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What Lawrence Avenue used to look like in Toronto

Posted by Derek Flack / April 23, 2014

Lawrence Avenue History TorontoAt the turn of the 20th century, the territory covered by current day Lawrence Avenue was almost entirely farmland. Named after Jacob Lawrence, a prominent farmer in the area, the street was little more than a narrow concession connection farmhouses. In the years that would follow, the residential core of the street would appear west of Yonge with many of the homes that make up Lawrence Park, one of the city's most affluent neighbourhoods, built during this period. Not so much has changed along this stretch -- between Yonge and Bayview -- in the last century. The street has gotten wider, but its overall residential makeup is the same.

It's a different story east of Bayview. Broken by the west branch of the Don River and Glendon College campus, the street resumes in the ultra-monied Bridle Path area (which wasn't really developed until after the second World War) before becoming the main drag of Don Mills, the city's first planned suburb. Heading east into Scarborough, the heightened retail character of the street continues in the form of 1960s era strip malls beyond Victoria Park.

To the west, the story is similar, if less strip mall-heavy. There's a more-retail oriented section between Bathurst and Black Creek, which was born in the post-war period. Elsewhere, residential sections mix with plazas and, eventually, high rise apartments at Weston Road. The street ends at Royal York, where it becomes The Westway.

To some degree, the central portion of Lawrence Avenue has remained insulated from the massive amount of development that's taken place in Toronto over the last 60 years. Were one to examine the history of Eglinton Avenue or Sheppard, you'd find far more obvious signs of change than you do here. The stately homes of Lawrence Park have kept things slow here, which one expects will be the case for decades to come.


2014423-yonge-north-law-1922.jpgYonge looking north of Lawrence, 1922

2014423-lawrence-park-1925.jpgLawrence Park, 1925

2014423-dump-north-law-ave-1935.jpgDump site just north of Lawrence and Avenue Road, 1935

2014423-law-bayv-aerial-1935.jpgAerial view of Lawrence and Bayview, 1935

2014423-law-west-yonge-1946.jpgLawrence west of Yonge, 1946

2014423-law-west-yonge-1947.jpgDitto, 1947

2014423-law-west-keele-1950s.jpgLawrence looking west towards Keele, 1950s

2014423-old-bayview-bridge-1950s.jpgOld Bayview Bridge (at Lawrence), 1950s

2014423-law-humber-hurricane-hazel.jpgHumber Bridge washed out by Hurricane Hazel, 1954

201198-Don-Mills-mall.jpgDon Mills Mall, 1960s

201198-Don-Mills-Mall-Aerial.jpgAerial of Don Mills Mall

2014423-jane-law-aerial-1960s.jpgAerial view Jane and Lawrence, 1960s

20101007-Don-mill-lawrence-1960-ed.jpgDon Mills and Lawrence, 1960

2014423-bath-law-1960.jpgBathurst and Lawrence, 1960

2014423-law-east-bath-1960.jpgLawrence just east of Bathurst, 1960

2014423-new-bayview-bridge-1961.jpgNew Bayview Bridge (at Lawrence), 1961

2014423-bayv-law-1961.jpgBayview and Lawrence, 1961

2014423-law-ave-1961.jpgLooking south on Avenue Road at Lawrence, 1961

2014423-allen-law-1963.jpgLooking north to Lawrence on an under-construction Allen Rd., 1963

2014423-law-exit-allen-165.jpgLawrence Avenue exit from Allen Rd. 1965

2014423-law-leslie-1964.jpgLeslie and Lawrence, 1960s



Jacob / April 23, 2014 at 09:39 am
Nice set, but can we agree to have a moratorium on photos with snow in them until at least sometime in July?

Anyway, I have an old "History of Scarborough" book I picked up at a garage sale that may have some old photos of Lawrence in it. Can't remember.
Mike / April 23, 2014 at 10:37 am
Well looking at the pictures from decades ago and knowing how it looks now, a lot of streets did not change a lot, only received asfalt and thats it. That makes me sad
iSkyscraper / April 23, 2014 at 10:50 am
Can't quite place the 1925 photo. Lawrence does not cross any ravines, so where is that? It's not quite the Mt. Pleasant bridge either. Any ideas?
Christine / April 23, 2014 at 11:03 am
The aerial photo of "Jane and Lawrence" is actually Jane St looking north at Weston Road.
Anna / April 23, 2014 at 11:10 am
The photo of Don Mills and Lawrence with the White Rose station is actually Woodbine and Highway 7, according to the Archives. The building in the background is Brown's Corners United Church and the gas station is now a Shell.

And for iSkyscraper, that is Lympstone Ave looking east from Yonge in 1925.
iSkyscraper replying to a comment from Anna / April 23, 2014 at 05:03 pm
Anna, yes, you nailed it. The little ridge running through the literal Lawrence Park behind the libray. Of course.

The house on the right background of the photo is still there, if you move closer and peer through the heavy trees:,-79.401089,3a,75y,67.48h,91.69t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1swj6NxPoYgWnooxZOo7m-LA!2e0

Warren / April 23, 2014 at 06:03 pm
Wow... Who knew that Lawrence East ends at Don Mills, not even reaching the Don Valley
HTG / May 5, 2015 at 10:59 pm
well no, it's not that it ends- it stops, then continues.
It also continues to fustrate anyone trying to get across town..,-79.3800946,17z
HTG / May 5, 2015 at 11:00 pm
lets try that again
Jeff replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / December 5, 2015 at 07:13 am
There were many ravines in the area around Yonge and Lawrence over to Avenue Rd. They were for the most part filled in after having drain pipes installed. You wouldn't know today, however you drive over them today, not knowing what is beneath you. As a child I would explore these ravines before they were filled in. There was all kinds of junk dumped throughout the ravines.I grew up on Woburn Ave.. On the east side of Avenue Rd. and Woburn running north and south was one such ravine. It is now built over with a condo on that site.
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