12 Historical Facts About Toronto Neighbourhoods That Everyone Should Know

Let's see how much you REALLY know about the neighbourhood you live in.
12 Historical Facts About Toronto Neighbourhoods That Everyone Should Know

Ever wandered into Kensington Market and wondered about who lived there before our generation and how some neighbourhoods have become what you see today? With some research, we found interesting historical facts about 12 of the most popular neighbourhoods in the city to help further your knowledge about the history of Toronto.

1. Chinatown

Location

Today Chinatown, mainly running along Spadina Avenue, is home to some of the best Chinese restaurants in the city, and defines the vibrant cultural atmosphere of Toronto. But in the early 20th century, Chinatown was actually located where City Hall now is. Though after City Hall was built and the Jewish immigrants began moving north along Bathurst St, many Chinese immigrants set up shop along Spadina in the 1960s, and thus Chinatown was born.

2. Koreatown

Location

In the late 1960's, when the Canadian government made their immigration policy less restrictive, a wave of Korean immigrants came to the city. Most of them settled in the Bathurst and Bloor area, where they set up businesses, resulting in the many Korean restaurants, shops, and late night karaoke bars you see today.

Photo cred: A. Rozumek

3. The Junction

Location

While this area, along Dundas West and St Clair West between Keele St. and Runnymede Road, is now a residential neighbourhood with plenty of restaurants and local watering holes, it used to primarily be a manufacturing hub in the city, home to many different assembly line factories. It one point it was also home to Canada's largest livestock market.

Photo cred: Canada In Pictures

4. The Distillery District

Location

This neighbourhood is famous in Toronto for its annual Christmas market, gourmet restaurants and a few nightlife spots. However, its fame really centres around the former Gooderham and Worts Distillery which was one of the largest distilleries in Canada. Its location near Lake Ontario made it a prime centre for shipping whisky (which they also made) to the rest of Canada and the United States.

5. Entertainment District (Downtown Toronto)

Location

The Entertainment or Club District came to fruition in the 80s and 90s after the manufacturing and fashion industry in the area began shutting down a few years earlier. This left warehouses and factories vacant, that is until the properties began transforming into different clubs where Torontonians now make bad decisions at every weekend.

Photo cred: Bunty McCabe

6. Little Italy

Location

While new coffee shops and grocery stores have opened up in this iconic Toronto neighbourhood, the majority of Italian restaurants and businesses still remain from their construction in the 1920s, when a wave of Italian immigrants moved from downtown to west of Bathurst St to settle in, to what has since been named Little Italy.

Photo cred: Torontoism

7. Cabbagetown 

Location

This neighbourhood, east of downtown near Ryerson, got its name thanks to an influx of Irish immigrants that moved into this neighbourhood in the late 19th century. These people would take apart their front lawns to have room to grow cabbage. Hence Cabbagetown.

8. Liberty Village

Location

This area, east of Dufferin Street and south of King St. W, is now home to art studios and condos. But at one point in time was filled with warehouses and factories that were used to create bombs and weapon material during WW1 and WW2. However, after the factories shut down, various technology and art businesses as well as restaurants took them over and now cater to the area's residents and city's art industry.

Photo cred: Wikipedia

9. Parkdale

Location

This neighbourhood has always been known for its cheaper rent and now new bars and nightlife taking over Queen St. W just west of Dufferin. But in the early 20th century, it was a bustling lakeside residential neighbourhood with an amusement park and a couple beaches. However, this changed following construction of the Gardiner Expressway in the 1950s and the population density of the area lead to many apartment buildings being constructed that still exist today.

Photo cred: Ashley Lamb

10. Roncesvalles Ave.

Location

Like many Toronto neighbourhoods following gentrification, new businesses and restaurants have catered to a new generation of residents, but on the famous Roncesvalles Ave., it still keeps its roots of being a Polish community. The early 20th century saw Polish immigrants move into homes and start businesses along the street and today many restaurants and an annual festival still cater to that demographic.

Photo cred: Robert Moffatt

11. Don Mills

Location

This neighbourhood that borders North York and Scarborough became one of the first popular suburban neighbourhoods in Canada following the end of WW2 and until 1950 was simply farmland. When the suburbs were built, ravines cut off the area from the rest of the city and the only two roads in the area to access houses at the time were Don Mills Road and York Mills Road.

Photo cred: Booms Beat

12. Harbourfront/Queens Quay West

Location

The Toronto Harbourfront, for many years was only used for shipping and industrial work, however in the 1970s then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau announced the federal government would create the Harbourfront into a cultural and residential area for the city's residents and that's how it remains today.

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