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Remembering the Abolition of the Toll Gates of York County: December 31: Snapshots in History

December 31, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)

On December 31 and beyond, take a moment to delve back into history to the time when the toll gates were abolished in York County (including the Toronto Area) on December 31, 1896. Road tolls began in the town of York (Toronto’s forerunner) in 1820 as a means to build and maintain passable roads. York’s first tollhouse was constructed at the corner of Yonge and King Streets which in those days was a crossroads in the countryside.

Robert R. Bonis, author of The History of Scarborough (1968), wrote on page 267 that York citizens had been clamouring for road improvements for some time and made their feelings known to members of the Legislative Assembly. A resolution was introduced into the Assembly on February 2, 1833 that called for the issuance of debentures in the amount of £10,000 Pounds to provide for road improvements on the three approaches to the Town of York using the process of Scottish engineer John Loudon McAdam (i.e. “macadamizing”). An Act encompassing the principles of the resolution was passed by the Assembly on February 8, 1833 with the purpose of raising £10,000 Pounds on the credit of collecting tolls. Five prominent citizens, Jesse Ketchum, Charles Thompson, George Denison, D’Arcy Boulton Jr. and Charles Coxwell Small, were appointed as trustees overseeing the project and erecting the toll gates. Yonge Street was allocated £4,000, Kingston Road was assigned £2,000 and Dundas Street was to receive £1,500, while the remaining £2,500 was to be assigned as needed at the discretion of the project’s trustees.

The project ran into some problems. No one was buying debentures so the trustees purchased bonds to secure the raising of funds to continue with the project. The macadamizing process turned out to be very expensive for constructing roads so cost-cutting was implemented by switching to the less expensive planking process. The trustees of the Kingston Road project authorized the laying of  a “sixteen-foot-wide plankway of stout four-inch pine planks, spiked to sleepers, out along the Kingston Road for eighteen miles from Toronto to the Rouge Hill, and in 1839 set up toll gates there, at Washington Church and at Norway Village…” (Bonis, page 268). However, over time, repairs required to maintain a plank roadway would increase the cost above that of the macadamized alternative.

In spite of the costs, there were benefits to the local economy. Traffic increased on the Scarborough roadways with farmers taking their produce to market; consequently, this resulted in taverns and inns springing up along the route, allowing weary travellers to break up their journey (Bonis, pages 268-269).

Adam Bunch, writing in Spacing in 2013, noted that many people in the York/Toronto area were opposed to paying tolls and tried to avoid them by speeding past toll gates. One lumber dealer, tired of paying tolls in order to make deliveries to the British army garrison at Fort York, bought a land plot adjacent to the toll gate and had his men build a road through roads to bypass the toll gate. That road, Rebecca Street, still exists to this day in the Ossington-Queen area in downtown Toronto.

Chris Bateman, writing on BlogTO in 2013, noted that in the 1800s, toll booths with large gates blocking the roadway were placed at all major routes in/out of York/Toronto, such as Broadview and Danforth, Dundas and Bloor, Queen and Bathurst, and King and Yonge. Not all drivers of delivery wagons had the option of building their own roadway to deliver goods to Fort York or the St. Lawrence Market so they had to deal with the toll gates and pay the tolls. Unfortunately, the tolls could vary by route taken, the type of load being delivered, the amount being delivered on the wagon and the reason for passage. However, exemptions were made for military vehicles, those travelling to church on Sundays and for funeral processions.

Sometimes, those in opposition to toll payment would take matters into their own hands, including an extreme example in 1895 where someone burned down the wooden toll gates (only to see the City of Toronto propose their replacement by fire-proof iron gates) during the time when York County was considering the abolition of toll gates altogether.

Toll gates and toll roads also had to deal with competition from the railways as Harvey Overton Currell pointed out in The Mimico Story on page 78. An 1850 scandal over the sale of the Lake Shore and other main roads in the Toronto district to a private company did not help the public perception towards the toll road system.

Some of those interested in the local history aspect of toll gates might ask if there are any enduring reminders from this earlier time period. Chris Bateman reminded us that the original Tollgate #3 at Bathurst and Davenport was saved from destruction in 1993 and relocated nearby to become the Tollkeeper’s Cottage museum in Tollkeeper’s Park. David Wencer, writing in 2010 about “The Hidden Etobicoke Village of Claireville”, highlighted the continuing existence of 2095 Codlin Crescent, which was believed to have been a tollhouse on the old Albion Plank Road.

