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What Sherbourne Street used to look like in Toronto

Posted by Derek Flack / December 31, 2013

Sherbourne Street History TorontoSherbourne Street is about as diverse as they come, from the stately Rosedale mansions at its north end to the towers of St. James Town to the last bit of industry that hangs on near its southern tip at the lakefront. It's also one of Toronto's older streets, being one of the original thoroughfares in the town of York, the central hub of which was located east of Yonge in and around where the current day St. Lawrence Market sits.

Named in 1845 by Samuel Ridout after the town of his origin in England, Sherbourne would eventually grow into a street that housed the well established throughout much of the 19th century. Although not as opulent as Jarvis Street to the west (or at least through the stretch south of Bloor), it was nevertheless a desirable and rather pretty place to live. That would eventually change in the mid 20th century when the affluent left the area, larger houses were divided up, and eventually public housing was built in the form of the St. James Town in the 1960s.

Like many older Toronto streets, Sherbourne carries a significant industrial legacy. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the Polson Iron Works were located at the foot of the street (this despite the current location of Polson Pier to the southeast), where huge steamships and dredgers were built, as well as a few other more bizarre nautical contraptions. The shipyards would close up in 1919, though the waterfront would remain largely industrial for years.

Today, Sherbourne is a street in transition. Where once there was industry, now there is sweeping redevelopment of the waterfront area. It's the first street in Toronto to receive dedicated bike lanes, and there are cautious signs of gentrification in an around Dundas and Sherbourne, an intersection notorious for crime.


20131230-sherbourne-carlton-1890s.jpgSherbourne and Carlton, 1890s

20131230-sherbourne-bridge-1890s.jpgSherbourne Bridge, 1890s

20131230-bloor-end-sherbourne-1907.jpgBloor terminating at Sherbourne, 1907

20131230-sw-corner-sherbourne-bloor-1912.jpgSouthwest corner of Sherbourne and Bloor, 1912

20131230-sherbourne-north-queen.jpgSherbourne looking north from Queen, 1913

20131230-polson-iron-works-1914.jpgPolson Iron Works at the foot of Sherbourne, 1914

20131230-sherbourne-bridge-1915.jpgSherbourne Bridge, 1915

20131230-bloor-sherbourne-1917-fill.jpgFilling in the valley near Bloor and Sherbourne, 1917

20131230-sherbourne-bloor-nw-1923.jpgNorthwest corner Sherbourne and Bloor, 1923

20131230-queen-sherbourne-george-st-ard-1923.jpgGeorge Street Yard near Queen and Sherbourne, 1923

20131230-sherbourne-st-fill-1926.jpgFill at the foot of Sherbourne, 1926

20131230-sherbourne-lakeshore-1926.jpgIndustry at the foot of Sherbourne, 1926

20131230-skyline-fleet-sherbourne-pre-29-f1548_s0393_it0009.jpgSkyline from southern end of Sherbourne, early 1930s

20131230-isabella-hotel-1945.jpgIsabella Hotel, 1945

20131230-607-611-sherbourne-1954.jpg607-611 Sherbourne, 1954

20131230-sherbourne-north-gerrard-1960s.jpgSherbourne north of Gerrard, 1960s

20131230-sherbourne-station-1965.jpgSherbourne subway station, 1965

20131230-james-town-1987.jpgSt. James Town, 1987

Photos from the Toronto Archives



cosmosuave / December 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm
Where was that Sherbourne bridge located? Near Bloor...
canuckone replying to a comment from cosmosuave / December 31, 2013 at 12:32 pm
The Sherbourne bridge in the photo crosses the Rosedale Valley north of Bloor.
Spike / December 31, 2013 at 12:38 pm
Let's hope that this street gets revitalized (and in a good, non-condo kind of way.)
Robert replying to a comment from Spike / December 31, 2013 at 01:25 pm
How would you propose to revitalize it without adding homes?
Godfrey Mallion / December 31, 2013 at 01:52 pm
The Sherbourne subway station opened in February, 1966. The intertwining of the YONGE Gloucester cars on the BLOOR line would last only 6 months.
Stef / December 31, 2013 at 02:33 pm
Gets uglier and uglier with each passing decade.
steve replying to a comment from Stef / December 31, 2013 at 03:21 pm
Not much beauty in the pictures presented here.
David C / December 31, 2013 at 04:34 pm
Your photo "George Street Yard near Queen and Sherbourne, 1923" this was actually photographed in the TTC's George Street Yard (Front and George and Frederick) and seems to show new streetcar rails (what the TTC now calls 'special work') being laid out in the Yard before being brought to Queen and Sherbourne.
urbanstica / January 1, 2014 at 12:47 pm
A stunning legacy of ugliness and failure.
junctionist / January 1, 2014 at 12:52 pm
"Isabella Hotel, 1945" shows the street to be quite beautiful with those mature trees soaring above the buildings. One sees many major Toronto streets before WWII lined with large, healthy trees between the sidewalk and roadway. There's a photo of Bloor and St. George in the archives where you can't even see any buildings the trees are so lush. That looks "world class", ironically from when Toronto was a much smaller city.
Pops / January 1, 2014 at 03:10 pm
The gold old days Before the crackheads,drunks, drug dealers, std infested hookers and losers in life infiltrated the area.
Rick replying to a comment from junctionist / January 2, 2014 at 10:53 am
Those were most likly elm trees which were all wiped out thanks to the Dutch Elm Tree disease.
cv replying to a comment from Pops / January 2, 2014 at 11:30 pm
And that is just our mayor!
cv replying to a comment from cv / January 2, 2014 at 11:31 pm
IN response to the crackheads, drunks, and drug dealers comment.

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