Cabbagetown, Toronto

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Houses in Cabbagetown
Cabbagetown, Toronto is located in Toronto
Cabbagetown, Toronto
Location within Toronto
Coordinates: 43°39′59″N 79°21′46″W / 43.6664°N 79.3629°W / 43.6664; -79.3629Coordinates: 43°39′59″N 79°21′46″W / 43.6664°N 79.3629°W / 43.6664; -79.3629
Country  Canada
Province  Ontario
City Toronto Flag.svg Toronto

Cabbagetown is a neighbourhood in central Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Administratively, it is defined as part of the Cabbagetown-South St. Jamestown neighbourhood.[1] It largely features semi-detached Victorian houses and is recognized as "the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in all of North America", according to the Cabbagetown Preservation Association.

Cabbagetown's name derives from the Irish immigrants who moved to the neighbourhood beginning in the late 1840s, said to have been so poor that they grew cabbage in their front yards.[citation needed] Canadian writer Hugh Garner's novel, Cabbagetown, depicted life in the neighbourhood during the Great Depression.


The area today known as Cabbagetown was first known as the village of Don Vale, just outside Toronto. Before the 1850s it consisted of farmland dotted with cottages and vegetable plots. It grew up in the 1840s around the Winchester Street Bridge, which before the construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct was the main northern bridge over the Don River.[2] This was near the site where Castle Frank Brook flowed in the Don River. By the bridge the Don Vale Tavern and Fox's Inn were established to cater to travelers.[3] In 1850 the Toronto Necropolis was established in the area as the city's main cemetery.

In the late 19th century the area was absorbed into the city. It became home to the working class Irish inhabitants who were employed in the industries along the lake shore to the south in Corktown. Brick Victorian style houses were built throughout the area. The name Cabbagetown purportedly came from stories of new Irish immigrants digging up their front lawns and planting cabbage. In this era the Cabbagetown name most often applied to the area south of Gerrard Street, with the part to the north still being called Don Vale. It was a working-class neighbourhood, but reached its peak of prosperity just before the First World War, which is from when many of the brick homes in the area date.

After the war the area became increasingly impoverished. A large number of poorer residents moved in, many resorting to share one house among multiple families. The nineteenth century brick houses began deteriorating, and as landlords saw less value in the neighbourhood, they were not maintained.[4] It became known as one of Toronto's largest slums and much of the original Cabbagetown was razed in the late 1940s to make room for the Regent Park housing project. A new immigrant influx also lead to the beginning of ethnic diversity in the neighbourhood. The remaining section to the north, then still known as Don Vale, was also slated to be cleared and replaced by housing projects. In 1964 a Toronto Star writer wrote that "Cabbagetown has become a downhill ride and if you're on way up, you don't dare stay there for long unless you live in Regent Park."[5]

The construction of new housing projects was halted in the 1970s. In Don Mount this effort was led by Karl Jaffary, who was elected to city council in the 1969 municipal election along with a group of like minded councilors who opposed sweeping urban renewal plans. John Sewell led the effort to preserve Trefann Court, that covered the southern section of the original Cabbagetown. A bylaw was approved in the 1970s to ban any building higher than four storeys, in reaction to the high density high rises being built in neighbouring St. James Town.[6]


Cabbagetown was gentrified by affluent professionals, beginning in the 1970s. Many residents restored small Victorian row houses and became community activists. Darrell Kent, a resident and local businessman, is recognized by the community as having been the driving force behind the restoration of many of the area’s beautiful and unique Victorian houses.[7] As Kent was a gay real estate agent, gay men and some lesbians made up the earliest gentrifying groups of Cabbagetown.[6] They are still a significant part of the population today, and the area is considered queer friendly.

In 1983 the Globe and Mail wrote that "Cabbagetown is probably the epitome of successful labelling. The core of the area—generally defined as being bounded by Parliament, Wellesley and Dundas Streets and the Don Valley[8]—was once Toronto's skid row. Today, about a decade after the area was invaded by young professionals, speculators and real estate agents, there are still a few derelicts around to give the area colour. The houses, meanwhile, sell for upward of $200,000."[9] 25 years after that article was written, some homes in the area have sold for more than $2.2 million.

Vestiges of a 1960s, counter-culture ambiance remain at vintage clothing stores, health food stores and a gestalt therapy clinic. A Victorian farm, once the site of a zoo, is located adjacent to Riverdale Park West, where a weekly farmer's market is held. A short distance away is the Cabbagetown Youth Centre, home of the Cabbagetown Boxing Club, a reminder of an earlier, and rougher, past. In recent years, some businesses from the nearby "gay village" of Church and Wellesley, have relocated to the area, attracted by cheaper commercial rents.

