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Cabbagetown, Toronto

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Title: Cabbagetown, Toronto  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Moss Park, Church and Wellesley, Garden District, Toronto, History of neighbourhoods in Toronto, Corktown, Toronto
Collection: Historic Districts in Canada, Neighbourhoods in Toronto
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Cabbagetown, Toronto

Houses in Cabbagetown
Houses in Cabbagetown
The area west of Parliament is not always considered part of Cabbagetown
The area west of Parliament is not always considered part of Cabbagetown
Cabbagetown, Toronto is located in Toronto
Location within Toronto
Country  Canada
Province  Ontario
City Toronto

Cabbagetown is a neighbourhood located on the east side of downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Administratively, it is defined as part of the Cabbagetown-South St. Jamestown neighbourhood.[1] It comprises "the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in all of North America", according to the Cabbagetown Preservation Association.

Cabbagetown's name derives from the Irish immigrants who moved to the neighbourhood beginning in the late 1840s, said to have been so poor that they grew cabbage in their front yards. Canadian writer Hugh Garner's novel, Cabbagetown, depicted life in the neighbourhood during the Great Depression.


  • History 1
  • Gentrification 2
  • Residents 3
  • Boundaries 4
    • Original 4.1
    • Current 4.2
    • Heritage Conservation District 4.3
  • Education 5
  • Community associations 6
    • Cabbagetown/Regent Park Community Museum 6.1
    • Aberdeen Avenue Residents' Group 6.2
    • Don Vale Cabbagetown Residents Association 6.3
    • Cabbagetown South Association 6.4
  • Culture 7
    • Cabbagetown Festival 7.1
    • Cabbagetown Short Film & Video Festival 7.2
    • Dance & theatre 7.3
    • Forsythia Festival 7.4
  • Books about Cabbagetown 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


The area today known as Cabbagetown was first known as the village of Don Vale, just outside of Toronto. Before the 1850s it consisted of farmland dotted with cottages and vegetable plots. It grew up in the 1840s around the Winchester Street Bridge, which before the construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct was the main northern bridge over the Don River.[2] This was near the site where Castle Frank Brook flowed in the Don River. By the bridge the Don Vale Tavern and Fox's Inn were established to cater to travellers.[3] In 1850 the Toronto Necropolis was established in the area as the city's main cemetery.

In the late 19th century the area was absorbed into the city. It became home to the working class Irish inhabitants who were employed in the industries along the lake shore to the south in Corktown. Brick Victorian style houses were built throughout the area. The name Cabbagetown purportedly came from stories of new Irish immigrants digging up their front lawns and planting cabbage. In this era the Cabbagetown name most often applied to the area south of Gerrard Street, with the part to the north still being called Don Vale. It was a working-class neighbourhood, but reached its peak of prosperity just before the First World War, which is when many of the brick homes in the area date from.

After the war the area became increasingly impoverished. A large number of poorer residents moved in, many resorting to share one house among multiple families. The nineteenth century brick houses began deteriorating, and as landlords saw less value in the neighbourhood, they were not maintained.[4] It became known as one of Toronto's largest slums and much of the original Cabbagetown was razed in the late 1940s to make room for the Regent Park housing project. A new immigrant influx also lead to the beginning of ethnic diversity in the neighbourhood. The remaining section to the north, then still known as Don Vale, was also slated to be cleared and replaced by housing projects. In 1964 a Toronto Star writer wrote that "Cabbagetown has become a downhill ride and if you're on way up, you don't dare stay there for long unless you live in Regent Park."[5]

The construction of new housing projects was halted in the 1970s. In Don Mount this effort was led by Karl Jaffary, who was elected to city council in the 1969 municipal election along with a group of like minded councilors who opposed sweeping urban renewal plans. John Sewell led the effort to preserve Trefann Court, that covered the southern section of the original Cabbagetown. A bylaw was approved in the 1970s to ban any building higher than four storeys, in reaction to the high density high rises being built in neighbouring St. James Town.[6]


Cabbagetown was gentrified by affluent professionals, beginning in the 1970s. Many residents restored small Victorian row houses and became community activists. Darrell Kent, a resident and local businessman, is recognized by the community as having been the driving force behind the restoration of many of the area’s beautiful and unique Victorian houses.[7] As Kent was a gay real estate agent, gay men and some lesbians made up the earliest gentrifying groups of Cabbagetown.[6] They are still a significant part of the population today, and the area is considered queer friendly.

