Built along the Davenport escarpment, Hillcrest — also known, somewhat confusingly, as both Wychwood and Bracondale Hill, and not to be confused with Hillcrest Village in what used to be North York — holds several unique pieces of Toronto history. Taddle Creek, the stream that once flowed through the city before it was buried, is still visible in the Hillcrest neighbourhood. And the small enclave of Wychwood Park remains one of the very few parts of the city that’s still considered a private community.
Wychwood Park also holds the distinction of having been originally founded as an artists’ colony, while the rest of the Hillcrest neighbourhood was originally founded by a lawyer and Anglican. While the community — today bordered by St. Clair Avenue on the north, Oakwood Avenue on the west, Davenport Road on the south and Bathurst Street on the east — has mostly overcome its divided roots, that diversity still shows up, especially in the multicultural melange along St. Clair and in the mixture of houses and residents in the neighbourhood. The population contains a large number of artists — especially since the development of the Wychwood Barns artists’ complex — as well as academics, professionals and families.
The hilly terrain lends the neighbourhood streets a unique look and character, while the buildings — many built in the early part of the last century — range from large, detached homes to smaller, more modest, homes and, in more recent years, a number of apartment and condominium developments. Wychwood Park, in particular, although it only contains about 60 houses, is a fascinating mixture of artists’ cottages and palatial mansions. Wychwood Park was designated as an Ontario Heritage Conservation district in 1985.
History and Social Profile
Hillcrest was originally settled by Robert Turner, a barrister who emigrated from England in 1833, where he eventually became referee of titles and accountant-general of the Court of Chancery at Osgoode Hall. He purchased a large piece of land around Davenport Road, and proceeded to build an estate on Davenport Hill — perhaps, in part, because of diseases like typhus that were rife in the city itself; the atmosphere on the Hill was regarded as being much healthier. Part of the estate was a Georgian-style home that Turner called Bracondale Hill.
By the 1880s, a small village, known as Bracondale Village, had sprung up on the edges of the Turner estate. Frank Turner, Robert’s son, became the first postmaster of the village. In 1909, the village became part of the city of Toronto, and the Turner family opted to sell much of their land, creating an exclusive new subdivision on their estate that they christened Bracondale Hill Park. The family maintained control of the original house until 1937, when they sold it to the city, which demolished the house as part of developing what is now Hillcrest Park.
Wychwood Park, nestled in the south-east corner of Hillcrest at the intersection of Bathurst and Davenport, has its own unique story.
The neighbourhood within the neighbourhood was originally an artists’ colony established by landscape painter Marmaduke Matthews in the 1870s, and named after Wychwood Forest in Matthews’ British homeland. Matthews built the first house in the new community in 1874. The second was built in 1877 by his friend and fellow artist Alexander Jardin. Many of the houses were designed by prominent architects Arthur Edwin Whatmough and Eden Smith. The community was designed around a park with a ravine running through the neighbourhood and Taddle Creek was dammed to created a pond in the the middle of the park. Today, Wychwood Park is one of the few parts of the city where Taddle Creek runs above ground.
Wychwood Park officially became part of Toronto in 1909, but it officially is still a private community. Streets and amenities are paid for by local residents, and the community is actually managed by an executive council. This has contributed to the neighbourhood becoming a rather exclusive and upscale enclave within the city. Past residents include media theorist Marshall McLuhan and his psychologist neighbour Anatol Rapoport.
Hillcrest residents are able to enjoy the advantages of the Davenport escarpment and its abundant trees and foliage, as well as Hillcrest Park itself, which offers a playground and four tennis courts. St. Clair Avenue and Ossington Avenue afford a diverse cultural mix of restaurants and shopping.
But one of the neighbourhood’s biggest and most recent attractions is the Wychwood Barns. Formerly a streetcar maintenance facility for the Toronto Transit Commission, the area was opened at the end of 2008 as a community park and mixed-use facility, offering artist housing and studios, a greenhouse, a farmer’s market, a beach volleyball court and office space for a number of local community groups.
- Atlas One Café
- The Rushton
- The Stockyards
- Universal Grill
- Ferro Bar and Café
- St. Clair West Station
- Dupont Station
- Christie Station
Buses and streetcars run along Davenport, St. Clair, Christie and Bathurst, and the Ossington bus continues north along Oakwood.
- Hillcrest Community School, 44 Hilton Avenue, 416-393-9700
- Winona Drive Senior Public School, 101 Winona Drive, 416-393-1680
- Oakwood Collegiate Institute, 991 St. Clair Avenue West, 416-393-1780
- Central Technical School, 725 Bathurst Street, 416-393-0060
- Central Commerce Collegiate Institute, 570 Shaw Street, 416-393-0030