Despite gentrification, residents from public housing projects and affluent home owners mingle at a discount supermarket and a community medical clinic. Panhandling and drug-dealing are part of the urban landscape; so are gourmet shops, upscale boutiques and arts festivals, book launches and wine-tastings at local restaurants. Paradoxically, "The Gerrard and Parliament neighbourhood, located near Dundas and Sherbourne Streets, has the largest concentration of homeless shelters and drop-in centres in Canada. The area is also distinguished by a large number of rooming houses and other forms of low income housing."[10]


Cabbagetown businesses along Carlton Street

The neighbourhood is home to many artists, musicians, journalists and writers. Other residents include professors, doctors and social workers, many affiliated with the nearby University of Toronto. Proximity to the financial district and downtown core have also made the area popular with other professionals such as lawyers, management consultants and those in financial services.[citation needed]

Celebrities who have at some time been residents of Cabbagetown include:

As part of a project called 'Cabbagetown People', historical plaques have been placed on noteworthy homes. A map of the locations has been erected in Riverdale Park West, and an index of the addresses, with the names of the former residents, is posted on a website devoted to this project.[13] The people listed include:


Aerial Photograph of old Cabbagetown, 1942


The original boundaries of Cabbagetown were:[citation needed]

  • Gerrard Street to the north
  • Queen Street to the south
  • Parliament Street to the west
  • the Don River to the east

Prior to the government housing that replaced much of the original housing beginning in the 1940s, Cabbagetown encompassed the current neighbourhoods of Moss Park, Regent Park, St. Jamestown and Trefann Court.[citation needed]


Cabbagetown's current boundaries may be broadly defined as:[14]

  • Gerrard Street to the south (east of Parliament)
  • St. James Cemetery to the north (east of Parliament St.)
  • Wellesley Street East to the north (between Sherbourne St. and Parliament St.)
  • River Street/Riverdale Park to the east.
  • Parliament Street to the east (between Gerrard St. E and Carlton St.)

Heritage Conservation Districts (HCD) and Heritage Conservation Districts under review[edit]

In 2004 part of Cabbagetown became a Heritage Conservation District, protected by The Ontario Heritage Act. The district was established in two stages: first an area centred on Metcalfe, and later areas to the north and east of the initial area.

Cabbagetown-Metcalfe Area HCD[edit]

Cabbagetown-Metcalfe Area HCD (By-law 110-02 adopted by City Council on February 15, 2002). The district comprises the residential area located east of Broadcast Lane to the east side of Sackville Street, and from the north side of Amelia Street to the south side of Carlton Street.

The layout of Amelia Street, Metcalfe Street, Elm Street (now Carlton Street) and Winchester Street was complete by 1844. Latham sold a 30-acre parcel to John Young Brown who proceeded to develop Lot Plan 26. The Lot Plan and the street grid laid out were instrumental in the development of Cabbagetown. Brown’s property comprised lands south of Amelia Street to Carlton Street, and east of Broadcast Lane to Sumach Street. John G. Howard, Toronto’s leading architect and part-time Deputy Surveyor, registered the plan in 1851 for the City of Toronto. Bown continued to sell parts of this landholding to individual builders who completed the earliest residences in the district.

The delineated Cabbagetown-Metcalfe Area Heritage Conservation District boundaries embody Lot Plan 26, registered by John Young Bown 150 years ago, which laid the foundation for its development.

The overall landscape character of the Cabbagetown-Metcalfe Area Heritage Conservation District is a result of several individual landscape features. These include a significant pedestrian scale to the public open space created by the generally narrow setbacks of the houses from the sidewalks, small landscape front yards defined by ornamental metal or wood fencing or hedges. There are overhead wires mounted on wooden utility poles and mature, large canopy, deciduous trees located within the front yards and boulevard strip. Within the district there are over 200 trees, representing over thirty different species. Many of the deciduous trees are mature with wide canopies which overhang the streets, creating a sheltered and shady pedestrian environment.

With few exceptions, notably on Carlton Street between Metcalfe and Sackville Streets, the buildings in the south of the district are generally set closer to the street than in the north. Within each block the setbacks tend to vary only slightly. As well, the houses in the south area of the district are generally two to three stories whereas in the north there are more examples of one and-a-half and two story buildings. The front yards generally contain small lawn areas and planting beds with a central walk leading to a front porch and front door. There are very infrequent examples of single-width driveways crossing the boulevard leading to a garage or interior laneway. In most cases, parking is accommodated on the street rather than on private property.

The architecture of the district is predominantly late 19th century, often referred to as “Victorian,” in style and influence. A number of Second Empire residences with mansard roofs and Italianate decorative features exist along with Queen Anne-style residences. The Georgian influenced residence at 85 Winchester Street is one example of an early structure still in the district. St. Enoch’s Presbyterian Church at Metcalfe Street and Winchester Street, completed in the Romanesque style, represents the influence of institutional ecclesiastical architecture of the period.

Although the area consists principally of heritage buildings, more recent architecture is also represented in the district with a number of significantly renovated buildings that display a mixture of old and new building fabrics.

The mix of residential buildings consists of 1- to ​2 12-storey buildings set back within narrow front yards and fenced. Row housing is the principal, character defining form of the residential type in the district. The integrity of unbroken rows of Victorian housing, seen especially on Metcalfe Street and in certain other sections of the district, defines the significance of this area’s architecture. Individual detached homes and a few apartment buildings are also present. Brick houses, along with frame buildings covered in wood and synthetic siding, are found in the district. Stucco rendered properties are represented in both brick and frame structures.

