Toronto Public Library Homepage

This page has been archived and is no longer updated.

« Previous | Main | Next »

Downsview Heritage: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

September 20, 2013 | Diana L. | Comments (1)

On Thursday October 10th, 2013, the North York Community Preservation Panel and the North York Historical Society will be at the Downsview Branch for a special presentation that will highlight different aspects of Downsview's story. A panel of guest speakers will be talking about Downsview's rich historical past, as well as current and future developments.

Wilson Ave. looking east from Keele St., 1955
Wilson Ave. looking east from Keele St., 1955

T.T.C. bus #1904 on Keele St. at Wilson Ave., 1955
T.T.C. bus #1904 on Keele St. at Wilson Ave., 1955

Keele St. looking north from Wandle Ave., 1955
Keele St. looking N from Wandle Ave.

*Images from Toronto Public Library's Digital Archives.


I got a chance to talk to Geoff Kettel, Chair of the North York Community Preservation Panel, about the special upcoming heritage program:


D!ana: Why is it important for people to learn more about Downsview's heritage?

Geoff: Downsview’s history is interesting, many layered, and unique. The Downsview of today is the result of several periods of settlement and shifting demographics starting with the Aboriginals, then the settler farmers, the railway and industrial development, military air base and aircraft production, and post-war Modern development including the York University campus.  Downsview is now in a growth phase again with the condos and other developments at Sheppard and Dufferin on the edge of Parc Downsview Park.



Downsview United Church, 1954
Downsview United Church, 1954
D: What do you find most fascinating about Downsview's history?

G: There is a variety of buildings and landscapes in Downsview reflecting the layering of many different backgrounds and influences. Take places of worship, both located on Keele Street, for example. The Downsview United Church was built in 1870 to serve the farming and village communities of the time; the Bar Am Synagogue (Ramses  Shriners Temple) built in the 1960s, appealed to recent Jewish immigrants who wanted to make a new life for their conservative community away from the inner city. 



D: What buildings in Downsview have been declared as “heritage”?

G: There are 3 buildings in Downsview that are listed in the city’s Inventory of Heritage Properties: Downsview United Church at Keele and Wilson (1870), George Jackson House also on Keele (1885), and North Park Nursing Home at 450 Rustic Road. In addition there are several buildings on the York University campus that are listed [Click here for a PDF listing of the buildings]. There are also several buildings at Parc Downsview Park such as 65 Carl Hall Road which was formerly occupied by the Canadian Air and Space Museum that are in need of protection.


D: What are some of the interesting facts about Downsview?

G: Did you know...

  • John Perkins Bull’s Farm was called Downs View – it was located on the highest point in the area.
  • Early settlers depended on farming for their livelihood.  They planted potatoes, turnips, and Indian corn.     
  • There were 3 saw mills in the area.  As an example, John Boake bought and received a contract for sawing lumber for the New Plank Road, in 1854.
  • The first (log) school in Downsview, was built in 1817 on the south-east corner of Lawrence & Bathurst. It was replaced in 1864 by a solid brick one-room building at a cost of $655.00.
  • In the 1950s Downsview's only inn was a brick tavern run by Robert Hiscocks,
    north of Weston, on the corner of Albion and Weston Roads, east of the bridge
    over the Humber.
  • Downsview was the site of production of the Mosquito aircraft during the second world war.
  • Downsview was NOT where the AVRO Arrow was built (it was built in Malton) but the Canadian Air and Space Museum at 65 Carl Hall Road was the home of the full scale metal replica.
    *UPDATE: An e-newsletter from the Canadian Air & Space Museum announced that the AVRO Arrow would be moved from Downsview back to its birthplace in Malton on September 21/22, 2013.

    For more information about the AVRO Arrow, check out:

    For more information about the move, check out:

Thank you Geoff for the sneak preview to the special Downsview Heritage program!


If you're looking for some interesting resources with Downsview-related information:

North York Modernist Architecture

Case Downsview

Pioneering in North York: a history of the borough -

Downsview Lands Community Voice Association -


Keele & Wilson
Can you guess the location of this photo? Click to find out!

Don't forget to check out Toronto Public Library's Digital Archives for some historical images of the Downsview area -


Come to the Downsview Heritage: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow program and learn more interesting facts about the Downsview area! 

Join us for light refreshments at 6:30 pm and get a chance to chat with the speakers before and after the presentation.  

For more information about the speakers and to register for the program, please contact the Downsview Branch at 416-395-5720 or visit the branch at 2793 Keele Street.   





 Did you live in the Downsview area?

Do you have memories of growing up, going to school or doing something fun in the Downsview area?

Do you currently live in the Downsview area?

Then you may be interested in our upcoming Culture Days @ the Library program - Your Story! Learn about creating a video of your story + memories with Anna-Louise from Tree of Life video!

Join us on Saturday September 28th at 1:00 pm to learn how you can put your stories and memories into videos to share with friends and family!

Please call the branch at 416-395-5720 for more information and to register.




Welcome to the York Woods District Libraries' blog. Our purpose is to provide information about Library programs and services, community news, and special events in the Black Creek, Downsview and Jane-Finch neighbourhoods. You are invited to be a part of our interactive space where you can post and respond to comments. Visit the blog often, or subscribe to the RSS feature for automatic updates. Follow the link for an explanation of RSS feeds and how to subscribe.