Please enjoy exploring some of the resources available through Toronto Public Library collections, including digitized images of items available at the Baldwin Collection at the Toronto Reference Library. Below are some examples:


Toll Gate, Dundas Street west, north side, at St. Clair Avenue West, showing toll house, Toronto, Ont. b3-27a

Toll Gate, Dundas Street west, north side, at St. Clair Avenue West, showing toll house, Toronto, Ont., circa 1896. (Credit: Toronto Reference Library, Baldwin Collection, B-3-27a)


Toll Gate, Yonge St., n. of Marlborough Ave. circa 1870 pictures-r-5436

Toll Gate, Yonge St., n. of Marlborough Ave., 1870? (Credit: Toronto Reference Library, Baldwin Collection, S 14-7)


Upper Yorkville toll-gate weigh scales 1875tollgatevs

Upper Yorkville toll-gate weigh scales (billhead), 1875. (Credit: Toronto Reference Library, Baldwin Collection, 1875. Toll-Gate. VS)


Toll Gate, Dundas St. W., n. side, between Sheridan & Brock Aves. (Brockton toll gate) John Wesley Cotton circa 185- pictures-r-5832

Toll Gate, Dundas St. W., n. side, between Sheridan & Brock Aves. (Brockton toll gate), 185-?. Artist: John Wesley Cotton. (Credit: Toronto Reference Library, Baldwin Collection, JRR 932 Cab IV)

Some books in Toronto Public Library collections also provide information on the history of toll gates in the Toronto area. Below is such an example:

A History of Scarborough Robert R Bonis

Available in Book or eBook formats.

The Rouge Toll Gate Kingston Road 1840 Approx page 76 RR Bonis A History of Scarborough

(Source: Robert R. Bonis, A History of Scarborough, 1968, page 76. Illustrator: David I. Adolphus)


The Mimico story

Available in eBook PDF format.

Remembering the December 20-23, 2013 Ice Storm: Snapshots in History

December 28, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)



December is a good time to reflect back upon the 2013 North American Ice Storm that plagued much of central and eastern Canada, parts of the Central Great Plains and the northeastern United States from December 20-23, 2013 with large amounts of freezing rain and snow that damaged electrical power transmission capability as well as much of the tree canopy. In Ontario, over 600,000 customers were without electrical power at the height of the storm. In the case of Toronto, over 300,000 Toronto Hydro customers were lacking electrical power or heat at the storm’s zenith.  The City of Toronto responded with temporary community reception centres as well as Toronto Police Service facility community warming centres to offer people without electricity and heat a place at which to eat and sleep. By December 24, 2013, almost 70,000 Toronto Hydro customers were still without electrical power will 1,000 people spending Christmas Eve 2013 in the warming centres. Crews from Hydro One, Manitoba Hydro, and other electrical utilities assisted Toronto Hydro crews in connecting up the remaining 6,000 customers still without electrical power on December 29, 2013. Regrettably, at least 27 deaths were as a result of the storm, particularly from carbon monoxide poisoning in enclosed and not well ventilated areas as people attempted to keep warm and cook with gas generators and charcoal stoves.

When looking back to remember the ice storm of 2013, consider the following title for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Ice storm, Ontario 2013 the beauty, the devastation, the aftermath


This book visually captures the effects of a devastating ice storm that brought power outages to central and eastern Ontario, parts of southern Québec, and New Brunswick. 40% of power transmission lines in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) were affected on account of the 2013 ice storm, while more than 20% of the City of Toronto’s tree canopy was destroyed. Transportation chaos reigned with the airlines, on trains, on the roads, and with public transit. A new challenge emerged in the aftermath with the cost and logistics of the storm clean-up and repair.  


ICESTORM1 Photograph by Shelley Savor December 2013

(A portion of the downed tree canopy somewhere in Toronto, December 2013 – Photograph and Copyright © by Shelley Savor – Permission was given to use this photograph.)


Let us not forgot about the North American ice storm of January 1998 and its devastating effect upon the power grid and people’s lives in eastern Ontario, southern Québec, parts of the Maritimes and the northeastern United States. Consider the following title for comparative purposes from Toronto Public Library collections:


The ice storm an historic record in photographs of January 1998

Up to 100 millimetres of freezing rain fell over five days in sections of eastern Canada and the northeastern United States in early January 1998. Over five million people living in two million homes languished in the cold darkness of winter without power for up to a month in some instances. Various newspapers in eastern Ontario and southern Québec collaborated on producing this book.


