Davenport, or Davenport Village as it’s often called, is a small neighbourhood in Toronto, but when it comes to local history, the neighbourhood is one of the city’s most important. While the neighbourhood itself was established in the 1800s, its history stretches back thousands of years to when it served as a local travel route for many of the First Nations in the area.
Today, Davenport is one of Toronto’s most up-and-coming neighbourhoods. Evolving from its past as an industrial hub due to its proximity to local railroads, Davenport has become a hip locale for young families and for the city’s artists, musicians, filmmakers and cultural creators. A growing number of upscale lofts, condos, studios and apartments, along with the many older single-family houses, have made the neighbourhood a major attraction for young professionals looking for an area that’s still affordable, but also has a real cachet and is located within easy distance of downtown for work and play.
Bordered by Davenport Road on the north, Bathurst Street on the east, the Canadian Pacific rail lines to the south and Lansdowne Avenue to the west, Davenport is steps away from many of the city’s most diverse, interesting and entertaining neighbourhoods, including The Junction, the Annex, Christie Pits and Seaton Village. Davenport shares many of the characteristics of those areas, including a vibrant cultural life, restaurants and stores.
Originally home to many immigrants, especially from Italy and Portugal, attracted by the affordable housing and proximity to the industries, factories and warehouses occupying much of the neighbourhood, Davenport has retained much of the old-world charm of those days in its shopping, restaurants and street life, but has also grown to reflect the city’s more wide-spread cultural and ethnic diversity today. And with the ample green space of Christie Pits and other parks nearby, Davenport is also a huge draw to those who also crave the pleasures of nature in their daily lives.
History and Social Profile
Thousands of years ago, before European settlers first arrived in Canada, what is now Davenport Road was used by the First Nations peoples to travel the route south of the ridge that marks the shore of the prehistoric Lake Iroquois. When European fur trappers arrived in the 1600s, they used the same path as a travel and trade route.
In the 18th century, settlers began to turn the area into farmland. One early settler was Ensign John McGill, who in the 1790s built a home called Davenport in the area. The home was named after a fellow officer, a Major Davenport.
In the early 1800s, the Davenport trail was privatized, and turned into a proper road run by a company that set up five tollgates between the Humber and Don Rivers. One of the original tollkeeper cottages was located in recent times on Howland Avenue, where it had been moved from its original location at the corner of Davenport and Bathurst. The cottage, believed to be only one of its kind still surviving in Canada, was moved back to its original location, now a park, and was opened to the public in 2008.
In 1861, the Northern Railway opened a line south of Davenport Road, and established a station called Davenport. A village, also called Davenport, grew up around the station. In 1889, that village merged with the villages of Carleton and West Toronto to form a town called Toronto Junction, which was, in turn, annexed into the city of Toronto in 1909.
The railways led to the area becoming one of the major industrial parts of the city, and, in the early 20th century, factories and warehouses sprang up around the tracks, manufacturing everything from pianos and nails to soap and furniture and others businesses including meat processing plants, foundries and flour mills. The industrialization led to the influx of immigrants, mostly from Europe to work in the factories, and the areas nearby became largely residential. The Davenport neighbourhood became home to a largely Italian and Portuguese population, and many of the single-family homes from those years still exist today.
When the industrial base began to decline beginning in the 1970s, Davenport became a more exclusively residential neighbourhood. Starting in the late 1990s, the abandoned factories and plants began to be demolished, and rebuilt as lofts, townhouses, condos and apartment buildings. As restaurants and bars rushed in to fill the void that had opened up, the area started to become a prime residential target and the neighbourhood has become a beacon for Toronto artists including musicians, visual artists, filmmakers and others, who see the opportunity to acquired affordable space for living and working.
That same combination of affordability, accessibility and flat-out being cool has made Davenport popular with many others as well. That popularity is heightened by the area’s accessibility to transit, as well to parks and recreational space. That particular aspect was heightened even further in 2009 when the city opened the West Toronto RailPath, a multi-use trail for pedestrians and bicyclists that runs towards downtown.
Davenport is near the Wallace-Emerson Community Centre, which offers an indoor pool, a gymnasium, four tennis courts and an ice rink. Hillcrest Park provides tennis courts, a wading pool, a playground and a spectacular view of the city. Melita Park has a playground and wading pool, and South Park has swings, a playwall and bocce courts.
Davenport is also minutes away from Christie Pits, one of the largest green spaces in the city. The Pits 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.
Piri Piri Grill House
Buses run along Dufferin Street, Dovercourt Road, Ossington Avenue, Bathurst Street, Dupont Street, Christie Street, Lansdowne Avenue and Davenport Road.
Dovercourt Public School, 228 Bartlett Avenue, 416-393-9220
Regal Road Junior Public School, 95 Regal Road, 416-393-1390
Winona Drive Senior Public School, 101 Winona Drive, 416-393-1680
Pauline Junior Public School, 100 Pauline Avenue, 416-393-9360
Oakwood Collegiate Institute, 991 St. Clair Avenue West, 416-393-1780
Bloor Collegiate Institute, 1141 Bloor Street West, 416-393-1420
Central Technical School, 725 Bathurst Street, 416-393-0060
Central Toronto Academy, 570 Shaw Street, 416-393-0030
Western Technical-Commercial School, 125 Evelyn Crescent, 416-393-0500