Who Was John Ellis?

ELLIS, JOHN, printer and musician; baptized 21 Jan. 1795, at Cley-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, Eng., son of Anne Ellis; d. 19 Nov. 1877, near Toronto, Ont.

(Posted here with the kind permission of Greg Chown. See the original and related articles on LOST TORONTO here.)

John Ellis was apparently comfortably established in London, England, by 1836. He had a business in the City in Old Broad Street and was a freeman of the Goldsmiths’ Company; he owned two country properties in Essex; his wife of eight years, Rhoda Anne Benton, had just had their first child. But in that year he sold the London property and in August the family sailed for British North America, reaching Toronto in October. For a year or two Ellis “bushed it” west of the city on land adjoining that of John George Howard*.

In the early 1840s Ellis opened an office in Toronto as an engraver, eventually extending into lithographic printing of substantial projects, including the Plan of Toronto in about 1858. Probably the main line of business was stationery. In 1867 the firm was bought by Joseph T. Rolph and, with mergers, has since grown into the modern lithographic house of Rolph-Clark-Stone, Limited.

Ellis was an enthusiastic, and reportedly an accomplished, amateur cellist, prominent in the city’s young musical life. With the Reverend John McCaul* he organized the Toronto Philharmonic Society in 1845 and served on its committee for many years. He was also a founder, and the orchestra leader, of the Toronto Vocal Music Society.

Ellis was Anglican, Conservative, and an early member of the St George’s Society in Toronto. After retiring from business he lived at his old home overlooking Humber Bay, where he died in 1877.

pictures-r-2754North of Lake Ontario, just west of what is now High Park, stood John Ellis’s house, Herne Hill, overlooking Grenadier pond and the lake. John Ellis Sr. bought the forested 66 hectares (160 acres) west of Grenadier Pond for $25 an acre, and built a house, “Herne Hill” on Grenadier Heights. It was his friend, John George Howard (who donated his land to create High Park) that had convinced John Ellis Sr. to buy the land. The area was known as Windermere in the 1880s, as it has rolling hills similar to its namesake in England, and then Swansea by the 1890’s. Ellis Avenue was constructed over an existing First Nations trail as the entrance to the Herne Hill estate.

pictures-r-3057-1John Ellis Jr.

pictures-r-1809This print is attributed to John Ellis as the printer.

pictures-r-6631As is this one.

maps-r-111This map of Swansea (Windemere) shows the extent of the Ellis property.

Also interesting is the fact that Ellis Ave is a former Indian trail to the lake as is Indian Road.

Most Toronto streets follow a strict British grid, When you find a road that meanders it’s either an old trail or it follows an old creek or river. Niagra Street is a good example of the former as it followed the path of Garrison Creek from the old fort up to Queen Street and onto the fort at Niagara on the Lake.

pictures-r-6865-1John Ellis Jr. at Herne Hill, “Ye Old Homestead”.

The sketch below is his.

pictures-r-68511851Browne.york-1851xA high res map of Toronto from 1851, drawn by J.D Browne, printed and engraved by John Ellis, showing the Herne property as well as some other interesting details.

Taverns are prominently marked and note that the intersection of Yonge and Bloor is a Potters Field.

“A potter’s field or common grave is a term for a place for the burial of unknown or indigent people. The expression derives from the Bible, referring to a field used for the extraction of potter’s clay; such land, useless for agriculture, could be used as a burial site”.

  • Toronto, Ontario had a Potter’s Field at the corner of Yonge and Bloor Streets. The burial grounds were closed with some of the bodies moved to other cemeteries. Unknown number of bodies remained on the site when it was built over. Today the grounds are part of the posh Yorkville district, and the site of an office tower.
 Dundas Street starts at the foot of Queen Street (now Ossington).
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Historical Walk Sun. Nov. 30, 2pm. Early Developments.

Brockton in 1868. There is a Tole Booth at Brock and Queen in future Parkdale.

In Brockton in 1868, there was a Toll Booth at Brock and Queen in what was the future Parkdale.

We will meet on the west side of Brock Street at Queen St. West, 2 PM Sunday (where the toll booth once was).

We will begin with a discussion of early developments at this corner, the site of perhaps the first building on Queen in Parkdale. We will travel along Queen to Dunn Ave and learn more about the history of the buildings at that intersection. We will then walk down Dunn Avenue, noting the historic institutions and houses as far as Springhurst. We will visit the location of the former South Parkdale Railway station and the Home for the Incurables, finishing up near Dunn and King about 3:30 PM. We look forward to discussing Parkdale history with you.

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Parkdale History in a Dozen Maps!

Parkdale has a history as diverse as it’s present. When Champlain arrived in 1509 at Quebec City the Nutrals lived in our area. They were close to the Hurons. The Iroquois, armed by the Dutch and Americans invaded this area for the lucrative fur trade and drove out all others by 1550. Their continuing expansion eventually brought them into conflict with an Ojibwa alliance that in turn pushed them out of Ontario. The Ojibway group that settled in our area was the Mississaugas. They were still here when the British arrived.