In 1983 the Globe and Mail wrote that "Cabbagetown is probably the epitome of successful labelling. The core of the area—generally defined as being bounded by Parliament, Wellesley and Dundas Streets and the Don Valley—was once Toronto's skid row. Today, about a decade after the area was invaded by young professionals, speculators and real estate agents, there are still a few derelicts around to give the area colour. The houses, meanwhile, sell for upward of $200,000."[8] 25 years after that article was written, some homes in the area have sold for more than $1 million. Vestiges of a 1960s, counter-culture ambiance remain at vintage clothing stores, health food stores and a gestalt therapy clinic. A Victorian farm, once the site of a zoo, is located adjacent to Riverdale Park West, where a weekly farmer's market is held. A short distance away is the Cabbagetown Youth Centre, home of the Cabbagetown Boxing Club, a reminder of an earlier, and rougher, past. In recent years, some businesses from the nearby "gay village" of Church and Wellesley, have relocated to the area, attracted by cheaper commercial rents.

Despite gentrification, residents from public housing projects and affluent home owners mingle at a discount supermarket and a community medical clinic. Panhandling and drug-dealing are part of the urban landscape; so are gourmet shops, upscale boutiques and arts festivals, book launches and wine-tastings at local restaurants. Paradoxically, "The Gerrard and Parliament neighbourhood, located near Dundas and Sherbourne Streets, has the largest concentration of homeless shelters and drop-in centres in Canada. The area is also distinguished by a large number of rooming houses and other forms of low income housing."[9]


Cabbagetown businesses along Carlton Street

The neighbourhood is home to many artists, musicians, journalists and writers. Other residents include professors, doctors and social workers, many affiliated with the nearby University of Toronto. Proximity to the financial district and downtown core have also made the area popular with other professionals such as lawyers, management consultants and those in financial services.

Celebrities who have at some time been residents of Cabbagetown include:

As part of a project called 'Cabbagetown People', historical plaques have been placed on noteworthy homes. A map of the locations has been erected in Riverdale Park West, and an index of the addresses, with the names of the former residents, is posted on a website devoted to this project. The people listed include:


Aerial Photograph of old Cabbagetown, 1942


The original boundaries of Cabbagetown were:

  • Gerrard Street to the north
  • Queen Street to the south
  • Parliament Street to the west
  • the Don River to the east

Prior to the government housing that replaced much of the original housing beginning in the 1940s, Cabbagetown encompassed the current neighbourhoods of Moss Park, Regent Park, St. Jamestown and Trefann Court.


Cabbagetown's current boundaries may be broadly defined as:

  • Gerrard Street to the south (east of Parliament)
  • Shuter Street to the south (between Sherbourne St. and Parliament St.)
  • St. James Cemetery to the north (east of Parliament St.)
  • Wellesley Street East to the north (between Sherbourne St. and Parliament St.)
  • Sherbourne Street to the west
  • the Don River to the east.

Heritage Conservation District

In 2004 part of Cabbagetown became a Heritage Conservation District, protected by municipal bylaw. The district was established in two stages: first an area centred on Metcalfe, and later areas to the north and east of the initial area.
The boundaries of the combined district[12] are currently:

  • St. James Cemetery to the north
  • just east of Parliament Street to the west (i.e. excluding Parliament Street itself)
  • Carlton Street to the south, including the south side
  • Wellesley Park, the Necropolis and Riverdale Park to the east

The area south of Carlton Street and north of, but excluding, Gerrard Street, is under consideration for future inclusion.


Lord Dufferin Junior and Senior Public School is located south of Gerrard Street. It was completely renovated and expanded in 1999 to serve students throughout the area.

