Centred around the park of the same name, Toronto’s Bickford Park neighbourhood still maintains much of the Italian and Portuguese flavour that characterized its early population. Sitting between the bustling cosmopolitan streets of Bloor and College, Bickford Park has become the perfect neighbourhood for both families and young professionals, eager to live in an area that not only offers family housing, but an increasing number of high-end condos, abundant green space and easy access to the heart of downtown Toronto.
Bordered by Bloor Street to the north, Ossington Avenue to the west, College Street to the south and Grace Street to the east, Bickford Park sits next to both Little Italy and Dufferin Grove. The area has also acquired a thriving South Amercian flavour, especially Brazilian, lending even more vibrancy to the multicultural character of the area. As well as the eclectic mix of clothing, food, fashion and other stores — many Portuguese, Brazilian or Asian — along College Street and the Caribbean flavour along Bloor Street, Bickford Park also offers the perfect locations for families with the park of the same name and easy access to Christie Pits, one of the city’s largest and most popular green spaces.
The neighbourhood offers a range of Victorian houses on quiet, tree-lined streets, making it a very family-friendly area. Today, the area is also home to a growing population of young professionals and students, attracted by the convenient location, the vibrant nightlife and the effervescent and multicultural nature of the neighbourhood.
History and Social Profile
Bickford Park is named for Colonel E. Oscar Bickford, a local businessman and politician who owned the land that is now Bickford Ravine Park. The property was sold by his widow to the city of Toronto in 1908 for $44,250.
College Street — which takes its name from King’s College, the original title of the University of Toronto — began to be laid out in 1842, and following the grant to the city of the land that would become High Park in 1873, began to be extended west through the area that today is known as Little Italy. Around the turn of the 20th century, buildings began to be constructed along the street. And by the 1920s, many of the arriving Italian immigrants — who were finding employment on the railroad or in the city’s bustling road construction industry — were buying up the single-family Edwardian houses that had been built along the side streets in the area including Bickford Park. As the Italian population grew, the area began to take on a Roman character, with many businesses, restaurants and bars being opened to cater to the growing community.
But as the area grew, it also began to become more multicultural. Following the Second World War, many of the first-generation Toronto-Italians and many of the new immigrants began to move north to the St. Clair Avenue area. The area began to enjoy a new renaissance, however, as Portuguese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Spanish families began to fill the vacuum.
Beginning in the 1950s, the area became home to a large influx of immigrants from Portugal, many of whom had originally arrived to work in the mining, railway and farming sectors of northern Ontario. As the city rapidly expanded and construction of skyscrapers and office buildings exploded, the Portuguese community became a major factor in the growth of Toronto.
Today, the area has also become much more multicultural and a hotspot for cultural and artistic diversity. The area has established itself as a popular destination for Torontonians looking for a fun day or night out. And as new condo and housing projects are established, it’s becoming an increasingly popular place for those looking to live in one of Toronto’s hippest communities.
Many of the houses in Bickford Park were constructed in the late 1880s and early 1900s, in Victorian and Edwardian styles. The painted brick of the rowhouses and semi-detached homes still colour many of the quiet, tree-lined streets of the neighbourhood.
Today much of the community centres around the Bob Abate Community Recreation Centre, named after a long-time local sports coach, which features a gymnasium, arts and crafts rooms and community meetings rooms, and the adjacent Bickford Centre, which features a pool and large gym. Bickford Park itself, next door to the two centres offers two baseball diamonds.
Christie Pits is also located just across Bloor Street from Bickford Park, and offers three baseball diamonds. The largest is called Dominico Field, named for the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Intercounty Baseball League, who play their home games on the field, as do the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and various local high school teams.
The park also offers a swimming pool, an outdoor ice rink, a football and soccer field, basketball courts and a playground, and ample green space for concerts, festivals and picnics. And in winter, Christie Pits is one of the most popular areas in the city for winter sports, especially tobogganing, due to the sharply sloping sides of the park from its use as a quarry.
- Il Gatto Nero
- Tacos El Asador
- Bar Isabel
- La Bella Managua
- Hey Meatball
- Ossington subway station
- Christie subway station
- Buses or streetcars run along College, Ossington, Harbord and Bloor
- Montrose Junior Public School, 310 Montrose Avenue, 416-393-9770
- King Edward Junior and Senior Public School, 112 Lippincott Street, 416-393-1320
- Harbord Collegiate Institute, 286 Harbord Street, 416-393-1650
- Central Commerce Collegiate Institute, 570 Shaw Street, 416-393-0030
- Central Technical School, 725 Bathurst Street, 416-393-0060