Did you know that in 1757 we were already called Toronto, we had a fort near the foot of Dufferin St and we spoke French.

Did you know that in 1757 we were already called Toronto, we had a fort near the foot of Dufferin St and we spoke French.

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Community walking tour focuses on West Queen West

Re-posted here with kind permission from

Avery Carr, Gord Perks and a determined core group stayed the full two hours in the rain to contribute to building a better Parkdale.

Avery Carr, Gord Perks and a determined core group stayed the full two hours in the rain to contribute to building a better Parkdale. Photo by Jack Gibney.

Despite the cold and rainy weather, about 50 Parkdale community members braved the elements and participated in the first of two walking tours regarding the West Queen West Planning Study.

“The main goal of today is to get people thinking,” said Avery Carr, the project lead on the West Queen West study with the City of Toronto.

“We want ideas from the residents as we walk, to think about the various elements of the study and what needs to be focused on and improved upon and to get them thinking about their vision for the future of this street.”

An additional goal of this study is to update the current zoning bylaw which is out of date and provide more protection for the street from future development.

Carr was joined by Ward 14 Councillor Gord Perks as well as City of Toronto staff in the transportation, urban planning and community development departments.

In order to properly envision the future of Queen Street, participants of the Saturday afternoon walking tour were tasked with travelling from Dufferin Street to Roncesvalles Avenue, while considering various improvements and problem areas. Participants were asked to focus on six areas: built form, which focuses on building heights, setbacks and stepbacks; the streetscape; transportation, including parking; the heritage attributes of the street; the character of the area; and public spaces.

The tour began in the amphitheatre at Queen and Dufferin streets and was immediately pointed out as a public space that could use some more trees and could be better utilized. One attendee spoke out to say it was nothing more than a concrete skate park.

As the group travelled south, Senior Community Planner Dan Nicholson spoke with community members about improvements along the street and was approached about public spaces.

“As we put more and more people in the neighbourhoods, the streets serve as public spaces and there’s relative few opportunities in a mature area like this to create new parks,” Nicholson told The Villager.

“We need to use the streets and small spaces to the best of our advantage and get the most use out of it.”

As the Nov. 8 tour progressed suggestions of removing planters and replacing them with the similar frames around the trees found on Roncesvalles Avenue was brought up as well as preserving the front facades of the two-storey buildings along Queen, which are not well kept.

At one of the stops at Queen Street and Close Avenue one resident, Christine Irving of Queen and Triller Ave., pointed out the problem of the lot that used to be home to a gas station.

“It’s an eye sore and a waste of space,” she said.

“They (the city) talk about beautifying the neighbourhood and this looks derelict.”

Irving suggested taking down the fence, repaving it and donating some the sculptures she and other artists have created to brighten up the corner and suggested other community groups with interests in gardening could find a use for it.

“Just give us the opportunity to take care of it,” Irving said.

Although Perks admitted he himself hates that corner, he said nothing can be done with it.

“It would be lovely to get rid of it but there are legal problems in Canadian law that incent oil companies to pave, fence and forget old gas stations,” Perks explained.

Another issue that was brought up with unanimous agreement is the volume of cars that backs up Queen Street from Dufferin to access the Gardiner expressway during rush hour. The suggestion of better timed lights was mentioned.

As the walking tour came to a close, Nicholson told The Villager the next steps for the study, which include continuous work with the community over the next several months:

“We’ll collectively come up with a plan, draft a zoning bylaw and come up with design guidelines for the streetscape program,” he said. “That will then go before the community and then council who will make a decision on it.”

By the end of the tour Perks was not only pleased with the turnout, but also the number of suggestions the community came up with.

“I must have heard 100 good ideas today,” Perks said at the end of the two and a half hour walking tour.

“It just reminds me that the best way to study a neighbourhood is to walk through it and it was great having all these people out.”

For more information about the West Queen West Planning Study, visit www.toronto.ca/planning/westqueenweststudy

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Parkdale: A Centennial History

The delightful stories in this book include the crime spree of the Boyd gang. Inspired by the success of an intellectually challenged bank robber they took up bank robbery as a career. Sunnyside flourished and declined. There are true stories of burning sailing ships. Best of all is the flavor of the 1970s woven into the books fabric. Copyright 1978 Centennial Research. Read the book here. 

This delightful book celebrates 100 years since Parkdale achieved self government.

This delightful book celebrates 100 years since Parkdale achieved self government.

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History of Parkdale Nov 5, 2014, 6:30pm Library

History of Parkdale, Nov 5, 2014 6:30 Library Auditorium

History of Parkdale, Nov 5, 2014 6:30 Library Auditorium


November 5, 2014, 6:30 PM at the Parkdale Library Auditorium, 1313 Queen St. W.

A popular history of Parkdale from Bart Poesiat, a decades-long community organizer and former resident of Parkdale Village. Mr. Poesiat is a Community Legal Worker at Parkdale Community Legal Services.

