Old Toronto map

Being an immigrant can be an alienating experience: you come to a strange city and you just take it for granted –you’re there but you could be anywhere, the city’s history is a blur, it’s just a place where you sleep, eat, and work, it’s a space that simply is not home.

Making it home is laborious, but fascinating if you’re up to it. I’ve been in Toronto for more than 3.5 years, and I keep discovering corners and stories that make me appreciate it all the better.

Through the wonders of ebay, I got myself an old atlas map of Toronto –from 1898. That makes it 109 years old. I think it’s amazing:

1898 map of Toronto

I’m far from finishing exploring it, but I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve found.

Map - City Hall

I was intrigued by this piece of the map. Where we now have the Old City Hall, the map says it’s the “Site of New C.H. (Courthouse?) & City Hall”. Apparently construction of the now Old City Hall was finished in 1899 – one year after this map was printed.

Old City Hall

But if back then that was the New City Hall, where was the old one? The answer really surprised me, like the murderer in a mystery novel: Why, but if it’s old and yummy St. Lawrence Market!

Map - St Lawrence market

Wikipedia confirms it: “It was established in the early part of the city’s history and (was) home to Toronto’s first permanent city hall and jail house from 1845 to 1899. Designed by Henry Bowler Lane, the first floor was formerly Police Station # 1.”

St Lawrence Market

Why did nobody tell me?!

Two more findings from the map, and I’m gone. First, the corner of my current apartment building (Charles and Balmuto) didn’t exist yet: Charles ran from Yonge eastwards, not to both east and west; it’s continuation from Balmuto westward to Queen’s Park was called Czar St. If you’re around the area, you can now spot that Charles was two different streets, since the line from Czar St. ends a bit to the north of Charles:

Map - Czar St

Finally, of course there was no subway in 1898 Toronto. But there was public transportation. The dotted lines you see in the previous three maps represent horse railroads:

Map - Legend

I feel a bit ignorant, but I don’t think I even knew these things existed:

Stamford Horse Rail

They ran on Yonge, King, Queen, College, and other streets. Great stuff. Back to study the map…

Photo of St. Lawrence Market by SimonP. The horse car picture is not from Toronto, but from Stamford, Connecticut.


About Jorge Aranda

I'm currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the SEGAL and CHISEL labs in the Department of Computer Science of the University of Victoria.
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39 Responses to Old Toronto map

  1. mcyclops says:

    You haven’t seen anything yet!!! Check where is Front Street….. isn’t something missed? Check with a present-day map and tell us what do you find. I will send you a picture as a prize!!!! Tip: Front Street name now seems irrelevant, but in 1899 it MEANT something…

  2. Jorge says:

    I guess you refer to the Gardiner, Queens Quay, and other additions to the waterfront!

    Toronto’s waterfront seems extremely altered from what it was in 1898 –the city is growing into the lake. I may post more pics from the map that illustrate this later.

  3. Alden says:

    Cool Map, it is also interesting to see the streets were the present new city hall stands as well as the Eaton Centre. As I have heard those streets were the poorest streets in the city and look at them now.

  4. Jorge says:

    Thanks Alden! It’s also a bit depressing to look at all those streets south of the (now) Old City Hall, knowing that they’d be completely burnt down six years after.

  5. Rob Campbell says:


    Do you mind if I feature one of the map bits in my blog at http://dumpdiggers.blogspot.com

    I have a mystery set around a dog collar and man named John Clegg who lived at 79 Edwards Avenue. I don’t know exactly when, but I assume it was in the 1880’s.

    Any help would be appreciated.


    • giuliana215 says:

      Hi Rob,
      after many years I believe that I am one of the East Yorkers who live on a small lane way which use to be a street back in the day – I noticed it once on my survey of my house. The house is over 100 years old and many street names have been changed since then. But people remain the same, there are still many dog walkers along this lane way still today. A bit more soul searching and we’ll find out who Mr. John Clegg was. Perhaps he lived in my house?


  6. Jorge says:

    Absolutely, be my guest! And if you need other photos from the map just let me know.

  7. William says:

    May I suggest you visit the City of Toronto archives. They sell at nominal cost, maps and booklets (with pictures) on several of the older areas of the city.


  8. Orange says:

    For more information, you can contact Gunter Gad at ggad@geog.utoronto.ca. He’s a Toronto historical geographer at UofT.

  9. Jorge says:

    Orange, William,
    Thanks for the advice –they’re both excellent pointers.

  10. Lyndsay Moffatt says:

    Hello Jorge and others,
    Thanks for posting the beautiful old map of T.O.
    I found my way here after seeing you remark that David Mitchell (of Black Swan Green) is a genius. I think so too and am constantly trying to find books that take hold of me in the same way.
    Given that you liked BSW and like Toronto history you might well like “Consolation” by Michael Redhill…. I am reading it right now and am loving it.
    I am a Torontonian who has been transplanted to Vancouver for grad school… missing T.O more and more these days.

