Our BIA won an award in the Creative Solutions category for the Winter Windows Projects titled “Eglinton Cityscapes: Transition and Transit”. The project received a lot of media attention, but its impact was manifested in several ways. The window displays were placed in otherwise empty, dirty storefronts and added life to them. The displays were also illuminated, giving light to the sidewalks that were otherwise dark because of poles being taken down for Metrolinx construction.
Read more about the project
Eglinton Cityscapes – Transit and Transition
In developing the story of transit and transition along Eglinton Avenue West, we found a story that reflects Canadian urban history well, urban history in a very generic sense and a neighbourhood history that is still unfolding as new transit lines are built.
Our neighbourhood has always been a ‘working class’ neighbourhood. When the area finally developed as an affordable housing option for Toronto workers, it was mostly self-built. This slideshow is a succinct history of our self-built suburbs. The Paul Family home is one example of a house that was built by the inhabitants with help from friends, family and neighbours. Many of the self-built homes in the neighbourhood can still be seen. There were few services available in the early suburbs, but evidently the bread man and presumably the milkman were around.
The photo of the Ideal Bread delivery cart on Alameda Ave is all the more precious because the snow. The bread factory was on Dovercourt, initially a grocery and bakery belonging to the Dempster family. Imagine, loading up bread early in the morning at Dovercourt and travelling through snow and mud delivering bread to sparsed out family homes? I have seen in the Toronto Archives of an Ideal Bread wagon stuck in mud.
Photographs of the Paul family and homestead are displayed at 1596 Eglinton Ave. W. Incidentally, if you live in the neighbourhood and have a house 100+ years you can get a century plaque (I saw this in Spacing magazine.)
There were many brick works scattered across the city with a concentration following the escarpment just south of Eglinton. The history and methodology of brick making is much more appreciated in Toronto since Evergreen Brickworks opened near the Don Valley. However, there is also a nice synopsis here that mentions some of the brick works up in our area.
Going back to the beginning, a first attempt to market the neighbourhood was decidedly upper class, or at least upwardly mobile. An early brochure and book advertising the Toronto Highlands focuses on space, rolling hills and a luxurious ride on the Belt Line Railway.
In the brochure, the author opens by describing the “situation of Toronto, upon a gentle southerly slope” as “admirably adapted for the site of a great City”.
The Fairbank station area is described as a ‘boon’, where “local activity at the convergence of five important through fares, has already marked it out as a business centre”. The option are all splendid to the point where and there is also a warning of speculative buying in the area.
The Toronto Highlands brochure is available to view through the York University Digital Archives here.
While there are many floating comments and references to the historic ‘Five Points’, a reference to the five part intersection of Dufferin Street, Eglinton Avenue and Vaughn Road, it is difficult to find documented stories of the historically significant use of the escarpment and Vaughn Road by the First Nations before Colonialism took hold and populated the area. There are some notes with reference to Davenport here.
The 1891 marketing attempt of the Toronto Belt Land Corporation did not work so well. The neighbourhood didn’t really populate and develop until the turn of the century, and an influx of urban migrants arrived looking for work and affordable housing in Toronto. This sounds like a familiar rhetoric, doesn’t it?
In 1924, the Oakwood streetcar made travelling to the northern edges of the city possible for those working in the industrial areas closer to the lake. It is the opening of time and space in a very urban development sense. The building of Oakwood Ave is fairly well documented through photos in the Toronto Archives. There are 2 before and after photos from York Museum at 605 Oakwood. The detail in the streetcar photo is incredible.
The intersections of our Eglinton West streets are as diverse as the histories and stories themselves.
Our largest photo collection from York Museum is the story of Nathan Redmon. We have four photographs showcasing his truck yard, family home, business card and dapper sense of style. Visit 1563 Eglinton Ave to view these photos. Noting our working class and international roots, the story of Nathan Redmon is particularly inspiring.
Nathan Redmon came to Toronto from the United States in 1913. He took a job as a sleeping car porter. After saving his money for several years, he bought a truck and started his own cartage business. It grew to a fleet of nine trucks, one of the biggest in York Township. His entrepreneurial spirit and success was clearly a result of hard work and determination. By extension this also creates a link between our neighbourhood and the history of the Sleeping Car Porters
Sleeping car porters were mostly black men who had migrated to Canada. There were few other employment options available to them during the 1870s – 1950s, as racist attitudes prevailed socially. By the 1950s, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters had successfully unionised, creating the first Black union in Canada. This wouldn’t have been significant if Black people were regarded as equal and welcomed into established unions at the beginning. (For more reading on this, check out Stanley Grizzle’s Book, “My Name’s Not George” or this blogpost.)
A closer look at our neighbourhood and history reveals many more interconnected stories among the people who have lived here, who work here, who move through our neighbourhood and the city which we are part of.
Please share the histories you know with us. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
York-Eglinton BIA Treasure Hunt!!
Follow the clues and discover our neighbourhood treasures
The Treasure Hunt, prepared by the York Eglinton BIA, is available for your amusement. You are welcome to play at any time.
How to participate in the Treasure Hunt?
1. Get a Copy of the York Eglinton BIA Treasure Hunt – click here to print a PDF copy.
2. Answer all questions to find the secret phrase which is our neighbourhood treasure. Beginning at Dufferin Ave, use the map as your guide to answer the riddles. The designated letter in each answer is a key to unlocking the Treasure.
3. Claim your prize by emailing the York Eglinton BIA with a photo of your answer email@example.com
To claim prizes
Take a photo of your answers and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, phone number and your preferred pick up location.
