What Parkdale used to look like in Toronto
At 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.
Village of Parkdale — Goad's Fire Atlas, 1884
Parkdale — Goad's Fire Atlas, 1910
Looking east toward the Queen Street Subway
Ocean House Hotel (King, Queen and Roncesvalles)
Queen Street Subway construction (Gladstone Hotel in the distance), 1897
Queen Street Subway looking west (south side)
Queen Street Subway looking west (north side)
Queen Subway, 1899
GTR crossing at Dunn Avenue, 1899
Queen West at Triller Avenue, 1890s
King and Beaty, 1903
Parkdale Collegiate, 1905
South Parkdale GTR Station, 1910
GTR crossing at Dunn Avenue, 1911
98 Dowling, 1911
Train passing through Parkdale, 1914
Queen at Elmgrove, 1916
Odeon Theatre, 1919
Cowan Fire Station, 1920s
Queen and Beaty, 1921
Trackwork at King, Queen and Roncesvalles, 1923
107-109 Cowan Avenue, 1933
14 Brock Avenue, 1938
Queen and Lansdowne looking north, 1946
Seaforth and Lansdowne looking south, 1946
Dowling looking north of Lakeshore, 1946
King and Dowling, 1946
Sunnyside aerial, 1949
Bye-bye easy lake access, 1960 (above Jameson)
King, Queen and Roncesvalles, 1971
- What Roncesvalles used to look like
- What Queen West used to look like
- What the Junction used to look like
- What Sunnyside looked like before the Gardiner arrived