One of the best parts of the original City of Toronto is the rich and varied history of its many village neighbourhoods. With each representing its own unique life cycle shaped by time, place, and culture, every enclave has a colourful collective identity. This will be evident in the physical landscape, including the condition and presentation of public buildings, the state of the local shops and services, and whether privately-owned properties reflect pride of ownership, or any particular cultural or community affiliation.
Additionally, I love to observe the social dynamics of each community, including whether residents are actively engaging with their neighbours on the street, supporting the public library, enrolling at the sports and recreation facilities, or playing with their kids at the playground. While a singular dwelling can reveal the immediate story of the inhabitants inside and the society around them, the narrative of entire streetscapes – and the neighbourhoods in which they’re contained – can extend for generations, revealing a richer deeper sense of ‘We’.
Take the High Park North neighbourhood, for example – which runs north of Bloor, east of Runnymede, south of Annette and west of Keele Street.
There is a mix of housing stock in this neighbourhood, ranging from historic merchant class residences constructed in the 1880s through 1900s. First, there’s semi-detached and detached single-family and purpose-built multi-unit dwellings catering to the emerging middle class in the 1900s through 1920s. Three decades later, the neighbourhood acquired post-war rental and condominium towers built in the 1960s through 1970s.
Then, most recently, several mid and high-rise rental and condominiums popped up – built since 2000 – particularly along or in proximity to Bloor Street. In keeping with the City of Toronto’s ‘Master Plan’ to densify and intensify our existing urban fabric, there are a number of infill point towers still-to-be-constructed within the boundaries of the existing tower blocks of Grenadier Square and High Park Village which will ensure the local shops, purveyors, and services will be supported by a growing population!
The diverse range of residences originally constructed during the first 50 years of this neighbourhood’s infancy – from the late 1880s through to the 1930s – reflect both the changing tastes in domestic design, and the need for different housing types catering to an emerging middle class. It’s important to keep in mind that – in the 1880s – The Junction neighbourhood to the north was an established manufacturing centre located at the junction of 4 railway lines. This intersection, incidentally, was the predominant mode of transportation until the Model T automobile arrived and became affordable to the masses in 1908. As a result, the housing stock in this neighbourhood situated on the northern periphery abutting The Junction tends to be Victorian – dating from the 1890s – and subsequently, over the next 40 years, this verdant early suburb developed south towards Bloor Street, where the Edwardian fashion reigns.
Want to see something cool? Heres a cross of Bloor Street W at High Park Ave, looking West – 1914 and 2015. Look at how undeveloped the area was!
See more at Livabl.
As the years went by, and development moved southward, you started to see more stately brick homes built in the Victorian, Edwardian and Tudor styles. Features common to these lovely homes include leaded or stained-glass windows, ornate exterior ornaments, detailed wood trim, rich hardwood floors, fireplaces and French doors.
A number of these grand homes have been subdivided over the years into multifamily units, and many are now being deconverted back into their original single family space plans. While the years have marched on, and these homes have housed generations, their elegance has not diminished in the face of time.
Residents now – and then – are well-heeled and appreciate the lifestyle that fine housing and a stellar location offer.
In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a significant amount of redevelopment north of High Park into higher density living. Properties on High Park Avenue, Quebec Avenue, Gothic Avenue and Pacific Avenue were snapped up by developers, razed and in their place new modern towers upwards of 20 storeys like High Park Village containing 750 suites, and High Park Green apartment and condominium buildings right around when the Bloor Danforth subway was completed in the 1960s.
Today, along Quebec Avenue, north of Bloor Street there are condo developments that feature lovely views from the units.
*Did you know that High Park North is home to the first Canadian building designed by a Canadian-trained female architect? Jean Hall was the second woman to graduate from the University of Toronto’s architecture program in 1923. Not too long after graduation, she designed the stately fourplex located at 63 Jerome Street in High Park North (pictured above!)
With the lure of living near High Park, and with the convenience of having the Bloor Danforth subway at hand, this a highly coveted location for homeowners. This why developers continue to favour this neighbourhod even today. It’s idyllic, yet completely connected to the city. Today High Park boasts sweet, tree-lined streetscapes, some of the best green space in the city, highly reputable schools and excellent shopping and dining in the ‘hood.
Dreamy, right? Does your future include a home connected to this neighbourhood’s past? Check out our character listing constructed in 1929 which has a number of period features in the Edwardian style. like the variegated brick and unique stylized arch on the front porch, and the pared down simplicity (particularly in contrast to the ornate decorative embellishments typical of Victorian homes built 30 years prior) in the stained glass windows flanking the unadorned brick bowed fireplace, the generous clean-line millwork, moldings, French and panelled doors –> A Stately Edwardian Duplex With Lower Level Suite, Steps To High Park.
Interested in a private viewing? Have questions! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org!
Did you enjoy this? Here are some of Urbaneer’s other neighbourhood history posts we recommend:
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