Have you ever wandered among Cabbagetown’s collection of Victorians or strolled past the worker’s cottages of Leslieville and marvelled at the myriad of architectural styles that stand as a testament to this City’s immense growth over the last century? Decades before steel and glass towers became the architectural staples of our skyline, Toronto’s streetscapes looked very different.
The Toronto Public Library is an awesome resource when it comes to digging into Toronto’s storied past, but for those who aren’t up to thumbing through folios, there’s a new app that you might find interesting…
Wonder what your neighbourhood looked like 100 years ago? Now’s your chance to find out with Toronto Maps! In a recent BlogTO article, Jack Landau writes, “Before this era of readily-available aerial views (GoogleEarth), top-down views of cities were photographed from aircraft for reference by city planners and officials, leaving Toronto with a historic archive of aerial photography, that, until now, has only been accessible in piecemeal, hard-to-navigate batches.”
But the City has now assembled and oriented it all – and it’s amazing! In the title image for this blog, I zoomed in on the area I wanted to look at, hit ‘1954’ and voila! Here’s what the Portlands looked like from above in that year!
The aerial photos are fully navigable and the detail survives much zooming!
Now this isn’t completely new. The first iteration of a similar service came a decade ago when Sidewalk Labs gave Toronto an archive of service mapping aerial photography. (However, when SL pulled out of the controversial Quayside community set to be built along Toronto’s waterfront, that information was rendered inaccessible.) Following that, in 2022, cartographer Jeff Allen tried to equip Torontonians with a similar glimpse into the City’s history; the platform he created was limited to shots from three years – 1954, 1965, 1978 – and the sourced material came directly from the TPL. – [BlogTO]
Building on that idea, the City of Toronto, released the current version of their map tool, which lets users scope out the City in over a dozen more years: 1931, 1939, 1954, 1965, 1978, 2005, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021 & 2022.
But that’s not all it can do. Having never used this service before, I was delighted to find many many different parcels of information you can display, from transportation and public services to BIA boundaries and forestation. (While the historical aerial photography feature is new, all of the other services were pre-existing.)
And it can become a useful tool depending on your purpose:
“The historic aerials are only one of the interactive elements in this relaunched mapping tool. You can also customize map layers, draw in your own shaded and coloured areas to create visual assets, and share links for your custom search filters and layers.” – [BlogTO]
For example, the screenshot above displays Toronto’s tree canopy, while the one below is a City Map from 1903 overlayed on the streets as they exist today!
* Tree Canopy
Pretty neat, eh? In fact, while writing this piece, I went down a bit of a rabbit hole trying all the new features I found. While scrolling along King West circa 1913, I came across pieces of history I never knew existed – like the Provincial Lunatic Asylum and the Mercer Reformatory (which was essentially a women’s detention centre.)
Be warned – this interactive map is a really neat service… and can be an astonishing time-suck! 🙂
*All Images are courtesy of the City Of Toronto, which holds the rights.
Did you enjoy this? Here are some of Urbaneer’s other neighbourhood history posts we recommend:
And if you love history and housing as much as we do, you may also enjoy these posts:
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