Toronto's Lost Villages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
Steve Pitt is a Toronto-based freelance writer and an award-winning journalist. He has written many young adult and children's books, including Day of the Flying Fox: The True Story of World War II Pilot Charley Fox.
If you are a longtime resident of Toronto, you may be surrounded
high-rise towers or sprawling malls and not realize that under your feet
are the remains of a 19th-century grist mill, country tavern, or
much-detested tollgate booth. Toronto was once a military town boasting
than 2000 citizens, cemetery and fort garrison included. Fanning out
like spokes from the town were scores of tiny hamlets that served the
needs of the isolated settlers. Villages sprang up with names like Blue
Bell, Purpleville, Onion Town, Thistletown, Hillside, Downsview, German
Mills, Kaiserville, L’Amoreaux, Yorkville, and Buttonville. Most have
vanished without a trace. Others have become so submerged by modern
development that only someone with an eye
for historical architecture would recognize a once-glamorous village
hotel now serving its golden years as a dollar store or halal
These villages live again in this terrific book by historian Ron Brown.
He has uncovered over 80 vanished Toronto area hamlets, some dating back
nearly two centuries. Brown packs a great deal of information into a
limited space. He explains not only where the towns were but why they
came to be there. Virtually every page contains a photograph to help jog
the reader’s memory or imagination.
Sometimes Brown leaves the reader dangling. For example, he notes that
the legendary Buffalo Bill Cody was baptized in the Union Dixie Chapel
but fails to mention when or why. One or two photo captions have also
slipped past the proofreader. (My favourite: “Like most of
Eglinton’s village buildings, the old post office is still gone.”)
But these are just a few loose threads in an outstanding tapestry of
local history. For those interested in the early days of the Toronto
area, this book is a must read.