[URBAN NOTE] “Mirvish Village joins a history of lost neighbourhoods in Toronto”
blogTO’s Derek Flack places Mirvish Village, with the end of Honest Ed’s set to come to an end itself, in the context of Toronto’s other now-vanished neighbourhoods.
Toronto’s most famous lost neighbourhood is probably The Ward, a densely packed and diverse area that bounded by Yonge, University, Queen, and College streets. At various points, it was home to numerous immigrant enclaves, including an early Little Italy and the city’s first major Chinatown.
The Ward was notorious for its poor living conditions, as many lived crammed into shacks with little ability to maintain warmth over the cold winter months. Some of its areas were, by all rights, a slum, but it was a crucial starting point for many who arrived in the city, and remains an important part of Toronto’s history as a diverse city.
A huge portion of the neighbourhood was razed for the construction of the New City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square in the early 1960s. This had a ripple effect on the entire area, which the city had been gradually redeveloping since the 1920s. Chinatown and Little Italy moved west and by the 1970s, very little of the old neighbourhood remained.
errard Village is another of Toronto’s lost neighbourhoods. Located within the broad borders of The Ward, it had boasted an identity quite distinct from the area to the south. This was Toronto’s Greenwich Village, a hub of bohemian activity through the 1950s and early 1960s.
Populated by intellectuals and artists, the area surrounding Gerrard and Bay streets featured coffee and books shops, live music venues, and cheap restaurants. It was just a tiny stretch of the city, much like Mirvish Village, but people like Pierre Berton considered it an “intriguing island in the heart of downtown Toronto.”