The Junction is one of the most up-and-coming neighbourhoods in Toronto. Long an industrial centre — the neighbourhood is named for the fact that it is located at the junction of three major railway lines — and formerly home to abbatoirs and meat packing plants, the neighbourhood is now a cultural centre. As lofts, studios, condos and apartments have gone up in The Junction, artists, musicians, filmmakers and others have found new and affordable space to live and work. Arts festivals have flourished, and The Junction has found itself one of the youngest, hippest and edgiest neighbourhoods in the city.
And all this, of course, in a neighbourhood where until 2000 one was unable to buy alcohol. From 1904 until 1997, The Junction was completely dry, and it wasn’t until the dawn of the 21st century that the first drink was sold in the area in almost a century. Since then, The Junction has produced some of the most popular bars and clubs in Toronto.
Bordered by St. Clair Avenue West on the north, Keele Street on the east, the Canadian Pacific rail lines on the south and Runnymede Road on the west, The Junction is a heavily multi-cultural neighbourhood. Its industrial past — centred around the railways and the mills, factories and meat processing plants that followed — attracted labour from many nations. The area has a particularly strong Irish, Maltese and Eastern European flavour.
When the livestock markets and abbatoirs left the area in the early 1990s, the area began to attract residents. As the land was redeveloped into new housing, apartments, lofts and condos, chic restaurants and stores rapidly followed, and The Junction has quickly found itself on the cutting edge of the city, with a mix of long-time residents, artists, students and professionals sharing a love for their developing neighbourhood.
History and Social Profile
The area was first developed by John Scarlett, who by 1817 had purchased most of the land in the neighbourhood. Scarlett set up a number of mills in the area, where most of the residents at the time worked. Scarlett also built Scarlett Road and Runnymede Road — which he named after the house he had built there — both of which still run through the area. Scarlett sold his mills in 1846, and two years later, they had all closed.
From the late 1850s to the late 1870s, the primary business in the area was the Carlton Race Course, actually the site of the first Queen’s Plate in 1860. In the 1880s, the Grand Trunk, Toronto Grey and Bruce, and Northern railway lines established themselves in the area, quickly followed by Canadian Pacific establishing railyards in the neighbourhood. At the same time, politician, lawyer and newspaper publisher Daniel Webster Clendenan bought up much of the land and redeveloped it.
The railways sparked a business boom in the area, seeing the establishment of factories manufacturing everything from pianos and nails to soap and furniture and others businesses including meat processing plants, foundries and flour mills. The new businesses attracted many new Irish and English immigrants who saw an opportunity to escape the crowded conditions downtown. Later, immigrants from European countries, including Italy, Macedonia, Croatian and Poland arrived to work in the meat plants. In the 1920s, a large number of immigrants from Malta arrived in the neighbourhood, a part of which — near Dundas and St. John’s Road — is officially known as Little Malta.
At the same time, the area was undergoing official changes. The area was officially founded as the Village of West Toronto Junction in 1884. In 1889, it merged with the villages of Carlton and Davenport and became the town of West Toronto Junction, expanding further in 1892 into the Town of Toronto Junction, and finally the City of West Toronto in 1908. In 1909, it officially became part of the city of Toronto.
In 1904, residents in the area decided they had had enough of the rowdy behaviour of workers in the neighbourhood, and voted to ban alcohol in the town. The ban — which had a disastrous effect on the establishment of restaurants and, of course, bars in the neighbourhood — remained in effect until 1997, despite numerous legal challenges. In 1997, the ban on alcohol was overturned due to a referendum held as part of the municipal election. In 2000, a small corner of The Junction, east of Keele, which had remained dry, voted to overturn the final ban on alcohol.
But in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the area went into economic decline, in part because of prohibition. The area remained, however, the centre of Ontario’s meat industry until 1993, when Ontario Stockyards — which had been Canada’s largest livestock market — moved, followed soon after by the area’s meat-packing plants. That departure, along with the industry’s distinctive odour, coupled with the legalization of alcohol, set the table for the neighbourhood’s revitalization.
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 for those looking for the next Queen Street West.
In 2012, the neighbourhood launched the The Junction Music Festival, following on the success of The Junction Arts Festival. The festivals showcase the fact that 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 The Junction 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 from The Junction towards downtown.
- Pho Huong
- Curry Twist
- Avec Panache
- Vesuvio Pizzeria
- Cool Hand of a Girl
- The Beet
- Junction Eatery
- Axis Gallery & Grill
- Runnymede Station
- High Park Station
- Keele Station
Buses run along Runnymede, High Park Avenue, Keele, Dundas Street West and St. Clair Avenue West.
- Annette Street Public School, 265 Annette Street, 416-393-9040
- Indian Road Crescent Junior Public School, 285 Indian Road Crescent, 416-393-9025
- Runnymede Junior and Senior Public School, 357 Runnymede Road, 416-393-9055
- Humberside Collegiate Institute, 280 Quebec Avenue, 416-393-8122
- Western Technical-Commercial School, 125 Evelyn Crescent, 416-393-0500