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A street sign for St. Clair Avenue West.

St. Clair Avenue is a major east-west street in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was laid out in the late eighteenth century by the British as a concession road (the Third Concession), 2 km (1.25 mi) north of Bloor Street and 4 km (2.5 mi) north of Queen Street.

St. Clair Avenue has two sections. The western section extends from Moore Park in the east to Scarlett Road in the west, a distance of approximately 10 kilometres (6.2 mi). An eastern section picks up on the far side of the Don Valley at Taylor Creek Park, extending for 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) to Kingston Road. Like all streets in Toronto which cross Yonge Street, St. Clair is divided into separate East and West sections, each with its own street numbers beginning at Yonge Street. Unlike other concession roads in Toronto, St. Clair does not extend west into Etobicoke.

Looking East on St. Clair Avenue West, near Lansdowne in 2004. Wooden poles and the overhead wires along the side of the road are being phased out.

Contents

Name

The middle lanes of St. Clair Avenue West carry streetcars underground to St. Clair West station.

The street name is taken from Augustine St. Clare, a character from the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin.[1] The Grainger family rented a farm near the present-day intersection of Avenue Road and St. Clair. After viewing a stage production of Uncle Tom's Cabin, two members of the family, Albert and Edwin, adopted names of two characters as their middle names as each boy had no given middle name. Edwin added Norton to his name, and Albert chose St. Clare, although he used the incorrect spelling of St. Clair, as it was used in the theatre program. (Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River also use the incorrect spelling) As a joke, Edwin and Albert made street signs using their names and posted them at Yonge and St. Clair. The St. Clair sign survived for a while and the name became adopted as the name for the 3rd Concession Road.[2][3][4] The first known printed use of the St. Clair name was in an 1878 publication, Illustrated Historical Atlas of the County of York.

In 1913, the first Roman Catholic church in the area was built, and named after the actual Saint Clare. St. Clare's Church is at 1118 St. Clair Avenue West, on the north side of the street, east of Dufferin.[3] The parish opened the St. Clare's Catholic School, an elementary school, next door in 1916.[5]

History

The first European settlement on St. Clair was at Yonge Street, where the Heath family bought land in 1837. A thriving neighbourhood, Deer Park, was established by the 1850s. The next settlement was about 5.5 km west, at Old Weston Road (then Weston Road), where settlement of Carlton Village began in the late 1840s. The western end of St. Clair experienced substantial development, with the municipalities of West Toronto, Earlscourt, Dovercourt, and Oakwood established there.

These municipalities were annexed by Toronto between 1908 and 1911, and the western section of St. Clair Avenue became entirely managed by the City of Toronto. To stimulate development along what was then largely a rural road, the city's Toronto Civic Railways built a streetcar line from Yonge Street to Caledonia Road (this line, extended west, still survives as the Toronto Transit Commission's 512 St. Clair route, the city's northernmost streetcar line). The street was heavily developed by 1930.

Much of the development from this era survives. St. Clair West is one of many streets in Toronto which has experienced little development since an initial building boom. The exception is the intersection with Yonge Street, which has experienced heavy nodal development since the opening of the St. Clair subway station there in 1954. The buildings there include the world headquarters of George Weston Foods Inc. St. Clair now intersects with two more subway stations, Warden station in the east and St. Clair West station near Bathurst Street.

Community

From west to east, the main section of St. Clair passes through several prominent neighbourhoods starting with Moore Park and Deer Park. West of Avenue Road are Forest Hill, Oakwood, Earlscourt (including Corso Italia), and The Junction. The eastern section of St. Clair passes eastward through Parkview Hill, Woodbine Gardens, Clairlea, Birchmount Park, and Kennedy Park to Cliffcrest.

St. Clair Avenue is well-known for the high population of Portuguese, Latin American and Italian people. St. Clair is usually where the Italian and Portuguese soccer fans celebrate after a game they won. Over the years, the Italian and Portuguese people throughout Toronto have established a rivalry in soccer against each other. One of the longest-lasting celebrations on St. Clair was when Italy won the 2006 FIFA World Cup, which lasted from around 3:30p.m. until around 2:30a.m.

Corso Italia, Toronto's other Italian enclave, is found on St. Clair Avenue West, between Bathurst Street and Old Weston Road. St. Clair West is also used as an umbrella term to refer to all neighbourhoods from Old Weston Road to Bathurst as they share a similar building style. Although the area has been historically referenced as predominantly Italian, it is no longer populated by any one majority. Many new homebuyers looking to purchase in the City are choosing St. Clair West for its relatively modest home prices, the pride of ownership apparent throughout its neighbourhoods, and the upcoming St. Clair Ave. TTC streetcar right-of-way.

St. Clair Avenue holds Toronto's biggest celebration of salsa Latino culture. The two-day street festival attracts an estimate of 250,000-500,000 people, the majority of them being from Latinos living in Toronto and all over Ontario come together to dance, eat, shop and celebrate the culture of Latin America. The festival is always held in July on the week, which it has been traditionally recognized as Latino Week in Toronto, in honour of the festival.

St. Clair Avenue West has heavy automotive and public transit traffic. Over half the commuters in the congested rush hour traffic travel by streetcar. The 512 St. Clair streetcar line connects with the St. Clair and the St. Clair West stations on the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line. As of October 2006, the Toronto Transit Commission is rebuilding the streetcar line in a reserved right-of-way separated from car traffic similar to that of the 510 Spadina route on Spadina Avenue.

Several funeral homes dotted St. Clair West: McDougall and Brown, A.W. Miles and Jerrett.

Landmarks

Churches

In popular culture

"Jane St. Clair", in the Barenaked Ladies' song "Jane", is named for the intersection of Jane Street and St. Clair Avenue.

References

  • Byers, Nancy; Myrvold, Barbara (2008). St. Clair West in Pictures. Toronto Public Library. ISBN 9780920601624.  
Notes
  1. ^ Mike Filey (2003). Toronto Sketches 7. Dundurn Press. pp. 155.  
  2. ^ Byers and Myrvold(2008), p. 142
  3. ^ a b Jones, Donald (October 14, 1989). "Poor Clares remembered in legend of St. Clair Ave". Toronto Star: p. M04.  
  4. ^ Fitzgerald, Doris (1970). Old Time Thornhill. Thornhill, Ontario. p. 40.  
  5. ^ "St. Clare Catholic School". Toronto Catholic District School Board. http://www.tcdsb.org/schools/stclare.asp. Retrieved 2010-01-07.  

External links

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