The predominant characteristics associated with the Victorian row house buildings are tall, narrow bay and gables; decorative woodwork in the gables; and where extant, decorative wooden porches, often added on to the house in the 20th century. The brickwork is often a mix of red and buff brick or red brick combined with shaped decorative brick, stone voussoirs or a stone base course. Buff brick buildings are also represented in the district. The small, one storey cottages display similar architectural attributes. The later Edwardian residences have generally lower roof slopes and less ornate decorative woodwork. The roofing material was originally either slate or wooden shingle. Some slate remains, but asphalt shingle roofing is now the predominant roofing material. Windows vary in shape from flat head to segmental to semi-circular. Original glazing is still extant in many residences, and many fine stained glass windows are present. Some original doors exist to complement the original period of design.

The interplay between architecture and the various landscape elements of the district is important to its overall character. Many blocks have almost unbroken rows of closely spaced, late nineteenth-/early twentieth-century residential buildings of a similar height and fenestration, set back in a consistent manner with small front yards. Street trees in the public boulevard provide a treed canopy over sidewalks and roads.

Cabbagetown North HCD[edit]

Cabbagetown North HCD (By-law 259-2004 adopted by City Council on April 16, 2004). The district comprises the boundaries of St. James Cemetery, Wellesley Park, Necropolis Cemetery and Riverdale Farm, on the north and east, the south boundary of Riverdale Farm and the rear of the houses fronting on Carlton Street, to the south, the rear of the lots on the east side of Sackville Street up to the line of the extension of the north side of the lots fronting on the north side of Amelia Street from Sackville almost to Parliament Street, and continuing to the north behind the lots fronting on Parliament Street until once again joining the boundary of St. James Cemetery.

Like Cabbagetown-Metcalfe, the bulk of Cabbagetown North is a compact residential area of houses most of which survive from the late 19th or early 20th century. In addition to the residential area, Cabbagetown North also enjoys the presence of four important institutional uses having substantial historical importance, St. James Cemetery, Necropolis Cemetery, the Riverdale Park and Farm, and Wellesley Park.

It was considered essential to include the two historic cemeteries, as well as the Riverdale Farm, by reason not only of their natural inclusion within the area generally accepted as Cabbagetown, but also due to their very longstanding intrinsic value and connection to the neighbourhood and the significant heritage asset neighbourhood and the significant heritage asset which each represents on its own.

In summary, each of these four sites features heritage buildings and structures of great value to the neighbourhood and to the Toronto community at large. A fifth major non-residential use is St. Martin’s Catholic Primary School, a large property that includes a heritage building, situated in the centre of the residential area.

Like the Cabbagetown-Metcalfe area, Cabbagetown North is an area whose history and context are well illustrated and discussed in Cabbagetown Remembered by George Rust-D’Eye.

The area features a significant number of “workers’ cottages”, relatively small centre hall plan buildings, typically with one window on each side of a central door surmounted by a steep peaked gable. Some of these, centred around the intersection of Amelia and Sumach Streets, were built to house workers employed by the P.R. Lamb Glue and Blacking Manufactory, which stood at the end of Amelia Street, on the site of the present Hillcrest Park, from 1848 until its total destruction by fire in May, 1888.

Among the large number of Cabbagetown North properties on the City of Toronto’s North properties on the City of Toronto’s Inventory of Heritage Properties (see below) are: the first home of Benjamin Brick, 314 Carlton Street (1874); the Witch’s House, 384 Sumach Street (1866); the Owl House, 402 Wellesley Street East (1892-3); the Thomas Harris house, 314 Wellesley Street East; the Daniel Lamb House, 156 Winchester Street (1867); the Napier Simpson Farmhouse, at Riverdale Farm (1978); the Donnybrook, at Riverdale Farm (1902); the Chapel of St. James-the-Less (1858), as well as the fence and gates and a number of tombs, in the St. James Cemetery; the Necropolis Chapel (1872); all of the houses on Alpha Avenue (1888), Flagler Street (1889); Laurier Avenue (1889); Wellesley Avenue (1887); and Wellesley Cottages (1887); as well as a substantial number of homes on Wellesley Street East.

The area is also fortunate in having retained and nurtured so many mature large canopy deciduous trees, many in the front yards of houses. Within the district, there are a large number of trees representing over 30 different species. It has been of great benefit to the area that the city and many property owners have worked to ensure that the inevitable removal of older trees from time to time has been accompanied by the planting of new and replacement trees and the encouragement of trees, bushes and other plants generally.

In the spring and early summer the area is alive with the colours of leaves and flowers, with trees, bushes and vines providing shade and obscuring some of the houses almost totally from view. In keeping with the traditions of the neighbourhood, the growing of the forsythia bush, with its bright yellow flowers, especially prominent in May, has been encouraged throughout the area.

The entire neighbourhood is adjacent to and identified with the vale of the Don River. The two beautiful cemeteries, the Farm property, and Wellesley Park take full advantage of the picturesque natural features of their location and provide public access.

The residential part of Cabbagetown North boasts few architectural masterpieces, but rather a magnificent cumulative architectural integrity as a whole contributed to by a variety of building types, sizes and scales, forming a symphonic blend of primarily late 19th century Victoriana. The design of most of the houses came from pattern book and vernacular precedents, not from architects’ drawings.

Some, such as the Lamb House, the Witch’s House, the Owl House and the Thomas Harris House, have attracted special interest and created enjoyment due to their unique blends of eccentricity and late Victorian building forms and materials. Much of the architecture of the area has been documented and described by Patricia McHugh in her definitive book, Toronto Architecture, A City Guide, Mercury Books, 1985. Walk 9, Don Vale, and Walk 10, “Old Cabbagetown”, outlined in her book, between them include the entire area of Cabbagetown-Metcalfe and Cabbagetown North.

