dundas history

10 quirky things you might not know about Dundas St.

Dundas is one of Toronto's most recognizable streets, but its history is far more complicated than most people realize. For one thing, it didn't even run through downtown Toronto until around the 1920s. A major section of the street was also booze-free for much of the 20th century. How much do you know about Dundas Street?

Here are 10 quirky bits of information about Dundas St. to test your knowledge.

1. As it runs through Toronto, Dundas St. is actually an assemblage of many other shorter roads that were cobbled together to make the route we know today. That's why there are so many twists and turns as it snakes across the city.

dundas history

2. There was once an intersection of Queen and Dundas in Toronto. The section of current day Ossington south of Dundas was actually the final section of the east/west street, which terminated at Queen before it was extended through downtown Toronto.

3. Despite being patched together in the city, the street is one of the oldest in the wider Toronto area, having been laid out as a military road west of York by the Queen's Rangers at the behest of John Graves Simcoe in the late 18th century.

4. Now Dundas runs continuously from Kingston Rd. in Toronto to Highway 6 in Waterdown, where it becomes the provincial Highway 5. The name Dundas does, however, reappear further west where it finally terminates in London, Ontario.

dundas history

5. The northerly jog the street does to the west of present day Ossington Ave. was so that it could bypass the swampland that existed around the area we now call High Park.

6. The section of Dundas that runs through the Junction neighbourhood, now well populated with restaurants and bars, was a booze-free zone between 1903 and 1997.

7. Toronto's current Chinatown, which is centred at Dundas St. and Spadina Ave., is actually the city's second such enclave. The first one was concentrated around Elizabeth St. south of Dundas in the area now occupied by City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square.

yonge dundas

8. Yonge and Dundas used to be a hell of a lot more sleazy than it is today, but also more fun. Back in the 1970s, people actually came to drink in the area at places like Brown Derby, which occupied the northeast corner. While the Hard Rock Cafe remains, the arrival of the Square was design to clean up the intersection.

9. While Dundas is typically thought of as a major arterial road, there's a section in Leslieville that looks more like a laneway, as the garages of houses on neighbouring streets back out onto the road.

10. Contrary to popular belief, the street is not named after the town of Dundas, where it heads after leaving Toronto, but the town does take its name from the street, which Simcoe nominated after his friend Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville.

Know of any quirky Dundas St. trivia? Let us know in the comments.

Photos via the Toronto Archives.

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