Map(s) of the week: Toronto in 1878
This week's maps are quite different from the previous ones: two detailed 1878 atlas sheets of the east and west ends of Toronto, presented as a translucent overlay over the modern city. Adjust the transparency with the buttons at the top of the map.
The most striking change is to the city’s shoreline, especially downtown and in the east end – the 1878 maps were drawn before the growing city found ways to expand southward into the shallow water just south of Front St.
Rural Ontario begins just above Bloor – St. Clair is also listed as the Third Concession, and still mostly is a rural concession road. The city is surrounded by market gardens and orchards, run by small farmers selling produce for sale at city markets.
In the countryside are now-forgotten villages like Carlton, at the crossroads of St. Clair Ave. W. and Old Weston Rd., Norway, at Kingston Rd. and Woodbine, and Coleman, at Dawes Rd. and the Danforth. Yorkville is a distinct community in its own right, though the city is about to absorb it.
Toll gates block many major roads. Wagons headed into the city from Leslieville would have had to pass one at Queen and Broadview.
The Union Station on the map is the second Union Station, built in 1873. (The one we know today is the third station, built in 1927.)
Just north of the Don Jail (the ‘New Gaol,’ finished 13 years before) we see the House of Industry, or workhouse. The walls must have cast a long shadow over the workhouse inmates, as was perhaps intended.
The overlay maps were prepared by rotating them counter-clockwise and changing the vertical and horizontal dimensions until the major streets matched. The process at one point involved holding a ruler up to the screen, which looks ridiculous but actually works pretty well as a way of calculating the corrections.
Just as an old house has no right angles and no parallel lines, the 1878 maps (produced decades before aerial photography could be used in mapping) don't align perfectly to the modern one. In the west-end map, for example, Yonge lines up with Keele and Ossington but not Dufferin. On the north-south axis, Bloor lines up with St. Clair but not Queen as precisely as I’d like. On the east-end map, Queen and the Danforth aren’t exactly parallel on the overlay.
The fit here is the best possible one, as far as I can tell. Readers will have to use their imagination to a certain extent.
The maps themselves came from the McGill library’s online collection.