[URBAN NOTE] “The Stories of Draper Street”
Torontoist’s Erin Sylvester tells the story of downtown Toronto’s Draper Street.
The future site of Draper Street, which runs one way from Front Street West to Wellington Street West, first appears on a map in 1833. It didn’t yet have a name or building lots, but it was the start of what has become a carefully preserved district to reflect what Toronto looked like in the late 19th century.
The first houses—Empire-style cottages—were built on Draper Street between 1881 and 1882. These were paid for by Jonathan Mandell, a developer, and designed by Richard Humphries. These early houses are all semi-detached and one-and-a-half storeys. A new phase of building started in 1886 with semi-detached houses built by the firm Smith and Simpson. The final phase was a row of houses built in 1889 on what was a lumberyard for Wagner Ziedler and Company, the firm that, among other things, did the woodwork and speaker’s dais in the new Ontario Parliament buildings at Queen’s Park, which opened in the 1890s.
Draper Street is part of the King and Spadina neighbourhood, which became an industrial centre in the growing city of Toronto. King and Spadina was the heart of the textile and garment industries, a heritage now reflected in some of the remaining industrial buildings and a giant, colourful button and thimble at the corner of Richmond and Spadina. The area also saw early labour agitation in Toronto, most notably from the Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union strike in 1931.
Although Draper Street sounds like it fits right in to the textile industry in the neighbourhood, it was actually named for William Henry Draper, a lawyer and local politician who had died in 1877.