Saturday, June 21, 2014
Toronto's first 'official' street map
In the old days a paper map supplied by the gasoline companies (another thing they don’t provide like clean windshields) would do the trick. Today we have on-line Google maps or even better GPS systems some with add-ons that let people avoid construction or accident locations.
How much easier it was when James Grant Chewett, one of the city’s most prolific citizens (architect, surveyor, contractor and financier) presented Torontonians, of which there were 9,254 (give or take a few) with the community’s first “official” street map.
Some of its features remain obvious. Things like the Don River, the site of Fort York (then known as the Garrison), Toronto Island (although in this map it’s a peninsula connected at the east end with the mainland) and many of the streets that make up the simple, but usually traffic-choked crisscrossing layout in the downtown core (Hospital is now Richmond, Newgate now Adelaide, Peter, John, Duke, Duchess, Princes now Princess, etc., etc.). An easy name to define as to its origin is Front ‘cause that’s just what it was back then, the front street of the town.
Running from west to east (or east to west if you were arriving by stage coach from Kingston) and in places skirting the north side of the marshes (Ashbridges) is what was originally known as Lot St. for the numerous lots or parcels of land fronting on this thoroughfare and running north exactly 1¼ miles (100 of the 66 foot-long surveyor’s chains or 6,600 feet) or one concession to the Second Concession Road, an east-west thoroughfare we now know as Bloor St. although its namesake, a pioneer brewer and land speculator spelled his surname Bloore. Lot is now Queen for the then young Queen Victoria. The other Yonge honours Sir George Yonge, Secretary of War in the Cabinet of King (King St.) George III.
Interestingly, the 1¼ mile x 1¼ mile grid pattern just mentioned is reflected in the layout of today’s major east-west and north-south city streets (Bloor, St. Clair, Eglinton, Lawrence, York Mills-Wilson, Sheppard, Finch and Steeles and Yonge west to Bathurst, Dufferin etc., and Yonge east to Bayview, Leslie, Woodbine, etc.) all 1¼ miles apart.
There’s much more to Toronto’s early maps. Check out Nathan Ng’s fascinating website oldtorontomaps.blogspot.ca where I have no doubt you’ll be educated and entertained for hours.
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