Back to Top
Change text size A A A

History of Yorkville

Founded in 1830 by entrepreneur Joseph Bloor (after whom Bloor Street, one of Toronto's main thoroughfares, is named), the Village of Yorkville began as a residential suburb with two main industries, the first being the Yorkville Brick Yards in today's Ramsden Park, which manufactured Yorkville's famous yellow brick and can be seen at the historic Yorkville Firehall on Yorkville Avenue. The second industry was beer making with breweries such as The Severn Brewery and the Joseph Bloor Brewery. The neighbourhood's Victorian-style homes, quiet residential streets and picturesque gardens survived into the 20th century, when it was annexed by the City of Toronto.

In the 1960s, Yorkville was shabby and run down, yet flourished as Toronto's bohemian cultural centre. It was the breeding ground for some of Canada's most noted musical talents, including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Gordon Lightfoot, as well as then-underground literary figures such as Margaret Atwood, Gwendolyn MacEwen and Dennis Lee. Yorkville was known as the Canadian capital of the hippie movement. The youth of the day, would flock to Yorkville's famous coffees houses such as the Purple Onion and The Myna Bird to hang out and be inspired by the talent, which resonated between the walls of these establishments. Love-ins and poetry readings went on at all hours of the day.

Major changes began to take place during the 1970's and into the 1980's, as many high end Bloor Street businesses such as Harry Rosen, Holt Renfrew and international designer brands began to attract chic boutiques, cafes, first class art galleries and salons to the area, and the famous coffee houses faded into the past. Numerous office towers took over Bloor Street and other major corridors, where various low rise buildings once existed.

During the 1980's, Bloor-Yorkville also caught onto the condominium trend and several were built on Bay and Bloor streets. An economic slump in the early 90's slowed construction, but by the mid 90's the condominium market soared to satisfy a pent up demand for residential units and the trend has continued into the next decade, as 20 new condominium towers have been built and another 6 major towers are planned, increasing the area population by at least 10,000 people.

With so many substantial changes ongoing, it was a welcome change to the concrete and glass facades, when the installation of the award winning Village of Yorkville Park took place in 1993, whereby the Joni Mitchell song, which references 'turning a park into a parking lot' was reversed and a beautiful gem of a 'park was placed where a parking lot' once existed. The park is enjoyed by city dwellers, office workers and tourists alike.

Bloor-Yorkville's transformation has come full circle, as construction is complete for the redevelopment of the Bloor Street corridor. The Bloor Street Transformation project has resulted in a vibrant commercial area, which is pedestrian friendly and provides a stimulating oasis to all those who stroll its boulevards.

Some architectural and historical highlights include:

More Information