Moving Torontonians: How Public Transport Built Davisville
As 2018 comes to a close and we look forward to some exciting developments in the Midtown Toronto area in 2019 and beyond, it seems appropriate to look back and take a look at how developments in public transportation have shaped our local history for over 200 years.
While developing means to efficiently move people in cities has always influenced how these cities evolve and grow, this is especially true in the Davisville neighbourhood. Since the late 1800s, the area has been a major hub for stagecoaches, trains, streetcars, subways, and soon, light rail. Each of the major developments in Davisville's establishment and growth are tied to the development of new and modern means of transportation.
Yonge Street has always been one of Toronto's major thoroughfares, since the early days of the city when Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe had the land cleared around what was originally used as a trail by Huron Indigenous. The original motivation was that the more established route would act as a military trail against potential American invasion. Its original completion date was February 16, 1796, when Yonge Street connected Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe.
Once communities including Davisville began to grow in the 1800s, stagecoaches would make stops at hotels along Yonge Street from Downtown Toronto all the way to Richmond Hill, carrying both passengers as well as mail. In 1847, the 25 miles from Lake Simcoe to Toronto took 6-7 hours. Many hotels and establishments were constructed in order to serve those travelling along the route, and by 1850 there were around 40 between Yorkville and Richmond Hill. It's very likely that the Paul Pry Hotel which was located at Yonge and Davisville was a regular stop on this route.
In 1890, construction on the Belt Line Railway began in order to connect the downtown with suburban communities including Davisville, but “would only run from 1892-1894, falling victim to both the 1893 depression and the faster, more direct Toronto Street Railway.” Originally meant for commuters, it ended up being most popular as a middle class leisure option or for real estate brokers looking to show off new areas of the city - so many of the areas along the railway became popular for additional development.
In 1921, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) took over operation of the Yonge Street streetcar from the Toronto Railway, and the stagecoaches that ran north of Bloor were replaced with the now electrified Yonge Streetcar.
Of course, one of the biggest moments in the history of Toronto's public transportation was the development and opening of the Yonge Subway line which opened in 1954. Originally only running from Union Station up to Eglinton Station, it was Davisville station that became home to the TTC's head office when it opened in 1958. At the same time, this is when many of the apartment buildings went up on Davisville, Balliol and Merton.
Up next - the continued construction and the eventual opening of the Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit (LRT). Set to open in 2021, the LRT will give Midtown residents access and faster connections to the west and east ends of the city like never before across 25 stations and stops.
Without the continued evolution of public transit through the years, Davisville would not have developed into the community within the city that it is today.