Suburbs Toronto

What the suburbs used to look like around Toronto

Although the former municipalities of Etobicoke, North York, York, and Scarborough are sometimes still referred to as suburbs of Toronto, development in these areas over the last 30 years and the sprawl that's given birth to the Greater Toronto Area should probably mute such references.

While not as dense as the downtown core, wide areas of Toronto's former suburbs have become more and more urbanized over the years, a process which continues to take place as steep real estate prices drive would-be home owners further and further from the core.


Mid-century suburban cul-de-sac, 1961.

But what did they look like before this process took place?

Let's be honest, there aren't a lot of surprises here. Sure there are a few shots of streets and intersections that have changed dramatically over the years, but the thing about suburban architecture is that its individual features tend to blend in with one another.

Are we in North York or Etobicoke? It's tough to tell once you get to the residential streets. The design of these places speaks more to the time period in which they were built rather than the specific place they're located.

north york suburbs

Car-ports were standard issue in North York back in the 1950s.

There is, however, plenty that's fascinating about the birth of the suburbs in Toronto. In addition to demonstrating how mass car ownership transformed planning principles, there's something else to be spotted in these photos.

There's this strange combination of optimism and fear that seems built into the very form of these communities, from their well manicured but generally empty front yards to the eerie preponderance of abandoned tricycles. This is the stuff nostalgia is made out of.

Here's what Toronto's suburbs used to look like.

Don Mills

don mills suburb

Looking down on Don Mills in 1968.

don mills suburb

Urban planners survey their work in Don Mills, ca. 1950s.


Unidentified Don Mills street in 1956.



Cliffside Drive, 1961.

Roycroft MotelBetter days at the Roycroft Motel, Kingston Road.


Esso gas station on Kingston Road.

North York


Another abandoned tricycle, 1961.


Now that's a nice car-port, 1961.


North York model home, 1961.

parkwoods plazaDominion at Parkwoods Plaza.


Yonge-Finch plaza, 1972.



Rexdale, 1950s.


West Deane Park, 1961.


Near Queensway and Royal York, 1961.


Near Queensway and Royal York, 1961.


Alderwood area, 1968.


Alderwood area, 1968.


Thistletown, late 1960s.


Near Martingrove and Westway, 1960s.


Near Martingrove and Westway, 1960s.


Richview Plaza, 1960s.


Queensway and Wolgar, 1960s.


Unidentified communal pool, 1960s.

East York


The apartment building arrives on the scene in Flemingdon Park, 1960s.


Townhouse complex in Flemingdon Park, 1961.

thorncliffe plazaSteinbergs' at Thorncliffe Plaza.



Unidentified development, 1961.


Mid-century architecture at its finest.


More mid-century residential architecture.

Lead photo by

Toronto Archives

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