Aussi disponible en français comme:


Le grand verglas récit en images de la tempête de janvier 1998

Celebrating the Beaches Branch: December 13: Snapshots in History

December 14, 2016 | John P. | Comments (4)

Excerpt from Toronto Public Library Annual Report 1916

 Excerpt from Toronto Public Library Board Annual Report, 1916

On December 13 and beyond, please take a moment to remember the opening of the original and permanent Beaches Branch of the Toronto Public Library on December 13, 1916. The Toronto Daily Star reported in its “suburban news” section on December 14, 1916 that “(t)he opening of the Beaches branch of the Public Library took place in the auditorium of the building in Kew Gardens. There was a large attendance, the main room…being well filled…” Then-Chief Librarian George H. Locke spoke of how the architecture of the Beaches, High Park and Wychwood Branches (which all opened in 1916) was based on the grammar schools that existed in England during the times of William Shakespeare. All three branches were built with a $50,000 grant from the (Andrew) Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Prior to this permanent location, Toronto Public Library had opened a temporary storefront library at the northeast corner of Hambly Avenue and Queen Street East on February 23, 1914. Initially, some local residents as well as the City of Toronto’s Parks Committee were opposed to having a building on parks property. However, then-Mayor Tommy Church was in a position to lay the cornerstone of the Beaches Branch on October 29, 1915. Eden Smith & Sons was the architectural firm hired for the project.

Beaches Branch was listed on the City of Toronto’s Inventory of Heritage Properties in 1979. In 1980, Stinson Montgomery Sisam Architects directed the renovation and expansion of the branch with its re-opening on September 26, 1980. The 1980 addition to the building was demolished in 2004 in conjunction with the renovation and expansion of the Beaches Branch by Phillip H. Carter and Kingsland + Architects Inc. The branch closed on April 17, 2004, and re-opened on January 20, 2005 with an official re-opening two days later on January 22, 2005. Recent visitors to the Beaches Branch have noticed the one tonne cast bronze owl statue named “Woodsworth”, designed by architect Phillip H. Carter and artisan Ludzer Vandermolen, that was installed near the entrance on July 7, 2005. Heritage Toronto installed a plaque outside of the building in 2006.

You can read a brief 19-page history of the building of Beaches Branch during the 1910-1916 time period written by library service specialist, Barbara Myrvold by clicking here.


Toronto Public Library; Beaches Branch, Queen St. E., s. side, w. of Lee Ave pictures-r-5429

Toronto Public Library; Beaches Branch, Queen St. E., s. side, w. of Lee Ave., 1916 (Photographer: Unknown).

Click here (or on the following image) to view a PDF (portable document format) version of the slide show that was constantly playing during the Beaches Branch Open House on October 22, 2016.

Library service at the Beach 1908-2016


When one visits the branch, please stop by the front desk and view the following collage: Beaches Branch History: Prepared by Toronto Public Library staff for the 2016 Centennial. Produced by Preservation and Digitization Services, Toronto Public Library, 2016.



The Globe and Mail Historical Newspaper Archive

October 28, 2016 | Stacey | Comments (1)


Conducting research into your family history? Writing a research paper on an aspect of Toronto history? Seeking first-hand coverage on major historical events?

Historical newspapers are invaluable sources of information for genealogists, students, and general researchers. Proquest Historical Newspapers: The Globe and Mail features digitized copies of the newspaper dating from 1844 to 2012. Learn more about local history by reading about more than 160 years of life in Toronto. Read articles, editorials, classifieds, check out old advertisements, and view birth, marriage, and death announcements. The paper is searchable from cover to cover.

This resource is a wonderful way to get a sense of what life in Toronto was like during a particular time period, and to gain an understanding of the impact of major events on the city. Or just for fun, find out what was in the news on the day you were born!

And don’t forget that the original newspapers are in the Toronto Reference Library’s Special Collections and also available on microfilm.

For more information, check out this blog post on digitized Toronto newspapers or watch our introductory video tutorial to the Globe and Mail.

