A Rich & Colourful History

Dundas & Sherbourne


The area between Jarvis and Sherbourne Streets and Carlton and Queen Streets was once a part of the properties of William Jarvis, Thomas Ridout and William Allan.  In 1819, Allan developed a country estate named “Moss Park”.  When Allan began subdividing his property into building lots, Ridout, owner of the land to the east, contributed a 30-foot-wide strip of land for a new road. He asked that it be named Sherbourne Street to commemorate the ancestral home in England of his family. The street soon filled with distinguished homes occupied by the city’s elite.

Robert Gooderham, a founder of Gooderham and Worts distillery, lived along this street. Mr. Gooderham had homes built on Sherbourne Street for each of his children when they married. The newly-built All Saints’ Church became the principal place of worship for the Gooderhams , and their family name features in the memorial dedications in the church interior.

In 1880 this area was still recognized as one of Toronto’s most fashionable neighbourhoods because of the houses that the wealthy had constructed on the three founding families’ estates. However, by 1890 these Victorian-styled mansions had lost their popularity.  Many became demolished and replaced by Classical Revival or Edwardian row houses or three to four story apartment buildings. The area has close to 100 heritage-listed or designated buildings now.

all_saints_aerialBy the 1970’s new owners had converted much of the housing stock into rooming houses.  Changes in land values downtown had led to speculation as investors bought up properties, created temporary rooming houses to earn rent, and sold out at a profit when the opportunity came. Today the area has already lost many rooming houses as the Victorian and Edwardian homes have been remodeled back into single-family dwellings. However, there still remains a fair amount of low-market rental stock in the area.  Commercial activity takes place along Dundas in converted former residential properties.

The Allan family estate home stood on the west side of Sherbourne between Queen and Shuter until demolished during the ‘urban renewal’ redevelopment of the area into the large park on the site of the old estate.  In the park is the John Innes Community Centre, located at 150 Sherbourne Street. This key recreational facility offers a variety of programmes for all ages but free of charge for children, youth and older adults.

The city does this because it is located in a community where 30% of the population in the census tract is low-income.  A city agency and a charitable, non-profit organization that serves Toronto’s lesbian, gay, bi and transgender communities, “The 519”, are studying the redevelopment of the John Innes Community Centre, its adjoining Moss Park Hockey Arena and the surrounding park space.

Moss Park once formed the centre of Toronto’s industrial area, home to large factories and the densely packed homes of the workers they employed. In the 1960s a large swath of these buildings were demolished to make way for the Moss Park public housing project, a group of three large towers at Queen and Parliament Street run by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation. After the deindustrialization of the 1970s almost all the factories left the area, and it became one of the poorest in the city.

The northeast corner of Jarvis and Queen is occupied by Moss Park Armoury, which is used by several regiments of the Canadian Forces Primary Reserve.

Ecole Gabrielle-Roy is located at 14 Pembroke Street. It is a French-language, public elementary school.  Thirty-two percent of its students are from lower income households.

There are 12 non-profit service providers in the neighbourhood of Dundas and Sherbourne Streets catering to the needs of its homeless, marginalized and vulnerable. This corner is the focal point for community-based organizations providing accommodation supports and home-finding and health services to a population with considerable needs, given lower levels of education and greater unemployment as compared to the city average.

For example, Seaton House is a 434-bed facility for homeless men. It is the largest homeless shelter in Canada. Abutting Seaton House is the School House, a 45-bed facility for men operated by Dixon Hall. There are currently 1,012 shelter beds in this area of the city. Toronto’s planned George Street Revitalization projects the closure of 440 of these beds with its plan to demolish George Street’s Seaton House. The shelter is to be rebuilt as a long-term care home, a 100-bed emergency shelter, assisted living residence, and community service hub. But many fear the loss of this shelter will result in the forced relocation of hundreds of low-income and street-involved people from the area away from the support services located here that they now use.

The concentration of Aboriginal serving agencies,  Anishawbe Health, Toronto Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto and Miziwe Biik, and  Council Fire Native Cultural Centre indicate  a substantial Aboriginal population in need of support, a population that is not picked up in the census data.



315 Dundas Street East (The southeast corner of Sherbourne & Dundas) Toronto, ON M5A 2A2


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