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North York 1927
North York in 1927: Aerial view of land east and west of Yonge Street between Burndale and north of Finch, courtesy Toronto Public Library

Timeline of North York

1787

The Toronto Purchase was the surrender of lands in the Toronto area from the Mississaugas of New Credit to the British crown. An initial, disputed, agreement was made in 1787, in exchange for various items.

The agreement was revisited in 1805, intended to clarify the area purchased. The agreement remained in dispute for over 200 years, until 2010, when a settlement for the land was made between the Government of Canada and the Mississaugas for the land and other lands in the area.

The 1787 purchase, according to British records, was conducted on September 23, 1787, at the “Carrying-Place” of Bay of Quinte. The British crown and the Mississaugas of New Credit met to arrange for the surrender of lands along Lake Ontario.

In the case of the Toronto area, the Mississaugas of New Credit exchanged 250,808 acres (101,498 ha) of land in what became York County (most of current Toronto and the Regional Municipality of York bounded by Lake Ontario to the south, approximately Etobicoke Creek/Highway 27 to the west, approximately Ashbridge’s Bay/Woodbine Avenue-Highway 404 to the east and approximately south of Sideroad 15-Bloomington Road to the north) for some money, 2,000 gun flints, 24 brass kettles, 120 mirrors, 24 laced hats, a bale of flowered flannel, and 96 gallons of rum.

At the time, the Mississaugas believed that the agreement was not a purchase extinguishing their rights to the land, but a rental of the lands for British use in exchange for gifts and presents in perpetuity.

1791

Upper Canada created by splitting the former colony of Quebec into two – Upper & Lower Canada.

1792

The capital of Upper Canada was moved from what is now Niagara-On-The-Lake to the north shore of Lake Ontario to provide better protection from the U.S. The capital was originally named York, but was renamed in 1834 to Toronto.

1796

Yonge Street opened.2

York Mills established as a transfer point for Northwest Company boats. Boats went up the Don River to York Mills then were hauled on wheels to Holland Landing.2

1800 (ca)

Land was granted or sold in the area that was part of York County and would later become North York.

1801

Samuel Heron built a mill at York Mills but went bankrupt two years later.2

1804

Andrew McGlashan emigrated from Scotland and built a log cabin east of Bayview Avenue and north of York Mills Road.2

1805 (ca)

The first school, a log cabin, was built to serve the Hogg’s Hollow area behind the Miller Tavern.2

1812-1814

All the able-bodied citizens of the area were part of the militia and served in many of the battles that took place against the American invasion of the then British territory.

1815

Andrew McGlashan sold the south half of his property to William Harrison and moved to Hogg’s Hollow where he built North York’s first Tannery of mud bricks.2

1816

St. John’s Anglican Church, the first in North York, was opened in a small log building.2

1817

Thomas Arnold, Township assessor, erected a sawmill on the west side of Yonge Street in Hogg’s Hollow. He later built a three-storey flour mill on the east side of Yonge.2

1824

James Hogg bought the Arnold Mills and more land on the Don River and built a distillery. He called his property York Mills.2

1826

David Gibson immigrated to Upper Canada from Scotland.

1827

The Toronto Cricket Club was founded.2

The Golden Lion Hotel was built on the south-west corner of Yonge & Sheppard. The first Golden Lion was carved but was later stolen.

1833 (ca)

Reuben Burr built a one-storey square Georgian-style cottage just north of York Mills. The house would later become known as the Charles W. Jefferys House.2

Yonge Street was straightened through Hogg’s Hollow by Rowland Burr who built the York Mills Bridge.2

1834

The name of the Upper Canada capital was changed from York to Toronto and Toronto was incorporated as a city.

1834 (ca)

The second full sized Golden Lion was carved out of oak and decorated the front of the Golden Lion Hotel until it was demolished circa 1933.

This Golden Lion still exists and has had a number of homes. He is now on display in the North York Central Library.

1836

A post office was opened at York Mills.2

A little wooden Scottish Presbyterian Church was built in Hogg’s Hollow near Ivor Road and Donino Avenue.2

1837

Cornelius Van Nostrand set up a large grist and sawmill in the valley.2

Many of the residents of the area participated in the organization of both sides in the 1837 Rebellion. The rebellion itself was a fiasco, but the strong sentiments that came up through the rebellion eventually led to a more responsive form of government.