  11. Jorge says:

    Thanks Lyndsay!

    I’d read about “Consolation” in the Spacing blog, and was unsure about getting a copy. I will now.

    I miss Toronto myself –I’ve spent the summer in Seattle. I’m returning in two weeks, and I really look forward to it. Enjoy Vancouver!

  12. Will says:

    I’m currently doing a project for school, the class is “Historical Toronto” and I’m trying to find some old street names that don’t exist anymore. The area in question is the Cabbagetown and Regent Park neighbourhood. I know this is rather random but your map came up in a google search and it seems as though it would be perfect for solving my problem. If you would be interested in giving a student a hand at all by sending a couple photos of the map please let me know and I’ll give you more specific details on the area I’m looking for.

    Cool map regardless.


  13. Patti says:

    Can anyone help me locate 101 Pembrook Street, Toronto Canada in 1918? My g-grandfather was a meat inspector for the British Goverment according to his 1918 draft registration. Does anyone know if there was a packing house or stock yard in that area?

    Thank you for your help.

    • Bob says:

      Dear Patti,
      It’s November now, don’t know if you are still watching this thread. For some reason I remembered your query when I was at the Toronto Archives. I spent a few minutes to do some research for you.
      1st, there is and was no Pembrook St in Toronto. There was a Pembroke Place that was renamed Huton Place in 1896. There is also Pembroke St, which I believe is what you are looking for, or the closest I can find to your query. In 1917, 101 Pembroke St. belonged to a 55 year man named Thomas Flynn, whose occupation is listed as “traveller” ? I don’t know what ‘traveller’ means in 1917 Toronto, I don’t think it is the same as salesman because it would had said salesman. If Thomas wasn’t your g-grandfather, then perhaps he was an unlisted tenant. Are you sure you have the correct address? As for packing house or stock yard, nothing in the immediate vicinity. Pembroke St. was a residential neighbourhood with a few well to do people. 101 Pembroke for example had an assessed value of $3400. Perhaps further south, closer to the docks. I hope I was a little helpful.

      • Thank you Bob for all the information you were able to give me. My g-grandfathers name was John Wood/s and the address 101 Pembroke St. Toronto Canada was the information given John’s 1918 Draft Registration and it states that we worked for the British Goverment as a British Meat Inspector. If John was a tenant of Thomas Flynn’s, I am wondering if the city directories might be able to give me an idea as to how long he resided at this address. As you can see Bob, I have my work cut out for me but I thank you and Robin for your interest in helping me crack this case.

        Patti Woods Crick

      • Patti Wood/s Crick says:

        Hi Bob,
        It has been some time since we last wrote but I am still working on our families genealogy in Toronto. I was able to fine the 1918 Toronto City Directories but I was wondering is any one might know of the names of packing houses or stock yards for this time peroid in Toronto?

    • Hi Patti

      My name is Robin Burgoyne and I research and write the history of peoples homes for them. At the present time I am researching the history of 103 Pembroke St. for a client. I would be interested in hearing anything that you found out about the street, or even if you can tell me about your grandfather and the house he lived in as it was right next store. I recognized the name Flynn. Anyway if you receive this I would like very much if you got in touch.

      Thanks, Robin

      • Hi Robin and thank you for writing. My great grandfathers name was John Wood/s and according to the 1918 Draft Registration John was living in both Buffalo New York as well as 101 Pembroke, Toronto Canada and was a British Meat Inspector for the British Goverment. John was born in Dundalk Ireland on Jan 5, 1882 and came to Chicago as a small boy and grew up near the Chicago Stockyard. He life has been very interesting and he went on and played professional baseball until he was injured while playing for the Detroit Tigers in 1917. We have been working on our families genealogy for years and it appears that our search has now taken us to Canada. May I ask, do you know if there are city directories for Toronto? If I come across any information on 103 Pembroke St. I will be more than happy to forward it along to you.

  14. Great blog & blog post. Congrats on the map. I featured a part in an assemblage art project.

    I’m on Gloucester, so I walk your neighbourhood frequently. My first nasty fall on ice was on Balmuto after seeing a movie at the Varsity. I noticed the black square on Bloor west of Queens Park. It looks like 273 Bloor W., which is now the Royal Conservatory of Music, but was the old McMaster University site. It was also interesting to see that Bay St. didn’t go north of Wellesley/”St. Albans.”

