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Centerpoint Mall

Centerpoint Mall’s Americanized spelling still a mystery

Mall’s story is representative of North York’s evolution, writes Susan Goldenberg


Before: Robinson Dairy Farm – Toronto Public Library                              Now: Centerpoint Mall by Dan Pearce Metroland

Why is the shopping mall at the southwest corner of Yonge and Steeles spelled Centerpoint, American spelling, rather than Centrepoint, British/Canadian spelling, a sore point with some people? There’s no official explanation but that’s not the original name. Nor has the location always been a mall. Its story is representative of North York’s evolution.

For decades in North York’s early days, it was a dairy farm, symbolic of North York’s primarily agrarian economy. Seeing an opportunity in the sixfold leap in North York’s population from 1950 (62,646) to 1966 (382,792), the McLaughlin Group, an urban and suburban Toronto area developer since the 1940s, turned the property into an enclosed shopping mall that opened in 1966.

It drummed up publicity with a “Name the Centre” (note the “re” spelling) contest which got 18,000 submissions. The winner was Harry Wong, a semi-retired chemical engineer who lived in downtown Toronto, with “Towne and Countrye Square,” appropriate because it was at the crossroads of urban North York and mostly countryside to the north. Wong never explained why he added “e” to “town” and “country.” For glitz? He received $1,000 and a trip for two to Bermuda.

The opening day festivities June 1, 1966 included lucky draws for a diamond ring and three trips for two to Barbados, clowns, and fireworks.

The square promoted itself as “Sophisticated Downtown Shopping in a Country Club Atmosphere” and “Toronto’s Newest and Most Exciting Enclosed Shopping Complex.”

The square’s name change to Centerpoint Mall was made during the 1990 Christmas shopping season as Yonge and Steeles no longer was part town and part country; it was all built up.

“Are we becoming so much Americanized that even subtle spelling differences are to disappear completely?” an annoyed “Willowdale resident” wrote in letters to the editor at the Toronto Star. “It still sends shivers through me to see theatre spelled theater, labour and favour as labor and favor, and NOW THIS!”

Soon Centerpoint Mall will become part of North York’s past as it is scheduled to be demolished and replaced with projects related to the coming extension of the Yonge Street subway north to Steeles.

Susan Goldenberg is a director and membership chair of the North York Historical Society, which preserves North York’s heritage. For further information, visit www.nyhs.ca.