Several people who were part of the rebel force fled to the United States. David Gibson was one of those who fled. His house in North York was the only one burned by the loyalist forces.

1838

John Armour bought land on the west side of Yonge from James Hogg.2

Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews were hanged for their participation in the 1837 Rebellion. This caused so much discontent that others were transported to Tasmania rather than being hanged. Some escaped and went to the United States.

1840

Cornelius Van Nostrand converted his mill to steam power. He shipped high quality flour to Great Britain until 1846 when the Corn Laws were repealed.2

1843

David Gibson was pardoned by Queen Victoria for his role in the 1837 Rebellion. He continued to live in the USA and manage his property in Willowdale through his wife and other family members.

1844

Andrew McGlashan Sr. died and Andrew II took over the business and sold the family home to William Goodwin. The house became known as the William Goodwin House.2

1846

Great Britain repealed the Corn Laws.2

1847

The second school in the Hogg’s Hollow area was built on the north-west corner of Yonge and John Streets (now known as Carson Crescent).2

1848

David Gibson returned to Willowdale and began planning to rebuild his house which had been burned in 1837. He was soon restored to many of the positions he had held prior to fleeing to the USA.

1852

The current David Gibson house was completed on the same site where the original house had been burned.

1856

The present Miller Tavern was built after fire destroyed the original tavern. Over the years, it has been known as Hogg’s Inn, Birrell’s Hotel, Carson’s Inn, the York Mills Hotel, and The Jolly Miller.2

1859

The York Mills Presbyterian Church built in 1836 was torn down, piece by piece, and rebuilt on two acres of land on the west side of Yonge opposite Mill Street. A burial ground was laid out on the top of the hill.2

1860

The McGlashan Tannery prospered until it was shut down in 1860.2

Robert Gray, York Mills carpenter, built the first of many Millworkers Cottages on John Street.2

1861

David Gibson died suddenly while on a trip to England to petition for a more democratic government.

1872

William Goodwin died but family members continued to live in the house until ca. 1908.2

1874

A second room was added to the school in Hogg’s Hollow built in 1847.2

1876

Andrew Bathgate bought the McGlashan House. After Andrew was shot in a hunting accident his wife Agnes and son James lived in the house.2

1882 (ca)

The Henry Mason House at 24 Mason Boulevard was built.2

1885

The York Mills Presbyterian congregation joined Barron’s Church and the York Mills church and cemetery fell into disuse.2

1886 (ca)

The Pratt House at 17 Mill Street was built. It is said to be the first house in Ontario built of poured concrete.2

1890

The York Mills Presbyterian Church burned down.2

1893

A modern schoolhouse was built on the south side of York Mills Road just east of Yonge Street.2

1895

Mills built by Cornelius Van Nostrand were destroyed by fire.2

1908

John Squire, a caretaker at St. John’s Anglican Church, bought the William Goodwin House and lived there until his death in 1931.2

1910

Frederick Burton Robins bought land from John Armour hoping to develop a subdivision of 500 lots.2

1910 (ca)

Charles W. Jefferys came to York Mills, renting the house just north of York Mills on Yonge as a summer retreat for his family.2

1911

Mulholland, Wood, and Armour farms were purchased by British developers.2

1913

First Provincial Plowing Match held at Sunnybrook Farm – later became International Plowing Match.1

1913

Bell Barn raising.4

1914

The outbreak of WW1 put an end to the dreams of developers in the York Mills area.2

Strathrobyn was built by Frederick Burton Robins on land purchased from John Armour.2

1915

WW1

1916

WW1

1917

WW1

North York’s first airfield was opened at Armour Heights in 1917 as an air force training school for pilots from Canada and Great Britain.2

1918

WW1

1918-1919

The most damaging pandemic of influenza — for Canada and the world — was an H1N1 virus that appeared during the First World War. Despite its unknown geographic origins, it is commonly called the Spanish Flu. In 1918-19, it killed between 20 and 100 million people, including some 50,000 Canadians.5

1921

The election in Ontario of a Farmers’ Party paved the way for the secession of North York, East York, and Etobicoke from the Township of York. This gave the mostly rural areas more say over the use of taxes for such things as improved roads which the farmers needed to get their produce to market.