    Cheers, Ken

  15. David Goreham says:

    Does any body know where Applegrove Avenue is or was family research

  16. Jenny says:

    Just finished reading this site…great stuff. Could someone give me a leg up regarding 303 Huron Street c1936. I have been doing a little look around on Google Image and me thinks that some of the university is now where this home stood. Any help in getting a view of this part of Huron Street c 1936 would be great

    Yours in hope

  17. Jo Oppenheimer says:

    I’ve just begun looking for maps and early photos of my house at 18 Woodfield Road (formerly Morley Avenue). North-South between Queen and Eastern, east of Leslie. The house, a row house of nine units, was built in 1906, on “reclaimed land” (formerly a swamp). An elderly neighbour (near 90) calls it “the boat house”; she claims there were docks on the western, back of the house. I don’t know when the road was renamed; I can’t tell from your map whether it appears on it. Any information is welcome! ~Jo

    • Jorge Aranda says:

      Jo—the spot you’re interested seems to be on the very edge of my map, still swampy and undeveloped. I don’t know where my map is right now, though, since we just moved and everything is boxed, but when I find it I’ll send you a photo of the area.

    • Joanne Doucette says:

      Morley Avenue was renamed in 1923 and became Woodfield Rd. Property values were falling because of the proximity to the sewer plant. Renaming the street was hoped to disassociate the neighbourhood from “the perfumery”.

      Dawson’s Boathouse (later Dawson’s built boats like cabin cruisers), Little’s Boathouse, the Armoried Co., and the Don Rowing Club were at the foot of Woodfield. The Morley Avenue skating rink was there too.

  18. Tim Burden says:

    I don’t know whether anyone can help me. I’m doing some family research and looking for St Alban Street, Toronto – which appears to no longer exist (or has been renamed). If anyone can point me in the ruight direction, I woiuld be very grateful. Thanks

    • Dan says:

      Hi Tim; Your second guess re St. Alban’s being renamed is correct. Ther is a map of Queen’s Park further up the page which shows St. Alban’s St. running east from Queen’s Park to Yonge St.. St. Alban’s is the next street south of St Joseph’s St.

      St. Alban’s St becomes Wellesley St. east of Yonge St., so if you have a modern map just follow Wellesley across Yonge St. and you have the old St. Alban’s St.

  19. Peter Somerville says:

    Hi, I have a big favour to ask. I’m desperately trying to find a street called Tamarac, in the long beach area. Obviously not there any more. I think it might be on your map. It was south, near the lakeshore, around where Long Branch Road is. I see lots of streets with Tree names, but Tamarac is not there. Do you think you could see it on your map. Let me know. Thanks Peter

  20. Peter Somerville says:

    Thanks, I appreciate the fast reply – I’ll just keep hunting! Pete

  21. Gord Browning says:

    I have always been interested in the history of Toronto as that is were my Great grandfather settled in 1874/5. His wife died when my grandfather was about 8 years old so my Grandfather became, I guess you’d say, a street kid. He knew every nook and cranny of the downtown area and when I was a boy took me to them all. He told me that he lived on a street that no longer exists called Severn Lane. It ran west off of Younge St. south of College St. were the old Eatons College Street store used to be. According to him it was a caldesac and was not owned by the City but was owned by the residence of the street. Eatons are suppose to have bought it from the home owners to built the building that is on it now. Do you have a Severn Lane on any of the maps that you have. If so I would realy like to see just that portion of the map to add it to the records I have already documented. I have a great love for history that was sparked by my Grandfather and a great many stories he told me that I have written down/

    • Marcello Linari says:

      Hello Gord, my name is Marcello.
      I just found what you have written and I have a map “City of Toronto Complied from Surveys” made in 1871. I can not find Severn Lane. Message me back if you would like to have a look at it.

      • Gord Browning says:

        Hi Marcello: I would love to have a look at it. Back in those days things wheren’t as regulated as they are now. I was told it was a private street so maybe they didn’t include it because of that. That’s the thing about history ‘more questions than answers’. Thanks Marcello, I’ll look forward to hearing from you. Gord

      • Jorge Aranda says:

        Gord, sorry for the delay. I couldn’t find Severn Lane in my map either. It’s from 1898, so the lane could’ve been built over already, or perhaps it was overlooked by cartographers. Here’s an image of the area as it appears in my map.

  22. Pam Elton says:

    Patti, re City Directories: Google Toronto Directories. You will be able to access about a dozen online at the Toronto Public Library. The first section is alphabetical by street. Later it is by the name of the individual. The street part is really useful, because, apart from being able to work out where the missing streets were, you can also work out where a particular address was located on a long street. Intersecting roads are named, so you can easily locate where exactly your relative lived.

    • Patti Woods Crick says:

      Thank you so much Pam for the information regarding the Toronto City Directories. On the draft registration card of 1918 of John Wood it states that he worked for the British Goverment as a meat inspector. If anyone can send me in a direction on this I would greatly appreciate it.

      Patti Woods Crick

  23. Pingback: a n a c h r o n i s t i c :: Toronto | Temp

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