Lawrence Avenue History Toronto

What Lawrence Avenue used to look like in Toronto

At 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.



Yonge looking north of Lawrence, 1922


Lawrence Park, 1925


Dump site just north of Lawrence and Avenue Road, 1935


Aerial view of Lawrence and Bayview, 1935


Lawrence west of Yonge, 1946


Ditto, 1947


Lawrence looking west towards Keele, 1950s


Old Bayview Bridge (at Lawrence), 1950s


Humber Bridge washed out by Hurricane Hazel, 1954


Don Mills Mall, 1960s


Aerial of Don Mills Mall


Aerial view Jane and Lawrence, 1960s


Don Mills and Lawrence, 1960


Bathurst and Lawrence, 1960


Lawrence just east of Bathurst, 1960


New Bayview Bridge (at Lawrence), 1961


Bayview and Lawrence, 1961


Looking south on Avenue Road at Lawrence, 1961


Looking north to Lawrence on an under-construction Allen Rd., 1963


Lawrence Avenue exit from Allen Rd. 1965


Leslie and Lawrence, 1960s

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