The architecture of the district is predominantly late 19th century, often referred to as “Victorian”, in style and influence. A number of Second Empire residences with mansard roofs and Italianate decorative features exist, along with Queen Anne style residences, the most prominent of which is the Thomas Harris House, at 314 Wellesley Street East (1889–90). Although most of the houses date from the post-Georgian period of Toronto architecture, influences of the Georgian style are still to be found.

Gothic-inspired forms include the two beautiful and architecturally significant cemetery buildings: the Chapel of St. James-the-Less, by Cumberland and Storm (1858) in St. James Cemetery and the Toronto Necropolis Chapel, by Henry Langley (1872) in the Necropolis. Romanesque influences are also to be found, for instance, in the row housing at 103-109 Winchester Street and the Donnybrook Pavilion (1902) at the Riverdale Farm. The Italianate villa style is best represented by the James Reeve House (1883) at 397 Carlton Street, the earliest house on its block.

In the 1870s and 1880s particularly, the area filled in with builder-designed houses, most built at or very close to their side and front lot boundaries, many in pairs or attached rows, each one having a similar floor plan, but a mirror image to that next door to it. Although many of the houses appear to be of brick construction, in fact most are pine balloon-frame structures having a protective and decorative, non-supporting brick façade wall facing the street. Side and rear walls are often stuccoed or covered with a variety of siding materials.

The mix of residential buildings includes large numbers of cottages and two and a half storey “bay ‘n’ gable” houses set back with narrow front yards and fenced. Row housing is the principal character-defining form of the residential type in the district. The integrity of unbroken rows of Victorian housing, emphasizing verticality, the alternate play of light and shadow, and the steep peaked gables, define the significant features of the district’s architecture. Individual detached homes and a few lowrise apartment buildings are also present.

Cabbagetown Northwest HCD[edit]

Cabbagetown Northwest HCD (By-law 325-2008 adopted by City Council on December 11, 12, 13, 2007). The district comprises the residential area from the rear of the properties on the west side of Parliament Street, on the east, to properties on the east side of Sherbourne Street, on the west; and from the rear of the properties on the south side of Carlton Street, on the south, to the properties fronting on the south side of Wellesley Street East from Parliament Street, on the north, except for an area between Bleecker Street and Ontario Street that is excluded.

In 1850, the first house recorded as having been built in the district was constructed at 192 Carlton Street, and was to become the home of Allan McLean Howard, clerk of the First Division Court, who lived in the house until well into the 1890s. The McLean Howard House has seen some changes, particularly those effected in 1907-8 to the designs of Feldman and Goldsmith. It remains the earliest building in the district, a handsome brick residence now in use by the Second Mile Club.

The most visible and important characteristic of the district today consists of the virtually unbroken streetscapes of 2 to 3-storey Victorian houses and other buildings existing on both sides of Carlton Street, Winchester Street, Prospect Street, Ontario Street south of the projection of Winchester, and Aberdeen Avenue, and on one side of each of Wellesley Street East, Bleecker Street and Ontario Street north of Winchester.

There have been some changes. The area has a few, in some cases unfortunate, examples of 20th century architecture. Alterations have been made to a number of the Victorian structures, particularly the addition of projecting storefronts on a number of buildings on the south side of Carlton. However, the overall character of the original Victorian neighbourhood, and the general combination of pleasing forms of Second Empire, Victorian Gothic, Romanesque and Georgian forms, together with representation from later architectural styles, as well as the massing, scale and relationship of buildings to each other and to the street, has maintained an integrity which renders the district worthy of designation, as making a significant contribution to the cultural heritage of the City of Toronto.

As well as the A. McLean Howard home, the district boasts a number of examples of Georgian-style buildings, built during the 1850s and early 1860s, namely, 230-232 (surmounted by a Mansard roof, probably from the late 1870s), 229-231, 209-211, 195 and 185 Carlton Street (the latter one of the most improved and intact Georgian houses in the City), 21 Winchester Street (the Samuel Boddy House), and 56 Rose Avenue (built in 1858 facing south to Prospect Street, with a late 1870s tower).

The district also features a significant number of buildings of the Second Empire style, marked by roofs of the mansard type, pierced by dormer windows, round-headed doors and windows with moulded window heads, decorative details at the eaves and corners of the building, usually of red brick, contrasting with the yellow brick of the main walls. Most of them were built in the late 1870s or early 1880s. Handsome examples include 213-215, 197-201, 187-189, 181-183, 165-179 (the Chamberlin Block, 1877), 226-228 Carlton Street, 13-15, 17-19 Winchester Street and 257-263, 271-277 Wellesley Street East.

Few of the buildings in the district were designed by architects. Most were based on pattern book designs, accounting for similarities shared by a number of the buildings built in the same period to each other. For instance, while most of the features of the pair of Georgian buildings at 229-231 Carlton Street have been hidden by the addition of projecting store fronts and stucco and paint on the upper floors, many of their Georgian features, particularly the magnificent chimneys, can still be seen. Further along Carlton Street, at 209-211, will be found another pair, identical to them, also erected in the 1860s. The attractive preservation of this latter pair shows what could be accomplished if similar care and attention to detail were brought to bear on the former pair of buildings (even leaving in place the storefront attachments).

