Runnymede-Bloor West Village
Bloor West Village — known in its wider incarnation as Runnymede-Bloor West Village — is one of Toronto’s most family-friendly neighbourhoods. Located minutes from High Park, the city’s largest green space, and drawing its energy from the bustling strip along Bloor Street, the neighbourhood’s quiet streets are home to many single-family homes dating from the 1900s. The result is a real neighbourhood with a focus on children, small businesses and a genuine small-town feel, with the heart of downtown within easy reach.
Bordered roughly by Bloor Street on the south, Jane Street on the west, Dundas Street West and the CP railroad on the north and Runnymede Road on the east, Runnymede-Bloor West Village first began in the 1800s, on the estate of John Scarlett, who named his cottage-styled house Runnymede, built in 1838 on what is today the intersection of Runnymede and Dundas. Although the area was quickly planned for development, residential construction didn’t begin until the early 1900s. The area got a huge boost with the development of the Bloor streetcar line in the 1920s, and with the constructon of the Bloor subway in the 1960s.
Today, the neighbourhood is anchored by the Bloor west business strip. While the area has its share of large stores, it is also home to hundreds of smaller, independent businesses, including boutiques, specialty clothing stores, bookstores, and many esteemed restaurants and cafes. The Bloor West strip is also widely credited with forming the world’s first Business Improvement Area in 1970, an idea that has since been widely adopted by other neighbourhoods in Toronto and around the world.
History and Social Profile
The Runnymede area first came into being as part of the estate of developer John Scarlett, who settled there in 1808, and quickly became proprietor of a number of industrial mills. Scarlett built his home Runnymede, at the intersection of what is today Runnymede and Dundas. Although the area was quickly planned for development, residential construction didn’t begin until the early 1900s to accommodate the business boom in the area due to the arrival of major railway lines in the area.
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.
The neighbourhood got a boost in 1915 when Bloor Street — which in that area was little more than a trestle bridge over a series of creeks at a time — was redeveloped. And in 1921, the Bloor streetcar was extended west to Jane Street. As north-south streets were renovated to intersect with Bloor, and the area became more accessible, it became newly popular with developers.
The area got another huge boost in May, 1968 when the Bloor-Danforth subway line opened in the neighbourhood, allowing residents to easily commute to downtown, and making the neighbourhood newly popular with professionals and families looking for bigger houses in a quieter area.
The arrival of the subway also led to the formation of the Bloor West Village Business Improvement Area in 1970, as small local businesses felt themselves threatened by the sudden accessibility of downtown stores to local residents. The dues paid by local businesses to the BIA led to a drastic beautification program and restorations, making the area more attractive for office buildings and other businesses. The effect was to turn the stretch of Bloor into a popular shopping destination for both local residents and visitors. And its popularity continues today, as a Saturday afternoon along Bloor finds the street full of pedestrians browsing the unique and highly varied stores along the street.
The area’s quiet tree-lined streets also continue to make it a prime destination for families and for those looking for larger homes and more space, and the opportunity to enjoy the feel of a small town and the natural amenities.
The most notable of those amenities, of course, is High Park. Located on the south side of Bloor minutes from Runnymede, the 400-acre park was opened to the public in 1876 on land bequeathed to the city by John George Howard, who is buried along with his wife in the park itself. The park is the largest entirely within the limits of the city of Toronto.
Howard had purchased the land in 1836 for use as a sheep farm and named it High Park. He constructed a home on the property called Colborne Lodge, which today functions as a museum. In 1873, the Howards gave most of their land to the City on condition that it be used “for the free use, benefit and enjoyment of the Citizens of Toronto for ever and to be called and designated at all times thereafter High Park.” The rest of their land also passed to the city upon their death.
The park lies on hilly terrain, with the 35-acre Grenadier Pond, and with two deep ravines running the entire north-south length of the park, one of which lies over part of the Laurentian River System which has flowed undisturbed since before the ice age.
The park contains several baseball diamonds, an ice rink, tobogganing hills, tennis courts, playgrounds, landscaped gardens, forests and the High Park Nature Centre, as well as dog-walking areas, a pool and a café. High Park is also the site of ancient aboriginal burial mounds, which the city is in the process of repairing after they were damaged by the area’s unofficial use as a track for BMX bikes.
The park also features the annual, hugely popular, run of performances known as Shakespeare in High Park, formerly called The Dream in High Park, performed in an outdoor amphitheatre.
- Asa Sushi
- Sabor A Mexico
- Westwood Grill
- Amber European Restaurant
- Astra Meat Products
- Kennedy Public House
- ViBo Restaurant
- Annette Street Junior and Senior Public School, 265 Annette Street, 416-393-9040
- Humberside Collegiate Institute, 280 Quebec Avenue, 416-393-8122
- Runnymede Junior and Senior Public School, 357 Runnymede Road, 416-393-9055
- Swansea Junior and Senior Public School, 207 Windermere Avenue, 416-393-9080
- Western Technical-Commercial School, 125 Evelyn Crescent, 416-393-0500
- Runnymede Collegiate Institute, 569 Jane Street, 416-394-3200
- King George Junior Public School, 25 Rexford Road, 416-394-3060
- St. Pius X Catholic School, 71 Jane Street, 416-393-5237
- James Culnan Catholic School, 605 Willard Avenue, 416-393-5065
- Runnymede subway station
- Jane subway station
- Buses or streetcars run along Jane, Runnymede, Annette and Dundas