WHAT’S IN A NABE?

How 10 GTA neigh­bour­hoods got their iconic names

Thornhill Post - - News - by Macken­zie Pat­ter­son

Toronto is a city of neigh­bour­hoods, and al­though peo­ple are very proud of the place in which they re­side, few look into the his­tory of the area or even how they were named. Here is a look at 10 such lo­cales and the sto­ries be­hind the names.

THE STORY OF SUM­MER­HILL

Toronto’s swanky nabe Sum­mer­hill was named af­ter the es­tate (per­haps iron­i­cally) dubbed Sum­mer Hill cot­tage, owned by trans­porta­tion mag­nate Charles Thomp­son. He built the 1842 es­tate on what’s now Sum­mer­hill Gar­dens, and at one time it housed an im­pres­sive amuse­ment park fea­tur­ing a dance pav­il­ion for the jit­ter­bug­ging faith­ful as well as rides and games. The prop­erty was pur­chased in 1866, and in 1911, it was sold again to land de­vel­op­ers. The 1865 coach house still stands be­hind 36 Sum­mer­hill Gar­dens, if any­one is keen to eye a bit of his­tory.

GER­MAN MILLS’ GER­MAN ROOTS

This charm­ing neigh­bour­hood near the Bayview Golf and Coun­try Club was named af­ter the Ger­man set­tlers in the area. Ger­man Mills was an in­te­gral part of the growth of the en­tire Toronto re­gion and dates back to 1793 when it was an agri­cul­tural set­tle­ment sup­ply­ing food for its cit­i­zens and the mil­i­tary. A year later, William Moll Ber­czy, one of the co­founders of the Town­ship of York, set the area up as the first in­dus­trial com­plex in Markham Town­ship along with 64 fam­i­lies from York. And yes, Ber­czy ran the sawmill.

DUF­FERIN GROVE GOVER­NOR GEN­ERAL

This west end neigh­bour­hood’s name­sake is Lord Duf­ferin, or Fred­er­ick Hamil­ton Tem­ple Black­wood. Orig­i­nally dubbed “the Side Line” or the sec­ond line west of Yonge Street, the road was named Duf­ferin Street in 1876 af­ter Black­wood, who was the gover­nor gen­eral of Canada at the time. Quite the in­trigu­ing char­ac­ter, Black­wood was a British di­plo­mat and travel author, and prior to serv­ing as Canada’s gover­nor gen­eral, he was a lord-in-wait­ing to Queen Vic­to­ria, who once com­mented that he was “much too good-look­ing and cap­ti­vat­ing.”

ROSEDALE BY ANY OTHER NAME

The story of how Rosedale, one of Toronto’s most cov­eted en­claves, got its name is just as ro­man­tic as it sounds. When they set­tled there in the 1820s, William Bots­ford Jarvis — high sher­iff of the Home Dis­trict of York — and his wife Mary named their es­tate “Rosedale” af­ter the wild roses that grew abun­dantly around the prop­erty. So sweet. The house over­looked Cas­tle Frank Brook, part of the Don River, and with a wild­flower gar­den, a conservatory, a sweep­ing dou­ble stair­case and wood­pan­elled entryway, the house was said to be one of the finest in Toronto. Cas­tle Frank TTC sta­tion still smells of wild roses to­day. No, not re­ally.

FOR­EST HILL’S OJIBWA ORI­GIN

Also one of Toronto’s most sought-af­ter and wealth­i­est en­claves, For­est Hill was named af­ter John Wick­son’s sum­mer home, which was built in 1860 at Eglin­ton and Old For­est Hill Road. Prior to its in­cor­po­ra­tion as a vil­lage in 1923, the area was called Spad­ina Heights, de­rived from the Ojibwa word for hill, isha­pade­nah. The city an­nexed For­est Hill in 1967. It was one of the last in­de­pen­dent vil­lages in Toronto.

LEA­SIDE LEGACY

The Lea­side neigh­bour­hood had its be­gin­nings when the Lea fam­ily bought a 200-acre farm in the town­ship of York in 1820. John Lea died 34 years later in 1854, and his chil­dren, John and William, in­her­ited the prop­erty. The two sons ran a farm on the plot, and the name “Lea­side” was cho­sen for William’s home. The name stuck, and in 1894 the Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way opened a sta­tion nearby that they named Lea­side Junc­tion.

WIL­LOW­DALE IN THE MAIL

Amer­i­can mill owner, doc­tor and vet, Ja­cob Cum­mer was the first to set­tle the Wil­low­dale area, hence its orig­i­nal name “Kum­mer’s Set­tle­ment.” The area was later re­named af­ter the Wil­low Dale post of­fice, a nod to the abun­dance of wil­low trees that once grew in the area. The man who named the post of­fice, land sur­veyor David Gib­son, was part of the 1837 Toronto re­bel­lion, and he fled to the U.S. be­fore re­turn­ing to his farm on Yonge Street. To­day, his home, Gib­son House, is still in its orig­i­nal place and has been es­tab­lished as a mu­seum.

AR­MOUR HEIGHTS AND AMELIA EARHART

The area of Ar­mour Heights, which is bor­dered by Wil­son Av­enue, Bathurst Street and the Don River, was named af­ter farmer John Ar­mour, who in the 1830s owned a home­stead where Ar­mour Heights Com­mu­nity Cen­tre stands to­day. Dur­ing the First World War, the next owner of the land, Col. Fred­er­ick Bur­ton Robins, al­lowed the mil­i­tary to use the area as an air train­ing fa­cil­ity. Famed fe­male pi­lot Amelia Earhart once worked there, and af­ter the war, heroic Cana­dian fly­ing ace Billy Bishop op­er­ated the air­field.

HOGG’S HOL­LOW GRISTMILL

Scots­man James Hogg set­tled the Hogg’s Hol­low area in 1824, open­ing a gristmill and a whisky distillery. In fact, he was one of the most suc­cess­ful millers in the area at the time. In the mid-1800s, Hogg’s chil­dren turned the land into a sub­di­vi­sion called Hogg’s Hol­low, which en­com­passed 141 lots. Four of the orig­i­nal houses are still in­tact to­day — two of which pre­vi­ously served as mill work­ers’ cot­tages and are now part of the up­scale French restau­rant Au­berge du Pom­mier on Yonge Street.

THE BRI­DLE PATH HORSEY SET

In com­par­i­son to other Toronto neigh­bour­hoods, The Bri­dle Path was a bit of a late bloomer, but this doesn’t make it any less spec­tac­u­lar. The area was no more than farm­land un­til the Bayview Bridge was built in the late 1920s when de­vel­oper Hu­bert Daniel Bull Page had the grand idea of turn­ing the land into an up­scale sub­di­vi­sion filled with beau­ti­ful man­sions. He first built a colo­nial home at 2 The Bri­dle Path and de­signed a wind­ing maze of eques­trian paths for the horse-lov­ing clien­tele — hence the name.

Al­though we pass these signs of­ten, many don’t know the his­tory be­hind the names of their own neigh­bour­hoods from For­est Hill Vil­lage and Duf­ferin Grove to Sum­mer­hill and Lea­side

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