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Historical Walk Nov 8, 2-4 pm Amphitheatre, by the City

Queen w w Study Tour Nov 8, 2014

Queen w w Study Tour Nov 8, 2014

Toronto Community consultation meeting.
West Queen West planning study.
Walking tour Dufferin Street to Roncesvales Ave.
City planning staff are conducting a study of Queen St. West from Bathurst Street to Roncesvales. Please join us for the first of two walking tours of Queen St., West, which will cover the Dufferin Street to Roncesvales Queen St., West. The second tour of the Bathurst Street to Dufferin Street section of Queen St., West has not yet been scheduled.
We want to hear your thoughts and ideas as we walk through your neighborhood, to help inform the direction and objectives of the study. Please join us for a chance to become more engaged in the study.

Date November 8, 2014. Time to to 4 PM. Meeting place Parkdale amphitheater, Northwest corner of Queen St., West and Dufferin Street.

Please also have a look at the study website www.toronto.ca/planning/westqueenweststudy
It has been updated with information from the first community consultation meeting held on July 10, 2014, as well as a link to an online commenting tool called idea space. You can view questions on different topics related to the study and provide your input.

To speak to the planner directly, contact Avery car, at 416-392-0423 or acarr2@toronto.ca .

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The Bloor Street Viaduct and The Parkdale Connection

Re-posted with permission from Greg Chown. See the original and comments.

10630550_733538456716141_2218913164769847647_oWhen work on the Bloor Viaduct (renamed the Prince Edward Viaduct) began in 1915, the metal truss work was built here in Parkdale at the Dominion Bridge works on Sorauren Ave.

The original building t 289 Sorauren was sold to the TTC in 1947 to be used as a maintenance facility. It was later used as a studio for film and television productions before being demolished. Sorauren Park is there now.

Below, one of the massive steel spans being assembled at the plant. The houses on Sorauren can be seen in the Background.



Below, an interior shot when it belonged to the TTC.

parkdale-garage-01Below, a shot of the factory looking north on Sorauren past Wabash.

4505794040_5072d2d50cbloorStreetViaductA hand tinted postcard courtesy of J.D. Lowe

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Parkdale Then and Now 1-6 by Greg Chown 2009

Here are 6 links to Greg Chown`s articles.
Old Parkdale Part 1
Old Parkdale Part 2
Old Parkdale Part 3
Old Parkdale Part 4
Old Parkdale Part 5
Old Parkdale Part 6

Pictures of many parts of Parkdale that are gone now.

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Architecture and Attitudes in Parkdale,1870s – 1900s.

This style reflected rural heritage and and perhaps reform.

The Polychrome style of The Cadillac Lounge 1880, reflected rural heritage and and perhaps reform.

Dates, Architectural Styles and Attitudes.
to 1870 Short lived frame buildings.
1870s Rural Ontario Polychrome. Reformers.
1880s Second Empire and Polychrome. Reformers.
1885s  Romanesque, Conservatives.
1890s Greek and Richardson Romanesque, Torontonians
1900s Queen Anne, Toronto trends.

The rural area south of Brockton in 1850 became Parkdale, a rural village, by 1879, a time of great political and social change. This is reflected in the buildings that remain on Queen Street W, Parkdale. Click on the following map for an architectural journey through Parkdale.

jack gibney

LAB CAB Historic Walk by Parkdale Village Historical Society, Jack Gibney. Photo by Peter McClusker, Parkdale Villager Jul 31, 2014.

Between 1850 and 1880 the village of Brockton  was more populous than Parkdale, which was still dominated by the old estates. In 1871 Parkdale had 16 residents listed in Nason’s directory, while Brocton had 150, PIP p10. In the mid 1870s many Parkdale estates were sold to developers and subdivided, leading to a population boom. Parkdale was probably named by developer William Innes Mackenzie.
Population Growth
1871: 16 people,
1875: over 100 people,
1878: 788 people,
1879: 1091 people,
1888: 2013 people.

Proposed Plans for our Historic Parkdale Village

Retain the character of the Victorian village in the area between Gwynne and several buildings west of Macdonell and also in the area half a block this side of Roncesvalles. Keep all the beautiful buildings and infill appropriately to the remaining street scape. Controlled increase in residential will provide needed stimulus to our village businesses. Services for our diverse new Canadians and Psychiatric consumers could be located closer to Jameson and King in, for example, an enlarged version of the buildings at Dowling and King south east corner, with a No Frills in the basement.

This article is based on the LAB CAB Historical Walk of July 2014 by Jack Gibney.

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Three Big Events for Parkdale!

LOGO PVHSSmallMon Jul 7, 2014, 7 pm.
The First Open Meeting of the Parkdale Village Historical Society. You are invited.
172 Dunn Avenue (south of King)
BUILD OUR FUTURE this Monday !

Introductions 7-7:15
Ideas and speakers for Queen Study 7:15-7:45
Ideas and participants for Lab Cab 7:45-8:10
Break 8:10-8:45
Ideas & Plans for PVHS 8:30-8:45
In preparation: ckeck out “‘Walk’ Historic Queen Street – Here

Thurs Jul 10, 2014, 6:30 to 9 pm.
Consultation with City on The future of Queen St W in Parkdale
Parkdale Library Auditorium, 1303 Queen Street West
Attend Monday’s discussion to be well prepared for Thursday.
Read more from Gord Perks…

Sat & Sun July 26 & 27 2014 about 3 pm
Lab Cab Art Festival, Including a Historical Walk by PVHS!

