Introduction

This appendix is provided as background information in support of the nomination and with the expectation that it will be useful in the completion of the HCD study, should the nomination be accepted.

General History of the Area

Much of Bloor West Village north of Bloor Street is comprised of the Toronto Estate of Lieutenant Colonel William Smith Durie, who owned the property in the 185O’s. Durie was an officer from Gibraltar, who had a successful career in the military including securing the title of 2nd battalion, Queen’s Own Rifles of Toronto in 1863. Durie Street was initially a path running through his estate that was named after him.

The area went through an immense change when the Toronto Suburban Railway (TSR) built a railway in the north end of the West Junction in the late 18OO’s. The residents at the time were mainly of Irish and Anglo-Saxon origin and a large part of the community worked for the railroad. When the railway began operating, landowners began to subdivide their properties for sale. John Scarlett was one of the first to develop his land and he named his estate “Runnymede Estate”.

Scarlett was a businessman who ran a number of mills along the Humber River and owned a vast amount of property in the surrounding areas. In 1817 he purchased much of the land that is now the Junction and he was also the first employer there. Runnymede Road was built by him and was originally a road that led to his estate.

In 19O9, the City of West Toronto became annexed to the City of Toronto. The City of West Toronto contained parts of what is currently known as Bloor West Village and the Junction. This resulted in the implementation of new city services and fast growth in the area. Most of the buildings that are currently along the commercial strip were built between 192O-193O. The types of businesses that were located in these buildings included, among others, grocery stores, famers’ markets, jewelers, radio stores, candy stores and theatres. The businesses in the area supported the increasing residential development in the area. The residents in the area consisted of skilled trades such as millers, blacksmiths and belt makers.

Bloor Street

The creation of Bloor Street and the changes it has undergone have had a significant influence on the area. As transportation methods and technologies have changed, Bloor West Village has impressively adapted. Originally Bloor Street was Highway 5, an important road that went from Kingston Road in Toronto’s east end to Paris, Ontario. It was named after Joseph Bloor, a brewer in the 19th century, who founded Yorkville in 183O.

The TSR had serviced the north end of the West Junction since the late 18OO’s, but the southern area along Bloor Street was without service until 1917. In 1912, the City of Toronto wanted to stimulate growth there and passed a series of bylaws instructing companies to build streetcar lines along Bloor Street, but both the Toronto Railway Company (TRC) and TSR were reluctant. In 1914, an arrangement was made with the TRC that the City of Toronto would use its Civic Railways to build the network and the TRC would be responsible for its operation.

At the time Bloor Street West was a narrow dirt road and there were 2 deep ravines, one at Keele Street and one between Quebec Avenue and Runnymede Road. It took three years for the ravines to be filled in and in 1917 the streetcar line opened. In 1921, under the newly formed Toronto Transit Commission, the route was renamed “Bloor West” and service was extended to Jane Street. The end of the line suburban terminal was located on the south side of the intersection at Jane Street and Bloor Street. The addition of the streetcar route encouraged residential and commercial development that can be seen in the Goad’s Fire Insurance Plans in Appendix A: 1913 and Appendix B:1924. From 1931, connecting TTC bus routes used the Jane Street Loop until the completion of the subway extension in 1968.

The Jane Loop terminal also served as an important stop and transfer point by Gray Coach bus lines for bus service into and out of the city to destinations to the west and northwest. Gray Coach Lines was a suburban bus operator founded in 1927 by the Toronto Transportation Commission. From 1927 to the 1930s, Gray Coach acquired numerous and smaller competitors in the Greater Toronto Area. The operator eventually dominated inter-urban bus service by the end of the 1930s. Gray Coach used inter-urban coaches to link Toronto to outlying areas throughout Southern Ontario, such as Owen Sound, London, Kitchener, Guelph, Niagara Falls, Sudbury, North Bay, Barrie and Hamilton.

In 1966 the subway was built adjacent to Bloor Street. The original plan was to build the line below Queen Street, but as the suburbs were rapidly developing, most of the commuting took place along Bloor Street instead of Queen. The TTC pushed to change the plan to have the subway line built along Bloor Street. In 1968, subway service was extended from Keele Street to Islington Avenue along Bloor.

Business Improvement Area

The shift from streetcars to subways in the 196O’s became a cause of concern for the businesses along these streets because it sent customers underground. Exacerbating the issue was the competition of shopping malls that were being developed in the suburbs, such as Cloverdale Mall. Some of the business owners within Bloor West Village tried to solicit donations in order to fund improvements to the area, but only select businesses were willing to contribute. The business owners then went to the City and the Province in order to enact legislation that would require all businesses in the designated area to contribute a levy. The levy was to be collected by the City of Toronto and an elected Board of Management would decide on how the money was to be budgeted.

