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What Davenport Road used to look like in Toronto

Posted by Derek Flack / September 13, 2013

Davenport Road History TorontoDavenport Road might lack the stature of some of the other streets we've featured in our series of Toronto history, but even if it was never developed to the same degree as nearby St. Clair Avenue or Dupont Street, it remains a fascinating thoroughfare that's unlike any other street in the city. Winding across what the old Lake Iroquois shoreline, the road originated as a First Nations trails, which at one point stretched between the Humber and Don rivers. That's why it doesn't conform to the more grid-like design of most other streets in the city. The curves are what make it interesting, of course, and it remains a favourite route for cyclists who can take shelter in the bike lane (installed in 1994) and then ride up and down the various inclines to the north.

Many of the below photos demonstrate the city trying to manage the inclines to the north of Davenport, which were virtually un-passable after heavy rains or snow prior to being paved in and around the 1920s. To do this day, cars tend to struggle approaching Davenport from Bathurst and Dufferin in heavy know thanks to above average gradients. In the case of Bathurst street, the city actually used dynamite to lessen the incline, which posed significant problems given the amount of traffic on the street.

Also worthy of note is that Davenport was home to the second electrified streetcar line in Toronto. Though it might be hard to believe given its relatively northern position at the time (most development was concentrated further south), the Davenport Railway Company ran cars along the street starting in 1892. Around the same time, a series of tolls were installed along the street to fund improvements to street, one of which serves as heritage museum at Bathurst and Davenport.

In fact, Bathurst and Davenport is a rather important intersection to the city as a whole. Home to the TTC's Hillcrest Yards, the sprawling complex has been the nerve centre for the TTC since it opened in the early 1920s. Prior to that, the area to the southwest of the intersection was actually home to Hillcrest Racetrack, one of many to dot the city back in the day. Just to the north of the TTC facility is Wychwood Park, a private community that was once founded as an artists colony.

Fall is a particularly beautiful time to take in Davenport's many delights, as the north side of the street remains well treed. Stop and have a look around next time you pass by.


2013913-dav-bath-above-1907.jpgAbove Davenport and Bathurst, 1907

2013913-dav-east-bath-1910.jpgDavenport looking east from Bathurst, 1910

2013913-hillcrest-racetrack-1911.jpgHillcret Racetrack, Bathurst and Davenport 1911

2013913-ttc-hillcrest-1911.jpgTTC Hillcrest Yards, 1911

2013913-dav-poplar-plains-1912.jpgDavenport and Poplar Plains, 1912

2013913-walmer-north-1913-casa.jpgLooking north on Walmer Road at Casa Loma, 1913

2013913-dufferin-north-dav-1913.jpgDufferin north of Davenport, 1913

2013913-bathurst-north-dav-1913.jpgDavenport looking north up Bathurst, 1913

2013913-dav-west-bath-1914-mud.jpgDavenport west at Bathurst, 1914

2013913-casa-loma-1914.jpgCasa Loma, 1914

2013913-christie-dav-1915.jpgLooking north up Christie from Davenport, 1915

2013913-lansdowne-dav-1916-mud.jpgLansdowne and Davenport, 1916

2013913-lansdowne-dav-1916.jpgAlternate angle.

2013913-dav-walmer-1916.jpgDavenport and Walmer, 1916

2013913-dav-bath-east-1916.jpgDavenport and Bathurst looking east, 1916

2013913-dav-bartlett-1921.jpgDavenport and Bartlett, 1921

2013913-gage-property-wychwood-1922.jpgGage property at Wychwood, 1922

2013913-dav-weston-1923.jpgDavenport and (Old) Weston Rd, 1923

20139132-ttc-hillcrest-1923.jpgTTC Hillcrest Yards, 1923

2013913-dav-symington-1923.jpgDavenport and Symington, 1923

2013913-dav-east-salem-1923.jpgDavenport and Salem, 1923

2013913-dav-east-gtr-crossing-1923.jpgGTR Crossing near Davenport and Caledonia, 1923

2013913-dav-station-caledonia-1923.jpgDavenport GTR Station at Caledonia Rd, 1923

2013913-small-house-dav-albany-ca-1925.jpgSmall house at Davenport and Albany, 1925

2013913-dav-oakwood-1927.jpgDavenport and Oakwood, 1927

2013913-sw-corner-ave-dav-1930.jpgSouthwest corner of Avenue and Davenport, 1930

2013913-306-dav-1930.jpg306 Davenport, 1930

2013913-191-193-dav-1930.jpg191-193 Davenport, 1930

2013913-359-dav-1931.jpg359 Davenport, 1931

2013913-dav-bedford-1933.jpgDavenport and Bedford, 1933

2013913-dav-toward-duop-1938.jpgDavenport towards Dupont, 1938

2013013-dav-dover-1947.jpgDavenport and Dovercourt, 1947

2013913-bedford-dav-1947.jpgDavenport and Bedford, 1947

2013913-sign-steer-1955.jpgThe Sign of the Steer restaurant at Davenport and Dupont, 1955

2013913-dav-west-howland-1956.jpgLooking west on Davenport at Howland, 1956

2013913-dav-east-to-osler-1958.jpgDavenport looking eat from Osler, 1958

2013913-church-west-collier-1959.jpgLooking towards Davenport and Yonge, 1959

Photos from the Toronto Archives



Kate / September 13, 2013 at 05:27 pm
The photo marked "alternate angle" is not at Bathurst; the building pictured is now "Foundry Lofts" near Lansdowne.
Fig / September 13, 2013 at 05:30 pm
Great choice of street to profile Derek. Question - in the photo of Davenport and Walmer, 1916, are those concrete sidewalks and curbs?? Seems too early for that type of infrastructure.
hugh mungus replying to a comment from Kate / September 13, 2013 at 06:08 pm
good eye- I was wondering about that picture!
Derek replying to a comment from Kate / September 14, 2013 at 10:44 am
Yes! Apologies, I re-ordered the photos after captioning them. I'll correct that now. Thank you.
Ian M / September 14, 2013 at 02:21 pm
Does anyone know the story behind the building at the southeast corner of Davenport and Ossington which is currently the Faema shop? I have been wondering for years what the original purpose of this interesting building was.
margarets / September 16, 2013 at 09:57 am
@Ian, I'll bet it was a gas station. That big space right off the street is one clue, plus the curvy front kind of reminds me of the Joy gas station.
Dan / September 24, 2013 at 01:23 pm
The photo described as "Southwest corner of Avenue and Davenport, 1930" is a mistake, I believe. It says "SE" on the photo, and its orientation fits as the South East corner.
Henry / November 24, 2014 at 07:56 am
@ia, the faema building was originally Toronto's first Ford assembly plant. The showroom was on the ground floor where the cafe is now. When I was a wee lad, I remember my Dad buying our first Model T there. We called it "Bessie".
Virginia Clark replying to a comment from Henry / December 3, 2014 at 09:01 pm
There are two "Faema" buildings in the same neighbourhood. The building that Ian M on Sept 14, 2014 referenced at the corner of Ossington and Davenport is a Faema equipment supply store (it is currently going out of business)-- and I agree that it looks like the building might have once been a gas station. Henry on November 24, 2014 refers to the large and quite lovely building at the NW corner of Christie and Dupont that now houses the Faema café on the ground floor (along with several other enterprises). It was, indeed, a Ford assembly plant. The central lobby of the building has some historical pictures and information about the plant.
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