The beautiful “Modern English Gothic” St. Peter’s Church, at the north-east corner of Carlton and Bleecker Streets, was opened for service by Bishop John Strachan on June 10, 1866. The congregation had previously held its services in the cemetery chapel of St. James-the-Less on Parliament Street. The first Minister of St. Peter’s, and its incumbent for its first 42 years, was Reverend Samuel Boddy, whose house “Merripen”, built at 21 Winchester Street in 1858, still stands.

The church building, designed by Gundry & Langley, Architects, features a contrast of red and yellow bricks, pairs of pointed Gothic windows, a rose window set in a Gothic brick frame, and a pointed Gothic belfry at its west end, as well as “dormerlets” projecting from its roof. In 1872, transepts were added. In 1880, it underwent alterations to increase its seating capacity. In the same year, the handsome Sunday School building to the north was erected, echoing the Gothic form of the old church, with complicated brickwork. St. Peter’s survived a series of fires, particularly a serious one in 1973. After the church was restored, Lieutenant Governor Pauline McGibbon and a large congregation attended a service on December 16, 1979 to celebrate its preservation and the unveiling of a Toronto Historical Board plaque.

The church’s original bell, which fell to the ground from its tower during the fire, was also saved and restored to its place. Associated with St. Peter’s is its rectory, at 190 Carlton Street, built in 1905 to the design of Gordon & Helliwell, Architects.

St. Peter’s has been designated under the Ontario Heritage Act by the City of Toronto as a building of architectural and contextual significance.

St. Luke’s United Church, formerly Sherbourne Street Methodist Church, is referred to in Robertson’s Landmarks as “the handsomest church in central Toronto”. The previous church on the same site, erected in 1872, was enlarged and replaced by the current building that opened in 1876. The building is in the Romanesque style of architecture, built of gray Credit Valley stone with brownstone dressings from the same place. Later additions have been built on the west face of the building. The architects of the building were Messrs. Langley and Burke. The church bears a Toronto Historical Board plaque outlining its history.

Until 1887, French-speaking Roman Catholics in Toronto had no place of worship to call their own. In that year Sacré-Coeur parish was established. The first church was a second-hand previously Protestant building located at the corner of King and Sackville Streets. As the parish increased in size, it was recognized that a larger building would be required to serve its 400 families. The land at Carlton and Sherbourne was purchased from William Gooderham, and in 1936 the current building was blessed by Archbishop McGuigan.

The building is sheathed in primarily yellow brick, with some details typical of the art deco style of architecture current in the 1930s. The parish continued to increase in numbers, and in 1951 a wing was added on each side of the original building.

In 1897, the present Winchester School building was erected as a 9-room, 2-storey structure, with the third floor being added in 1901. The building replaced a 2-room frame schoolhouse erected on the site in 1874. Like St. Peter’s, Winchester School also suffered a serious fire in 1973. Fortunately, the handsome building was restored and today boasts a historical plaque erected by the Toronto Historical Board.

North of Carlton Street, on the west side of Ontario Street, stands the building of the first Church of Christian Association, built in 1905 to the design of F.J. Bird, Architect, designated by the City of Toronto under the Ontario Heritage Act for architectural, contextual and historical reasons.

The attractive Canadian Bank of Commerce building, built in 1905 to the design of Darling & Pearson, Architects, stands at the south-west corner of Carlton and Parliament Streets. Patricia McHugh, in her book Toronto Architecture – A City Guide, describes the bank building as follows:

“Auspicious, Classical Revival with weighty Doric columns framing a deep vault-like entrance; above, a domestic Queen Anne bay window -curtains and all. These small branch banks were often built with residential flats on the second floor.” A number of additional features and characteristics relating to the district also contribute to its character and integrity as a significant Victorian neighbourhood is what is now Downtown Toronto:

  • Carlton Street (originally “Carleton”) was one of the first streets in Toronto to feature a streetcar line, horse-drawn of course, in the 1860s. Modern streetcars still roll along Carlton, carrying Cabbagetowners to and from the downtown;
  • Carlton Street, between Ontario and Parliament Streets, was known in early times as “Doctors’ Row”, for the significant number of doctors and dentists who practised there from their homes. The transom glass over the door at 212 Carlton Street still bears the name “Dr. Forfar”, after the physician who practised there from the 1890s into the 1920s;
  • at least 70 of the properties in the district have been listed by the City of Toronto on its Inventory of Heritage Properties. Some of the buildings bear boval plaques issued in 1984 by the Toronto Historical Board to owners of listed and designated properties to mark the 150th birthday of Toronto. These plaques do not, however, in themselves, provide any protection to the buildings;
  • the handsome commercial/residential five-unit row at 242-250 Carlton Street has retained almost all of its attractive brick and stone features. #242 and 244 have retained almost intact their original shop fronts;
  • the district features a number of buildings constructed from the 1870s to the 1890s by well- known builders of the period: Thomas Bryce, Charles Chamberlin, Charles Rundle and John Bowden, the latter of whom was responsible for filing the plan of subdivision for the central part of Cabbagetown, filed in the 1850s;
  • there are a number of examples of handsome attached rows of identical houses, creating in each case the picturesque and striking alteration of alternative vertical dark and light strips when illuminated at certain times of the day by the sun;
  • the Second Empire houses at 269-271 Wellesley Street boast a particularly attractive air of heavy wooden round-headed doors typical of the late 1870s in which the buildings were constructed;

Cabbagetown South HCD[edit]

Cabbagetown South HCD (By-law 887-2005 adopted by City Council on October 28, 2005). The district’s boundary consists of Carlton Street and the Riverdale Park on the north, Bayview Avenue on the east, Gerrard Street on the south and the rear of properties fronting on Parliament Street to the west.

