Toronto’s Lost Villages

Toronto’s Lost Villages by Ron Brown is a new edition from 2020. Two years ago I read the first edition from 1997 and thankfully Brown wrote a completely new book that did not seem as if I was rereading the same material. Landscapes can change in twenty-three years and the update noted what sites were, sadly, no longer around and when they were demolished (many of them falling to the wrecking ball after 1997). What remained the same however was Brown’s attitude towards developers. While I agree with him as I too am a supporter of preservation and heritage designations, it was nonetheless tiring to read over and over his dislike for urban sprawl, shopping malls, doughnut shops and condos which now occupy the land of these former villages.

The reasons for a village’s demise were often the same: a railway station was built in town, bringing a wave of construction and settlers while villages which didn’t have a station died a slow death, or a highway was cut through and obliterated everything in sight. Brown acknowledged that villages that did get a station evolved too, as they were overwhelmed with growth and industry which often swarmed around or otherwise did away with the original buildings. I only encountered one derogatory reference to “Scarberians” whereas in the first edition I read it multiple times. The funniest passage was about Yorkville:

“In 1852, 1,000 petitioners asked for village status, although far fewer than that actually lived there. A nearby cemetery, it is speculated, contributed heavily to the petition.”

While a short book of 213 pages, it nonetheless ended up a boring read as I kept reading the same story about each village’s demise. I enjoyed the new photos however unlike the first edition Brown provided no maps. I used Google Maps to locate noteworthy houses and to examine reconfigured street grids.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *