In 1793, the area along the Lake Ontario shoreline just west of the Don River was surveyed as the Town of York, the new capital of Upper Canada. To encourage “suitable” government officials to move to the new town and undertake the work of establishing homes and businesses there, John Graves Simcoe, the newly-appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada used the most valuable commodity he had—land, along with titles and power. Property just to the north of the Town of York was surveyed and made available to select applicants, who were typically also given property in the Town of York and elsewhere.
Compared to the typical land granting process of the time, the distribution of Park Lots was a much simplified and expedited process. Twenty-four of the lots were granted on September 4, 1793, based on petitions that had been written within a few days prior. This would suggest that at least some of the applicants were asked to write petitions for land. Unlike typical grantees who were required to settle on the land and do some work in preparing the land for use (for example, clearing, building a house, creating a roadway) before receiving the patent or title, many of the Park Lot grantees did not move to York until required to in 1796 and then received patents within a few months, suggesting that settlement duties were very slim.
Park Lot owners were free to lay out their roads in any way they wished, and to sell parts of the lot as desired. As described in an earlier post, the east-west streets on these narrow lots didn’t need to line up with those of their neighbours, resulting in many of today’s east-west streets jagging north and south. However, a positive effect of these lots are the often majestic north-south boulevards we enjoy today, either based on lot lines or central roads built by the lot owners, for example, Sherbourne Street (east boundary of Park Lot 5), Jarvis Street (down the centre of Park Lot 6), and Spadina Avenue (common boundary between Lots 15 and 16).
The map below shows the progress of development of the lots in 1851. The Park Lot numbers are visible just south of upper border of the lots. Queen’s Park Circle (labelled University of Toronto) lies north of College Avenue (now University Ave.) It’s also clear in examining the east west streets how relatively independently they were built from lot to lot.
At the westernmost part of the map we note that Township Lots 33 to 41 were twice as wide as the Park Lots. More detailed information on the granting process is here.