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Why does Palmerston Blvd. have gates and fancy lights?

Posted by Chris Bateman / April 15, 2013

toronto palmerston boulevardSomething's different about Palmerston Boulevard. Large stone gates greet visitors entering from Bloor Street. Heading south, ornate iron street lamps line the curb. How in a city where a manual dictates everything from the look of paving stones to the width of patios is Palmerston able to be different?

The answer, simply, is history. Palmerston has managed against the odds to retain its early street furniture as other streets were stripped and brought in line with the rest of the city.

toronto palmerston boulevardPalmerston's 64 unique lights date back to the early 1900s. The cast iron poles originally supported incandescent lighting fixtures, similar to the old energy-sucking bulbs found around the home, but the system has since been upgraded several times, most recently in 2004.

At that time, city council was facing a steep bill to bring the lights up to electrical and brightness safety standards. Some poles were found to have chipped paint and minor structural defects, not to mention the light emitted by the Metal Halide bulbs was less than half the safe level.

The wiring was in bad shape too, and a staff report said aluminum replicas might be better value for money.toronto palmerston boulevardThough it was faced with a $245,000.00 maintenance bill every 10 years, council voted to save the Palmerston lights. The original glass globes that shielded the lightbulbs were replaced, however, with plastic alternatives that help direct light downward and are better value for money in the event of a breakage.

Similar lamps also survive on Chestnut Park in Rosedale.toronto palmerston boulevardThe gates - well, gate posts - are a throwback to the street's years south of the Seaton Village development, which was once outside the city limits. At College and Bloor, the stone structures linked with iron railings suggest an entrance to a private rural street even though the boulevard has always been part of the City of Toronto.

A study of Palmerston Boulevard published in 1982 says gate posts suggest an "enclave" and the "notion of an approach that ideally culminates in a villa at the end." The slight deviation from the normal street alignment at Bloor adds to this effect.toronto palmerston boulevardAs the lights and gates suggest, Palmerston Blvd. has managed to hang onto its wealth, too. Though many of the larger homes have been divided into apartments, many of the buildings retain their original grand porches.

For more than 100 years, the street, named after former British prime minister Lord Palmerston, has managed to hang onto its stately air. The street has been home to mayors Sam McBride and Horatio Hocken, the man who went on to found the paper that would evolve into the Toronto Star.

George Weston - the founder of the baking empire and former city councillor - was also a resident of Palmerston Avenue.

Happily, the future of the street's unique features are secure for now. Both the lamps and gates are listed as heritage structures in Toronto.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Photos by Chris Bateman



DAVID PYLYP / April 15, 2013 at 08:48 am
High Park Boulevard at Roncesvalles Ave., has also maintained the gates as has the intersection at Parkside Drive and High Park.

Are there others within the City?

David Pylyp
Working the west Side of Toronto
Johnny Tronno replying to a comment from DAVID PYLYP / April 15, 2013 at 09:18 am
There is Baby Point. Although it has stone columns at the entrance, the interior of the enclave doesn't show as much history like antique lamp posts.

And for history sake, it's pronounced 'bobby point' after James Baby (pronounced 'bobby')
John / April 15, 2013 at 09:41 am
Claxton at Bathurst also has gates for whatever reason.
fooo / April 15, 2013 at 09:44 am
One of my fave streets. Love the history. Toronto is good at destroying it unfortunately. With some happy exceptions. Yay.
the lemur replying to a comment from Johnny Tronno / April 15, 2013 at 09:54 am
Babby, not bobby. Rhymes with crabby, tabby, flabby, etc.
the lemur replying to a comment from John / April 15, 2013 at 09:59 am
Claxton was intended as the entrance to a fairly grand housing development, but it didn't get any further than what's there now, due to a financial crisis/housing slump, in the 1920s I think.

There's also this in Moore Park:
Todd Toronto / April 15, 2013 at 10:23 am
"Happily, the future of the street's unique features are secure for now. Both the lamps and gates are listed as heritage structures in Toronto."

How about the houses? Not that it would happen anyway, but is there any way to prevent Palmerston and other streets down there from turning into streets in the Avenue-Lawrence area, where you'd be hard pressed to find a house built before 1990?
RobKG / April 15, 2013 at 10:26 am
Uh, rather poorly researched. That's not why Palmerston has lights, but I suppose when someone is writing an article and only using Wikipedia as a reference it's bound to be lacking.

cathie / April 15, 2013 at 10:27 am
It is in the burbs but here's another example, in Thornhill:

I lived an idyllic childhood in "Grandview Estates", and today it is still a lovely neighbouhood:;oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=X&ei=ig1sUb3MFuWH2AX2_oHwCg&ved=0CAsQ_AUoAg
Torontonian / April 15, 2013 at 10:39 am
There are still the pillars or "gates" at the entrance
to Brule Gardens and one gate at Brule Terrace.
Chris Bateman replying to a comment from RobKG / April 15, 2013 at 11:06 am
Care to explain?
FactMaster / April 15, 2013 at 11:22 am
"The slight deviation from the normal street alignment at Bloor adds to this effect" ...

