A snapshot of Yonge and Dundas in the 1970s
If there was a decade in which Toronto was at its most rough around the edges and gritty, it was the 1970s. And if there was a place where this stood out more than any other, it was the Yonge Street corridor between Dundas and Gerrard.
The arrival of the Eaton Centre in 1977 would have the effect of at least slightly sanitizing the street south of Dundas, but that incredible hodgepodge of movie theatres, fast food joints, record stores, arcades and bars was in its heyday to the north and would remain so into the next decade before this character almost imperceptibly started to fade.
By the time Yonge-Dundas Square was built at the outset of the 2000s, however, this was a completely different place, even as you can still find evidence of old Yonge St. mixed in with the new buildings and corporate branding that glows from the majority of storefronts. The condos are on their way here, too, but the intersection itself is safe given its current retail/municipal makeup.
It's somewhat interesting to note that our current Yonge-Dundas Square was not the first iteration of such a place. In the 1970s and '80s you had "dundas square," which was a retail plaza. In the 1990s, the city would expropriate this block to bring the square to life, though the retail complexion had already changed a few times from these photos.
If you're the type to get nostalgic about this seedier version of Toronto, then Yonge and Dundas is a place that probably sparks strong feelings in you. Yes, Toronto has become a wildly better city than it was in these photos, but the streetscape in this area has done the opposite. It's just not as visually interesting anymore.
Photos from the Toronto Archives, except for the last which is by Damon Schreiber.
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