Since development in Toronto typically proceeded from south (away from the lake) to the north, many of the Victorian houses in the Cabbagetown South HCD District tend to be somewhat older and smaller than many in parts of Cabbagetown to the north.

While the core north-south streets of Sackville and Sumach extend the full length of Cabbagetown north of Gerrard, many of the houses in the district are built on smaller streets, with the houses packed very closely together or in long attached rows, echoing the tightly packed streets of houses which existed in the original Cabbagetown, to the south. The front yards generally contain small lawn areas and planting beds, surrounding a walkway through one side of the lot leading to a porch, upon which opens the front door.

An unusual feature for Cabbagetown is the fact that many of the 1920s houses south of Spruce Street have narrow driveways, testifying to the width of the automobiles which were available during that period. As with other parts of Cabbagetown, the area is well served with back lanes, excellent for strolling, and for peeping at the extensive renovations made to the rear of many of the homes.

To the east boundary of the district is the picturesque Riverdale Park West, with a grand view across the Don flats and River, to Riverdale Park East and the old (1865) Don Jail, on the other side. The historic Spruce Court Housing Development, constructed by the Toronto Housing Company (1913–1926), not only incorporates a beautiful and picturesque residential style of architecture, designed by one of the great architects of the day, Eden Smith, but also features the English “Garden City” ideal, with visual and physical access from the housing units to well-kept gardens and large grassy courtyards.

The district contains some more modern institutional uses, such as Spruce Court School, and large multi-residential and other buildings on the north side of Gerrard Street East between Sackville and Parliament. These areas involve significant open space around buildings which, if developed further in the future, will require careful consideration of how any new development could best contribute to the heritage characteristics of the rest of the district, through consistency and compatibility with the neighbourhood, in accordance with the Heritage Conservation Principles and Guidelines contained in this Plan.

Of Particular Importance in Cabbagetown South: The Toronto General Hospital. By far the most important building influencing the development of the district was the Toronto General Hospital, actually a collection of buildings. The main hospital building, designed by William Hay, architect, was a huge four-storey “castle” with five imposing towers along its 175-foot façade. The central tower was 100 feet high.

That building stood in the middle of the block on the north side of Gerrard Street East between Sackville Street and Sumach Street, south of Spruce Street, from 1856 until its destruction in 1922. Associated with the hospital were: a fever hospital; the Mercer Eye and Ear Infirmary; a dispensary for women; the Burnside Lying-In Hospital for maternity cases; a resort for convalescence patients; a mortuary; and, by 1881, a school of nursing, only the second in Canada.

Also associated with the hospital were two significant buildings, which stand to this day, the Ontario Medical Hospital for Women, at 289 Sumach Street, erected in 1890, and the Trinity College Medical School, at 41 Spruce Street, built in 1871. Both of these buildings are now in residential use.

The former presence of the hospital site accounts for the fact that the houses on the east side of Sackville Street, all of the houses on both Gifford Street and Nasmith Avenue, which were laid out south of Spruce after the hospital was gone, and those on the west side of Sumach Street, are representative of Toronto architecture of the 1920s, unlike the predominantly Victorian structures to be seen in the rest of Cabbagetown.

Most of the small houses on Spruce Street, Sackville Street, Sumach Street, Geneva Avenue and Sword Street have been there since at least 1890, representing the small, builder-constructed balloon frame Victorian residential architecture of the 1870s and 1880s.

As in the case of the other Heritage Conservation Districts of Cabbagetown, the district boasts a number of properties designated individually under the Ontario Heritage Act: 434 Gerrard Street East (Gerrard Street Pharmacy, later the Avion Hotel) (1890–91); 436-448 Gerrard Street East (1885-8); 377 Sackville Street (a unique house, constructed by Bryce & Hagon for Francis Shields) (1876); 35 Spruce Street (Charles MacKay House) (1860-1); 41 Spruce Street (Trinity College Medical School) (1871); 54 Spruce Street (1882); 56 Spruce Street (1872); 74-84 Spruce Street (Spruce Court by Eden Smith) (1913); Mathers & Hallenby (1926); 119- 133 Spruce Street (Thomas Brice, Builder) (1887); 289 Sumach Street (Ontario Women’s Medical College) (1890).

The area features a number of “worker’s cottages”, relatively small centre-hall plan buildings, typically with on window on each side of a central door surmounted by a steep peaked gable. The area features a few handsome Romanesque buildings (the Avion Hotel, Women’s Medical College, 58 and 60 Spruce); mansard Second Empire, both large-scale (373-377 Sackville Street) and small-scale (119-133 Spruce Street); a bit of late-flowering Georgian (35 Spruce Street); and a large number of small Gothic vernacular Victorian houses, many featuring polychromatic brickwork.

