Find the history (and cool historical images) of your neighbourhood!

January 21, 2015 | Barbara Myrvold

Comments (3)

Toronto has been dubbed a “city of neighbourhoods” and neighbourhoods are of great importance to local residents and organizations, as well as to city planners and service providers.

Interactive MapBut finding local information is often difficult, so Toronto Public Library staff has created an interactive neighbourhood map to assist users in discovering resources in the Library’s collections. 

The city has been divided into 107 neighbourhoods, and relevant materials are indexed using the area's assigned name within specific geographic boundaries. No other library or archive provides this level of indexing.  

We include historical pictures, maps and atlases, ephemera (posters, flyers, etc.) and e-books in the Library’s Digital Archive as well as catalogue records for print books and other formats in our collections.

Links to external sites that library staff recommends are also provided from the map.  Let us know about additional websites for your neighbourhood that you would like us to review. They should have some historical information and preferably be non-commercial.   

Find your neighbourhood from a list (see below), or zoom in on the map, or, if you aren’t sure what neighbourhood you are looking for, type in a specific address, intersection or place name in the dialogue box above the map.

Neighbourhoods Available for Browsing

Beach NeighbourhoodWhen you click within a neighbourhood on the map, a bubble shows alternative names – one person’s “The Beach” is another’s “Beaches”, for example.  Other names are provided including smaller neighbourhoods within the larger unit - Balmy Beach, Beach Triangle and Kew Beach are all part of our “Beach”. Let us know if we’ve missed a name, and we’ll consider adding it.

How neighbourhood names and boundaries were determined

Common usage was the most important criteria for choosing the neighbourhood names but library staff also checked out historic names, and usages by the City of Toronto, resident and ratepayer associations, local institutions such as schools, parks and libraries, and real estate advertisements. 

City of Toronto studies such as neighbourhood profiles and heritage conservation districts helped the Library determine neighbourhood boundaries, but we were also guided by our own collections. The map shows more neighbourhoods in the older areas of the city where the Library has more historical materials, and fewer neighbourhoods in the more recently-developed areas.   

Additions and revisions to the map

The Toronto neighbourhoods map is a work in progress, and we are always adding new digital resources and supplementing or refining the indexing terms to help our users. A few years ago, we added some new names to the interactive map that the Toronto Star and Toronto Life used for their neighbourhood maps. Recently, our cataloguers made sure that the designated heading “Beach (Toronto, Ont.)” was used consistently so that more of the Library’s records could be found.

Weston Search ResultsOften, we focus on digitizing historical materials from our collections to support community celebrations such as the centennial of the incorporation of the town of Leaside in 2013 and the 100th anniversary of the present library in Weston in 2014.

Right: Thumbnails of some results for Weston

This year, we will start adding hundreds of photographs of North York neighbourhoods from a collection that was donated by the North York Historical Society. We will also be digitizing the 1912 fire Insurance plan of Toronto whose plates include detailed maps of some of the city’s newly-established suburbs. We will continue to add catalogue and holdings records for community newspapers in our branch local history collections. 

Of course, each picture, map and newspaper title will be indexed by neighbourhood names!