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—  Neighbourhood  —
Buildings in Cabbagetown
The area west of Parliament is not always considered part of Cabbagetown
Location of Cabbagetown within Toronto
Country  Canada
Province  Ontario
City Toronto Flag.svg Toronto

Cabbagetown is a neighbourhood located on the east side of downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It comprises "the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in 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 most famous novel, Cabbagetown, depicted life in the neighbourhood during the Great Depression.



The area today known as Cabbagetown was first known as the village of Don Vale, just outside of Toronto. 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.[1] 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.[2] 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 as it became home to the working class Irish inhabitants who were employed in the industries along the lakeshore to the south in Corktown. Brick Victorian style houses were built throughout the area. The name Cabbagtown came from stories of new Irish immigrants digging up their front lawns and planting cabbage, as had been done during the years of the Irish Potato Famine. 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. 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. The remaining section to the north, then still known as Don Vale, was also slated for 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."[3]

The construction of new housing projects was halted in the 1970s that saw the rise of the reform movement that opposed such sweeping plans. 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 councillors who soon ended the urban renewal plans. John Sewell led the effort to preserve Trefann Court, that covered the southern section of the original Cabbagetown.


Cabbagetown was gentrified by affluent professionals, beginning in the 1970s. Many residents restored small Victorian row houses and became community activists. Today, wrought iron fences, stone walkways and beautifully kept gardens are common in some parts of Cabbagetown. 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 color. The houses, meanwhile, sell for upward of $200,000."[4]

Some traces of a 1960s counter-culture feeling are evident in vintage clothing stores, a gestalt therapy clinic and an adventure travel agency. 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 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, Cabbagetown is still home to some of the poorest of the poor in Toronto. Residents from public housing projects and affluent home owners mingle at a discount supermarket and a community medicine clinic. Panhandling and drug-dealing are part of the urban landscape; so are gourmet shops, upscale boutiques and arts festivals. An evening of wine-tasting at local restaurants was added to the annual Cabbagetown Festival in 2006. A restaurant review in a September 2005 community newspaper captures something of the neighbourhood's dichotomy:

"Cabbagetown might be one of Toronto's most exclusive neighbourhoods but you'd never know it from strolling down its main drag. A jumble of discount stores and cheap coffee shops that attract the down-on-their luck and the just plain unlucky, Parliament (Street) is the polar opposite of the leafy avenues lined with million-dollar piles only a block away."


Cabbagetown businesses along Carlton Street

Predominantly liberal, 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. Former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney railed against his trendy Cabbagetown opponents on The Secret Mulroney Tapes -- conversations with journalist Peter C. Newman.

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 indexof the addresses, with the names of the former residents, is posted on a website devoted to this project. The people listed include:

Original boundaries

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 and Trefann Court.

Current boundaries

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.


Winchester Jr & Sr Public School is a public elementary and middle school on Prospect St. This is one of the largest number of students in the South District. The school provides French Immersion, Toddler Learning Centre and they partner in an after school program with Cabbagetown Community Centre. This school is over a hundred & twenty five years old. Winchester School Community Garden is Green Thumbs Growing Kids’ flagship school food garden.

Community associations


Aberdeen Avenue Residents' Group

The residents of Aberdeen Avenue, named for Lord Aberdeen, Governor General of Canada 1893-1898, 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 Preservation Association

The Cabbagetown Preservation Association (CPA) was founded in 1988 to preserve the architectural integrity and historic character of the Cabbagetown neighbourhood, and initiated the establishment of the Heritage Conservation District (see below).

Old Cabbagetown Business Improvement Area

Old Cabbagetown Business Improvement Area (OCBIA) is an association of local businesses that describes its mission as:

  • To serve our members and our community
  • To encourage specialized & profitable business appropriate to our community
  • To preserve and enhance our historic streetscapes

They are the prime organizers of the fall Cabbagetown festival.

The Cabbagetown Laneway Association

The Cabbagetown Laneway Association is designed as a cooperative and cross-functional space for individuals and groups through which to communicate on topics related to the historic laneways of Cabbagetown.

Guided by the basic principles of civic engagement, strategic project management, human asset management and community outreach, the focus of the amalgam is to put the Victorian plan to better use by addressing matters of public concern.

Individuals and/or groups interested in volunteering to a variety of laneway initiatives are invited to join The Cabbagetown Laneway Association. The association is active on Facebook.

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[5] 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.

Cultural activities

Dance facilities

A heritage-designated renovated church on Winchester St. houses both Toronto Dance Theatre and The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, and close by on Parliament St, the Danny Grossman Dance Company, the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, and TILT Sound + Motion share a large renovated building that formerly housed CBC recording studios.

Forsythia festival

The first Sunday in May sees the annual Forsythia festival organized in large part by the Cabbagetown Preservation Association. The festival includes a small parade from Riverdale Park West to Wellesley Park, where games and family entertainment are held.

Cabbagetown festival

The second week-end in September sees the annual Cabbagetown festival, which is a two day event, with an arts and crafts fair both days in Riverdale Park West. Vendors come from far afield for this event. The highlight of the festival is the parade on Saturday morning, which usually starts at 10:00 a.m. at Riverdale Park West, though the route may vary from year-to-year. Parliament Street between Wellesley Street East and Carlton Street is closed to traffic for the week-end. Organization of the festival is coordinated by the Old Cabbagetown Business Improvement Area (OCBIA) association. The festival also includes a 'Tour of Homes', in which several local homes are opened to a paying public. Tickets are limited and usually sold out ahead of time.

The Annual Cabbagetown Short Film & Video Festival showcases eighteen short films from around the world, and is part of the festival. Actress, producer, writer Gina Dineen, founded the festival fifteen years ago, and since then it has grown into an impressive international juried screening, showcasing Canadian filmmakers John Fawcett, Vincenzo Natali, Michael Dowse, and Sarah Polley. The 2006 programme, selected from 300 submissions received from Toronto, Australia, India, South Korea, and Kazakhstan, covered a full range of genres including animation, documentary, dramatic narrative, comedy, experimental and music. None of the productions run longer than 15 minutes, with the shortest clocking in at 54 seconds.

A jury of Canadian film industry professionals including Barbara Willis-Sweete (Rhombus Media), Zach Feldberg (Showcase), Mike McConnell (Magnetic North) and Jasper Graham (Futureshorts Canada) selected the festival award recipients.

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 088862011X (274 pages)
    • James Lewis & Samuel Ltd (1971) (paperback) ISBN 0888620128 (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 0-9699394-0-6
  • 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) ISBN 0-9698392
  • 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) ISBN 0-70822291
  • Cabbagetown Diary : A Documentary, (novel) Juan Butler
    • Peter Martin Associates, Ltd. (1970) ISBN 0-887780407

See also


  1. ^ "Don Vale House" Lost Rivers
  2. ^ Charles Sauriol Remembering the Don: a rare record of earlier times within the Don River Valley. Dundurn Press Ltd., 1981
  3. ^ Coreilli, Rae. "Cabbages on the Front Lawn, that was Toronto in 1900." Toronto Star. February 15, 1964. pg. 1
  4. ^ "Labelling the neighborhood." Yves Lavigne. The Globe and Mail. Nov 17, 1983. pg. CL.5
  5. ^ "Heritage Conservation District". Cabbagetown Association. 

External links

Coordinates: 43°39′59″N 79°21′46″W / 43.6664°N 79.3629°W / 43.6664; -79.3629


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