The interplay between architecture and the various landscape elements of the district is important to its overall character. Many blocks have almost unbroken rows of closely spaced, late 19th century/early 20th century residential buildings of a similar height and fenestration set back in a consistent manner with small front yards. Street trees in the public boulevard provide a canopy over sidewalks and roads. Although the area consists principally of heritage buildings, more recent architecture is also represented in the district, as well as a number of significantly renovated buildings that display a mixture of old and new building approaches and styles. Some, unfortunately, display insensitivity to the predominant character of the area. Of interest, however, are the two “new” streets in the area, Gifford Street and Nasmith Avenue, both laid out, south of Spruce Street, following the removal of the Toronto General Hospital buildings, in the 1920s.

The small, comfortable houses on these streets, while maintaining the small-scale and high density approach of their Victorian predecessors, reflect a number of characteristics, which differentiate these new homes from Cabbagetown houses that had gone up before:

  • the trend away from flamboyance and ornamentation;
  • utilization of new, improved building materials, sanitary conveniences, fire and safety measures and other developments of their period;
  • no-nonsense practicality, reflected by the functional and frank use of materials;
  • platform frame, as opposed to balloon frame, construction, solid brick walls and low ceilings;
  • characteristic horizontal orientation of house facades, wide dormers, rectangles, heavy porches supported by solid round columns; and
  • spatial changes due to driveways for motor vehicles.

While the houses on Gifford and Nasmith represent an historical departure from previous Victorian architecture in other parts of Cabbagetown, that makes them no less interesting from an architectural and social point of view, nor does it depart from the charm and comfort of the houses individually, representative of their period, or from the pleasant, welcoming and low scale street-life amenities which the streets reflect.

Cabbagetown-Southwest District (HCD under review)[edit]

Cabbagetown-Parliament District (proposed HCD)[edit]

The district’s proposed boundaries will include the commercial heart of Cabbagetown, that would include the buildings fronting on Parliament Street from Wellesley Street on the north to Gerrard Street on the south.

There are 24 properties listed on the city’s Inventory of Heritage Properties and approximately 150 addresses for this area.


Lord Dufferin Junior and Senior Public School is located south of Gerrard Street. It was completely renovated and expanded in 1999 to serve students throughout the area.

Nelson Mandela Park Public School is located on Shuter Street, south of Regent Park, with a broad multicultural mix of students from the area.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School (junior kindergarten to grade 8) was originally located on Winchester Street in Cabbagetown. 100+ years later, the school occupies modern facilities at 444 Sherbourne Street, just south of Wellesley Street, on the western edge of the neighbourhood. In 2005, St. Martin’s school on Salisbury Street in Cabbagetown was closed and the students and staff became part of the Our Lady of Lourdes school community. Presently, St. Martin now serves as an Alternative Pupil Placement for Limited Expelled Students (A.P.P.L.E.) program run through Monsignor Fraser College for students who are on a limited expulsion.

Rose Avenue Public School is located in the centre of the St. Jamestown apartment complex, south of Bloor Street, north of Wellesley Street and west of Parliament Street.

Winchester Junior & Senior Public School is a public elementary and middle school on Prospect St. The school provides French Immersion and has a Toddler Learning Centre, and it partners in an after school program with the Cabbagetown Youth Centre. This school is over 125 years old. Winchester School Community Garden is home to the Green Thumbs Growing Kids’ flagship school food garden. The school is bordered by Rose Avenue to the east and Winchester St. to the south.

Community associations[edit]

The residents of Aberdeen Avenue, named for Lord Aberdeen and his wife Lady Ishbel Aberdeen, established an active community association in 2006, the Aberdeen Avenue Residents' Group (AARG) to address issues unique to this Cabbagetown location.[citation needed]

Established in 1982, the Cabbagetown Business Improvement Area is a not-for-profit organization with the goal of making the Cabbagetown Area a desirable place to live, work, shop and play. The Cabbagetown BIA runs the annual Cabbagetown Festival as one of its many projects including smaller free community-focused events. It also works with local businesses and other community groups to promote and share what each are doing. Together we all want to grow and celebrate Cabbagetown and its rich history and culture in the heart of Toronto.

The Cabbagetown Heritage Conservation Districts Advisory Committee was formed in 2000 to provide local support and assistance to the City of Toronto’s Heritage Preservation Services in preserving Cabbagetown’s architectural heritage. The Committee began as a spinoff from the Cabbagetown Preservation Association to get municipal recognition of the unique historic character of the area. Under the dedicated guidance of Peggy Kurtin, the volunteer committee actively researched and documented Cabbagetown’s historically and architecturally significant homes, buildings and landscapes from 1995 until her passing in 2009. The first official heritage status was achieved for the area around Metcalfe Street in 2004. Since then, all of Cabbagetown east of Parliament has received HCD status, along with the neighbourhood north from Carlton to Wellesley. The Committee is now working on getting over 600 residential and commercial properties in the rest of Cabbagetown south of Carlton protected by heritage legislation. The Committee’s members are Cabbagetown residents who serve in a voluntary capacity. In addition, the Committee has recruited four prominent Toronto architects to provide expert guidance and to be a resource for the community. While the committee is now an independent volunteer board, we value the ongoing expertise and financial support provided by the Cabbagetown Preservation Association.

