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What Parkdale used to look like in Toronto

Posted by Derek Flack / February 12, 2013

Parkdale History TorontoAt the turn of the 20th century, Parkdale was one of the most desirable places to live in Toronto. Marked by large properties, ample green space, and unparalleled access to the lake, the village was incorporated in 1878 before being annexed by the city of Toronto in 1889. During its short-lived term as a town unto itself, its relationship with the city proper was defined by a sort of urban/suburban tension whereby commuters were criticized for the daily use of city services and infrastructure that they ultimately had no hand in paying for.

The neighbourhood retains a certain independent character from those days, but mostly in an architectural sense. Despite the arrival of high-rise apartment housing in the 1970s, Victorian homes once occupied by the city's elite still dot the area, even if many of them have been repurposed to accommodate multiple dwellings. Nevertheless, it's sometimes difficult to imagine Parkdale as the affluent place that it once was.

Part of the reason for that is the degree to which the neighbourhood is now cut off from the lake. As much as Sunnyside is affiliated with Roncesvalles, Parkdale's geographic orientation made the presence of the amusement park (and the water in general) a major draw for well-to-do families looking to get settled.

That relationship with the lake would end in the 1950s when Sunnyside closed and the Gardiner Expressway was built. The presence of the latter serves as both a physical and mental barrier to the lake and altered the nature of the neighbourhood in a profound manner. Although the exodus of wealthy residents from the area can't be pinned solely on the rise of the Gardiner and the lost connection to the water — post-war economic struggles certainly also played a role — the neighbourhood was never the same.

Various reasons are given for Parkdale's acquisition of a sketchy reputation back in the 1970s and '80s. Now vacant mansions were converted into rooming houses and multi-unit dwellings, which attracted a lower income demographic. Outpatient programs at what is now referred to as CAMH in the 1970s have also been highlighted as a potential reason for Parkdale's decline. In the absence of community support networks, many of these patients were left to fend for themselves and lived in poverty.

While the Parkdale's current reputation still bears the mark of this recent history, it's obvious that much has changed in the last decade or so. Condo-central the neighbourhood has yet to become, but other signs of gentrification — be it the indie cafes, trendy restaurants, art galleries (there's even a moratorium on new bars and restaurants!) — continue to pile up. One need only travel by Queen and Dufferin to see that the condo push is moving westward.

Will all of this amount to a return of Parkdale's glory days? Assuming it's even fair to call them that — the area is, after all, a hell of a lot more diverse today than it was back then — it's obvious that the quiet, leisurely qualities that once wooed residents are long gone. In their place, however, is a vibrant community that's certainly on the rise.


2013213-goads-atlas-parkdale-older-1884.jpgVillage of Parkdale — Goad's Fire Atlas, 1884

2013213-goads-atlas-parkdale-1910.jpgParkdale — Goad's Fire Atlas, 1910


2013212-postcard-queen-looking-east.jpgLooking east toward the Queen Street Subway

2013212-parkdale-postcard-tpl.jpgPostcard, 1920s

20100425-oceanhousepostcard.jpgOcean House Hotel (King, Queen and Roncesvalles)


2011930-Queen-Subway-1897-s0376_fl0002_it0008.jpgQueen Street Subway construction (Gladstone Hotel in the distance), 1897

2011930-queen-subway-parkdale-hotel-1896-s0376_fl0001_it0072.jpgQueen Street Subway looking west (south side)

2011930-queen-subway-west-1896s0376_fl0001_it0073.jpgQueen Street Subway looking west (north side)

2011930-queen-subway-1899-s0376_fl0002_it0001.jpgQueen Subway, 1899

2013211-dunn-gtr-1899-s0376_fl0002_it0086.jpgGTR crossing at Dunn Avenue, 1899

2013212-Queen-triller-1890s-s0376_fl0005_it0071.jpgQueen West at Triller Avenue, 1890s

2013212-king-beaty-1903-s0376_fl0004_it0011.jpgKing and Beaty, 1903

2013211-parkdale-collegiate-1905-f1568_it0377.jpgParkdale Collegiate, 1905

2013211-south-parkdale-station-close-f1244_it1470.jpgSouth Parkdale GTR Station, 1910

2013211-commuter-track-dunn-1911-s0372_ss0051_it0055.jpgGTR crossing at Dunn Avenue, 1911