Tour Name: “Parkdale Architecture and Attitudes in 1884”
Tour Guide: Jack Gibney (perhaps you, drop by Monday. See above.)
Start / Meeting Point: Elm Grove and Queen, south west corner with additional stops along Queen at Cowan and Close.
Web Site: pvhs.info

  1. Explore Parkdale’s societies and attitudes as reflected in the Victorian architectural styles they chose; Romanesque, Gothic, Classical and Second Empire.
  2. Consider some preservation failures and recovery options.
  3. Discuss creating a more beautiful Parkdale around our Victorian Core.

Gord wrote…

Message from Councillor Gord Perks regards Queen St West Study

In the fall of 2013 at Toronto and East York Community Council, I recommended, along with my colleagues Councillor Bailão and Councillor Layton, that City Planning staff review the policy context, built-form and heritage value of the properties on Queen Street West between Bathurst Street and Roncesvalles Avenue.

I have heard from many community members that protection of the heritage values and character of Queen Street West remains a priority as we welcome change to this street. The study will involve public consultation to clarify what defines the street character and to develop a community vision for the future. Transit capacity and parking supply will also be reviewed.

City Planning staff are now beginning the community consultations.

I invite all of you to attend and share in this work. Please see the invitation information below for details.



 The City of Toronto holds public consultations as one way to engage residents in the life of their city. We invite you to get involved.

Bathurst Street to Roncesvalles Avenue

 City Planning staff are undertaking a study to review the policy context, built form standards and heritage character of the properties on both sides of Queen Street West from Bathurst Street to Roncesvalles Avenue. The study will also look at transit capacity and parking in the vicinity of the study area, focus on understanding the character of the street and creating a vision for future development. Please join us for this important kick-off meeting where you can learn more about this study, ask questions, and share your comments and ideas.
 Date: July 10, 2014
Time: 6:30 – 9:00 pm
Place: Parkdale Library Auditorium, 1303 Queen Street West

 To speak to the planner directly, contact Avery Carr, at 416-392-0423 or acarr2@toronto.ca . You may mail your comments to the planner at Toronto and East York District, 100 Queen St W Floor 18 E Toronto On, M5H 2N2. To provide comments online, use the link below.

 You may also contact Councillor Gord Perks, Ward 14, at (416) 392-7919, Councillor Ana Bailao, Ward 18, at (416) 392-7012, and Councillor Mike Layton, Ward 19, at (416) 392-4009.
 If you are unable to attend the meeting but want to be included in notifications, please email your name and full mailing address to Colleen Auld at cauld@toronto.ca.

 Notice to correspondents:
Personal information received at community consultation meetings or contained in correspondence with the City is collected under sections 8 and 136 of the City of Toronto Act, 2006 specifically for creating a public record of information potentially relevant to making an informed decision. Questions about the collection of this information may be directed to the Planner listed above.

 Compliance with City Council policy respecting Notice may result in you receiving duplicate notices.

 Attendant Care Services can be made available with some advance notice.

 Gord Perks
City Councillor
Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park

 Toronto City Hall
100 Queen Street West
2nd Floor, Suite A14
Toronto, Ontario M5H 2N2


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Russians Discovered and Populated Parkdale!

More accurately people came from what is now Russia over 13,000 years ago and some may have gone back too. The following article invited readers to share so here it is.

‘Linguistic Study Shows Evidence of ‘Back-Migration‘ When Early Native Americans Left Beringia

(Photo : utexas.edu) The Beringia land bridge allowed migration from Asia to Alaska and early Native Americans likely lived there for 10,000 years.

(Photo : utexas.edu) The Beringia land bridge allowed migration from Asia to Alaska and early Native Americans likely lived there for 10,000 years.

Early Native Americans settled in the middle of a land bridge connecting Asia and Alaska, but a new study shows that not all of them went on to North America.

According to LiveScience, the researchers believe that part of the group settling on Beringia “back-migrated” to their home. The early people also likely stayed on Beringia for 10,000 years before it eventually disappeared into the ocean and the land bridge is now known as the Bering Strait.

“Incorporating [methods from computational phylogenetics] into linguistics can increase the dialogue between linguistics, archaeology, biology, and ecology in developing our understanding of prehistory,” study co-author Mark Sicoli, of Georgetown University, told LiveScience.

Sicoli and co-author Gary Holton, of the University of Alaska – Fairbanks, used data on the ancient language of the Native Americans for their study. Analyzing the Native American Na-Dene language and the Yeniseian languages of Central Siberia, they used a technique called computational phylogenetics.

The technique works as a family tree and making ancestral connections based on shared traits. The researchers used this technique to track all the different mutations and adaptations of the Na-Dene and Yeniseian languages as they spread across North America and Asia.