Nelson Mandela Park Public School is located on Shuter Street, south of Regent Park, with a broad multicultural mix of students from the area.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School (junior kindergarten to grade 8) was originally located on Winchester Street in Cabbagetown. 100+ years later, the school occupies modern facilities at 444 Sherbourne Street, just south of Wellesley Street, on the western edge of the neighbourhood. In 2005, St. Martin’s school on Salisbury Street in Cabbagetown was closed and the students and staff became part of the Our Lady of Lourdes school community. Presently, St. Martin now serves as an Alternative Pupil Placement for Limited Expelled Students (A.P.P.L.E.) program run through Monsignor Fraser College for students who are on a limited expulsion.

Rose Avenue Public School is located in the centre of the St. Jamestown apartment complex, south of Bloor Street, north of Wellesley Street and west of Parliament Street.

Winchester Junior & Senior Public School is a public elementary and middle school on Prospect St. The school provides French Immersion and has a Toddler Learning Centre, and it partners in an after school program with the Cabbagetown Youth Centre. This school is over 125 years old. Winchester School Community Garden is home to the Green Thumbs Growing Kids’ flagship school food garden. The school is bordered by Rose Avenue to the east and Winchester St. to the south.

Community associations

Cabbagetown/Regent Park Community Museum

Established in 2004, the Cabbagetown/Regent Park Community Museum is a not-for-profit organization that strives to actively collect, preserve and display the history of Cabbagetown and Regent Park using oral histories, artifacts, photographs and printed material.[13]

Aberdeen Avenue Residents' Group

The residents of Aberdeen Avenue, named for Lord Aberdeen and his wife Lady Ishbel Aberdeen, established an active community association in 2006, the Aberdeen Avenue Residents' Group (AARG) to address issues unique to this Cabbagetown location.

Don Vale Cabbagetown Residents Association

The Don Vale Cabbagetown Residents Association (DVCRA) was originally established in 1967, according to its website. It states its purpose to be protecting and improving the general quality of life and character of the community. The association defines its western boundary as Parliament Street.

Cabbagetown South Association

The area between Sherbourne St. and Parliament St., from Shuter St. to Carlton St. has its own residents' association, Cabbagetown South Association. Cabbagetown South Association was formed in 2002 from the amalgamation of Central Cabbagetown Residents Association (CENTRA), which previously represented the part of Cabbagetown South that is north of Gerrard Street E., and the Seaton Ontario Berkeley Residents Association (SOBRA), which previously represented those streets south of Gerrard Street E.


Cabbagetown Festival

The (Annual) Cabbagetown Festival is held on the second weekend in September each year. Various individual events during the week lead up to the two-day Festival on the weekend. The highlight of the Festival is a parade on Saturday morning, which usually starts at 10:00 a.m. The route can vary from year-to-year, but the parade usually includes bands, floats and local politicians. Parliament Street between Wellesley Street East and Carlton Street is closed to traffic for the week-end. An arts and crafts fair occurs all weekend in Riverdale Park West, adjacent to Riverdale Farm. Vendors come from far afield for this event. Organization of the festival is coordinated by the Old Cabbagetown Business Improvement Area (OCBIA). The festival also includes a 'Tour of Homes' organized by the Cabbagetown Preservation Association. Each year several different local homes are opened to a paying public.

Cabbagetown Short Film & Video Festival

The annual Cabbagetown Short Film & Video Festival showcases short films from around the world and is held during the Cabbagetown Festival each year. Actress, producer and writer Gina Dineen founded the Short Film & Video Festival in 1992. Since then it has grown into an international juried screening, showcasing many Canadian filmmakers and genres including animation, documentary, dramatic narrative, comedy, experimental and music. None of the productions run longer than 15 minutes.

Dance & theatre

A heritage-designated renovated church, the Winchester Street Theatre, at 80 Winchester Street, houses both Toronto Dance Theatre and The School of Toronto Dance Theatre. Close by at 509 Parliament Street, the Danny Grossman Dance Company, the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, The School of the Canadian Children's Dance Theatre and TILT Sound + Motion share a large renovated building that housed some of the CBC's radio studios until the early 1990s. These venues host both dance and theatre performances at various times during the year.

