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History of Bloor/ Dufferin Ontario

Reference to Campbell Flour Mills.

History of Bloor/ Dufferin Ontario

Author:Joe Adelaars, Posted: 7/25/2002
Local History: Bloor/Dufferin

The History Of Our Community....

The modern history of the Bloor/Dufferin area began with the Denison Family. They were paternalists, military men, civic leaders and church builders. This was the family that was to have a significant effect on the area for the next century. John Denison, first generation of the Denison family, was born in Yorkshire, England. In Yorkshire, John Denison knew Peter Russell who became Simcoe's successor as administrator of Upper Canada. In 1797, John Denison joined his friend from England in Canada.Through Russell, the Denison family secured large land holdings eventually becoming one of the wealthiest landowners in Upper Canada. They then acquired property in the presently known Kensington and Bloor/Dufferin Areas.

The period between 1880 and 1890 was one of the most remarkable in Toronto's history. Rapid industrial growth, an increase in production and the demand for labour attracted thousands of newcomers. The cities population suddenly grew by almost 50 percent. This began a migration for the middle class away from the city centre to the fields and lots at Bloor and Dufferin. However, the development of the new suburban neighbourhood would not have been possible without public services. Services were introduced to Dundas Street gradually extending north to College and eventually went beyond Bloor. Between 1880 and 1900 residential streets, running water, sewers and the railway began to grow at a rapid pace. At the time, Toronto mayor Arthur R. Boswell attached enough importance to the issue of the deteriorated condition of the Garrison Creek that he provoked the construction of a sewer system. The new streets, the improved road surfaces and sidewalks were all features of this decade. It was at this time that the Denisons reaped large profits by subdividing, developing and selling their valuable properties. Farms and fields were now an intricate network of streets on which homes and businesses would be built.

The area became a home for many families and industries. The area became populated with various institutions but primarily churches. St.Anne's Anglican church was founded in 1862 and St.Helen's Roman Catholic Church was established in 1871. Later followed the methodist Wesley Church built in 1874-75. Soon after, in 1887 the St.Clarens Avenue Methodist Church was built at the southwest corner of Dundas and St. Clarens. The Ossington Avenue Baptist Church was built in 1886 or 1888 and St. Mary's Anglican Church near Delaware and Bloor was built in 1889. These institutions became the social and religious focal points for the working middle class families that populated the area. The industries that located here in the 1880's included Wagner and Ziedler's Planing Mill,the Canadian Wire Mattress Company, Campbell Flour Mills, The Dodge Wood Split Pulley Company and the Nordheimer Piano Company. In 1902,the Canada Foundry Company(part of General Electric) set up on a sixty-acre site at Lansdowne and Davenport and became one of the major industries in the area. Also, at the same time meat packing plants made there way near the freight facilities in the area.

In 1887 the first classes at Brock Public School were held. In 1908, Kent school opened. Amazingly enough, this was for a period of time the largest public school in all of Canada. Both Brock School and Kent Senior Public School were schools known for high discipline. Many of the instructors were military men. St.Helen's was built in 1883 at Lansdowne Avenue and Dundas Street but was later moved in 1913 to College Street and Brock Avenue. Other schools that opened in the area included St. Anthony's in 1900, Essex in 1902 and Pauline Avenue Public School in 1914.

In the decades following between 1890 and 1945, years of prosperity were followed by a severe depression. In 1908, a lot twenty-two feet wide on Chesley Avenue off Brock sold for $125 and within a year the owners moved into a house that they had constructed. Many of the newcomers in the area built their own homes.The Streets were dirt roads with wood plank sidewalks. By 1912, Havelock, Rusholme, Dovercourt and Gladstone were developed from Bloor Street to Dufferin Grove Park.

In 1913, the Dovercourt Branch of the Public Library(Bloor/Gladstone Library) opened at the corner of Bloor Street and Gladstone Avenue. It was considered the largest branch library funded by the city of Toronto in all of Canada.