Remembering Hurricane Hazel: October 15: Snapshots in History

October 15, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)

On October 15 and beyond, take a moment to reflect upon the destructive power and aftermath of Hurricane Hazel which struck southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area on October 15, 1954 after affecting various Caribbean countries and several American states along the eastern seaboard. Hurricane Hazel merged with a strong cold front over the state of Pennsylvania and turned northwest towards Ontario. Ninety five people in the United States lost their lives as a result of Hurricane Hazel. Consequently, Hurricane Hazel (a category 1 hurricane) hit southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area as an extra-tropical storm, resulting in major flooding from overflowing rivers and streams and an already saturated water table. Eighty-one people in Canada died from Hurricane Hazel, including 35 individuals who lost their lives when much of Raymore Drive and 32 adjacent houses in Etobicoke were swept away. More than 1,800 families in Toronto were left homeless due to Hurricane Hazel out of a total of 4,000 families affected in southern Ontario.

One of the lasting legacies from Hurricane Hazel was the creation of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) in 1957. TRCA used land use planning and regulations to encourage the creation of parkland and dam construction along floodplains to avoid future occurrences of the damage and loss of life that resulted from Hurricane Hazel. For example, the Scouts’ Camp of the Crooked Creek in Scarborough closed down in June 1968 and was taken over by the then-Metropolitan Toronto Conservation Authority, which did not permit people to inhabit flood-prone areas. This area is now the Morningside Park area of the Highland Creek Park.  

Consider the following non-fiction titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Rain tonight a story of Hurricane Hazel

(Children's Non-Fiction Book)

The author was born the evening that Hurricane Hazel struck and parlayed his fascination with the subject into this book. Follow the account of eight-year-old Penny Doucette, her family and their elderly neighbour clinging to a house roof as the neighbouring house floated away on the Humber River.


  Hurricane Hazel Canada's storm of the century        Hurricane Hazel Canada's storm of the century

(Adult Non-Fiction Book)                        (Adult Non-Fiction eBook)

Read a fiftieth anniversary account of the destruction and loss of life wrought by Hurricane Hazel. Eighty-one people died in southern Ontario, including 32 residents of Raymore Drive in Etobicoke. The latter had to contend with an eight-foot rise in the Humber River in the span of one hour, and five volunteer firefighters who drowned attempting to reach motorists trapped in their automobiles.


Hurricane Hazel Betty Kennedy

(Adult Non-Fiction Book)

Broadcaster and journalist Kennedy authored this book to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Hazel striking southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area.

Consider the following novel which encompasses Hurricane Hazel in the storyline:


The carnivore a novel

 (Adult Fiction Book)

 A young police officer named Ray Townes emerges as a hero in saving trapped Humber River residents from the wrath of Hurricane Hazel. Meanwhile, Ray’s wife Mary, a nurse, is wracked with doubts about Ray’s heroism when she meets a disoriented woman near death in the emergency room at the hospital whose recollection of events differ from Ray’s story.

Children wishing to read a story including Hurricane Hazel can try the following easy-to-read title:

Written on the wind / Anne Dublin and Avril Woodend, 2001.

(Children’s Easy-to-Read Book)

This story is set in the 1950s around the time of Hurricane Hazel. Sarah is afraid when her Ouija board forecasts that terrible things are going to happen.

Please visit the TPL History: Hurricane Hazel hits Toronto (October, 1954) page to view additional images about Hurricane Hazel.




Celebrating the Princes' Gates at the CNE: August 30: Snapshots in History

August 30, 2016 | John P. | Comments (1)

Prince of Wales opens the Princes' Gates CNE  Toronto Archives Fonds 1244 Items 1018A

(Credit: Prince of Wales and group at the CNE, 1927 – Toronto Archives –

William James family fonds - Fonds 1244 – Item 1018A)


C.N.E. Prince's Gate Prince of Wales cutting ribbon August 30, 1927 Toronto Archives Globe and Mail fonds Fonds 1266, Item 11384

(Credit: C.N.E., Prince's Gate, Prince of Wales cutting ribbon, August 30, 1927

– Toronto Archives – Globe and Mail fonds - Fonds 1266, Item 11384)


C.N.E., Prince's Gate Prince George and Sam Harris talking August 30, 1927 Toronto Archives Globe and Mail fonds Fonds 1266, Item 11385

(Credit: C.N.E., Prince's Gate, Prince George and Sam Harris talking, August 30, 1927

– Toronto Archives – Globe and Mail fonds - Fonds 1266, Item 11385)


On August 30 and beyond, take a moment to celebrate the Princes’ Gates (not the Princess Gates to which they have been sometimes erroneously referred) at Exhibition Place on the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) grounds. Originally constructed to celebrate Canada’s 60th anniversary of Confederation in 1927, the gates were originally supposed to be named “The Diamond Jubilee of Confederation Gates”. 