Nearly every street between Bathurst and Christie does this at Bloor. This is because Seaton Village (the area between Bathurst and Christie, and between Bloor and Dupont) is older than the surrounding areas - NOT a "subdivision" - and the gated stretch of Palmerston lies to the south.

When Palmerston, Manning, etc. were extended north to meet Bloor (including the stretch of Palmerston this article is about), the original streets didn't align perfectly. Further, the older Seaton streets were renamed to match. So north of Bloor, Palmerston used to have a different name.

jen / April 15, 2013 at 11:23 am
Clarendon Crescent (runs north-west off of Poplar Plains, just at the crest of the hill) has gates. It's hard to see them through all the tree foliage on Poplar, and you have to be on foot or bike to get in there. You pop out at Clarendon Avenue. I don't think they're very old, though.
Lord Jesus / April 15, 2013 at 11:32 am
My son, for a guiding light, look to Torontoist, for it is they, who hath told this tale, much more correctly...
Chris Bateman / April 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm
The street was originally Ontario St. then Muter St. south of Bloor. Palmerston arrived before 1902. I stand corrected on the location of Seaton Village.

Adam / April 15, 2013 at 12:02 pm
Chris Bateman replying to a comment from Adam / April 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm
I knew that comment was coming eventually.
Wernkin replying to a comment from Todd Toronto / April 15, 2013 at 12:51 pm
The houses north of Lawrence are being redone, usually poorly, but they were never that nice to begin with, particularly the block east of Avenue. Most of the houses south of Lawrence are "original", even if that means the monotony of streets like Chudleigh. And while there are some particularly old houses here and there, many are probably not as old as down on Palmerston. Glenview and Rosewell in particular, with the north end of the latter dating to the mid 1950s. There are new mega-homes being built down on Glencairn, albeit in a much nicer style than the stucco ones northwest of Avenue & Lawrence. Cheritan has been completely overhauled in the last ten years, but the houses have retained their facades at least.

There are still gates at Yonge & Alexandra Blvd.
Will replying to a comment from Adam / April 15, 2013 at 01:48 pm
You asked for it Boggs!
saf affect replying to a comment from Johnny Tronno / April 15, 2013 at 02:47 pm
I've knew it to be pronounced Babby by the older residents, having grown up in the area. Us kids always called it and still do - Baby. And there are still antique lamposts in the centre of 'roundabouts' at Baby Pt Rd & Humbercrest Blvd and at Baby Pt Cres & Baby Pt Terrace. Also nearby there are brick column entry markers at the north end of Humbercrest Blvd and Dundas W, and stone ones at Brule Gardens near Riverside Dr and Bloor St W.
Anya / April 15, 2013 at 05:22 pm
Nothing here actually explains *why" Palmerston was able to retain these features. Misleading headline.
Anya replying to a comment from Anya / April 15, 2013 at 05:22 pm
Anya replying to a comment from Anya / April 15, 2013 at 08:12 pm
Kevin Tuttle / April 15, 2013 at 08:13 pm
A very obscure pair of gates as well near Pape and O'Connor at Rivercourt:

And also in the east end, a former private street near Danforth and Broadview entering Fairview:
Elodie / April 15, 2013 at 09:23 pm
The gates were actually put there to seperate the rich from the poor in the 1900s, to be more specific, seperate the African Americans from the Whites. May be hard to believe but it is true. Maybe that is why Chris didn't want to explain it that well.
Linden / April 15, 2013 at 11:33 pm
I love this street, few years ago, when I lived in the Annex, I would take this street, down to College st, and always enjoyed the view. It is so different.
the lemur replying to a comment from Elodie / April 15, 2013 at 11:49 pm
Do you have a source for that? I don't believe there was a sizable non-white community of any kind north of Palmerston & Bloor, nor at the south end, at College. In fact there don't seem to have been actual gates there at all, just pillars.
African Canadians / April 17, 2013 at 09:47 am
Hi Elodie! DUHHHHHH.

Also: You are wrong.
MitchK replying to a comment from RobKG / May 1, 2013 at 12:34 pm
Do inform us on the true history, please. I'm curious.
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Vertov replying to a comment from Elodie / January 27, 2014 at 08:04 pm
"African Americans?" Elodie, what are you talking about. Are you even in the right country?
Researcher / December 7, 2014 at 09:40 am
That's very much untrue, Elodie. Almost every one of the residents below College on Palmerston Ave. (the "poor" part of Palmerston) were also of Anglo-European descent (English, Scotch, Irish)- this is sourced from the 1911 Census and Tax Assesment Rolls of the inhabitants.
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