“We used computational phylogenetic methods to impose constraints on possible family tree relationships modeling both an Out-of-Beringia hypothesis and an Out-of-Asia hypothesis and tested these against the linguistic data,” Sicoli said in a press release. “We found substantial support for the out-of-Beringia dispersal adding to a growing body of evidence for an ancestral population in Beringia before the land bridge was inundated by rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age.”

Published in the journal PLOS One, the study does not dispute the land bridge theory of migration into North America, but does suggest that not everyone who used it made the entire journey. The study is also an example of how to use linguistics to solve migratory and evolutionary mysteries.

“It seems to be quite consistent with the genetic analysis that led to the Beringia standstill hypothesis,” Dennis O’Rourke, anthropological geneticist at the University of Utah who was not involved in the study, told LiveScience. “There’s at least one or two mitochondrial lineages.”

Here is a similar article on North American Linguistic Origins. It indicates that the Inuit (Eskimos) may have come later in separate migrations.

first Nations and Linguistic groups circa 1500.

first Nations and Linguistic groups circa 1500.

This map of Linguistic Groups of First Nations circa 1500 was purchased in Kensington Market and labeled ‘Printed in Canada 1927′. The Ojibwa shown above Lake Superior had moved to the Toronto area by the time the English took over from the French. Click on map for a full screen view.

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Home For the Incurables Opened in 1880 in Parkdale

The Home For The Incurables opened in1880 on Dunn Ave in Parkdale.

The Home For The Incurables opened in 1880 on Dunn Ave in Parkdale.

Excerpt: Source: Toronto Sketches 4, “The Way We Were,” by Mike Filey, Dundurn Press Limited, 1995, pages 11-12. ISBN 1-55002-248-2. // This year [1995] marks the 120th anniversary of the opening of what is today known far and wide as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, though when the institution first opened on May 6, 1874, the sign over the door at its original Bathurst and King street location displayed the rather repulsive title, Toronto Home for Incurables. The ‘Home’ had been established to lessen the burden that long-term care patients, those with untreatable forms of consumption (TB), heart disease, and paralysis, were imposing on the city’s main hospital, the Toronto General, then located on Gerrard Street East just west of the Don. // As serious as this problem was, the lack of accommodation for the seriously afflicted who lacked the monetary means to seek what little medical treatment that was available then was another reason for the Home’s existence. Without it these unfortunates would continue to be incarcerated, virtually without hope, in the local House of Industry. // To help alleviate the situation, several community-minded citizens, led by Mayor Alexander Manning (Manning Avenue), banded together and established the first Home for Incurables in the early spring of 1894, moving the institution into larger premises on Dunn Avenue in suburban Parkdale five years later, and continued to expand several times over the next few years. // Then in 1941, the first of several name changes occurred; first to the Queen Elizabeth (in honour of the present Queen Mother) Hospital for Incurables; twenty years later it became, simply, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. In 1975 the Queen Elizabeth affiliated with the University of Toronto to become the first chronic care/teaching hospital in the country. // Over the next few years, as the population continued to age followed by increasing demands for chronic- and long-term care facilities, the hospital expanded dramatically. The former Mt. Sinai Hospital on University Avenue was acquired (a new Mt. Sinai opened further up the avenue) followed in 1979 by the development of a progressive new facility on the old Dunn Avenue site. // Since its opening more than 120 years ago, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital has grown and evolved into a 601-bed specialized chronic care and rehabilitation centre. Donations to help the hospital prepare for its next 120 years would be gratefully received by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Foundation, 550 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2A21.//As of 2014, now called the E.W. Bickle Centre for Complex Continuing Care, was finished in 1979.

Hospital image from google search of internet.

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Gord Jones Reviews – Jane’s Walk, Visions of Parkdale Past and Future, Sat. May 3, 2014

Tina and Gord Jones

Teena and Gord Jones

Gord Jones kindly allowed us to post his review here. Visit The World of Gord or Teena’s Jane’s Walk Post of this same event.

On the first weekend of May, Toronto hosts a series of  Jane’s Walks.

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urbanist and activist whose writings championed a fresh, community-based approach to city building. She had no formal training as a planner, and introduced ground-breaking ideas about how cities function, evolve and fail that now seem like common sense to generations of architects, planners, politicians and activists. Jacobs saw cities as ecosystems that had their own logic and dynamism which would change over time according to how they were used. She promoted higher density in cities, short blocks, local economies and mixed uses. Jacobs helped derail the car-centred approach to urban planning in both New York and Toronto, invigorating neighbourhood activism by helping stop the expansion of expressways and roads. 

She lived in Greenwich Village for decades, then moved to Toronto in 1968 where she continued her work and writing until her death in April 2006.

A firm believer in the importance of local residents having input on how their neighbourhoods develop, Jacobs encouraged people to familiarize themselves with the places where they live, work and play.

The walk Teena and I did in our neighborhood today was called Visions of Parkdale, Past and Future, in the Balance.  

Alec Keefer will lead us through what remains of the first lakeside Estates near King street, then show us remnants of the Mansions on Jameson. Where are they? We will see the Middle class homes and Institutions on Dunn and other streets. We will see the various pockets of blue collar housing. Why are they in these places? Alec will trace the changes in Spencer and Tyndall, leading us into Liberty Village, at the border of Parkdale. 

