Neighbourhood Profiles

Cabbagetown

Located in the area bounded by Wellesley Street, Sherbourne Street, Shuter Street and the Don Valley, this unique Toronto neighbourhood contains the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in North America. As such, the neighbourhood is a City-designated historical conservation district with an active community base dedicated to protecting this heritage. The Cabbagetown Preservation Association offers neighbourhood tours of some of the more significant homes of this period.

To celebrate and promote the neighbourhood’s heritage, the Cabbagetown Preservation Association has worked to name over 50 laneways after significant individuals, events, and features.

Cabbagetown derives its name from its original inhabitants – poor Irish immigrants who relocated to Toronto during the potato famine of the 1840s – who grew cabbages on their front yards. The original Cabbagetown was largely located in the footprint of Regent Park, which was razed in the 1940s for the construction of public housing. Over time, the name was applied to the surrounding neighbourhoods, including the area to the north which was known as Don Vale, a name which continues to this day.

Forsythia FestivalCabbagetown is home to a large number of housing co-operatives, housing projects and single family homes, and is a mixed income community. This diversity contributes to a vibrant arts and cultural scene which may be experienced during the annual Forsythia Festival in May and the Cabbagetown Festival and the Cabbagetown Arts and Crafts Sale in September. Regular performances are held at the Toronto Dance Theatre, the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, and the Cabbagetown Community Arts Centre. Parliament Street, the neighbourhood’s main street, features many small, independent businesses serving local residents and visitors.

Cabbagetown is also home to the Riverdale Farm; a unique urban feature. During the warmer months, a weekly farmers market is held at the farm which is heavily utilized by both local residents and visitors from across the city.

Cabbagetown Community Arts Centre: http://www.cabbagetownarts.org
Cabbagetown Heritage Advisory Committee: http://www.cabbagetownhcd.ca
Cabbagetown Preservation Association: http://www.cabbagetownpa.ca
Cabbagetown South: http://www.cabbagetownsouth.ca
Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre: http://www.ccdt.org
Don Vale Cabbagetown Residents Association: http://www.donvalecra.ca
Friends of Riverdale Farm: http://www.friendsofriverdalefarm.com
Old Cabbagetown BIA: http://www.oldcabbagetown.com
Riverdale Farm: http://www.toronto.ca/parks/riverdalefarm.htm
Toronto Dance Theatre: http://www.tdt.org

Corktown

One of Toronto’s Old Town neighbourhoods, Corktown’s character draws from its many layers of history.

Corktown’s modern history is associated with the industrial development of Toronto.

In the 19th Century, many residents found employment at one of the local breweries or brickyards. Some of the workers’ cottages and rowhouses are still to be found along the network of small, fine grained streets such as Bright Street, Trinity Street, Wilkins Avenue, Ashby Place and Percy Street. With these residents came the construction of heritage sites such as St. Paul’s Basilica, Little Trinity Church, and the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse. Among the notable stories to come from this period was that of Toronto’s first taxi service, created by Thornton and Lucie Blackburn after they escaped slavery in the US.

In the early 1960s, a significant amount of Corktown was demolished to make way for several elevated roadways, including the Richmond Street off-ramp and the Eastern Avenue overpass. However, a landmark battle to preserve residences around Trefann Court successfully saved portions of the neighbourhood.

Corktown remains a small scale neighbourhood that is experiencing infill development as the area’s unique qualities and location are being recognized. The revitalization of the nearby West Don Lands and Regent Park are also ensuring this distinct neighbourhood will have even stronger connections to the city.

Corktown Residents and Business Association: http://www.corktown.ca
Old Town Toronto: http://www.oldtowntoronto1793.com

St. James Town

St. James Town is a high-rise community located within the area bounded by Howard Street, Parliament Street, Wellesley Street and Sherbourne Street. Constructed in the late 1960’s, St. James Town’s 19 massive towers represent Canada’s largest high rise community, and one of the densest neighbourhoods in North America. St. James Town is predominately low-income with a mixture of public and private housing.

St. James Town FestivalThe towers are home to many of Toronto’s newcomers, and its diversity is embraced with a strong sense of pride in the community. This is highlighted every year at the St. James Town Festival held in June. However, St. James Town has long faced significant challenges related to its density and lack of amenities. Recently the City of Toronto has made attempts to remedy this with the opening of the Wellesley Community Centre and St. James Town Public Library in 2004.

North of Howard Street are remnants of the original Victorian housing which was razed during the “blockbusting” of the 1960s to make way for the towers. The corner of Glen Road and Howard Street is an architectural gem that is largely hidden from view from the bustling traffic on Bloor Street and Sherbourne Street. The City is undertaking to preserve and protect these houses from further deterioration and plans are underway to revitalize this intersection in order to make it a destination.

South of Wellesley Street was also razed during the late 1960’s with plans for further expansion of the towers. However, civic activism prevailed and halted the construction. In its place, a number of co-operative housing projects were developed.