One of the most interesting areas, sought after locales, and generally awesome place in the City of Toronto, is the Junction. and today: we’re walking it. Junction is one of those areas – bigger than the strip with a deep history and quickly gentrifying – that I love exploring. Not my first walk in the area, but the first TorontoWalk!
“The Junction” is where the Canadian Pacific Railway east-west mainline crosses the Canadian National Railway tracks in the west end of Toronto. Prior to the rail line and before even the European settlement, there were two native trails which intersected in the area. Very much like the Davenport area, the space that is now the Junction was primarily rural up until the 1870s. From 1857-1876, much of it was the site of the Carleton Race Course – a tract of land that became the headquarters of the Toronto Turf Club and hosted the first running of the Queen’s Plate on June 27, 1860. The first four Plate races were run here.Following the arrival of the railways in the 1880s, the old racetrack and surrounding area were developed by Daniel Webster Clendenan, and the two main straightaways of the track are now High Park Avenue and Pacific Avenue. (For some great maps head over to Junction Craft Brewing)
The Village of West Toronto Junction was founded in 1884 and in 1889, it merged with the nearby villages of Carleton and Davenport to become the Town of West Toronto Junction. Quickly growing to the Town of Toronto Junction in 1892, then the City of West Toronto, before it was amalgamated with the City of Toronto in 1909.
Primarily a manufacturing community, the foundries, mills, wire factories, and industries of the 1800s are still vaguely present today. Also present, the influence of early immigrants — Irish Catholics who moved from poor, crowded tenement housing in other areas of the city, immigrants from English industrial cities such as Birmingham and Manchester, and then from non-English speaking countries, including Italians, Poles, Macedonians and Croatians.
Like any city, the Junction has its booms and busts – the massive industrial upheaval, followed by the Long Depression where construction ground to a halt and factories closed, it was amid the mounting civic debt and depression that the Junction was annexed in 1909. It’s no wonder, then, that the Junction (just before amalgamation) had a reputation. Booms result in the growth of a population, the need for entertainment, the building of bars on every street corner; busts meant heavy drinking, as was the case with many railway and factory workers’ towns. By 1903, alcohol was such a serious problem that the town voted to go dry in 1904. This bylaw was not repealed until 1997. It was the last area of Toronto to do so.
For more information on the prohibition – a great read – go here.
So, that’s where we’re walking today. Hope you can follow along, or join in from wherever you are. We may even stop by the Indie Alehouse and Junction Craft Brewery, my favourite little bits of irony,