Forsythia Festival

The first Sunday in May sees the annual Forsythia festival organized by the Cabbagetown Residents Association. The festival includes a parade from Riverdale Park West to Wellesley Park, where games and family entertainment are held. Local resident, storyteller and entertainer Tony Brady (1935–1991) founded the Forsythia Festival in 1971 and participated each year in character as his alter ego, Briget The Clown.

Books about Cabbagetown

Housing in Cabbagetown
  • Cabbagetown Store, J.V.McAree (short stories)
    • Ryerson Press (1953) (113 pages)
  • Working People: Life in a downtown city neighbourhood, James Lorimer & Myfanwy Phillips
    • James Lewis & Samuel Ltd (1971) (hardcover) ISBN 0-88862-011-X (274 pages)
    • James Lewis & Samuel Ltd (1971) (paperback) ISBN 0-88862-012-8 (274 pages)
  • Cabbagetown, Hugh Garner (novel)
    • McGraw-Hill Ryerson/Trade (1978) ISBN 0-07-082702-8 (415 pages)
    • McGraw-Hill Ryerson/Trade (2002) ISBN 0-07-091552-0 (424 pages)
  • Cabbagetown: The story of a Victorian neighbourhood, Penina Coopersmith
    • James Lorimer & Co (1998) ISBN 1-55028-579-3 (96 pages)
  • Cabbagetown Remembered, George H. Rust-D'Eye
    • The Boston Mills Press (1984) ISBN 0-919783-00-7
  • Cabbagetown in Pictures, Colleen Kelly
    • Toronto Public Library (1984) ISBN 0-919486-71-1
  • Touring Old Cabbagetown
    • Cabbagetown Preservation Association (1992) ISBN 0-9696394-0-6
  • The Banker of Cabbagetown, Eric S. Rosen
    • s.n. (1991) ISBN 0-9692017-3-7
  • Images of Cabbagetown Photography by James Wiley
    • V.A. Gates (1994) OCLC 317823728 (128 pages)
  • The Knot, Tim Wynne-Jones (novel)
    • McClelland and Stewart Limited (1982) ISBN 0-7710-9051-X
  • The Intruders : A Novel, Hugh Garner
    • McGraw-Hill Ryerson (1976) OCLC 2603265
  • Cabbagetown Diary : A Documentary, (novel) Juan Butler
    • Peter Martin Associates, Ltd. (1970) ISBN 0-88778-040-7

See also


  1. ^ "[2]" Toronto Neighborhoods List
  2. ^ "Don Vale House" Lost Rivers
  3. ^ Charles Sauriol Remembering the Don: a rare record of earlier times within the Don River Valley. Dundurn Press Ltd., 1981
  4. ^ Careless, J. M. S.. "Emergence of Cabbagetown in Victorian Toronto." Careless at work selected Canadian historical studies. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1990. 309-315. Print.
  5. ^ Coreilli, Rae. "Cabbages on the Front Lawn, that was Toronto in 1900." Toronto Star. February 15, 1964. p. 1
  6. ^ a b Fumia, Dureen. "Divides, High Rise and Boundaries: A Study of Toronto's Downtown East Side Neighbourhood", Ethnologies 32.0 2010. Retrieved on 14 December 2014
  7. ^ Darrell Kent
  8. ^ "Labelling the neighborhood." Yves Lavigne. The Globe and Mail. Nov 17, 1983. pg. CL.5
  9. ^ Safety Audit Report Card –Gerrard Street East and Parliament Street – Ward 27; Audit conducted on 29 January 2008
  10. ^ Gains, Larry (1976) The Impossible Dream, Leisure Publications Ltd, 14 Fleet Street, London EC4
  11. ^ "Opening up the Tombs".  
  12. ^ "Heritage Conservation District". Cabbagetown Association. 
  13. ^

External links

  • Cabbagetown Community Website
  • Cabbagetown/Regent Park Community Museum
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