2013212-98-dowling-1911-s0372_ss0051_it0049.jpg98 Dowling, 1911

2013211-parkdale-train-1914-f1244_it1471.jpgTrain passing through Parkdale, 1914

2013211-queen-west-elmgrove-1916-s0372_ss0058_it0610.jpgQueen at Elmgrove, 1916

2013211-odeon-theatre-1919-f1231_it0758.jpgOdeon Theatre, 1919

2013211-cowan-fire-station-1920s-f1257_s1057_it0753.jpgCowan Fire Station, 1920s

2013212-queen-beaty-1921-s0372_ss0052_it0970.jpgQueen and Beaty, 1921

2012724-track-qkr-1923-wow-s0071_it2040 (1).jpgTrackwork at King, Queen and Roncesvalles, 1923

2013211-107-109-cowan-1933-s0372_ss0058_it1343.jpg107-109 Cowan Avenue, 1933

2013212-14-brock-ave-1938-s0372_ss0033_it0350.jpg14 Brock Avenue, 1938

2013211-queen-lansdowne-1946-s0372_ss0058_it1696.jpgQueen and Lansdowne looking north, 1946

2013212-lansdowne-south-seaforth-s0372_ss0058_it1695.jpgSeaforth and Lansdowne looking south, 1946

2013212-dowling-north-lakeshore-1946-s0372_ss0058_it1702.jpgDowling looking north of Lakeshore, 1946

2013212-dowling-king-1946-s0372_ss0058_it1701.jpgKing and Dowling, 1946

2012410-sunnyside-1949-2.jpgSunnyside aerial, 1949

2011826-gardiner-aerial-jameson-1960-s0065_fl0047_id0008.jpgBye-bye easy lake access, 1960 (above Jameson)

201126-roncy1971-parkdale.jpegKing, Queen and Roncesvalles, 1971


Photos from the Toronto Archives / Maps and postcards from the Toronto Public Library



vader / February 12, 2013 at 10:05 am
I think the "suggestions" one is Queen and Mcdonnell looking east. These are pretty awesome though. I have a whole bunch from the 80's.
Derek replying to a comment from vader / February 12, 2013 at 10:07 am
Want to share?
vader replying to a comment from Derek / February 12, 2013 at 10:17 am
I will if I can find them.
Rossi / February 12, 2013 at 10:29 am
I think the second postcard is looking east on Queen from the corner of Dunn, that's O'Hara Ave just opposite. Where's the Dollarama!
hmmm / February 12, 2013 at 10:43 am
gosh, Parkdale was so beautiful.
Lieberry / February 12, 2013 at 11:17 am
So was it about 1925 that the denim started to get tighter and tighter on men as the years passed?
ian / February 12, 2013 at 11:28 am
I'm confused....where's Grand Electric?
p replying to a comment from Jimmy / February 12, 2013 at 11:40 am
I think Lieberry is making a joke about skinny jeans on men.
Why are you so easily annoyed at blog post comments?
Lieberry replying to a comment from Jimmy / February 12, 2013 at 11:42 am
Oh Jim.

You're as uptight as your 501's
C. Little / February 12, 2013 at 12:26 pm
Pickin' Chicken ... one of the first restaurant chains.

Jarvis was full of grand mansions and went down the crapper as well, probably due to the road widening. "War on the Car" indeed ... more like the "War of the Car on the Neighbourhoods".
W. K. Lis / February 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm
Looking at the map, one will see that Indian Road actually merged with Parkside Drive to connect with Lake Shore Blvd. and Queen Street West. It lost that connection with the building of the Queensway in the 1950's.
Farva replying to a comment from Jimmy / February 12, 2013 at 01:03 pm
Thanks, Deninm Dan
vampchick21 / February 12, 2013 at 01:15 pm
It's amazing how much has changed and yet not changed in Parkdale. I was recently viewing some photos on the Parkdale facebook page that they had put up celebrating the neighbourhood's anniversary, and one shot was of the building on the corner of Brock & Queen that's now that sushi/sake bar, and before that the Bargain shop that you could get all kinds of things (now moved across the street to a smaller store). Despite renovations, you can still see so much of the original facade. And in seeing some of these old photos of Queen, I really wish they hadn't done away with the awnings, I kinda like
Fig / February 12, 2013 at 01:18 pm
Thanks for the post Derek - great selection of photos and interesting reading about Parkdale's origins.
Ralph replying to a comment from Jimmy / February 12, 2013 at 01:29 pm
not on you, tubby.
vampchick21 replying to a comment from Jimmy / February 12, 2013 at 01:35 pm
Well, there's the one going up at Queen & Dufferin (which I would really love to buy or at least rent into), plus those two on the other side of the tracks at Gladstone, Sudbury Street also came right up to Queen there at Gladstone as well, bringing more condos up, and they're starting to show up along King just west of Dufferin. But I don't see Parkdale being turned into antoher Liberty Village per say, although we'll likely have a few around the edges. At most, I can see some old warehouses being converted into condo lofts like on Noble.
Jack / February 12, 2013 at 01:41 pm
"During its short-lived term as a town unto itself, its relationship with the city proper was defined by a sort of urban/suburban tension whereby commuters were criticized for the daily use of city services and infrastructure that they ultimately had no hand in paying for"

