10 things you should know about Toronto but don't

How much do you know about Toronto? There's all sorts of secret and quirky bits of trivia that we've written about before, but there's also a host of facts about the city that most of us should know but tend not to be aware of.

Here are 10 things you should know about Toronto but probably don't.

What is now downtown Toronto was once submerged under the waters of Lake Iroquois
What we now call Lake Ontario was once known as Lake Iroquois, and 12,000 years ago it was significantly bigger than it is today. Evidence of the former lake can be easily spotted by driving along Davenport Rd., which follows the old shoreline. The steep incline of the roads north of Queen St. East in the Beaches is also a tell-tale sign.

The Toronto Purchase
In 1787 Toronto was purchased for "some money, 2,000 gun flints, 24 brass kettles, 120 mirrors, 24 laced hats, a bale of flowered flannel, and 96 gallons of rum." The agreement was revisited in 1805, but not ultimately settled until 2010 when the federal government rectified the problematic nature of the original deal with the Mississaugas.

The etymology of "Toronto"
Toronto is generally agreed to mean "'where there are trees in water," an Iroquois word used to describe the narrows between lakes Couchiching and Simcoe. Early maps of the region show a lac de Taranteau as early as 1670, though it isn't until the 1720s that the term is associated with the geographic area presently known as Toronto.

Yonge St. is not the longest in the world, but is Toronto's oldest
Up until 1999, Yonge St. was officially recognized as the longest street in the world at some 1,896 kilometres. In fact, Yonge St. is not linked with Highway 11 for the entirety of its route, and so technically only comes in at 86 kilometres. The Pan-American Highway is now recognized as the longest drivable road in the world. But, hey, Yonge St. is still Toronto's oldest street.

The TTC is the least funded transit system in North America
If you didn't know this, you probably suspected it. The TTC is the least subsidized transit system in North America at just $0.78 per ride. By comparison, New York City's MTA receives $1.03, while the Montreal Metro clocks in at $1.16.

You can swim in Lake Ontario (no, really)
There is a strangely prevalent myth that Lake Ontario is filthy and dangerous to swim in that dates back to as long as I can remember. While this might have been true in the early to mid-1980s, the beaches around Toronto are typically as clean as they come. In fact, most of our beaches boast the Blue Flag eco-label, an internationally recognized stamp of approval.

There were once anti-Semitic riots in Toronto
One of the darkest chapters in Toronto's history took place in 1933 at Willowvale Park (now Christie Pits) after a group paraded around a flag bearing a swastika at a baseball game involving a predominantly Jewish team. The Jewish players took offence to this anti-Semitic display and charged the flag-bearers, which led to a six hour riot involving the entire neighbourhood.

Toronto has massive underwater reservoirs that provide our drinking water
Those who live near St. Clair Avenue probably know this one, but others might not be aware that there are massive underground reservoirs of water scattered around Toronto, which provide drinking water for communities (there are also water towers in formerly suburban areas like Leslie St. north of Lawrence).

It's illegal to swear in a public park
Toronto has some rather outdated by-laws, one of which forbids the use of foul language in city parks. Should you be caught sounding like a Quentin Tarrantino character, you could be fined $200. F*ck that.

Toronto has the largest streetcar system in North America
Toronto's streetcar system is the largest in North America, though it was once set to be scrapped back in the 1970s before transit activists campaigned for the TTC to reconsider its plans. In 1972, the TTC bucked a continental trend by deciding to keep its streetcar system mostly intact.

Know of some quirky Toronto trivia? Add your suggestions in the comments.

Photo by Neil Ta in the blogTO Flickr pool.

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