In late 1926, the CNE hired architect Alfred H. Chapman to design a new eastern side entrance to the fair grounds. The gates featured a statue of the Winged Victory (similar to the Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace) on top of a central Roman arch of a 91-metre long structure, including nine thin ionic columns on each side representing the then-nine Canadian provinces (prior to Newfoundland and Labrador joining Confederation in 1949). The structure was designed in a Beaux-Art style. Sculptor Charles D. McKenchie had the responsibility of sculpting all the figures on the Princes’ Gates. Two pairs of identical figures are on each side of the Winged Victory – one pair held cornucopias representing a fruitful harvest, while the other pair held beehives symbolizing prosperity and hard work.  Additionally, the sculptures on the pylons also had symbolic significance – the female figure clasping onto a grain sheaf represented agriculture, while the male figure (with his left hand resting on a wheel and a set of drawings covering his knees) represented industry.

To celebrate their 50th anniversary in 1977, the Princes’ Gates were rededicated. In 1987, a badly damaged and weathered Winged Victory was replaced by a replica constructed of an advanced polymer resin. In 1994, poured concrete was used for restorative purposes to recast the other four statues on the main arch of the Princes’ Gates.


Princes' Gates model 1926

Princes’ Gates, Model (Credit: Pringle and Booth, 1926

– Toronto Reference Library, Baldwin Collection)


Why was the Princes’ Gates name adopted? The directors of the Canadian National Exhibition learned that Edward, Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom), and his brother, Prince George (a future Duke of Kent) were going to be visiting Toronto in 1927. Hence, the name was changed and both Princes were present at the official opening of the Princes’ Gates on Tuesday, August 30, 1927. The Prince of Wales used gold scissors to cut the purple ribbon to declare the Princes’ Gates officially open.


Princes' Gates looking west James Victor Salmon 1952

Princes’ Gates, looking west, 1952 (Credit: James Victor Salmon

– Toronto Reference Library, Baldwin Collection)


Consider the following titles for borrowing or examination from Toronto Public Library collections:



Once Upon a Century 100 Year History of the Ex


Once Upon a Century 100 Year History of the Ex

(Additional copies)


Once Upon a Century 100 Year History of the Ex

(Additional copies)



The Ex a picture history of the Canadian National Exhibition



For additional images of the Princes’ Gates, please visit the CNE website. For further background information, please visit articles from, Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, , and .

Remembering Jack Layton on August 22: Snapshots in History

August 23, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)


Memorial at Toronto Necropolis

Credit: Freaktography Urban Exploration and Photography, September 10, 2012


On August 22 and beyond, take a moment to remember the late Hon. John Gilbert “Jack” Layton (Born: July 18, 1950; Died: August 22, 2011), who was Leader of the Official Opposition in Canada’s 41st Parliament, 1st Session; Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada from January 2003 to August 2011; and Member of Parliament for Toronto-Danforth from June 2004 to August 2011 until his death from cancer. Jack Layton was also a former Toronto city councillor and one-time Vice-President (2000) and then President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) (2001). He was a well-known advocate for AIDS research, environmental, housing and homelessness issues, and co-chair and founder of the White Ribbon Campaign on Violence against Women.

Since his election to City Council in 1982, Jack Layton served many years in a wide range of roles including Acting Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Toronto, Chair of the Toronto Board of Health, Chair of the Economic Development and Planning Committee of Metro and Member of the City Executive Committee, Chair of Metropolitan Toronto's Planning and Transportation Committee, the Advisory Committee on Homeless and Socially Isolated Persons, as well as the 3Rs Task Force. Jack Layton ran for Mayor of Toronto in 1991 but lost to June Rowlands.

Prior to being elected to the House of Commons in 2004, Jack Layton had lost elections to Parliament in the 1993 and 1997 federal elections in the Rosedale and Toronto-Danforth constituencies respectively.

On August 22, 2013, the Ontario Federation of Labour honoured Jack Layton’s memory with the gift of a bronze statue depicting Layton on a tandem bicycle that was unveiled at the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal (formerly the Toronto Island Ferry Docks) where people can travel to and from the Toronto Islands.

Jack Layton was only the second federal Leader of the Opposition to die in office. The first was none other than the Right Honourable Sir Wilfrid Laurier (1841-1919) who had previously served as Canada’s first francophone Prime Minister. Only two Canadian Prime Ministers died in office: the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald (1815-1891) and the Right Honourable Sir John S. D. Thompson (1844-1894).

