Danforth Avenue is one of the major thoroughfares through east Toronto. Originally built in the 1850s, it’s also one of the city’s most varied and colourful streets, running through some of the natural and cultural highlights of Toronto, including the Don Valley and Greektown. Running from the Prince Edward Viaduct near Broadview Avenue all the way east to Scarborough, the Danforth is renowned for its multicultural variety, its trendy and widely ranging clothing, furniture and ethno-cultural stores, its food — the annual Taste of the Danforth festival is a must for city residents — and the quiet neighbourhoods just north and south of the Danforth itself.
The street — which turns into Bloor Street East at the west end of the Viaduct — runs through several neighbourhoods, including Danforth Village, Greektown, East Danforth and East York. The Danforth culminates in northern Scarborough, where, at Warden Avenue, the Avenue becomes Danforth Road, which, in turn, merges with McCowan Road in northern Scarborough. Along the way, the Danforth is bordered by quiet, tree- lined neighbourhoods that, in recent years, have become much in demand among young professionals and artists, attracted by the still affordable single-family houses, as well as the abundance of rental housing, apartments and luxury condominium buildings. Many of the homes date from Edwardian or Victorian times, and many have been renovated by young homeowners attracted by the small-town feel of the area and its unparalleled convenience to the the Bloor-Danforth subway.
As well as its international reputation as the centre of one of the largest Greek communities outside of Greece itself, the Danforth has seen its fame spread by several of Toronto’s favourite musical sons. Rush entitled one section of its 1978 instrumental epic “La Villa Strangiato,” “Danforth and Pape,” and a line from the Barenaked Ladies 1996 song, “The Old Apartment” says, “I know we don’t live here anymore/ We bought an old house on the Danforth.” The hit movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding also filmed a number of scenes in Greektown along the Danforth.
History and Social Profile
Danforth Avenue is named for Asa Danforth, a contractor who built several major roads in Toronto, including parts of both Queen Street and Kingston Road. Ironically, Danforth did not actually build Danforth Avenue. He did, however, construct Danforth’s Road in 1799, originally intended to connect Scarborough to the Trent River. While completed in 1801, the road was little used and was replaced in 1817 by Kingston Road, then a well- travelled stagecoach route.
Danforth Avenue itself was created to connect Broadview Avenue to Danforth Road in 1851, as well as to Kingston Road. The Avenue was built by the The Don and Danforth Plank Road Company. Originally, the area around the road was remote, little more than a country road running through open fields, a few brickworks using the clay along the
Don Valley and the water of the Don River, and a few houses. Divided from the city of Toronto by the Don River and the Don Valley, the area had little chance of expanding.
However, in 1884, faced with a growing population of immigrants, the city annexed the lands south of the Danforth, and in 1909, also annexed the lands to the north. And then, in 1919, a bridge over the Don Valley was completed, connecting the Danforth to Bloor Street East in Toronto. The bridge was originally named the Bloor Street Viaduct, but the city council voted to rename it the Prince Edward Viaduct after the man who would become King Edward VIII, who had visited the city that year.
The area was initially populated by new immigrants from England, Ireland and Scotland. In the 1950s, a large number of Italian immigrants settled along the Danforth, followed in the 1960s by a large number of Greek immigrants. The area rapidly became one of the largest Greek enclaves in North America, and, in fact, one of the largest outside of Greece. In 1993, the Business Improvement Area was officially designated Greektown on the Danforth, and street signs in the area are printed in both Greek and English.
The neighbourhoods along the Danforth really began to boom, however, when the Bloor-Danforth subway opened in 1966, providing rapid and convenient access from the Danforth to everywhere in Toronto.
Today, the Danforth still retains much of that flavour. The Taste of the Danforth — started in 1994 — has become a world-famous food festival, with attendance estimated at over a million people each year. The free event, held over a long weekend in August, is known primarily for its Greek cuisine and cultural displays, but the festival also features Thai, Chinese, Brazilian, Indian, Japanese and many other foods, as well as stage and musical performances from all over the world.
A number of historical cultural buildings are still located along the Danforth. The Danforth Music Hall, still a functioning venue today, was built in 1919, as part of a national chain of theatres, featuring patterned brickwork and opal glass windows.
The Carrot Common, opened in 1987, and named after the famous Big Carrot Natural Food Market co-op, is a 17-store complex, which has become a popular neighbourhood meeting place for health food aficionados and others.
The street also features a number of nearby parks and recreational facilities. Most notabl, the Danforth marks the northern edge of Riverdale Park, a 100-acre park featuring, fields for soccer, baseball, football and ultimate frisbee, tennis courts, a running track, swimming pool, a rink, a toboggan slope and footpaths and trails across the Don Valley and along the river. Riverdale Farm, a publicly accessible working farm is also near the park.
Also along the Danforth is Variety Village, an athletic facility for disabled youth and adults. Nearby is Birchmount Stadium, owned by the Toronto District School Board, which hosts amateur soccer, football and track events. The Scarborough Gardens Arena is also a popular location for hockey and figure skating.
- Embrujo Flamenco
- Combine Eatery
- Basil Thai
- Jean’s Vegetarian Kitchen
- Factory Girl
- Pan on the Danforth
- Bloor-Danforth subway
- Bus or streetcar service north-south along Broadview, Pape, Jones, Greenwood, Coxwell, Woodbine, Warden, Birchmount and others
- Jackman Avenue Junior Public School, 79 Jackman Avenue, 416-393-9710
- Frankland Community School, 816 Logan Avenue, 416-393-9720
- Earl Grey Senior Public School, 100 Strathcona Avenue, 416-393-9545
- Riverdale Collegiate Institute, 1094 Gerrard Street East, 416-393-9820
- Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute, 800 Greenwood Avenue, 416-393-0620
- Wilkinson Junior Public School, 53 Donlands Avenue, 416-393-9575
- Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute, 16 Phin Avenue, 416-393-0230
- Earl Beatty Junior and Senior Public School, 55 Woodington Avenue, 416-393-9070
- Monarch Park Collegiate Institute, 1 Hanson Street, 416-393-0190
- Earl Haig Public School, 15 Earl Haig Avenue, 416-393-1640
- Gledhill Junior Public School, 2 Gledhill Avenue, 416-393-1745
- Secord Elementary School, 101 Barrington Avenue, 416-393-2450
- DA Morrison Middle School, 271 Gledhill Avenue, 416-396-2400
- East York Collegiate Institute, 650 Cosburn Avenue, 416-396-2355