In 197O, the legislation was enacted and the Bloor West Village Business Improvement Area (BIA) became the world’s first BIA. The designated area was along Bloor Street between South Kingsway and Glendonwynne Road. Bloor West Village at the time had 275 merchants within its borders. There were numerous vacant lots, used car lots, 6 gas stations and an abandoned streetcar terminal among the retail mix. The success of the BIA has transformed those underdeveloped lots into a vibrant retail strip in Toronto.

The mandate of a BIA is to “promote and stimulate local business”. Some of the levies collected go to streetscape improvement elements such as benches, signs, planters and landscaping elements. . The concept of a BIA has grown tremendously since its creation. There are currently 77 BIA’s in Toronto and the idea is now used globally. In 2OO5, a fountain was dedicated to Alex Ling, a leader among the business owners in Bloor West Village to form the BIA. He continues to own the small business, Ling’s Importers, in the neighbourhood today.

Eastern European Influence

In 1948, post WWII, the first wave of Eastern Europeans settled in the area. These were largely displaced peoples from the war, who arrived in the neighbourhood without many possessions. They did however, arrive with employable skills and were drawn into the area because of the employment opportunities in the surrounding neighbourhoods. The northern portion of the West Junction was home to many industries including Ontario’s meat packing industry. The area also had many opportunities for building trades such as roofing, plumbing, painting and bricklaying.

The Eastern European influence is still present in many of the bakeries, delis and other businesses in Bloor West Village. In the 196O’s there was another wave of immigration of Ukrainians that settled in the area and contributed to the creation of a vibrant commercial strip along Bloor Street. Since 1995, Bloor West Village has hosted the annual Ukrainian Festival in order to showcase Ukrainian culture. It is the largest Ukrainian festival in North America.

The Wet, Dry and Damp Periods

West Toronto, including Bloor West Village was dry between the years of 19O4-1997. A majority vote in 19O4 required restaurants to stop serving alcohol. The ban was imposed because of drunken rowdiness and violence that were common on the streets in the Junction, prior to the ban. The sale of liquor from provincially run LCBO and Brewers Retail stores was also prohibited. The Christian Temperance Union that was a large force in the area held mass meetings to oppose the sale of alcohol.

The ban held up until the early 199O’s when it was discovered that the former border, between West Toronto and the Village of Swansea to the south, was down the middle of Bloor Street. This meant that the ban only applied on the north side of the street. Suddenly licensed restaurants were opening up on the economically underdeveloped south side. The sudden rash of liquor licenses upset the residents and resulted in a control by-law study and as of December 31, 1993, a by-law limiting the size of new restaurants to 2OO square meters was in effect. When a restaurateur proposed a 5,9OO sq. ft. emporium called the Savannah to be built in the old post office with a building permit that preceded the ’93 bylaw, the community jumped to its feet in protest. Political pressure was so high causing City Council to pass a motion asking the Liquor Licensing Board of Ontario not to issue a license. In the face of the public outcry the restaurateur withdrew his proposal and the building permit was eventually rescinded. The success of the by-law in limiting restaurant size is evident in the vibrancy, the variety and the number of thriving restaurants and bars along Bloor Street. It was this success that convinced many in the Junction that lifting the ban on alcohol was a necessary part of that area’s revitalization. Multiple referendums in the area failed before
the ban was finally lifted in 1997.

Timeline

  • 167O Jean Baptiste Rousseau became first permanent settler in Swansea
    • 1817 John Scarlet purchased land that is now the Junction. Runnymede Road leads
      to his Estate
    • 1838-1855 William Smith Durie owned his Toronto Estate that is the north side of
      Bloor West Village
    • 1838 John Ellis Sr. purchased a lot in Swansea, which is the south side of Bloor
      Street
  • 1873 High Park was established
  • 188Os King’s Mill reserves are subdivided into lots that would become Swansea
    • 1892 The Toronto Suburban Railway (TSR) was built in the Junction north of Bloor
      stimulating development
  • 19O4 West Toronto votes to become dry and stop serving alcohol
  • 19O9 City of West Toronto is annexed to the City of Toronto.
  • 191O-193O most of the residential streets created
  • 192O-193O many of the buildings along the commercial strip were built
  • 1929 Swansea Area Ratepayer’s Association created
    • 1917 The streetcar extended to Runnymede Road on “temporary track” on the north
      side of the road.
    • 1921 The streetcar route was named “Bloor West” and service was extended to Jane
      Street
  • 1927 Runnymede Theatre opened
  • 1929 John Lyle designed the Runnymede public library
  • 1948 First wave of Eastern Europeans settled in the area post WWII
  • 196O’s Second wave of Ukrainian Immigration into Bloor West Village
  • 1968 The subway was extended from Keele Street to Islington Avenue
  • 197O World’s first BIA created
  • 1995 BWV Ukrainian festival established
  • 1997 The ban on serving alcohol is lifted
  • 2OO5 A fountain was dedicated to Alex Ling, the founder of the BIA
  • 2OO3 High Park Resident’s Association established
  • 2OO4 Bloor West Village Resident’s Association created
  • 2OO9 Old Mill Community Association formed.