Here is a list of items by/about Jack Layton, available for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Homelessness how to end the national crisis   Homelessness The Making and Unmaking of a Crisis


Speaking out louder ideas that work for Canadians

   Speaking out ideas that work for Canadians

(Also available in Talking Book format restricted to print disabled patrons).


Building the orange wave  the inside story behind the historic rise of Jack Layton and the NDP

(Also available in Talking Book format restricted to print disabled patrons).


Love, hope, optimism an informal portrait of Jack Layton by those who knew him


Jack Layton art in action




Hope is better than fear paying Jack Layton forward  


Speaking out louder ideas that work for Canadians





Feature Film

Remembering the T. Eaton Company on August 20: Snapshots in History

August 20, 2016 | John P. | Comments (2)


Timothy Eaton and his son John Craig Eaton, Eaton's department store, Toronto, Canada, 1899.

Credit: Archives of Ontario, Item Reference Code F 229-308-0-2209



Eaton's store façade, 190 Yonge Street, Toronto, Canada, 1918.

Credit: Archives of Ontario, Item Reference Code F 229-308-0-1700


On August 20 and beyond, take a moment to remember the passing of a Canadian business institution, the T. Eaton Company, which filed for bankruptcy protection on the evening of August 20, 1999, 130 years after it had been founded in 1869 in Toronto by Timothy Eaton (1834-1907). Eaton introduced the then-revolutionary practice of cash sales at one fixed price rather than the traditional credit, bargain and barter method. Many Canadians and Torontonians grew up with the famed Eaton’s catalogue. Introduced in 1884 with a mail-order process to facilitate access by rural and farming communities as well to a wide range of products, the Eaton’s catalogue remained a mainstay of the T. Eaton Company until it was discontinued in 1976.

Upon Timothy Eaton’s death in 1907, Eaton’s third son, John Craig Eaton (1876-1922) became president of the company. Knighted in 1915 for philanthropy, it was under Sir J.C. Eaton’s stewardship that Eaton’s employees on active war service received full pay, as well as establishing Saturday holidays and 5:00 p.m. evening closures at Eaton’s stores, mail-order offices, and factories in 1919. Additionally, the Eaton Boys and Girls clubs offered recreational and educational facilities for Eaton’s employees and their families. Following J.C. Eaton’s death, his cousin Robert Young Eaton assumed the company presidency, followed by J.C. Eaton’s son, John David Eaton, in 1942. Under the presidency of J.D. Eaton, the T. Eaton Company expanded into northern and western Canada as well as introducing a contributory medical insurance plan and a retirement plan for employees. J.D. Eaton personally contributed $50 million to the retirement plan in 1948. During the Second World War, Eaton’s was the first Canadian company to pay employees who joined the armed forces.  Son John Craig Eaton ll became Chairman of the Board of the T. Eaton Company in 1969. Another son, Fredrik Stefan Eaton, served as Chairman, President and CEO of the company from 1977 to 1988.  George Ross Eaton, the youngest son of J.D. Eaton, was the last member of the Eaton family to assume the presidency of the T. Eaton Company until June 1997.

The T. Eaton Company had some ups and downs. It established the Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade in Toronto in 1905 and continued its sponsorship until August 1982, when it pulled out citing increasing costs. Other sponsors came in to sustain the annual parade which continues to this day as the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. The company had resisted attempts of some employees to unionize during the days of Timothy Eaton, during the early 1950s, and even during the mid-1980s when some stores were unionized but an unsuccessful strike resulted in a decertification vote. The company had tried to broaden its position in the Canadian retail universe in the 1970s by establishing a discount chain called Horizon which was closed in 1978. The company also had to deal with stiff competition from the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), Sears Canada, Zellers, and Walmart Canada and the trend towards big-box retailing stores. Eaton’s attempts to compete included hiring HBC’s chief executive officer George Kosich in 1997 as president to develop a higher-end retailing strategy similar to that used at HBC. This initiative resulted in legal wrangling between Eaton’s and HBC. Kosich resigned in 1998 and was replaced by then-chairman Brent Ballantyne. Ballantyne took the company public and shares were sold for the first time in the company’s history with the Eaton family retaining a 51% controlling interest.