Huh, well would you look at that. Sound familiar? One of the constant complaints about 905ers using city services and not paying property taxes to help pay for those services. Good to see nothing has changed in 100 years.
sspeed / February 12, 2013 at 02:02 pm
if Jimmy is correct, that means rent for apt must be going up in the area
vampchick21 replying to a comment from Jack / February 12, 2013 at 02:03 pm
905 should look at how that problem with 19th century Parkdale using but not paying for city services was dealt with. *grin*
vampchick21 replying to a comment from sspeed / February 12, 2013 at 02:16 pm
Not insanely. I rented a 1 brd on Jameson 18 years ago for 600 all inclusive. The same is now going for 750-850 thereabouts based on what I was looking at recently. Maybe in the 900's. Still not horrible.
Sam / February 12, 2013 at 02:32 pm
Thank you for posting this article. I love it! Can you do none for North York, namely Willowdale (east and west?).
Sam / February 12, 2013 at 02:33 pm
*one* for Willowdale..
Josh / February 12, 2013 at 03:36 pm
Awesome! Do the archives allow for printing? Would love to get a print of some of these?
Jules / February 12, 2013 at 03:39 pm
Interesting - was the Queen subway an actual underground subway or was it an above ground tram? I've seen the sign/name and blocked entrance that's still on the Dufferin bridge to this day - its always puzzled me.
Rob replying to a comment from Jules / February 12, 2013 at 04:36 pm
A subway is also a type of bridge/underpass.
Rob replying to a comment from Rob / February 12, 2013 at 04:37 pm
Colin / February 12, 2013 at 04:54 pm
I can see my apartment building in the Lansdowne photos. So cool!
Jules replying to a comment from Rob / February 12, 2013 at 05:01 pm
Thanks - the plot thickens!
So what was it?
above ground tram
or underpass?
dr.fever / February 12, 2013 at 06:27 pm
It was an underpass.
dr.fever / February 12, 2013 at 06:30 pm
And still is.
Sheezy replying to a comment from Josh / February 13, 2013 at 10:04 am
Yes, you can get prints of various sizes. You can also get digital copies.
Sandra replying to a comment from vampchick21 / February 13, 2013 at 01:25 pm
Apartments in Parkdale may be cheap but 90% are infested in bedbugs, roaches and vermin.
Sue / February 14, 2013 at 02:03 pm
Wow. That was a trip down memory lane. Thank you for gathering all those pics and sharing them. So many changes. Sue
vampchick21 replying to a comment from Sandra / February 14, 2013 at 03:45 pm
Then I've been very lucky the last 18 years. Seriously, don't generalize.
Fig replying to a comment from Sam / February 15, 2013 at 10:31 am
Yes! I'd love to see one for Willowdale as well!
John / February 19, 2013 at 03:21 pm
All those people are dead.
Murray / June 4, 2013 at 01:02 pm
Hey see that pic of the Train passing through Parkdale, 1914? Same idea 100 years later with the fossil fuel airport rail link! Way to retro Toronto!
Mirta / September 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm
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this blog; this website consists of remarkable and truly excellent data designed for visitors.
Alice Hunnersen replying to a comment from Rossi / January 19, 2015 at 05:18 pm
Please share any pictures from that area That you have? I lived just west of Brock on the north side of queen From 1954-1960.
my Dad had the fish and chip store.
The Dollarama used to be a Loblaws. when i was there, I went to sunnyside .
Marti replying to a comment from Alice Hunnersen / February 5, 2015 at 06:55 pm
We often had Fish and Chips from your dad's store on Fridays, always wrapped in newspaper.
Shaun / May 15, 2015 at 09:24 am
Does anybody have any pics of the King and Dunn area?
Gayle B replying to a comment from Alice Hunnersen / July 13, 2015 at 06:46 pm
Alice, do you mean the fish and chip store between Callender and Sorauren on north side of Queen St. W.? Loved that fish and chip shop, right around the corner from our house.
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