Prizes can be collected on arrangement at any of the participating business or the BIA office at 605 Oakwood Ave. Please bring your hard copy with you to collect the prize.
Rules and Regulations
To be eligible for a prize, all questions must be answered and the final treasure revealed. There will be one prize per submission and one submission per person. For those playing in groups, there is a limit of 3 prizes per group.
WIN Eglinton West Swag – #eglintontwest #cityofneighbourhoods
The Treasure Hunt is accessible for the curious to peruse and explore at anytime.
The Trouble with “Urban development” & Thoughts on Celebrating Blackness
In the past few weeks there are have been several conversations among businesses and stakeholders on the long term impact of construction and the Eglinton LRT on our nieghbourhood.
While the anticipated outcome is largely positive, there is some concern among the people with respect to the impact development will have on cost of commercial rental and to what extent businesses struggling to survive construction will be able to sustain future changes to property values.
One story that emerges within the context of urban development in Toronto and other North American cities is the economic displacement of people as a result of the increasing market value of real estate.
Displacement of the working classes and those on the margins of economic sustainability as a result of ‘development’ is a common theme throughout history. So is the correlation between class and colour.
Emilie Jabouin, a new resident to the York Eglinton neighbourhood, reflects on the vibrancy of Blackness in Toronto and laments the adverse impacts of development on two Toronto neighbourhoods that have had a history of black culture and economic activity.
Emilie Jabouin is a guest blogger. The York Eglinton BIA is opening its blog to guest writers from the community. Please email email@example.com. If you would like to contribute.
The Trouble with “Urban Development” & Thoughts on Celebrating Blackness
By Emilie Jabouin
I didn’t know the Eglinton West area, nor “Little Jamaica” until I moved here from outside of Toronto. Similarly to “Blackhurst”, this area seems to be forgotten in regard to its long and strong history of black presence, black businesses and the vibrancy of “Blackness”.
Having spent some time in Washington, D.C., some comparisons come to mind. In the same way that Black people are pushed to the outskirts, with an attempt to confine them to Baltimore, Black people in Toronto neighbourhoods like Bathurst/Bloor/Mirvish Village and Eglinton West/Oakwood are slowly being erased from the history of Toronto. Its populations are being pushed towards Brampton and other areas disconnected from the urban center, disconnected from the top economic areas of opportunity of the Great Lakes region.
On that point of removing Black people from spaces historically occupied by them, removing signs of blackness has been a historical, political, social and cultural agenda of many societies including ours.
The “re-financialization” (rather than gentrification) – Dr. Rinaldo Walcott, a professor at the University of Toronto calls it – affects communities of colour and Black people. The raising of rent for businesses, the multiple re-development of areas, the perceived and pursued “hyping up” of a neighbourhood with construction and revamping of a landscape to “look” more “polished” is killing Black businesses. Yes – shops are open for business, but does construction interfere with the general, quick, one stop or random business these stores profit from? Of course.
Eglinton West/Oakwood is a business and busy area, but it is also a quick stop area, an area where you don’t worry too much about where to go, where to put yourself. Recent developments impact parking, causes
confusion and unnecessary car traffic!
Furthermore, the yearly street festival is something I was really looking forward to. It is cancelled this year. I don’t know for sure, but the sense that I get is that construction will affect the running of the festival for the next while. It was meant to take place on the part of the street, that is very lively, that is now heavily under construction. The city clearly did not take into account the everyday implications on local businesses of their development/construction plans. It overlooked the necessity to keep the businesses thriving as part of the heritage of the area.
In my eyes, urban development should be collaborative, consensual (locals should be consulted), fruitful/lucrative on a social, financial, cultural levels for local, government, community partners. Developing an area should be about developing community, rather than about feeding into luxurious wants in the place of the needs of those living there.
Traffic is never enjoyable – four year long construction that will interrupt the flow of people, activities, money, celebration is simply an aggravating thought and proves poor consideration and holistic planning from the city.
The period of 2015-2024 is marked as the international decade for people of African descent by the United Nations. In light of this, it is important to think of the meaning of the historical preservation of black presence in the GTA, whether it be in the Jane-Finch area; the downtown core where thrived the Black Press in the 19th century; “Blackhurst” that housed Caribbean students and communities from various backgrounds, home to the “Contrast” newspaper in the 1960s, and from which A Different BookList currently still thrives; and “Little Jamaica”. They are areas of heritage for all of us that should be preserved and remembered in celebration of blackness.
For Canada’s 100th year anniversary in 1967, Caribana was offered as a gift to Canada from its Caribbean populations, according to Dr. Rinaldo Walcott in his book, Black Like Who?: Writing Black Canada, first published in 1997. For Canada’s 150 years anniversary, Caribana or the Caribbean festival will be celebrating Caribbean-ness and Blackness for the last fifty years in Toronto. I would have hoped that we would also take the time to celebrate Blackness in all of its shapes and forms throughout the GTA. This includes the Eglinton West area without forgetting “Little Jamaica” and making sure current senior Black businesses, and newer businesses of Portuguese, Philippino, Latino ownership stay supported regardless of changes to the area.
About the Author
Although her roots are from further away, Emilie Jabouin has made the Eglinton-Oakwood area home. As an artist and educator at heart, Emilie believes in strengthening community ties through art and creative projects that speak to the needs of the people. She is invested in black History and in documenting black women’s histories that are too often forgotten and ignored in Canada. She envisions dance as a means to communicate and share these lost stories. Emilie does teaching and outreach, grant writing, editing and consulting for a living.