Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Heritage: York Township Walk

Historian Madeleine McDowell led the Township of York Heritage Toronto walk along Eglinton Avenue on 10-July-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - It took some time after I moved to my present residence in Toronto to realize that prior to amalgamation in 1998, it was located in the City of York. Thus, having missed the Heritage Toronto walk covering the central area of the former township in previous summers, I decided that this year I had to attend the event.

The York Memorial Collegiate Institute, the Township's memorial to the Great War (World War I), still served the Toronto District School Board on 10-July-2010

The walk leader was my near-neighbour Madeleine McDowell, who opened with a "chauvinist" speech about York's history of progressive policies likely related to the township's status as a home for the working class. Another lifelong resident chimed in at one point to talk about how much of York was once "the wrong side of the tracks" compared with Toronto.

This 19th-century farmhouse still survived along Eglinton Avenue, the only remains of the Cain family farm still visible on 10-July-2010

It seems hard to believe, but there was actually farming going on in York as late as 1951, when the Parsons Farm finally stopped operating. The only real evidence of farming, though, is a farmhouse still used as a residence along Eglinton Avenue that was once part of the Cain family farm (shown above).

On a hot day, the Heritage Toronto Township of York walk gathered in the shade along Kane Avenue to discuss the Silverthorn Public School on 10-July-2010

Inevitably, some of the tidbits that come up on these walks amaze me. On this walk, the fact that much of Silverthorn neighbourhood was originally electrified by the street railway and thus retained the railway's 25 Hz supply, rather than the continent standard of 60 Hz, until 1950 rather blew me away. It was also hard to believe that it had once been possible to buy a house in the neighbourhood for $5 and $10 a month.

The Silverthorn Junior Public School, originally constructed in 1917, had an interesting history including outhouses on this hillside observed on 10-July-2010

Exploring the area around the one-time civic centre of York provided insight into how the township had once been quite distinct from its neighbour, Toronto.

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