Dundas Street in 1852

Excerpt from “Landmarks of Toronto” by J. Ross Robertson 1898

After Marshall’s houses (at Dovercourt) there were no houses at all until Dufferin street was reached. Then there was a large driving shed belonging to Collard‘s tavern. Then came a second licensed house kept by Joseph Church (the building still remains), known as the Brown Bear, and then followed a noted hostelry, the Queen Street Hotel, of which the proprietor was one Robert James, known far and wide as “Bob” James. He was famous for his horses and for his love of sport of all kinds, and few men of his class were more respected by both his customers and the general public. At this period (1852) the whole of the north-eastern side of Dundas street, from Ossington to Brock Avenue, was known as Denison Terrace, the name given to it many years previously by the first owner of the land, G. T. Denison, of Bellevue, Toronto, father of Richard L. Denison, of Dovercourt, and G. T. Denison, of Rusholme.

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The locality where Collard’s, Church’s and James taverns stood was popularly known as Appii Forum or the Three Taverns, and there on fine days, both in summer and winter, were wont to assemble racing men, eager to arrange contests to test the capabilities of their various trotting horses. Past the Three Taverns were no houses on either side of Dundus Street; for about one hundred yards, until the toll gate was reached, which was kept for many years by James Kerr. The gate house was on the north-east side of Dundas street and rails extended across the road on the opposite side to the fence, so when the gate was closed it was impossible for conveyances to get through at all until it was opened, and pedestrians were compelled either to wait its opening or climb over.

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Close to the gate, on the south-western side of the street, was a small general store, kept by a Mrs Larkin, who was also post-mistress. There was no letter-box at this time (1853), and every one called for their correspondence. Such a thing as delivering a letter never crossed the mind of anyone. There was but one collection a day and sometimes in very bad weather not that.  This post-office was first known as Dennison Terrace office, then as Lippincott and finally as Brockton. There were two or three other houses close to the post-office, and then the road now known as Brock avenue was reached, and there the houses finally stopped on that side of the road.

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Coming west through the toll-gate on the northern side of Dundas street were no houses until Brock avenue was passed, then standing back a little way from the road were four log shanties built for the use of the lumbermen and known as Stoney Batter Village. The name pleased the fancy of the residents in these cottages, and so long as they remained standing they bore no other. They finally disappeared about thirty years ago. From this point, crossing by what was known as the White Bridge, the line of the then Northern Railway, Dundas street ran through the bush, without house or residence of any kind on either side of the road until it reached what was then a concession, but which is now Bloor street.


The drawings in “Landmarks of Toronto” by W. J. Thomson inspired artists in the early part of the 20th century to create paintings of the quaint Town of Brockton.  See them below.

Watercolour by John W. Cotton, ca 1913?

tollgate-cotton

Watercolour by Owen Staples? ca 1912?

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