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In Upper and Lower Canada, concession roads were laid out by the colonial government through undeveloped Crown land to provide access to rows of newly surveyed 100-acre lots intended for farming by new settlers. The land that comprised a row of lots that spanned the entire length of a new township was "conceded" by the Crown for this purpose (hence, a "concession of land"). Title to an unoccupied lot was awarded to an applicant in exchange for raising a house, performing roadwork and land clearance, and monetary payment. Concession roads and cross-cutting sidelines or side roads were laid out in an orthogonal (rectangular or square) grid plan, often aligned so that concession roads ran (approximately) parallel to the north shore of Lake Ontario, or to the southern boundary line of a county. In a common square grid layout, adjacent parallel roads were 100 chains or 1.25 miles (2.0 km) apart, so that two consecutive concession roads and two consecutive side roads enclosed a square of 1,000 acres (4 km2). These 1,000 acres were divided into lots according to various plans.
Concession roads were typically numbered consecutively. The first concession road in a township, though, was often called the baseline (from the surveying term), and roads so named remain in many municipalities, including Ottawa, Clarington and London; the first concession road was also frequently called the front, or broken front if it was on a lake shore.
In some townships, such as those in Bruce County, each side of each successive concession road comprised a separate numbered concession. Thus, the south side of a road might be Concession 2 and the north side Concession 3. In this system, for the purposes of road signing only even (or, sometimes, odd) numbers were used, so that concession roads were successively numbered, e.g., 2, 4, 6, etc. This simplified the address numbering of farm lots, especially along township boundary roads where opposite sides of the same road were in different townships. Where even numbers were used, the numbers of odd-numbered concessions would appear only in property records (e.g., Lot 18, Concession 11, Brant Township, which would be on the north side of Concession Road 10).
Many of the "sideline" roads still preserve "Line" in their names. Guelph Line, 12th Line, and Brown's Line are important thoroughfares in and west of Toronto. The "side road" name survives on several roads in Ontario as well.
Side road or sideline numbering varies depending on the township. Sideline roads in many townships in Bruce County, for example, are numbered in multiples of 5, i.e., starting with the town line (road on township boundary), then numbered 5th, 10th, 15th, and so on, with five lots between each pair of successive sidelines in the original township survey. In some townships, the "line road" name was applied to the roads that elsewhere were called "concession roads", i.e., roads that ran between two adjacent concessions.
Many concession roads retain their original names. Less developed areas are often referred to as "back concessions".
In most of Upper Canada this layout of roads preceded urban development, so that most Ontario municipalities now have grid patterns of streets. In cities, many concession roads have become major streets.
- McIlwraith, Thomas R. "Concession line". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- Filey, Mike (2003). "Imposing Grid on Toronto the Good". Toronto Sketches 7: "The Way We Were". Toronto: Dundurn Press. p. 153. ISBN 9781550024487. OCLC 51736516. Retrieved 24 August 2012.