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Tim Morris, a descendent of the pioneering Toronto family the Cummers, poses for a photo near the corner of Yonge Street and Cummer Avenue in Willowdale in 2017. - Jesse Winter/Toronto Star file photo
Tim Morris, a descendent of the pioneering Toronto family the Cummers, poses for a photo near the corner of Yonge Street and Cummer Avenue in Willowdale in 2017. - Jesse Winter/Toronto Star file photo

What’s With Three Names for One Continuous North York Street

Cummer? Drewry? McNicoll? Susan Goldenberg explains

Three names for effectively a single approximately 30-kilometre, east-west North York-Scarborough street! Drewry, starting west at Bathurst, becomes Cummer at Yonge, then, McNicoll at Leslie, extending east to Tapscott Road in Scarborough.

It’s common for originally separate streets to retain their names despite being continuations, as imposing a uniform name would affect all the addresses. But usually just two different names are involved; three different names — as with Drewry, Cummer and McNicoll — is rare. History and expansion are responsible.

Cummer Avenue, the oldest, is named after Jacob Kummer (anglicized to Cummer). Jacob moved to North York from the United States in 1797 as part of the exodus of Loyalists to Britain after the American Revolution.

He and his wife and family originally fled to the U.S. to escape religious persecution in their native Germany. They received a large settlers’ government land grant in the Yonge-Don River-Sheppard-Finch area. What is now Cummer Avenue originated as a dirt track for horses and buggies carved out by Jacob to connect Yonge to a Don River sawmill he built in 1819 near Finch and Bayview.

Jacob gave each of his four sons some of his farmland. The area was called Cummer’s Settlement; later it was renamed Willowdale because of the many willow trees.

Jacob designated part of his extensive property for outdoor religious services to which hundreds of First Nations people came from as far north as Lake Simcoe as well as local white settlers. He later built the district’s first church.

Drewry is a mutation of the surname of Lieutenant Colonel William Smith Durie who emigrated from England in 1837 at 24 and became a wealthy landowner in south central Ontario. He subdivided some of his property in what is now North York’s Yonge-Finch Newtonbrook area into a housing development in 1847. The dirt road running from Yonge, though officially “Drewry,” was nicknamed “Pope’s Lane” because many Roman Catholics lived on it. The “Rueter House” at 270 Drewry is the only remaining house.

The exact origin of the. “McNicoll” street name, a surname likely brought to Canada by Scottish immigrants, is unclear.

Written by Susan Goldenberg.

Originally published on May 28, 2021, on toronto.com.