King St West
King St West is one of downtown Toronto’s main thoroughfares. Running west from Yonge Street to an intersection of The Queensway, Roncesvalles Avenue and Queen Street West, King runs through many of Toronto’s most varied important, historic and popular neighbourhoods.
King St West runs through the city’s Financial District at Bay Street, the Entertainment District, including many of Toronto’s leading nightclubs and theatres, the Fashion District at Spadina Avenue, Liberty Village at Dufferin Street and Parkdale — which includes some of the city’s leading underground arts venues such as the Gladstone Hotel. Along the way, King also takes in many of Toronto’s most popular and acclaimed restaurants, such attractions as the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Hockey Hall of Fame, Roy Thomson Hall, Metro Hall and Canada’s Walk of Fame and passes near the homes of all four of Toronto’s pro sports teams — the Maple Leafs, the Raptors, the Blue Jays and the Argonauts.
Originally built in the early 1800s and named for King George III, King Street was originally used mainly for industrial purposes. Its proximity and easy access to shipping and rail lines meant the street was occupied by warehouses and industrial factories. But as industries began to leave or close, the character of the street began to change. The building of the CN Tower in 1976 close to King Street marked a definite change in the street’s character.
Through the 80s and 90s, as clubs, theatres and sports venues began to take root along King, the area became a red-hot location for residential living, and high-end condominiums began to sprout along the street. In 1982, Roy Thomson Hall — home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra — opened to the acclaim of audiophiles everywhere and has been a major centre for classical music since. The Skydome — home of the Blue Jays and Argos — opened in 1989, and made the area a major draw for sports fans. The opening of the nearby Air Canada Centre in 1999 completed the area’s reputation as Toronto’s sports mecca.
In the 1990s, the area around King and University also became home to a number of highly popular nightclubs, making the area highly popular with university students and young adults. However, as the area became more and more in demand for living space, and an influx of high-end residences began to appear, the club character began to diminish. Today, if one feels like dancing away a Saturday night, the area is still convenient, but revitalization has turned King Street into a more urbane and professional area.
Further west around King Street, the construction in 1993 of the Princess of Wales Theatre firmly established the area as the centre of Toronto’s theatrical world. Along with the historic Royal Alexandra at King and Simcoe, that reputation was enhanced when independent theatre companies like Theatre Passe Muraille and Factory Theatre also established themselves in the area around King St West.
Especially since the turn of the century, that residential revitalization has continued, as warehouses and factores are converted into lofts and condos, and the area continues to attract professionals and those seeking homes in the heart of the urban centre.
History and Social Profile
King St West has marked some of the major events in Toronto history, including the emergence of the city’s downtown. In the 1830s, the Chewett building at King and York was the city’s first office block and, at the time, was the largest building in Toronto.
In 1847, when the city experienced a typhus epidemic 863 Irish immigrants died of the disease in “fever sheds” built by the Toronto Board of Health at King and John Streets.
On the brighter side of history, the opening of the Royal Alexandra Theatre at King and Simcoe in 1907 brought culture to Toronto. The theatre has remained open since then, making it the longest continuously operating classical theatre in North America. Since 1963, the theatre has been owned by the Mirvishes.
For the first half of the 20th century, the Fashion District was home to a very large Jewish community, especially along Bathurst and Spadina near King, with many residents working in the numerous textile and fabric factories and warehouses. As a result, the area also became home to numerous Jewish delis, tailors, bookstores, cinemas, Yiddish theatres and synagogues.
After World War II, much of that Jewish community moved further north, and the warehouses and factories were converted into other uses.
Today, the areas along King St West are populated by a mix of young professionals, artists and performers and families.
- 504 King Streetcar serves the entire length of King Street West and East
- 508 Lakeshore Streetcar operates during rush hour
- St. Andrew Station on the Yonge-University-Spadina line
- King Station on the Yonge-University-Spadina line
Along the length of King St West, the TTC buses or street cars running north-south along Yonge, Bay, Spadina, Bathurst, Dufferin, Lansdowne and Roncesvalles all intersect with King
- Orde Street Junior Public School, 18 Orde Street, 416-393-1900
- Ogden Junior Public School, 33 Phoebe Street, 416-393-9110
- Niagara Street Junior Public School, 222 Niagara Street, 416-393-1371
- Givins/Shaw Junior Public School, 49 Givins Street, 416-393-1240
- Alexander Muir/Gladstone Ave Junior and Senior Public School, 108 Gladstone Avenue, 416-393-9140
- Queen Victoria Junior Public School, 100 Close Avenue, 416-393-9200
- Ryerson Community School, 96 Denison Avenue, 416-393-1340