Surrounding Context

The commercial strip along Bloor Street in Bloor West Village has always catered to the surrounding community, creating an inter-relationship between the two. The borders of adjacent communities have evolved whereas today the commercial strip has fallen within the borders of various neighbourhoods. Historically, the north side of Bloor Street was within the West Junction and the south side was within Swansea. Currently, the Bloor West Village Business Improvement Area (BIA) falls within the following Toronto neighbourhoods; Lambton Baby Point, High Park-Swansea, Runnymede-Bloor West Village and High Park North. The surrounding neighbourhoods are historically significant on their own and have contributed to the character development of the commercial strip, while continuing to support it.

The Junction

The neighbourhood today, known as the Junction, has had a variety of different borders and many names. In 1884, it was known as the Village, followed by the Town of West Toronto Junction, then the Town of Toronto Junction, and latterly the City of West Toronto until amalgamated with the City of Toronto in 19O9. Originally the north side of Bloor Street fell within the Junction’s boundaries.

The area was rural until the 187O’s. The railways, which were built in the 188O’s, transformed the area into an industrial town by 1889. There were many incentives to do business in the area because land, labour and taxes were cheaper than Toronto. The presence of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and the Port were additional incentives for industry. This, in turn, attracted immigrants from England, Poland, Italy, Macedonia and Croatia into the area, as well as second generation Irish Catholics from Toronto.

An economic recession between 1893 and 19OO closed factories and industry in the area. However, by the 192O’s the West Toronto Junction was once again a manufacturing centre because of the presence of the Grand Trunk Railway and the CPR. During the first half of the 2Oth century, Dundas Street was a popular regional shopping centre, more so than Bloor West Village. In the 195O’s the combination of the CPR closing local repair shops and the extension of the subway along Bloor Street in 1968 led to the Junction to go through a decline. It began to lose commercial business to Bloor Street West.

Much of the current residential development was built between 191O-193O, when the Junction was thriving. Many of the homes were built in the American Craftsman style, featuring wood trim and oak accents. Other architectural styles include Edwardian, Tudor and a homogenous vernacular. Most of these properties are 2 storey buildings surrounded by mature oak and maple trees.

Swansea

The Village of Swansea is bounded on the west by the Humber River, on the north by Bloor Street, on the east by High Park and on the south by Lake Ontario.

Swansea has a long and rich native history. Jean Baptiste Rousseau became the first permanent settler in 1670, settling on the western half of what is now Swansea. In 1793, Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe ordered that mills be built along the Humber and the forests in the area were to be a mill reserve for the King’s sawmills. By the 188O’s the mill reserve remained unused and the area was subdivided into park lots and sold.

The lots were laid out on the south side of Bloor Street; the west part of Swansea became lot 41, with the numbers decreasing going east. In 1838, John Ellis Sr. bought lot 38, which is the eastern half of Swansea. He was an early Toronto artist and philanthropist. Adjacent to his lot was the lot of architect John G. Howard, who later donated his estate to the City to create High Park in 1873. By the 188Os, Windermere, the area located south of Bloor Street was the only urbanized area of Swansea. Further south there was a new railway line, which fostered the development of industry in the area. Ontario Bolt Works became a major employer there and operated until 1989.

By 189O, the area became known as Swansea. In 1926, Swansea became incorporated as a village and many upper-middle class homes began to develop in what was originally a “forested village”. As such, by 1936 it was the second largest village in Ontario. In 1967 it amalgamated into the City of Toronto.

High Park

The Ellis Estate in Swansea was adjacent to John G. Howard’s Estate that is currently High Park. Howard was Toronto’s first surveyor, an architect and an engineer. He built the heritage resource known as Colborne Lodge in 1837. The property was conveyed to the City of Toronto in 1873 under a few conditions. The Howards were allowed to continue to live at Colborne Lodge, no alcohol could ever be served in the park, and the park was to remain free for the use of the citizens of Toronto. In exchange, Howard received a lifetime pension. This natural and cultural heritage significant property has been a green oasis to the City of Toronto for a hundred and forty years.