Established in 2004, the Cabbagetown/Regent Park Community Museum is a not-for-profit organization that strives to actively collect, preserve and display the history of Cabbagetown and Regent Park using oral histories, artifacts, photographs and printed material.[15]

The area between Sherbourne St. and Parliament St., from Shuter St. to Carlton St. has its own residents' association, Cabbagetown South Association. Cabbagetown South Association was formed in 2002 from the amalgamation of Central Cabbagetown Residents Association (CENTRA), which previously represented the part of Cabbagetown South that is north of Gerrard Street E., and the Seaton Ontario Berkeley Residents Association (SOBRA), which previously represented those streets south of Gerrard Street E.[citation needed]

The Don Vale Cabbagetown Residents Association (DVCRA) was originally established in 1967, according to its website. It states its purpose to be protecting and improving the general quality of life and character of the community. The association defines its western boundary as Parliament Street.[citation needed]


The (Annual) Cabbagetown Festival is held on the second weekend in September each year. Various individual events during the week lead up to the two-day Festival on the weekend. The highlight of the Festival is a parade on Saturday morning, which usually starts at 10:00 a.m. The route can vary from year-to-year, but the parade usually includes bands, floats and local politicians. Parliament Street between Wellesley Street East and Carlton Street is closed to traffic for the week-end. An arts and crafts fair occurs all weekend in Riverdale Park West, adjacent to Riverdale Farm. Vendors come from far afield for this event. Organization of the festival is coordinated by the Cabbagetown Business Improvement Area ( The festival also includes a 'Tour of Homes' organized by the Cabbagetown Preservation Association. Each year several different local homes are opened to a paying public.

The annual Cabbagetown Short Film & Video Festival showcases short films from around the world and is held during the Cabbagetown Festival each year. Actress, producer and writer Gina Dineen founded the Short Film & Video Festival in 1992. Since then it has grown into an international juried screening, showcasing many Canadian filmmakers and genres including animation, documentary, dramatic narrative, comedy, experimental and music. None of the productions run longer than 15 minutes.

A heritage-designated renovated church, the Winchester Street Theatre, at 80 Winchester Street, houses both Toronto Dance Theatre and The School of Toronto Dance Theatre. Close by at 509 Parliament Street, the Danny Grossman Dance Company, the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, The School of the Canadian Children's Dance Theatre and TILT Sound + Motion share a large renovated building that housed some of the CBC's radio studios until the early 1990s. These venues host both dance and theatre performances at various times during the year.

The first Sunday in May sees the annual Forsythia festival organized by the Cabbagetown Residents Association. The festival includes a parade from Riverdale Park West to Wellesley Park, where games and family entertainment are held. Local resident, storyteller and entertainer Tony Brady (1935–1991) founded the Forsythia Festival in 1971 and participated each year in character as his alter ego, Briget The Clown.[citation needed]

Books about Cabbagetown[edit]

Housing in Cabbagetown
  • Cabbagetown Store, J.V. McAree (short stories)
    • Ryerson Press (1953) (113 pages)
  • Working People: Life in a downtown city neighbourhood, James Lorimer & Myfanwy Phillips
  • Cabbagetown, Hugh Garner (novel)
  • Cabbagetown: The story of a Victorian neighbourhood, Penina Coopersmith
  • Cabbagetown Remembered, George H. Rust-D'Eye
  • Cabbagetown in Pictures, Colleen Kelly
  • Touring Old Cabbagetown
  • The Banker of Cabbagetown, Eric S. Rosen
  • Images of Cabbagetown Photography by James Wiley
  • The Knot, Tim Wynne-Jones (novel)
  • The Intruders : A Novel, Hugh Garner
  • Cabbagetown Diary : A Documentary, (novel) Juan Butler

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "[1]" Toronto Neighborhoods List
  2. ^ "Don Vale House" Lost Rivers
  3. ^ Charles Sauriol Remembering the Don: a rare record of earlier times within the Don River Valley. Dundurn Press Ltd., 1981
  4. ^ Careless, J. M. S.. "Emergence of Cabbagetown in Victorian Toronto." Careless at work selected Canadian historical studies. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1990. 309-315. Print.
  5. ^ Coreilli, Rae. "Cabbages on the Front Lawn, that was Toronto in 1900." Toronto Star. February 15, 1964. p. 1
  6. ^ a b Fumia, Dureen. "Divides, High Rise and Boundaries: A Study of Toronto's Downtown East Side Neighbourhood", Ethnologies 32.0 2010. Retrieved on 14 December 2014
  7. ^ Darrell Kent
  8. ^ Lavigne, Yves (November 17, 1983). "The Globe and Mail". Labelling the neighborhood. 
  9. ^ "Labelling the neighborhood." Yves Lavigne. The Globe and Mail. Nov 17, 1983. pg. CL.5
  10. ^ Safety Audit Report Card –Gerrard Street East and Parliament Street – Ward 27; Audit conducted on 29 January 2008
  11. ^ Gains, Larry (1976) The Impossible Dream, Leisure Publications Ltd, 14 Fleet Street, London EC4
  12. ^ "Opening up the Tombs". Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Neighbourhood Profiles". City of Toronto. Retrieved 23 May 2018. 
  15. ^

External links[edit]