[URBAN NOTE] “Downtown street corner had a storied history”
In the Toronto Star, Sean Micallef looks at the history of the southeast corner of Church Street and Dundas Street West, set to be the site of a new condo development.
There’s a quintessential jumble of Toronto shacks on the southeast corner of Church and Dundas Sts. Cheaply built, like so much of Toronto, the jumble is ugly to unsympathetic eyes. Though awaiting a hearing at the Ontario Municipal Board over design details, the buildings will eventually make way for a proposed residential development. Yet, this quotidian corner has housed more Toronto life than seems possible in one place.
A visit to the deep wells of civic memory stored in the old city directories on the second floor of the Toronto Reference Library, randomly selecting volumes about a decade apart from 1915 until 1993, revealed that life. Here’s just a sliver of it.
Part of the redevelopment parcel includes an unpaved parking lot along Church, and buildings on both the north and south side of it bear ghost traces of the structures that once abutted them, addresses numbered 215 to 221. In 1915, Ebenezer Chesney’s cigar shop, the Porter Plumbing Supply Company and various apartment dwellers were here.
In 1925, Porter was still a going concern but the cigar shop was vacant, Hawley Auto Supply had moved in next door, and Samuel Barrett had started selling date products. By 1936, Seto Kwan had set up his tailoring business in Ebenezer’s old place, and Tire Chains & Accessories had opened next door along with the Collins Printing Company next to it. Porter was still in the plumbing business.
In 1947, Kwan had become a “Designing Tailor” and Church Cleaners and the Lewis Fur Company had moved into the block, while Porter Plumbing had evolved into Good Specialties Plumbing and Heating. By 1958, Master Brothers Business Machines was in operation here alongside M & R Enterprises Clothing and Novelties. In 1968, the Club Coffee Company was operating where Kwan once sewed, and next to it Athens Photo Studio had opened and Art Electric Construction had slipped in here too.