1922

North York secession from York Township.1

James Bathgate became the Borough of North York’s first treasurer and served until 1931.2

Charles W. Jefferys purchased the house in York Mills he had been renting as a summer retreat.2

1923

Fire destroyed most of the Township records.1

The Municipal Office Building was built.1

Roy Risebrough became chief constable.1

First fire chief appointed (volunteer).1

Frederick Burton Robins sold 37 lots in the Armour Heights and Ridley Park developments on the opening day of the sale in April.2

The Armour Heights Subdivision was laid on on the land formerly occupied by the Armour Heights Airfield.2

1924

Small grant for Don Mills Library (1920’s-30’s).1

1925

Barker Airfield opened.1

The school built in 1893 burned.2

1926

North York Township outdoor market opened at city limits on Yonge Street on June 19.2

Canadian Legion British Empire Service League (BESL) organized.1

The Enterprise weekly newspaper founded.1

Baron Renfrew School opened. It was a school to serve the Hogg’s Hollow area. It was named for Edward, Prince of Wales, who adopted the title Baron Renfrew while touring Canada in 1919. After King Edward abdicated, the school was again known as York Mills School.2

The Toronto Cricket Club moved into new facilities at Armour Heights.2

1927

More classrooms were added to York Mills (Baron Renfrew) School.2

1928

Township School Area established with joint board for schools in York Mills-Willowdale-Newtonbrook.1

North York’s first high school was established.1

De Havilland Aircraft of Canada plant opened.1

Sunnybrook farm deeded to City of Toronto as a park.1

Loretto Abbey in Armour Heights was built after outgrowing several locations around the city.2

1929

Depression

First Hoggs Hollow Bridge and Bayview Avenue bridge completed.1

Yonge Boulevard bridge was officially opened on January 5, creating a high demand for property in the York Mills area.2

1930

Earl Haig High School opened with 300 pupils.1

Depression

1931

North York Township outdoor market moved to old car barns just north of city limits.1

Depression

The O’Keefe Windmill was built on the west side of Yonge in the Hogg’s Hollow area.2

1932

Depression

1933

North York defaulted on bonds.1

Depression

1934

International Plowing Match held at Maryvale Farm (north of Lawrence on west side of Victoria Park).1

Depression

1935

North York and many other municipalities put under Provincial Government supervision.1

Depression

North York’s first swimming pool opened behind the Jolly Miller Tavern on the banks of the Don.2

1936

Depression

1937

North York paid off defaulted bonds and accrued interest by floating a new issue.1

Depression

1938

North York did not seize either homes or farms for non-payment of taxes but did seize lots owned by speculators.1

Depression

1939

Sheppard Avenue closed between Dufferin and Keele to expand De Havilland.1

WW2

Gladys Allison first attempt to set up bookmobile service dropped because of a gasoline shortage.1

1940

WW2

1941

North York was released from Provincial Government supervision.1

WW2

1942

Fire Department became a full-time professional organization.1

WW2

St. Edward’s Roman Catholic Church became a parish.1

1943

WW2

1944

R.E. Edwards purchased site of the first Alexander Milne woolen mill and began to build Edwards Gardens.1

WW2

1945

Central Community Council established to coordinate activities of Ratepayers Associations and other district organizations – later merged with Southern Community Council in Weston area to form North York Community Council.1

WW2

Lions Club formed.1

Gladys Allison arranged for travelling books to be loaned from Willowdale United Church.1

More classrooms were added to York Mills (Baron Renfrew) School.2

Strathrobyn was purchased by the Royal Canadian Air Force to be used as a staff training college.2

1946

Sunnybrook purchased by Department of Veterans’ Affairs.1

Sunnybrook Veterans’ Hospital opened for armed forces.1

First summer playgrounds opened.1

1947

Builders had to provide gravel roads in new subdivisions.1

1949

Water shortages begin.1

1950

Recreation Commission established.1

Memorial Community Hall opened (included one room for a library).1

1951

The Barrie Highway (later 400) finished.1

North York Kiwanis formed.1

1952

Farmers moved outdoor market to Yonge-Finch as York Farmers Marketing Ltd.1

Section of Highway 401 west of Yonge was completed.1

Rotary Club formed.1

1953

York Farmers Marketing Ltd. moved to Thornhill.1

Airfield at De Havilland plant (Downsview Airfield) housed RCAF depot for Eastern Canada.1

245 apartments built.1

First shopping plaza opened at Lawrence Plaza (corner of Bathurst) -2000 parking spaces – Loblaws – 2 restaurants – 2 banks – 31 retail stores.1

