Friday, March 19, 2010


The Heritage of Rosedale

In 1827 Sheriff William Botsford Jarvis married Mary Boyles Powell and they moved to the rustic suburbs of the city. By the late 1830s a wonderful estate had emerged with the influence of local architect John Howard. The abundance of beautiful wild roses growing on their land prompted Mary to name their home “Rosedale”.

During the 1830s many families followed the Jarvis clan and bought lots in what is now Rosedale. Shortly thereafter the Jarvis’ enjoyed an influx of neighbours. Joseph Bloor, Joseph Price and Sir D.L. Macpherson are among the wealthy that moved into the area. With the proximity of the brick and tile yards (the area now known as Ramsden Park), more affluent people began to build their homes in Rosedale. Two years after Mary died, Jarvis, who could not reside at Rosedale House anymore, sold a portion of his farmland and divided the villa into two dwellings. The suburb became known as Rose-Park shortly thereafter. By 1854, a first subdivision plan was proposed to Toronto.

Sir D.L. Macpherson in 1865, one of the early resident of Rosedale. Photo credits: Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec

The original farmlands and estates were subdivided many times and sold to the elite of Toronto. By 1884 forty two lots were occupied by bankers, senators, businessmen, architects and well to do friends of other lot owners in Rosedale. The rush of the upper-class society is probably the reason the number had swelled to 100 by 1890.

The Fourth Government House in Rosedale, demolished in 1961 to create the Chorley Park. Photo credits: Toronto Archives

Today, the footprint of Rosedale is not that different from the original Castle Frank. The streets are well defined by the presence of the two ravines which meet at Castle Frank. The neighbourhood is now approximately 450 acres and includes about 2,500 houses.

Sir Edward Kemp, a Conservative MP and militia minister during World War I, built a second, 24-room Castle Frank, which was knocked down in 1962 to make way for the present Rosedale Heights Secondary School. Photo Credits: Toronto Archives

Navigating the area

The boundaries of Rosedale are Yonge Street to the west – Bloor Street East to the south – CPR railroad tracks to the north – Bayview Avenue and Moore Park Ravine to the east.
The natural topography, which imposes a very organic street maze, is considered by many to be one of Rosedale’s best assets and is great for walking around. With all its dead ends and winding streets, the topography of the area translates into Rosedale being one of the safest neighbourhoods in central Toronto.

T.T.C. Bus # 13 (Fifth Ave Coach Co.) in 1923. Photo credits: Toronto Archives

Newcomers and well established residents appreciate the convenience of being so close to downtown. For those who use public transit, the neighbourhood is served by three subway stations. The aptly named Rosedale station on the Yonge line, situated at the corner of Yonge and Crescent Road – and the Sherbourne and Castle Frank stations on the Bloor-Danforth line located on the south eastern portion of the area. Bus 82 runs from the Rosedale Station and terminates just north of Rosedale. Bus 75 runs to the eastern end and can be caught at the Sherbourne Street Station.


The Rosedale Valley is an expansive green space that separates Rosedale from Yorkville, designating the area the green oasis of Toronto. From the north side, Torontonians can enjoy the breathtaking views of skyscrapers which give way to steep tree-filled slopes. The best view is from the bridge where Sherborne Street crosses the valley on Sherbourne.
Ramsden Park, located on the western boundary of the area, offers a more “urban flavour”. Very pleasant in every season, it is possible to have a nice picnic, play tennis on one of the courts, or skate on the rink during the winter.

Many mature trees in Ramsden Park, for the visitors to enjoy! Photo credits: Viviloob

Yonge Street in Rosedale is truly mouth watering. Many bakeries and restaurants offer their patrons a genuine piece of Paris, without any pretentiousness. Patachou Patisserie, at 1120 Yonge, is a great place to buy a variety of delicate desserts and pastries. For those who prefer big portions and honest cuisine, the Rosedale Dinner is the perfect solution. Not situated on Yonge, but still worth mentioning, is the Cobs Bread, located on Bloor Street East. A visit here will put anyone in a good mood!


The original country houses in Rosedale were built between 1850 and 1880, of the Italianate style. One of the last examples of that era is the house at 54 South Drive, residence of Mr. Thom, built in 1881.

54 South Drive. The house features arched second floor window, polychromatic masonry (contrasting colours in bricks), rooftop lantern, and a patterned slate roof. Photo credits: Ettml

Rosedale is a telling witness of the diverse Victorian era melting pot. Through the decades, styles were introduce and discarded in the neighbourhood. The most popular styles included the Second Empire, Queen Anne, Richardsonian Romanesque, and Colonial Revival. The streets of Rosedale are rich with houses for each of these styles. By the end of the 19th century, the architectural confusion died down and the Neo-Tudor and Neo-Georgian became the most wanted styles in the area. With time, newer houses built after 1910 became more informal.

The 1950s and 1960s saw a wave of people leaving the urban centre to establish themselves in the “safer” and more modern, emerging suburban neighbourhoods. The big mansions in Rosedale were outdated and too expensive to maintain. Many homes were converted into rooming houses, while others were torn down to make way for low-rise apartment buildings. But for some miraculous reason, the area was not completely levelled and many of the original homes still remain today.

1 May Square is designed in the spirit of architect Lennox, circa 1890. Photo credits: Scott Weir

At the corner of South Drive and May Square. Photo credits: Scott Weir

Nowadays, most of the apartment buildings have been converted into condominiums. Older houses are being turned back to single family residences and new townhouses are being built. The area might have lost the maids and the butlers, but residents enjoy other forms of luxury, like updated interiors and state of the art security systems.

Detail of 86 South Drive, built in 1888. Photo credits: Scott Weir

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