[URBAN NOTE] "Historicist: The “Manifest Destiny” of North Toronto"
Torontoist's David Wencer contributed a Historicist post that took a look at the annexation, exactly one hundred years ago, of the municipality of North Toronto into the growing City of Toronto. Now located squarely in the centre of the modern city, stretching along Yonge Street, North Toronto was a rapidly-growing community that lacked the financial wherewithal to provide the infrastructure necessary for its population. The solution for North Toronto, as for many other municipalities in the immediate area of Toronto a century ago, was annexation.
In December 1912, North Toronto was very much a community in transition. The most recent census listed the town’s population at 6,655—up from 5,217 the year before. That November had been a record month for new buildings, and many more permits were on the way as the area’s farmland gradually gave way to new subdivisions.
And at the stroke of midnight on December 15, all 2,610 acres of North Toronto became part of the City of Toronto.
In 1889, the previously unincorporated villages of Davisville and Eglinton formally merged to become the Village of North Toronto. In early 1890, the boundaries were extended, and North Toronto was upgraded to town status. The town grew in spurts over the next 20 years, evolving into a bedroom suburb of Toronto where commuters and their families enjoyed affordable and relatively quiet property within close proximity to the amenities of the growing City of Toronto.
Like many of Toronto’s surrounding municipalities at this time, North Toronto struggled to find the capital necessary for the urban projects which the growing residential population increasingly demanded: street paving, electricity, plumbing, sewage, public schools, and libraries. Accounts of North Toronto’s history often reference the tax laws of the time, under which York County properties classified as farmland were taxed at a lower rate than properties which had been subdivided into lots. Speculation in North Toronto boomed, as investors bought North Toronto land, hoping to cash in once the big wave of development finally came. Prior to annexation, however, many were taking advantage of the favourable farmland tax rate and refrained from actually building on their North Toronto assets, leaving the town with limited funds to spend on amenities.