Lying north of High Park are residential properties. Many of the homes were built in the late 18OOs and early 19OO’s and are similar to the residential homes in the adjacent neighbourhoods. They are mostly 2-3 storey-detached brick homes built in the Edwardian, Tudor-like style and a local vernacular, cladded mostly in brick. Unlike the surrounding neighbourhoods, the residential area of High Park also contains high-rise developments built when the subway line was extended in the 1960s. It does not have the same commercial and industrial history as its neighbours; instead the development in the area has been mainly residential.

Old Mill

The Old Mill was historically a fishing and hunting spot for First Nations Tribes before European pioneers settled in the 179O’s. Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe built the King’s Mill in 1 7 9 3 in order to process lumber for the City of Toronto. The King’s Mill was Toronto’s first industrial building. Unfortunately, after many years as a local ruin of significant heritage importance, it was demolished in the development of a hotel complex.

Robert Home Smith was influential in the planning and development of the area. By 1911, he made a detailed development plan to transform the wilderness of the Humber River Valley into a residential community. He opened the Old Mill Tea Room, on the day World War 1 was declared, in order to promote his subdivisions; however sales were slow because of the war. He continued to be a developer in the neighbourhood throughout the 192O’s and 3O’s creating a distinct community that, for the most part, remains today.

The proposed boundaries are restricted to the commercial properties directly north and south of Bloor Street. Although the surrounding residential neighborhoods are influential to the development of the retail strip, the neighbourhoods bordering to the north, south, east and west each have historical relevance of their own. It is the unique mix of these residential areas and the residents that have merged to form the history of Bloor West Village and its development. On the north side of Bloor Street lays a sequence of linear parks and parking lots that were built above the subway line and run parallel to Bloor Street. These linear parks and parking lots are also included in the study area because they provide valuable shared, public realm and greenspace for the community and also may be at risk to future development pressures.

Built Form

The majority of the buildings that are currently along the Bloor Street commercial strip were built near to the 192O’s. The Goads Fire Insurance Maps are available for the years 1913 and 1924. It can be seen when comparing Appendix A: 1913 and Appendix B: 1924 that the area was quickly developing between these years. The properties are largely 2-storey structures with narrow building frontages and retail at grade. The types of businesses located in these buildings were ones that served the surrounding community, and have been retained by many of the businesses that exist today.

Appendix C: 1913 and Appendix D: 1924 are of the section of Bloor Street east of Glendonwynne Road. It can be seen that there is significantly less development of properties that have frontage on Bloor Street West. High Park covers much of the area along the south side of Bloor Street, which has influenced a different development pattern than the rest of Bloor West Village. These differences are also evident today as the properties across from the park are higher residential apartments, not built to the property line. The residential units directly north of the park do not have retail use at grade and interrupt the continuous street-wall pattern exhibited along the rest of Bloor Street West. There is a slight retail presence east of Glendonwynne Road, however the character of Bloor Street immediately becomes more residential. These attributes should be taken into consideration when selecting the final HCD boundaries.

Natural Landscape

Bloor West Village is embedded into the surrounding natural landscape, which contributes to the “small village” atmosphere. The neighbourhood lies between the Humber River and High Park, two of the City’s important natural features. Incorporating them within the HCD study will also allow the inclusion of the unique curvature at the western end of Bloor Street that strays from the City’s usual grid pattern and follows the original typography of the area.

High Park is Toronto’s largest public park and is already listed on the City’s Heritage Register. As such, the park is adjacent to the proposed study area. The Humber River is a natural ravine that lies just outside the border of the proposed study area. It is designated as an “Important Natural Feature” in the Official Plan under “prominent and heritage buildings, structures and landscapes” that are subject to view protection policies in Section 3.1.5. It is also recognized as a Canadian Heritage River. View corridors must be protected from both sides of the Bloor Street West Bridge (looking north and south), the Old Mill Bridge (looking north-west and south) and the Dundas Street West Bridge (looking north-west and south-east).

In January 2014 we submitted a Heritage Conservation District proposal. To understand the benefits of a Heritage Conservation District designation, read our development.

Video

At our 2011 Annual General Meeting, we were fortunate to have local heritage expert Madeleine McDowell give an extensive presentation on the history of the area.  The whole event was filmed for us by Daniel Libby of Support in Local Scene Action. Thank you Daniel, here’s the full-length video:

Bloor West Village Historic Maps

1913 Map from the Kingsway to Glendonwynne Road

Goad’s Fire Insurance Plans Plate 6 O and 57 -1913

1924 Map from the Kingsway to Glendonwynne Road

Goad’s Fire Insurance Plans Plate A O and 57 -1924

1913 Map from Clendenan Avenue to Indian Road

Goad’s Fire Insurance Plans Plate 6 1 and 5 8 -1913

1924 Map from Clendenan Avenue to Indian Road

Goad’s Fire Insurance Plans Plate 6 1 and 5 R -1924

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