danforth history toronto

10 strange and unusual things you might not know about the Danforth

The Danforth is surely one of Toronto's most important streets. Part of this can be chalked up to the arrival of the subway line here in 1966, but it goes much deeper than this, and includes the profound density of restaurants along this stretch, the way the neighbourhood has fought off high rise development, and the rich history of east side Toronto.

Here are some things you might not know about the Danforth.

1. The street is named after Asa Danforth Jr., the man originally commissioned to build a route that headed east from Scarborough towards Trenton in the 1850s.

2. Danforth's Road, as it was first called, would eventually fall into disuse when Kingston Road became the more popular passage between Toronto and destinations to the east of the city. Danforth Avenue was built as a link to these more easterly routes.

3. In the west, the street begins where it always did, at the edge of the Don Valley near Playter Gardens. You're technically still on the Bloor Viaduct when the street name changes, though there's no marker to say so until Cambridge Ave.

taste danforth

Taste of the Danforth during non-pandemic times. Photo by Bruce K.

4. The first Taste of the Danforth took place in 1994. It's estimated that 5,000 people attended the local restaurant festival. More recent events drew roughly 1.5 million attendees over the two and half days the festival takes place. 

5. The Danforth Music Hall was originally built as a movie theatre in 1919. Billed as Canada's First Super-Suburban Photoplay Palace, it opened just a year after the Bloor Viaduct was completed.

6. The Ecole Napoleon at 55 Danforth Ave. was once the Danforth public lavatory, one of a number of such facilities located around the city. Behind the lavatory was an upscale outdoor skating rink.

7. The Danforth was once the biggest Greektown in North America, and despite a steady decline in the Greek population and Greek-run businesses, people of Greek descent still are still the largest ethnic group in Ward 29 ( a.k.a. Toronto-Danforth).

danforth broadview toronto

The Danforth in 1918. Photo via Toronto Archives.

8. The building that recently housed the New York Cafe and a Tim Hortons location (among other businesses) at Danforth and Broadview was once known as Playter Hall. It was the first commercial building in the area and a social hub on the third floor where community meetings and card games were played.

9. Carrot Common was almost a high rise development. Tridel wanted to build on the site in the early 1980s, but the neighbourhood fought the project. In 1986 The Big Carrot acquired the site and a year later the mini shopping district opened.

10. Toronto's nicest gas station / convenience store was originally the Allenby Theatre, but spent its last non-corporate phase as the Roxy, where the Rocky Horror Picture Show was the only film played at the cinema in its final years.

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim


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