Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Importance of Yonge Street to Toronto

Yonge Street is often referred to as the ‘spine’ or ‘artery’ of Toronto, so you can only imagine why we chose to build there. Throughout history it has been a pivotal space in the city for development and events and it has been amazing to witness the transformation - over the last few years anyway. Now’s the time to take a little trip down memory lane and share with you just how important Yonge Street has been to our city over the course of, well, basically its entire existence.

The street was built by the founder of Toronto, John Graves Simcoe, about a year after he actually founded the city in 1793. The Toronto we know now was actually first called York. Yonge Street’s original purpose was to act as a route for military and commercial transport. Initially, the road didn’t extend past Bloor Street because the ground just south of there wasn’t deemed suitable for a major road. We know now that that wouldn’t last for long.

Flash forward to the 1950s and Toronto’s first subway line was completed along Yonge Street. It was then continuously extended over the next few decades. The subway line (of course) still remains today and we even have an indoor connection to College Station from the bottom of our building, through College Park! College Park itself has been a staple on Yonge Street since the 1920s when it was first built to be an Eaton’s store. It was closed down when the Eaton Centre was built in the 1970s and since then has served many functions with retail, restaurants, and the underground connection.

Also in the 1970s, the portion of Yonge Street stretching from Albert Street to Adelaide Street was used to test the first pedestrian-only street in Toronto. People absolutely loved the idea, and funny enough the same idea was brought back to Yonge Street last year with OpenStreetsTO. It was a complete success both times, and would be amazing to see something like this become a more permanent staple in our neighbourhood.

So, what else does Yonge Street bring to our city?

Starting from the southern end, the newly revitalized Union Station is not only a beautiful building but is also Toronto’s main transit hub and an icon of the city. As you move north along Yonge Street you’ll pass Yonge-Dundas Square, whose functionality and versatility speaks for itself as public space, and it also boasts our city’s first ever scramble intersection. A bit farther north is the Hudson’s Bay building, which used to be Simpson’s and is the oldest department store in Canada. Where Yonge and Bloor streets cross is undoubtedly the main crossway of our entire TTC subway system too. On top of all of this, Yonge Street is home to the former Maple Leaf Gardens, Ryerson University, the heart of the Pride Parade, and of course lots of new condo developments.

Let’s just say, we’re happy to call Yonge Street home.

Cover Photo via Rina Pitucci on FlickrAll Other Photos via City of Toronto Archives