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What Church Street used to look like in Toronto

Posted by Derek Flack / January 15, 2014

Church Street History TorontoNamed, quite obviously, after the preponderance of cathedrals at its southern end, Church Street is one of Toronto's older thoroughfares. It's also a street rich with history, from the presence of our own Flatiron Building at Wellington to Ryerson's campus around Gerrard St. to the Village at Wellesley.

When the Market District was the centre of commerce in Toronto, Church was one of the city's most important north/south streets, providing access to places like City Hall (before it was located on Queen Street), the St. Lawrence Market and, of course, St. James and Michael's cathedrals. We might not be as church-focused in Toronto nowadays, but make no mistake, these were crucial destinations at the turn of the century.

Although not as majestic as Jarvis or as diverse as Sherbourne, Chruch was nevertheless a lovely tree-lined avenue until about the 1940s. In the years that followed, many older heritage properties were lost to redevelopment, which has robbed the street of historic character in stretches, but this was a familiar story across the city at the time.

We've already traced the history of the Village in the past, but I'll note here that its formation in the late 1970s and 1980s (prior to that Toronto's gay scene was located to the west on Yonge St.) revitalized what was a mostly sleepy area around Wellesley Street. As condo pressure increases on both ends of Church Street, a whole new set of changes are surely in store over the next decade. So let's take a moment to pause and consider what it looked like way back when.

PHOTOS

2013430-coffin-block-1888.jpgCoffin Block (Church & Wellington), 1888

20110103-1890sGooderhamBuilding1890s.jpgGooderham Building, 1890s

2014115-church-south-bloor-1902.jpgChurch south of Bloor, 1902

2014115-church-queen-1907.jpgQueen & Church, 1907

2014115-king-church-1909.jpgKing & Church, 1909

2014115-church-north-dundas-1911.jpgChurch north of Dundas, 1911

2014115-church-adelaide-1911.jpgChurch & Adelaide, 1911

2014115-foot-of-church-1975.jpgFoot of Church, 1912

2014115-church-south-front-1913.jpgChurch south of Front, 1913

2014115-church-north-water-1927.jpgLooking north on Church from the harbour, 1927

2014115-carlton-church-1931.jpgCarlton & Church, 1931

2014115-390-church-1937.jpg390-396 Church, 1937

2014115-461-church-1939.jpg461 Church, 1939

2014115-church-collier-1959.jpgChurch & Collier, 1959

2014115-fire-church-shuter-1961.jpgFire at Church & Shuter, 1961

2014115-king-church-1971.jpgKing & Church, 1971

2014115-church-south-carlton-1971.jpgChurch south Carlton, 1971

2014115-church-north-isabella-1971.jpgChurch north of Isabella, 1971

2014115-church-maitland-harrys-1971.jpgChurch & Maitland, 1971

2014115-church-just-south-bloor-1975.jpgChurch south of Bloor, 1975

2014115-gatsbys-church-south-carleton.jpgChurch south of Carlton, 1975

2014115-front-from-church-1975.jpgFront from Church, 1975

2014115-church-wellington-1975.jpgChurch & Wellington, 1975

2014115-church-south-dundas-1975.jpgChurch south of Dundas, 1975

2014115-church-south-esplanade-1975.jpgChurch south of the Esplanade, 1975

2014115-church-dundas-1975.jpgChurch & Dundas, 1975

2014115-church-richmond-1976.jpgChurch & Richmond, 1976

2014115-church-south-dundas-1979.jpgChurch south of Dundas, 1979

20110107-church-wellington-1980.jpgChurch & Wellington, 1980

2014115-church-colborne-1981.jpgNear Church & Colborne, 1981

2014115-church-front-1981.jpgChurch & Front, 1981

2014115-church-south-dundas-1982.jpgChurch south of Dundas, 1982

Photos from the Toronto Archives

Discussion

17 Comments

Robert / January 15, 2014 at 03:13 pm
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Many of those buildings are still there. Always saddened to see what the car did to the city
FOOD IN MY GULLET NOM NOM / January 15, 2014 at 03:45 pm
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If I am not mistaken, Harry's Steakhouse became what is now known today as Barberian's.
Ryan / January 15, 2014 at 03:55 pm
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Man, Toronto looked STANK in the 70's.
TOkid / January 15, 2014 at 03:56 pm
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Actually I think Harry's became the O'grady's restaurant
iSkyscraper / January 15, 2014 at 04:28 pm
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Church never really recovered from all the demolition around Carlton. What was behind so many razings? Was it parking for MLG? Some failed urban renewal scheme? What a loss -- had those buildings survived instead of parking lots you'd see a lot more modern commercial activity.
Karen / January 15, 2014 at 10:13 pm
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The houses on Church north of Isabella are still there but they have been beautifully restored.
DR / January 15, 2014 at 11:37 pm
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man I wish I could buy those all
Blair Arsenault / January 16, 2014 at 02:54 am
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@ FOOD IN MY GULLET NOM NOM ,,Barberian's Steak House (2 storey white stecco'd house)was on the south side of Elm Street (west of Young). Harrys became 2 Gay bars..The Barn~upstairs and a piano bar on the main floor~Le Cavalier's...which later became Stables.
Robert / January 16, 2014 at 05:34 am
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@Blair Arsenault Harry's is currently O'Grady's located at Maitland and Church. Former names before O'Grady,s, Pints, Oscar Wildes
Le Cavaliers which became the Barn/Stables and now gone is at Church and Granby
Sidman / January 16, 2014 at 10:38 am
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Harry Barberian was the original owner of Harry's on Church (while still owning Barberian's on Elm).
rob / January 16, 2014 at 11:55 am
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the shot church st south of carlton demolition is 1973 not 71
roy buckle / January 16, 2014 at 05:16 pm
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My paternal grandmother (nee Levitt), of Eltham in Kent had relatives who emigrated to Canada in the early 1900s. Among her keepsakes was a business card from a A. S. D. Levitt of 251 Church St Toronto.
A family tradition had it that a Levitt was chief of police in Toronto. My (Canadian) family researches show that A S D Levitt was a police commissioner in the 1930s. I wonder what the address referred to in those days?
Valery / January 20, 2014 at 07:42 pm
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beautiful!
Emcee / April 26, 2014 at 04:21 pm
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It would be great to see photos of the village especially over the last 40 years or so. I remember going down there in the 70s knowing it was the gay village but couldn't see much to support it. We have come a long way!
Alden / April 28, 2014 at 11:32 am
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A recent Flat Iron/Coffin Block historic photo mash-up. :) -Alden

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151993653306161&;set=a.399342841160.174335.258228066160&;type=1&theater

jimdeeks / June 23, 2014 at 11:28 am
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The shot of "Church & Wellington 1980" must actually be around 1970, because Commerce Court is not there.
Jay Garrison replying to a comment from FOOD IN MY GULLET NOM NOM / June 25, 2014 at 09:23 am
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Definitely O'Grady's.

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