Have you ever wondered why so many east-west streets in downtown Toronto are crooked? Did you realize that this is an artifact of the way the original land was first surveyed and granted to the original landowners in the area? Might you be related to an early family that settled in now-downtown Toronto?
Welcome to the new blog associated with Simcoe’s Gentry, an exciting project of the Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. We plan to bring you interesting pieces of information linking Toronto’s past and present, particularly with respect to the property originally granted in the late 1700s, land that now makes up much of the city’s downtown neighborhoods. Names of these early settlers are represented in street names and other civic establishments in today’s Toronto.
Stretching from what is now Queen Street in the south to Bloor Street in the north, and from the Don to the Humber Rivers, these lots in the (then) Town of York, capital of Upper Canada, were granted to various officials to entice them to move to the city from the settlements of Kingston, Newark (the former capital, now Niagara-on-the-Lake), and the eastern provinces.
These 100-acre Park Lots were long and narrow, extending from Bloor to Queen, a distance of about 6,600 feet but only 660 feet wide. A group of the lots at the western-most edge of York were twice as wide and termed Township Lots. We will talk more about how the lots were granted in the next few posts, but feel free to visit the introductory section of the site to read up on this fascinating process.
A great deal of research about the original owners of these lots is on-going and is being documented in the Simcoe’s Gentry website. This blog will point out some of the interesting findings of that work and link it to the Toronto of today.
Oh, and those east-west streets? The early landowners laid out their own roads on their lots, with little coordination between neighbours, so while north-south streets tended to run along lot lines, today’s east-west streets were eventually created by linking together independently constructed roadways from individual lots. In the image above, the jog to the east of Bathurst joins the former St. Patrick Street (east of Bathurst) to the former Arthur Street which was eventually projected westward to join Dundas Street at Shaw Street.
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