Gladys Allison headed Library Planning commission.1

1954

Director of Recreation and Director of Parks set up.1

Formation of Metropolitan Toronto.1

First amalgamated Board of Education set up.1

Baycrest opened.1

Hurricane Hazel1

Dalziel Pennsylvania German bank barn from 1809 opened as museum (later part of Black Creek Pioneer Village).1

The swimming pool built in 1935 was destroyed by Hurricane Hazel.2

1955

Edwards Gardens sold to City of Toronto as a park.1

Public Library Board appointed.1

First suburban department store (Henry Morgan & Co) opened at Lawrence Plaza.1

More classrooms were added to York Mills (Baron Renfrew) School.2

The Charles W. Jefferys House was moved to allow for the widening of Yonge Street.2

The York Mills Presbyterian Church cemetery was closed and the land was expropriated for the widening of Yonge Street.2

1956

Widening of Yonge Street was completed.1

Edwards Gardens opened to the public.1

1957

Roy Risebrough retired as chief constable.1

All 13 municipal police forces were combined into Metropolitan Force.1

The Mirror newspaper opened in Don Mills.1

Parks and Recreation merged.1

Building height restriction lifted (was 35 ft).1

Metropolitan Toronto and Regional Conservation Authority formed by merger.1

1958

Water shortages finally end.1

Bodies from the York Mills Presbyterian cemetery were re-interred in York Cemetery or Forest Lawn Mausoleum when the rest of the church property was sold for development.2

1959

The News newspaper opened in Downsview-Weston.1

Section of Highway 401 to Bayview completed.1

First permanent Library building opened (Gladys Allison Building).1

1960

Don Mills completed.1

Black Creek Pioneer Village opened.1

North York Historical Society formed.1

York University formed.1

1961

York University moved to Glendon Hall.1

Charles W. Jefferys died.2

1963

Sheppard Avenue widened for second time and its new high bridge over the valley west of Yonge completed.1

Section of Don Valley Parkway opened.1

Expansion of Highway 401 to 12 lanes was begun.1

Japanese Cultural Centre opened in Don Mills.1

1964

Yorkdale Shopping Centre opened (indoor mall – 120 stores).1

Yorkdale News newspaper began.1

Northern Dancer won the Kentucky Derby – Preakness and Queen’s Plate.1

1965

Section of Spadina Expressway (401 to Lawrence) was opened.1

York University main campus was opened.1

1966

Sunnybrook Veterans’ Hospital opened to the public.1

1967

North York became a borough.1

1968

Ontario Science Centre opened (architect Raymond Moriyama).1

Comfort Lodge opened.1

1969

The Enterprise newspaper closed.1

1973

Mel Lastman elected Mayor.

York Mills subway station opened.

1974

Sheppard and Finch Subway stations opened.

1979

North York incorporated as a city.

1980

Arthur Tunnell, publisher of “Who’s Who in Canada,” died after living in the William Goodwin House for almost 40 years.2

1981

Yonge Street was to be widened and the William Goodwin House was threatened with demolition. Just ten hours before it was to be demolished, the Ontario Field Naturalists bought it for $1 and had it moved to their property on Leslie Street, beside the 401. It is recognized as the oldest existing house in North York.2

1982

York Mills (Baron Renfrew) School was closed and eventually occupied by the Metropolitan Toronto Separate School Board.2

1986

The Millworkers Cottages were moved to a site on Yonge Street and were transformed into The Auberge du Pommier Restaurant.2

1987

North York Centre subway station opened.

The Auberge du Pommier Restaurant opened.2

1998

North York amalgamated into Toronto.

2002

Yonge-Sheppard subway line opened.

2005

Don Mills subway station opened.

2008

Propane facility explosion.

2018

Canada’s deadliest pedestrian attack occurred in the North York City Centre district on April 23, 2018. A van collided with numerous pedestrians killing 10 and injuring 16 others on Yonge Street between Finch and Sheppard Avenues.3


Sources:

1. Hart, Patricia W. Pioneering in North York: A History of the Borough. Toronto: General Publishing Company Ltd., 1968.

2. Hopkins, Jeanne. York Mills Heights: Looking Back. Toronto: York Mills Heights Association, 1998.

3. Wikipedia

4. North York Historical Society Archives

5. The Canadian Encyclopedia

Compiled by Bill Aird, Past President, North York Historical Society