syndicate.”   The Toronto Star Weekly   October 12, 1912

Sir Henry Pellat’s venture into park subdivision development involved a proposal similar to that of Home Smith.  The City would provide services and a scenic road along the Cedar Vale Ravine and Connaught Estate Park would be an important scheme of civic beatification, connecting city dwellers to the natural topography within city boudaries.

Cedar Vale bridge opening June 5, 1913

Cedar Vale bridge opening,   June 5, 1913

Henry Pellat and group discuss road construction“Henry Pellat and group discuss road building”

However, City council was already over-extended. It had agreed to extend sewers north on Yonge Street to North Toronto and already having moved on Home Smith’s proposal it was wary of further costly commitments.

The Toronto Daily Star  July 22, 1913

City  Council Special Meeting July 22, 1913

The traces of the Connaught Park Estate can be seen at the entrance gate and boulevard at the intersection of Claxton and Bathurst Streets.  A local history group organized to restore the gates. Interpreting their significance Terry McAuliffe wrote, “These stone and iron gates , a developer’s folly, …were to be a grand entrance to an immense subdivision named Cedar Vale, that was to stretch from Vaughn Road to Eglinton Avenue, and about half as far west. This boulevard, to be named Connaught Drive after the Governor General of the day, was to progress majestically to a rather ornate circle, then veer right to cross Cedarvale Ravine and march proudly all the way to Eglinton Avenue.”

Connaught Gate archival Read about this local history landmark: Connaught Gate History

Read more on the spread of residential districts in the period just before the First World War in Paving the Way to Paradise Chapter 4: Subdivisions. (PDF document at bottom of left margin of this website’s Home page.)


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