Jack Gibney will describe a vision of a beautiful Historic village with increased housing, commercial and parking space and plans to preserve some beautiful buildings and make Parkdale the Paris of Toronto.

Alex Keefer, to the left below, has lived in Parkdale for 30 years and has written many books mostly on the architectural growth of Toronto. Jack Gibney, in the middle, helped to organize the Parkdale Village Historical Society. Mona, the society’s secretary, is in costume on the left.

Alec was a fountain of knowledge of the neighborhood and it was hard to remember or note it all. Here are some pictures and things I do remember.

Tiller Ave is an example of street design that Jane Jacobs would approve of. Beautiful residential homes on one side of the street and multi-family buildings on the other.


In the back yard of houses on Wilson Park Road one can see the front of this buff brick with red trimmed house.  The front of this house faced the Humber Bay at the end of a long driveway up from King street. Now the back of the house, which sits at an odd angle between the two streets, has the address 22 Beaty Street, the street behind.

I loved this house at the corner of Wilson Park Road and King. It’s built in a series of octagons.

This house on Dowling was built in the 1870s and has a much storied past.

I loved this house and the design beneath its windows. There used to be a veranda on the south side of the house where semi-circle window is. Families used to sleep on their verandas on hot summer nights to take advantage of the cool breezes that would come up off the lake.


At the corner of Dowling and King is the original home of Canada’s first black doctor, Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott.

On the north-east corner across from it is the home of Canada’s Postmaster when Laurier was Prime Minister. I love the dome.

These two places sit a street apart. They are sister homes. Jack and Mona fully restored the buff brick home at the bottom to its former beauty.


This building on the north ease corner of dunn Ave and King St was designed by Wm. Miller, son of Geo. (The Gladstone Hotel)   It was one of the first apartments built with full electricity.

I borrowed this picture from Teena. This is a picture of Cowan Ave.

This old apartment at the corner of Cowan and King was built around the early 1900s. Something tells me that I may have visited an aunt who lived here way back in the sixties.

We then traveled into the Liberty Village area where all the old factories have been turned to other uses. It was raining and my pictures all have watermarks. I love the area and this summer plan to got there on a bright sunny days for photos and research.

I do want to finish with pictures of one building which sits on Atlantic. It is a formidable looking place that I always wondered about. At one time it was home to the records of the Bank of Commerce.  Now it houses items from the Eaton collection. It would be so much fun to get a tour of it!

It was the loading dock and steel doors that always intrigued me.


It was a cold, wet, fun afternoon. Alec told many interesting and humorous stories. He knows the area, probably better than anyone and is very passionate about how it should be developed in the future.

Thanks to Alec, Jack and Mona for a great afternoon!

Alec Keefer describes the origins of Wilson Park.

Alec Keefer describes the origins of Wilson Park.

And our thanks to Gord, Alec and everyone who shared this rainy walk.

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Jane’s Walk: Visions of Parkdale Past and Future: In the Balance. May 3, 2014 at 01:00 PM

1887 Wilson Park. Early version of King Street to right. Ocean View Hotel top right. Toronto Archives.

1887 Wilson Park. Early version of King Street to right. Ocean View Hotel top right. Toronto Archives.

Alec Keefer will lead us through what remains of the first lakeside Estates near King street, then show us remnants of the Mansions on Jameson. Where are they? We will see the Middle class homes and Institutions on Dunn and other streets. We will see the various pockets of blue collar housing. Why are they in these places? Alec will trace the changes in Spencer and Tyndall, leading us into Liberty Village, at the border of Parkdale.  Jack Gibney will describe a vision of a beautiful Historic village with increased housing, commercial and parking space and plans to preserve some beautiful buildings and make Parkdale the Paris of Toronto. You will be invited to read your vision for Parkdale historic development. Accessibility: This walk is a rather long one and to reach the end with the group you will probably have to move at a moderately good clip. And while there are no steep hills some streets do have quite a good rake to them. Do study the map closely and make sure you are completely comfortable with this sort of  topography.

How to find us
Wearing Victorian clothing with a Top Hat, dragging a speaker standing on the south edge of King Street where it meets Roncesvalles and Queen St W, May 3, 2014 at 01:00 PM.
For a full description visit, Jane’s Walk Visions of Parkdale

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Jane’s Walk: The Cornucopia on Dundas West: Geologic, Ethnic & Personal Experience, May 4, 2014 at 03:00pm

Image courtesy of the MultiCultural History Society of Ontario.

Image courtesy of the MultiCultural History Society of Ontario.

This walk will bridge a series of overlapping traditions, some tens of thousands of years old, others just a few decades in age. Many coexist peacefully and others feed the dynamic tensions that still characterize the neighbourhoods that are the focus of this walk. Join walk leader Alec Keefer (Toronto Architectural Conservancy) as we explore the possible links between changes that are deeply rooted in our geologic past & the transplanted cultural traditions that continue to shape our built and social environments. Image courtesy of the MultiCultural History Society of Ontario. Walk organized in partnership with the Dundas West Business Improvement Area.

