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Then & Now: You Won't Believe The History Of Toronto's Queen Street West & Ossington Area

A look back at what this Toronto neighbourhood looked like up to 170 years ago.

From housing a mental health facility in 1850 called the Provincial Lunatic Asylum, to an influx of coffee shops, bars, and restaurants, the intersection at Queen Street West and Ossington Avenue in Toronto has changed so much, and so frequently, that it’s almost unrecognizable today from even its recent past.

In this edition of Narcity’s Then&Now series, which brings Toronto’s past to life, Toronto Historian Morgan Cameron Ross takes a look back at an area that has been around since even before the formation of Canada.

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Ross outlines the transformations this neighbourhood has gone through - of which there are many - from “what some people considered an intimidating spot revolving around a sometimes draconian mental health facility, to the home of a rotating diaspora of newly arrived immigrants.”

The people and the physical appearance of the area aren’t the only changes that have taken place either, as Ossington didn’t get that name until shortly after the turn of the 20th century when it was renamed from Dundas.

From the opening of Trinity College at Trinity Bellwoods Park to the gentrification of an area that The New York Times has referred to as being “caught between the twin attractions of latte and graffiti,” Queen and Ossington have been a vital part of Toronto’s history.

How Toronto's Little Italy Contributed To The City's Rich History

"College Street didn't start out as being Little Italy, though."

From events like the Taste of Little Italy and the Good Friday procession to the watching of football during the Euro and World Cups, Toronto's Little Italy has made itself a key destination for many Torontonians.

The neighbourhood can be found extending along College Street, west of the city's downtown region. "But that's actually up to who you ask," says Toronto Historian Morgan Cameron Ross, noting that "if you look north to St. Clair, there's Corso Italia."

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Honest Ed's To Meghan Markle, Toronto’s Annex Neighbourhood Had It All

"The homes in the Annex neighbourhood are legendary."

Toronto neighbourhoods often distinguish themselves through the people and buildings that inhabit them. Toronto's Annex is no exception.

In this episode of Then&Now, Toronto Historian Morgan Cameron Ross explores the storied history of a neighbourhood that was annexed by the city in the late 1800s, and since its development around this time, "has always been quite prosperous," explains Ross.

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Walking through the Cabbagetown neighbourhood of Toronto for only a few minutes, it can quickly become apparent what sets this area apart from others in the city.

In this episode of Then&Now, Toronto Historian Morgan Cameron Ross looks back at the neighbourhood that has the "largest preserved continuous area of Victorian houses in North America."

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Harbouring The Past: The Unusual Creation Of Toronto’s Harbourfront

"The lakeshore downtown we see now is not natural."

While Torontonians may know the city's Harbourfront as a leisurely destination with parks, restaurants and art spaces along the water with condos flanking the north side of Queens Quay, it used to look completely different.

And as Toronto historian Morgan Cameron Ross describes in this episode of Then&Now, "the lakeshore downtown we see now is not natural."

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