An ongoing research project of the Ontario Genealogical Society, Toronto Branch

Why is Dundas Street so crooked?

Jane E. MacNamara
(Originally published in Toronto Tree, vol. 28, issue 3, Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, Toronto Branch, 1997. p 28.)

Today Dundas is one of downtown Toronto’s major east-west streets, but unlike its perpendicular neighbours, it is far from straight. Why? Because of the Park Lots.

Dundas Street was cobbled together in about 1920 from half a dozen short streets laid out by the owners of the narrow 100-acre Park Lots that stretched between Queen and Bloor Streets[1]. Each owner had his own vision of how his lot should be developed, and there appears to have been little coordination between neighbours[2]. Using a combination of maps from 1842, 1878, 1884, 1890 and 1979, we can follow the precursors of Dundas Street west from the Don River across the Park Lots.

In 1842, Buck Street crossed Park Lots 1 and 2, reserved as government land. By 1878 Buck had been extended across Executive Council Member John Small’s Lot 3 and Sheriff Samuel Ridout’s Lot 4, and renamed Beech Street. By 1884 it had become Wilton.

At William Allan’s Lot 5 the street became Wilton Crescent. The elegant curved lots on Wilton Crescent were bisected by an avenue leading to the Horticultural Gardens—a legacy befitting Allan who was the first president of the Bank of Upper Canada, and a member of both the Legislative Council of Upper Canada and the Executive Council.

By 1878, the street was extended to the west across Provincial Secretary William Jarvis’ Lot 6, and Receiver-General John McGill’s Lots 7 and 8, as Crookshank Street, probably named for the Hon. George Crookshank, a Member of the Legislative Council.

Yonge Street runs between Lots 8 and 9. Here we must jog north to Head Street, which in 1842 crossed Lots 9, 10, and 11. Dr. James Macaulay owned the south half of Lots 9 and 10. John Beverley Robinson owned Lot 11. Perhaps they named the street after Sir Francis Bond Head, Lt. Gov. of Upper Canada from 1836-38. By 1878 it had been renamed Agnes Street.

Crossing the broad University Avenue, we must jog north again to Anderson Street. This modest narrow street, apparently named for a later landowner, crossed Chief Justice William Dummer Powell’s Lot 12.

At today’s McCaul St., Anderson changed to St. Patrick Street (and entered St. Patrick’s Ward). By 1878, St. Patrick crossed Attorney-General D’Arcy Boulton’s Lot 13; Lots 14, 15 and 16—all owned by the heirs of Peter Russell; Alderman George Taylor Denison’s Lot 17 and half of 18; and Executive Council Member George Crookshank’s half of Lot 18.

At Crookshank’s Lane (or Bathurst Street) we jog north again to Arthur Street, which in 1878 crossed George Crookshank’s Lots 19 and 20. Perhaps the street was named for Arthur, Duke of Connaught who visited Toronto in 1870. By 1884, Arthur Street was extended across Garrison Creek and Crookshank’s Lot 21, Provincial Secretary Duncan Cameron’s Gorevale estate on Lot 22, and Major-General Aeneas Shaw’s Lot 23, to meet Dundas Street at Shaw Street.

Dundas Street continues on a northwest angle through Chief Superintendent of Indian Affairs James Givens’ Lot 24, Dr. David Burns’ Lot 25, Surveyor William Chewett’s, and later William Crooks’ Lot 26, Solicitor-General Robert I.D. Gray’s Lot 27, Legislative Assembly Member Angus MacDonnell’s Lot 28, Benjamin Hallowell’s Lot 29, Army Officer James Brock’s Lot 30, Alexander Burns’ Lot 31, Sheriff Alexander McDonnell’s Lot 32, Queen’s Ranger David Shank’s Lot 33 and 34, finally crossing Bloor Street and leaving the Park Lots.


[1] This new downtown section of Dundas Street joined the two parts of the ambitious east-west route envisioned by Lt.-Gov. Simcoe to connect the Town of York with Kingston, and the communities to the west. The westerly portion, which began at Queen Street (the north-south portion was renamed Ossington Avenue) was opened and improved by the Queen’s Rangers in the first decade of the 1800s.

[2] In many cases the streets and subdivisions were not laid out by the original owners of the Park Lots, but their prominence in the community and the way they chose to sell their land greatly influenced later development.


SOURCES

Arthur, Eric. Toronto: No mean city. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1964.

Cane, James. Topographical Plan of the City and Liberties Toronto. [sl:sn], 1842. (Toronto Reference Library)

Goad, Charles Edward, (preface by Lucy Booth Martyn). The Mapping of Victorian Toronto: The 1884 & 1890 atlases of Toronto in Comparative rendition. Sutton West [Ontario]: Paget Press, 1984.

Illustrated Historical Atlas of the County of York. Toronto: Miles & Co., 1878. (reprint by Mika Silk Screening Limited, Belleville, Ontario, 1972.)

Metro Toronto Plus: City Map and Street Guide. Ottawa: Pathfinder Air Surveys Ltd., 1979.

Scadding, Henry, (edited by Frederick H. Armstrong 1987). Toronto of Old. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1987. (first printed by Adam, Stevenson & Co., 1873).

T.L. Reed Collection in the Baldwin Room at the Toronto Reference Library.