Where to Meet: St. Luke’s Elementary School, Corner of Harrison Avenue and Ossington Avenue, north of Dundas St West,  May 4, 2014 at 03:00pm .

For a full description visit, Jane’s Walk Dundas West

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Interactive Toronto Historical Map Viewer


Interactive Toronto Historical Map Viewer

Interactive Toronto Historical Map Viewer

wrote in Torontoist.com, “There’s now an easier, more convenient, and more dynamic way to compare different stages in the development of Toronto: thanks to the new Toronto Historical Map viewer, you can zoom in and out of and explore maps produced between 1818 and 1924, and aerial photographs from 1947 and 2012.”

Use it right here Toronto Historical Map viewer. It is also here under Resources / Historical Maps with many more maps.

Inspired by Nathan Ng, creator of the Historical Maps of Toronto project Chris Olsen, an analyst at ESRI (a Geographical Information System technology vendor) entered the picture. Olsen proceeded to create the map viewer by georeferencing and then stitching together map plates—essentially, each map had to be tagged so that users could jump between the same location in different files—and by adding controls that allow users to slide between years. He’s also worked on historical map viewers for both Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

Read the entire story at the source on Torontoist.com .

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A grateful Toronto thanks High Park founder John G. Howard once again

High Park Gates ceremony 1914

Canada’s governor general, the Duke of Connaught, Casa Loma’s Sir Henry Pellatt, Mayor Horatio Hocken, the ladies of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire and sundry Boy Scouts and other celebrants assembled 100 years ago to dedicate the wrought-iron gates to High Park’s founder, John G. Howard.

By: Kenneth Kidd Feature reporter, Published on Sun Apr 06 2014

Canada’s Governor General, the Duke of Connaught, arrived promptly at 3:30 p.m.

As The Toronto Daily Star duly noted, the military band of the 48th Highlanders immediately struck up God Save the King, “with the fine old chords greatly enhanced in the high wind of March blowing from the park.”

This was, after all, no small occasion.

Casa Loma’s Sir Henry Pellatt was on hand, as was Toronto’s splendidly named mayor, Horatio Hocken. All along High Park Blvd. the houses were festooned with streamers and Union Jacks.

That windy day a century ago — on March 19, 1914 — would mark the formal unveiling of the elaborate stone and wrought-iron gates dedicated to John G. Howard, High Park’s founder, who had died 24 years before.

But it would also be an event steeped in Downtonesque moments lauding the British Empire’s glorious past and Canada’s cherished role as senior Dominion.

As much as the Edwardians might fear a new century, with all its uncertainty and potential for wrenching change — think The Wind in the Willows — there was still time for fond Imperial remembrance, all of it tinged with the kind of outsized pride that was about to grow bittersweet.

Barely three months later, an assassin would fell Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on a Sarajevo street, plunging the world into a war that would claim the lives of nine million soldiers — and disillusion a generation.

It naturally fell to Margaret Ross, regent of the local chapter of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, to formally welcome the Duke, who, as the third son of Queen Victoria, was also Prince Arthur.

She was, given the occasion, careful to note how her group was “ever mindful to stimulate and to give expression to those sentiments of patriotism which bind the subjects of the Empire to the Throne.”

The local chapter of the IODE had raised half the $4,500 cost of the Howard Memorial Gates; the city covered the rest.

Looking suitably viceregal in top hat and greatcoat, the Duke thanked Ross “most warmly and sincerely for the patriotic and loyal address which has just been read, in which the inspiring aims of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire are so well described.

“The feature of your organization that especially strikes me is that it stands for practical rather than theoretical imperialism.

“Your principle of encouraging the study of history and of thus enabling the present generation to obtain inspiration and encouragement from the records of the men and women who helped to build up the Empire, seems to me to be admirable in every way.”

On either side of him, massive Union Jacks were draped over the gates for a ceremony that, depending on the source, would see the band play Rule Britannia, a local Boy Scout sing O Canada with cornet accompaniment and, according to one report, the 48th’s Pipes and Drums play The Maple Leaf Forever.

“There are about five accounts that we’ve come across,” says Cheryl Hart, museum co-ordinator at Colborne Lodge, Howard’s Regency-style villa at the south end of the park.

The Duke’s final words were, fittingly enough, all about the man being memorialized that day.

“He was a generous, public-spirited man, and by his bequest bestowed a valuable boon upon the City of Toronto, which will increase in value year by year as your prosperous city enlarges its boundaries.”

John George Howard was born in Hertfordshire, England, in 1803, and after boarding school became a carpenter before articling for three years with a London architect who had married his older sister.

Howard was soon sufficiently established to garner his own bride, marrying Jemima Frances Meikle in 1827. But his prospects remained so slight that he resolved to leave London for Canada five years later, arriving in Toronto (then York) after an arduous journey lasting 11 weeks and three days.

Not just his locale changed, however. So did his name.

Born John Corby, he adopted the surname Howard on arrival here and later gave two reasons for the switch, neither of which is completely persuasive. In one version, he claimed he was illegitimate and had adopted the name of Corby after the man his mother later married.

