The neighbourhood of Deer Park is located in an area that the First Nations population originally called “Mushquoteh,” meaning a meadow or opening in the wood where deer come to feed. When the Heath family bought 40 acres of the land in 1837, they gave it the name of Deer Park.
Today, sadly, there are no deer left in the area. Indeed, Deer Park is somewhat unique for a residential neighbourhood in that its centre is actually a major intersection of the city. Deer Park is clustered around the intersection of Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue, with most of the residential streets connected to the thriving area, with shops, restaurants, entertainment and offices buildings mere steps away for many residents. That location lends Deer Park a liveliness that is nicely balanced by the fact that much of the rest of the neighbourhood is composed of historic homes, greenery, natural ravines and parkland. The combination makes Deer Park an ideal location for those who want to combine urban living with the benefits of an upscale neighbourhood.
Bordered by the Belt Line nature trail and Glen Elm Avenue to the north, Avenue Road and Oriole Parkway to the west, Farnham Avenue and Jackes Avenue to the south and the Vale of Avoca Ravine to the east, Deer Park combines many large detached houses built from the late 1800s toearly 1900s with numerous, more modern, upscale apartment buildings and condominiums designed for single professionals and young couples and families eager to live close to the more cosmopolitan attractions of the Yonge and St. Clair centre of the neighbourhood.
History and Social Profile
After their purchase of the land in 1837, the Heath family quickly saw the area developing around them. By the 1850s, Deer Park was home to a number of large houses, a racetrack, a school and a hotel from which people could feed the deer which still roamed the land. In 1846, the Heaths subdivided their land into 33 lots, which by 1874 were all sold off.
In 1908, Deer Park — already a thriving upper-class neighbourhood — became part of the city of Toronto, and by the 1930s, was a heavily populated and popular region of the city, although without the deer, by that point.
In the intervening years, Deer Park had acquired a number of interesting institutions. In 1855, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto opened St. Michael’s Cemetery in the neighbourhood. Today, the cemetery — one of the oldest in the city — covers 10 acres and holds about 29,000 graves. Unusually for a cemetery, St. Michael’s is completely surrounded by urban buildings, including houses, apartment buildings, offices and stores, making it virtually invisible from the street. Entrance is gained via an alley off Yonge Street. In 1975, its unique octagonal mortuary vault — designed by architect Joseph Sheard, who was also mayor of Toronto from 1871-72, and used to store bodies in the winter until the ground thawed enough to allow for burial — was designated a historic property under the Ontario Heritage Act.
And in 1891, Upper Canada College, possibly the most famous private school in Canada, moved to its present location on Avenue Road north of St. Clair Avenue.
And in keeping with the cemetery theme, Deer Park is also neighboured on its northern border by Mount Pleasant Cemetery. The beautiful cemetery — which is the final resting place for many famous Torontonians and holds many gloriously built memorials — also has miles miles of walking trails, along with fountains, statues, botanical gardens and many rare species of trees. It has become an extremely popular site not only for those interested in the history of Toronto and of architecture, but for those looking for a quiet place to walk and contemplate the city and its relationship to nature.
And Deer Park has also had its share of notable residents. Archbishop Desmond Tutu used to stay in a house at 40 Heath Street West, when it was owned by the Catholic Church. And the same house was used by police in 1952 to stake out the house next door when it used as a hideout by the infamous Boyd Gang of bank robbers. Edwin Boyd was arrested at 42 Heath Street on March 15, 1952. And famed pianist Glenn Gould lived in Apartment 902 at 110 St. Clair Avenue West from 1962 until he died in 1982. Deer Park residents can actually visit his grave in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.
As well, despite its urban nature, Deer Park is also blessed with abundant green space and trails for those craving exercise and the outdoors. The Rosehill Reservoir, located just minutes from the neighbourhood centre, features a reflecting pool, a waterfall and a flower garden. Adjacent to the Reservoir is the David Balfour Park, which offers a trail for jogging and cycling, a playground and access to the Vale of Avoca Ravine, which is popular with hikers for its trail along a creek through an urban forest.
Oriole Park, to the north of the neighbourhood, has a newly created playground, a wading pool, two tennis courts and lead onto the Belt Line, a seven-kilometre trail following the old Belt Line Railway, the city’s original commuter line.
Deer Park is also a marvel for tree enthusiasts, featuring both ancient trees and species found in few other places in the city. According to a local walk touring the trees of Deer Park, the area is home to over 80 different species. These include, among many others, white and red oaks, maples, locusts, pines, cedars, ash, cherry, hemlock, yews, mulberrys, spruce and olives.
This combination of nature, history and a location in the middle of a thriving intersection offering ready access to shopping, restaurants, entertainment and business has made Deer Park a dream location for many in Toronto.
- Delica Kitchen
- Chef of India
- New Thai
- St. Clair Station
- Davisville Station
- Summerhill Station
Buses run along Avenue Road, St. Clair Avenue and Mount Pleasant Road.
- Deer Park Junior and Senior Public School, 23 Ferndale Avenue, 416-393-1550
- Brown Junior Public School, 454 Avenue Road, 416-393-1560
- Jarvis Collegiate Institute, 495 Jarvis Street, 416-393-0140
- Northern Secondary School, 851 Mount Pleasant Road, 416-393-0270
- North Toronto Collegiate Institute, 17 Broadway Avenue, 416-393-9180