University Avenue is one of Toronto’s most striking and scenic thoroughfares, as well as one of its most interesting. The street — so named because it culminates at its northern end in the University of Toronto and Queen’s Park, home to both the actual park and the Ontario Legislature — passes through several of the city’s best-known districts, and is within walking distance of many of Toronto’s leading attractions.
University begins in the south at Front Street West and runs north to College Street, just south of Queens’s Park and the Ontario Legislature, and right next door to U of T. University then turns into Queen’s Park Crescent, dividing in two around Queen’s Park itself and reforming as Queen’s Park, a road which runs north to Bloor Street. North of Bloor, the street turns into Avenue Road.
En route, University passes through everything from the Financial District to the Hospital District and Discovery Districts — which include some of the world’s leading hospitals and many cutting-edge research establishments. A number of revered cultural institutions, including the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum are just steps away.
University also intersects with Queen Street West. Apart from being steps away from the centre of Toronto’s alternative music scene, the intersection is one of the most significant in the city. On the south-east corner is the the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts — the spectacular home of the Canadian Opera Company.
On the north-east corner is historic Osgoode Hall, built between 1829 and 1832, and and named for Ontario’s first chief justice. Home to the law school of York University until 1969, Osgoode Hall still houses the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Divisional Court of the Superior Court of Justice and the Law Society of Upper Canada.
And on the north-west corner is Campbell House, the oldest surviving home from the town of York, the original city of Toronto. The house, built by the chief justice of Upper Canada Sir William Campbell in 1822, is one of the few remaining instances of Georgian architecture in the city, and is a popular site for tours.
As a whole, University is also one of the few major streets designed as a boulevard, with a landscaped median dividing the north and south-bound lanes. The median contains not only flowering gardens and fountains, but several statues and war memorials, giving the avenue a particularly ceremonial air. These include a statue of Adam Beck, the founder of Ontario Hydro, unveiled in 1934, and the South African War Memorial, unveiled in 1910, to commemorate Canadians who fought in the Boer War. Most recently, the Canadian Airman’s Memorial, with its distinctive elongated figure, was unveiled in 1984.
The southern end of University Avenue is more residential, with a number of restaurants and condos situated near to Front Street. There are also a number of luxury condos being built presently, most notably the 65-story Shangri-La Hotel and condominium complex at University and Adelaide.
But with Bay Street just to the east and Spadina Avene just to the west, the area has already become home to a large number of condos, lofts and renovated warehouses and factories. With its proximity to so much of the city’s downtown life and with prominent hospitals and research facilities located along University, living in the neighbourhood has become highly desirable for a mixture of professionals, scientists and techies.
History and Social Profile
University Avenue — today a two-way boulevard separated by a landscaped median — was originally two parallel roads. The eastern road was called Park Lane, after the London street of the same name. The western road was called College Avenue, because its northern end terminated in King’s College — the original University of Toronto — which has since been replaced by Queen’s Park.
In 1859, College Street was extended west to intersect with College Avenue. To avoid confusion, College Avenue and Park Lane were combined into University Avenue.
The northern part of University is home to what has become popularly known as Hospital Row, because five of Canada’s leading hospitals — Toronto Western, Mount Sinai, Princess Margaret, Toronto General and the Hospital for Sick Children — are all located there. A sixth, Women’s College, is located only a block away.
In 2000, the MaRS Discovery District, a number of buildings devoted to medical research was unveiled on the south-east corner of College and University. The site, run by a not-for-profit corporation is one of the world’s leading institutes in the area of cutting-edge medical research
- Nota Bene
- Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
- The Queen Mother
- Lai Wah Heen
The Yonge-University-Spadina subway line runs along the length of University Avenue. Queen’s Park, St. Patrick, Osgoode, St. Andrew and Union Stations all serve University Avenue.
- Orde Street Junior Public School, 18 Orde Street, 416-393-1900
- Lord Lansdowne Junior and Senior Public School, 33 Robert Street, 416-393-1350
- Jarvis Collegiate Institute, 495 Jarvis Street, 416-393-0140