Following the declaration of bankruptcy in 1999, Sears Canada purchased Eaton’s corporate assets (name, trademarks, brands etc.) for $50 million and attempted to launch Eaton as a brand name under its auspices. However, the attempted juxtaposition of the then-Sears Canada with its lower prices and merchandise quality with that of the higher-end Eaton’s ultimately ended with the retirement of the Eaton’s name in 2002.

A landmark symbolic of Eaton’s, the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall which opened in 1977, continues to be one of the City of Toronto’s top tourist attractions.

Consider the following titles for borrowing and review from Toronto Public Library collections:




The Eatons The rise and fall of Canada's royal family   Timothy Eaton and the rise of his department store  


Eaton's the trans-Canada store   Eatonians the story of the family behind the family  




Eaton's the trans-Canada store


Eaton's Fall and Winter Catalogue 1920-21

Fall and Winter Catalogue 1920-21


Eaton's Spring and Summer Catalogue 1917

Spring & Summer Catalogue No. 122 1917


Eaton's Spring and Summer Catalogue 1907

Eaton's Spring and Summer Catalogue 1907


Eaton's Fall and Winter Catalogue 1899-1900

Fall and Winter Catalogue No. 43 1899-1900


Spring and Summer Catalogue No. 27 1894

Spring and Summer Catalogue No. 27, 1894




Eaton, T., Company, shop, Yonge St., w. side, between Queen & Albert Sts 1923 Lifting a Seven Ton Motor

Eaton, T., Company, shop, Yonge St., w. side, between Queen & Albert Sts., 1923.

Lifting a Seven-Ton Motor - Credit: Baldwin Collection, Toronto Reference Library


Eaton, T., Company, shop, Yonge St., w. side, between Queen & Albert Sts

Eaton, T., Company, shop, Yonge St., w. side, between Queen & Albert Sts., 1910? 

- Credit: Baldwin Collection, Toronto Reference Library


Eaton, T., Company, Louisa St., n.e. cor. Downey's Lane; Interior Cutting Men's Clothing 1909

Eaton, T., Company, Louisa St., n.e. cor. Downey's Lane; Interior., 1909?

Cutting Men’s Clothing - Credit: Baldwin Collection, Toronto Reference Library


Eaton, T., Company, Louisa St., n.e. cor. Downey's Lane; Interior 1909 Designing and Cutting Room

Eaton, T., Company, Louisa St., n.e. cor. Downey's Lane; Interior, 1909?

Designing and Cutting Room - Credit: Baldwin Collection, Toronto Reference Library


Eaton, T., Co., warehouse, Louisa St. 1910

Eaton, T., Co., warehouse, Louisa St.?, 1910? - Credit: Baldwin Collection, Toronto Reference Library


7 yr. old bay mare, T. Eaton Co., Toronto November 24 1910

7 yr. old bay mare, T. Eaton Co., Toronto, November 24, 1910. 

- Credit: Baldwin Collection, Toronto Reference Library

(Credit: Reginald Symonds Timmis)


Highway 427, looking n. from n. of Bloor St. W., during construction, showing T. Eaton Co. farm at left 1953

Highway 427, looking n. from n. of Bloor St. W., during construction, showing T. Eaton Co. farm at left., 1953 - Credit: Baldwin Collection, Toronto Reference Library

(Credit: James Victor Salmon)

Remembering Toronto’s First Electric Streetcar: August 15: Snapshots in History

August 16, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)

Toronto Railway Company's Map Showing Street Railway Lines 1892

Toronto Railway Company’s Map Showing Street Railway Lines, 1892. Lithograph.


On August 15 and beyond, take a moment to look back into Toronto’s transit history by remembering when Toronto’s first electric streetcar ran on August 15, 1892 (with the last horse streetcar finishing service on August 31, 1894). The Toronto Street Railway (TSR) had received a 30-year franchise from the City of Toronto to deliver horse-drawn street railway service from September 11, 1861 to March 26, 1891. Briefly, the City of Toronto operated the service for an eight-month period after which the Toronto Railway Company (TRC), formed through a partnership of Sir William Mackenzie and James Leveson Ross, embarked on its 30-year franchise which included a move to electrification.