In 1915, Women's College Hospital moved from Seaton Street to a house at 125 Rusholme Road, built in 1887 by Clarence Denison.The hospital's original capicity of twenty-five beds and ten cots was increased to seventy beds and twenty-five cots with an addition of a three storey brick building in 1917. In 1935, the hospital moved again to a new building at 70 Grenville Street.The old Denison house was then demolished to make room for an apartment building.

In 1893 William Neilson first began selling ice cream. During his first summer he produced 3750 gallons of ice cream that sold for $3000.00. His resources consisted of three freezers and the assistance of his only son. In 1905, Neilson built a two-storey factory that still stands on the east side of Gladstone Avenue above Dundas Street. His staff consisted of 25 people that enabled him to increase production and manufacture chocholate bars.

After leaving school many young people found employment in the numerous factories and businesses in the area. These included the old Eaton's factory(located on Bloor Street),Bell Telephone,the Loblaws head office at Bloor Street and Lansdowne Avenue and the Neilson's Chocolate Factory.

Soon after, the first World War changed the life of many residents in the Bloor/Dufferin area. The war became the focal point for the vast majority. The only aviation factory in the country opened a plant covering six acres at 1244 Dufferin Street south of Dupont. The Canadian Aeroplanes Limited Company operated twenty-four hours a day with 2000 workers. They produced 2950 Curtiss TN4 aircrafts in two years.

After four long years, post war prosperity brought a boom in construction. New shops appeared along Bloor St. W. and the automobile was introduced and embraced by many area residents. In 1921, the Toronto Transportation Commission began major road work and new streetcars were introduced.

In 1925, part of the Kent School playground was taken over and Bloor Collegiate was built.

The Bloor/Dufferin area remained in a state of depression until the second world war when production was in demand and work and wages increased. When the thirties ended a phase in the Bloor/Dufferin area came to a close. The last Denison mansion was torn down in 1954. In 1955, the last race was run at Dufferin race track which would soon be replaced by the new Dufferin Plaza.

Between 1948 and 1952 large numbers of eastern europeans moved into the area and settled in the Bloor/Dufferin area. They replaced much of the Jewish community that began to migrate north. In 1956, the hungarian revolution brought more refugees to the area but they slowly moved to the west of the city. Soon after, an increased demand for housing created a boom in Canada. However, skilled labor was scarce. The next group of new Canadians came from the villages and cities of Italy. Canada promised them a land of guaranteed employment and a new future. Italian settlement in the area increased as did the need for residential construction.
Bloor/Dufferin became the pick-up point for most sub-contractors offering employment. In the mid 1950's Portuguese immigrants followed the italians and by the end of the fifties italians, portuguese and greeks predominated the area. The cultural diversity grew in the neighbourhood.

In the 1960's and 70's the area changed again. The streets became lined with Indian and Pakistani grocery stores, as well as, restaurants and theatres. The ethnic diversity was expanding to include the east and west indian cultures.1

Today, the ethnic culture is very much evident along Bloor Street West between Lansdowne Avenue and Dufferin Street. The streets are lined with restaurants, bargain shops, bicycle shops and a variety of other businesses. Merchants, residents and community members continue to work to make improvements. Newcomers continue to revitalize the neighbourhood with their presence. Long time residents preserve the neighbourhoods history. Visitors continue to come and enjoy the multicultural experience. People enjoy coming to the area to live, work, visit or shop. Eventhough the area continues to change constantly and people and businesses come and go, the neighbourhood remains constant. Whether it be a familiar face, a memory of an era a long time ago or the nostalgic feeling of familiarity . In my opinion, this is what makes our area valuable. The diversity is what makes us unique.

1(This information was collected from the Local History Collection at Bloor Gladstone Library - "Surveys and Early Settlements 1790-1884")

Linked toHon. Archibald Campbell, M. P. Senator

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