160 pages
Contains Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography
ISBN 1-55046-338-1
DDC 971.3'541




Photos by Vincenzo Pietropaolo
Reviewed by Steve Pitt

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.


Kensington, which is located in the downtown area of Toronto, was
created in the mid-19th century as a residential suburb for
working-class British immigrants. Because of is affordability, the
neighborhood soon became a magnet for wave after wave of non-British
newcomers. This well-researched and entertaining book chronicles
Kensington’s creation and various manifestations over the past century
and a half. Author Jean Cochrane paints the community’s portrait with
warts and all. She quotes people who dearly love their crowded streets
and colorful neighbors, but she also repeats statements by ex-residents
who could not shake the community’s dust (or worse) off their shoes
fast enough.

Archival photographs starting as early as 1865 show how Kensington
quickly developed from a sleepy country estate to a densely packed urban
community. Augmenting the archive material are family photos from
long-time Kensington residents and a fascinating collection of photos
from Vincenzo Pietropaolo, an award-winning professional photographer
who has been using the neighborhood as one of his favorite subjects
since the 1960s. Like Cochrane’s text, these photographs show both
sides of life. A 1934 Department of Health photo, for example, shows a
typical illegal backyard poultry operation, and a 1970 media snapshot
depicts Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau mugging for the cameras while
buying fruit from a Kensington stall.

The book contains a preface by Liane Regendanz, executive director of
St. Stephen’s Community House, one of several community agencies that
has been part of the Kensington scene for most of its history. What is
interesting is that despite the best efforts of anglo-Canadian
missionaries and Toronto City planners, Kensington never did submit and
become like the rest of Toronto. Instead, most of Toronto now resembles
Kensington in its multicultural diversity. The last few pages examine
how Kensington is struggling to maintain its own identity in a city that
is now equally homogeneously diverse. This is a fine book.


Cochrane, Jean., “Kensington,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,