King Street looking east from Yonge Street. Toronto, Canada. 1900


Expansion of the City of Toronto during the 1908-1912 period through the annexation of Dovercourt, Earlscourt, East Toronto and Midway (between Toronto and East Toronto) led to a desired expansion of street railway service. Given the reticence of the privately-owned TRC to expand its service, the City of Toronto established the publicly-owned Toronto Civic Railways (TCR) to offer street railway service in those other areas. With the expiry of the TRC franchise in 1921, the City of Toronto combined the TRC services with those of the TCR to establish the publicly-owned Toronto Transportation Commission (1921-1954) on September 1, 1921, the forerunner of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) (1954- ).



1921 Peter Witt streetcar used by the Toronto Transportation Commission – now on display at the Halton County Radial Railway Museum – Photo Credit: David Arthur, 2007


Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Not a one-horse town 125 years of Toronto and its streetcars


The Witts an affectionate look at Toronto's original red rockets


Mind the doors please the story of Toronto and its streetcars


Toronto trolleys in color



Remembering Union Station’s Twentieth Century Opening: August 6: Snapshots in History

August 6, 2016 | John P. | Comments (2)

On August 6 and beyond, take a moment to remember the twentieth century official opening of Toronto’s Union Station on August 6, 1927 by His Royal Highness, Edward, Prince of Wales (who was to become the ill-fated King Edward VIII in a few short years), with rail traffic beginning to arrive and depart on August 11, 1927. Also accompanying the Prince of Wales was his younger brother, Prince George (who became Duke of Kent in 1934). (View more images from the 1927 Royal Tour, courtesy of the Department of Canadian Heritage.)

Edward Prince of Wales and Prince George at Toronto City Hall August 6 1927

Edward, Prince of Wales and Prince George at Toronto City Hall, August 6, 1927

Credit: City of Toronto Archives – William James Family Fonds


In 1858, the first Union Station was opened by the Grand Trunk Railway in a location just west of the current Union Station train shed. Constructed of wood, Grand Trunk Railway shared the facility with Northern Railway and the Great Western Railway. To keep up with a growing economy and population, Grand Trunk Railway constructed a second Union Station (on the same site as the first one) that opened on July 1, 1873. An expansion program was undertaken in 1892, including construction of a three-track train shed on the south side of the 1873 station. A seven-story office building (made of red brick and Credit Valley stone) was also built on Front Street. A covered passageway or arcade was created to connect the older and newer sections of the station. Although Union Station remained in use throughout its upgrade, the official opening occurred on January 1, 1896.


Union Station 1873-1927, Toronto, Ont. September 1894

Union Station (1873-1927), Toronto, Ont. (September 1894).


In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a variety of railway companies served different Canadian cities and often built their own railway stations. Toronto was no exception but the “great fire” in Toronto’s downtown area on April 19, 1904 (which destroyed 14 acres of the city’s downtown manufacturing and warehousing district) served as a catalyst for the railway companies to pool their resources and build one railway station in downtown Toronto, even though the railway station itself was not damaged. The Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) leased land from the City of Toronto east of the second Union Station (bordered by Bay and York Streets) in 1905. Both the GTR and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) decided to design and build a third Union Station within the context of increased transcontinental railway traffic encouraged by the Government of Canada.

On July 13, 1906, the GTR and the CPR jointly established the Toronto Terminals Railway (TTR) as equal partners, incorporated under the auspices of the Government of Canada, to "construct, provide, maintain and operate at the City of Toronto a union passenger station". The TTR began construction of the third Union Station in 1914 but the onset of the First World War led to shortages in building materials and skilled workers. Consequently, the construction of the twentieth-century Union Station extended into 1920. However, the opening of the third Union Station did not happen for another seven years as the approach track system connecting to the station was designed and built by the TTR. An additional complication ensued with the Grand Truck Railway going bankrupt, only to be nationalized by the Government of Canada and absorbed into Canadian National Railways (CNR) on January 30, 1923 after an arbitration process (involving GTR shareholders and management officials who were opposed to nationalization) ruled on the issue.

When the Prince of Wales officially opened Union Station on August 6, 1927, the building was completed but the track network was shifted on August 10, 1927 from the second Union Station to the third one with rail traffic commencing the following day. 

Union Station was designated a National Historic Site in 1975.


Union Station opened 1927, Front St. W., s. side, betw. Bay & York Sts.

Union Station (opened 1927), Front St. West, south side, between Bay & York Streets.


Union Station opened 1927, Front St. W., s. side, betw. Bay & York Sts. INTERIOR

Union Station (opened 1927), Front St. West, south side, between Bay & York Streets.; INTERIOR.

Consider the following title for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


The Open Gate Toronto Union Station

Book, 1972


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