East York is one of Toronto’s most charming neighbourhoods. Until Toronto’s amalgamation 1998 it was Canada’s only Borough and maintains its small town feel. North of Danforth and south of Taylor Creek Park, it runs east of the Don River to Victoria Park. It maintains the sweetness of a 1950s vibe as many of the homes are post-war bungalows. These homes as well as the semi-detached houses has made this neighbourhood an affordable area for young families to live.
The Township of East York was incorporated in 1924. Originally populated by English immigrants from Lancashire and Yorkshire, they worked as gardeners. Back then, most of the neighbourhood was brickworks and garden markets with race horse track on Danforth between Chisholm and Oak Park.
After World War 2, the area was built up for veterans and their families and housing doubled in size from 1946 to 1961. Eventually many Greeks and Italians moved in. If you wonder why East York seems sunnier than other neighbourhoods, it’s because there are fewer mature shade trees as these families like to grow their own vegetables in their own backyard gardens.
Further east, west of Victoria Park is a smaller sub-neighbourhood of East York called Crescent Town. This area was founded in 1887 by Walter Massey who bought 240 acres of farmland and named it “Dentonia” after his wife whose maiden name was Denton. The farm was mostly eggs and dairy (home of the first pasteurized milk in Canada) and because the land was hilly, there were many streams where they caught fish. In 1933, Susan Massey gave 40 acres of there farm to build Crescent School, which was later developed into highrises after the property sold in 1969. The most famous alumni is actor Keifer Sutherland attended this elementary school before it closed. Currently the community is a multi-cultural mix of Indian, Bengali, Jamaican, Pakistani and Tamil Canadians. The other acreage is currently Dentonia Parks and a handy public golf course.
Fun fact: The community of East York prohibited the sale of alcohol up until the 1970s which is why there are so many bars along the Danforth.
East York is a very community minded neighbourhood. Across from The East General Hospital is a huge community centre, the East York Civic Center on Coxwell. Aside from being one of the city’s best kept secrets where you can renew your drivers license or whatever else without having to wait in line for an eternity, it hosts one of the city’s largest farmers’ markets on Tuesdays from May to October.
East York is also a very sports crazed community. They have their own hockey team called the Bulldogs who play at the East York Arena. They also have baseball and soccer leagues from entry to triple A leagues for all ages. There’s a figure skating club, lawn bowling club, and a curling club. They
have a skateboarding group called Team EY, who built the East York Skatepark in 2007 which is in the Stan Wadlow Park on Cosburn. Taylor Creek Park, which is north of East York, has trials for hiking and biking on and off-road as well as snowshoeing in the winter.
While the East York of today still has some of its charming retro bungalows with colourful front yard flower gardens, more and more of these homes, like Leaside to the north, are being bought as tear-downs to build large modern 2 or 3 story homes. If not putting up a completely new construction, others are singing to the tune of Beyonce”s “Single Ladies:” “If you like it put a lid on it,” adding a second story to the existing bungalow. A plethora of unique shops and restaurants are opening up on the streets of Pape, Donlands, Coxwell, and Woodbine, just south of O’Connor, adding value to the neighbourhood. While much of gentrification of East York is still perhaps in its awkward teenage stage, it’s old school charm mixed with the new makes it a great neighbourhood to live.