In the other rendition, Howard claimed direct descent from Thomas Howard, the 4th Duke of Norfolk, via a 17th century Howard who had adopted the name of Corby — from family seat, Corby Castle — in the wake of familial squabbles.

The latter connection, even if feigned, would have put Howard on solid footing in a provincial colony, so it’s little wonder that some of his architectural drawings came to the attention of Lieutenant Governor Sir John Colborne.

Howard soon had a job at Upper Canada College teaching geometrical drawing, and by 1839 he’d been appointed drawing master at the school, a post he held until 1856.

It proved more of a sideline, since Howard’s architectural practice was soon blossoming.

Not much of his work remains beyond Colborne Lodge (named after his early patron), Woodlawn and St. John’s York Mills Anglican church. His masterpiece, the Provincial Lunatic Asylum on Queen St. W., was demolished in the mid-1970s.

But Howard was also enthusiastic about public green spaces, hence his elaborately named effort from 1852: “Sketch of a Design for Laying Out the North Shore of the Toronto Harbour in Pleasure Drives, Walks and Shrubbery for the Recreation of the Citizens.”

Bordered to the north by Front St., it would have run from Bathurst St. to York St., its design eerily reminiscent of today’s Music Garden. Taken as a whole, in fact, Howard’s scheme is similar to the narrow necklace of parkland that Waterfront Toronto has lately been creating.

Howard’s plan for High Park was on a much grander scale, centred as it was on his own estate by Lake Ontario. In 1873, he donated 120 acres of it to the city, stipulating that the land forever be used as a park, in return for a pension of $1,200 a year.

On his death, Colborne Lodge and a further 45 acres were similarly transferred to the city, which purchased additional land in 1875 and 1930 to bring High Park to its current 399 acres.

Howard himself oversaw the clearing of brush and designed the park’s early roads and drains, to much local acclaim. By 1885, Toronto alderman Frank Garratt was waxing at length in The Globe:

“High Park has what is very dear to a Briton — a wide stretch of varied surface composed of brooks, rivulets, and streams, landscape and forest, where the Indian trail is still to be seen, and where under the shade of many dells the pure air can be engaged much better than in places farther away.”

The early-afternoon tributes were just as glowing (if less loquacious) on March 23, when local politicians and members of today’s IODE gathered to mark the centenary of the Howard Memorial Gates.

The Pipes and Drums of the 48th Highlanders once again burst into The Maple Leaf Forever, and Boy Scouts sang O Canada, this time a cappella.

Also making an appearance were the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, or at least their latter-day impersonators in period costume — all to honour Howard and his great gift to the city.

Fittingly, it ended in the manner of a parish fête, with tea and Derby cakes.

“We’re getting our inspiration from 1914,” says Hart, “but we’re not following it exactly.”

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Two Historical Initiatives in Parkdale

Parkdale Seal 1886

Parkdale Seal 1886

There are now not one but two historical initiatives in Parkdale, a group related to this site, ‘Parkdale Village Historical Society’ and a Parkdale Residents Association initiative. We were surprised too. We will be updating our About Us and Contact Us sections soon. Stay tuned.

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Parkdale Picture Mystery Resolved


Roncesvalles north of Queen from Greg Chown.

Roncesvalles north of Queen from Greg Chown.

Greg Chown provided this interesting illustration of historical research. He says:
This photo is a bit of a mystery to me. The Parkdale BIA has been using it in some promotions and I can’t seem to locate where it was taken.
Circa 1915 (there’s a car in the background)
The evidence is: Parkdale Taxicabs, a sign that appears to read Parkview Theatre and H.M. Davy.
Anyone have a suggestion? The mystery seems to hinge on the telephone number.

ParkdaleTelephoneExchange1 Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 10.17.55 AMThe old Parkdale telephone exchange and from the City Directory of 1913 a Parkdale phone number.

The evidence.

I think William Mewes has solved this one.

parkdale1I believe the building outlined is this one on Roncesvalles.

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 3.33.37 PMAlso the brick detail outlined in blue (below) is still evident on this building.

parkdale2Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 3.43.10 PMYou can even see where the old Parkview Sign was attached.

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 3.43.10 PM

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 4.02.26 PMFrom the 1921 Directory

A Florist @ 115 Roncesvalles

A garage @ 113 (Taxis?)

HM Davy @ 105.


Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 4.22.38 PMThe final piece of the puzzle. From the Toronto Sunday World, May 31, 1914 .

Wait! There’s still more on this one.

In the original photo you can see a lane between the florists and the theatre that leads back to a garage (according to the directory)

That garage still stands today and is the home of a friend of mine. It was originally a blacksmith shop and then operated as a garage until being converted to a residence.

Screen Shot 2013-02-23 at 11.06.47 AM

This map from 1912 shows the blacksmith shop/taxi garage before the theatre was built.

430681_410781355658521_299109603_nH.M. Davy survived out here on Dundas near Six Points until the late 1950s.out these ads

Read more of Greg Chown’s discussion here.

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