About the Neighborhood
- Sometimes referred to as Old Chinatown, the Chinatown on Spadina Avenue around Dundas Street West is one of the largest in North America but just one of seven distinct Chinatowns in the greater Toronto area. Local businesses reflect a mix of Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese influences making this area a great (and cheap!) place to eat.
- Many restaurants are open late. By day, Spadina is a hub of activity as residents and tourists elbow for cheap house wares, fruits and vegetables. On weekends, the Bright Pearl is just one of many popular options for some traditional dim sum.
- The Grange Park neighbourhood has become synonymous with Toronto's Chinatown district. Grange Park's street signs, telephone booths, and even the local police station, all have signage in Chinese as well as English.
- Grange Park is also home to a large number of artists. The Art Gallery of Ontario, Ontario Crafts Council, and Ontario College of Art, are all located in Grange Park.
- The earliest record of Toronto's Chinese community is traced to Sam Ching, who owned a hand laundry business on Adelaide Street in 1878. Ching was the first Chinese person listed in the city's directory. Despite strict limitations placed on Chinese immigration with the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, Chinatown took shape over the next two decades along Bay Street and Elizabeth Street, as hundreds of Chinese men settled in Toronto from Western Canada after helping to build the Canadian Pacific Railway.
- By 1910, the Chinese population in Toronto numbered over a thousand. Hundreds of Chinese-owned businesses had developed, comprised mainly of restaurants, grocery stores and hand laundries.
- By the 1930s, Chinatown was a firmly established and well-defined community that extended along Bay Street between Dundas Street and Queen Street in The Ward. Like the rest of the country, Chinatown suffered a severe downturn in the Great Depression, with the closing of more than 116 hand laundries and hundreds of other businesses. The community began to recover after World War II as Canada's general economic fortunes improved. The Chinese population greatly increased between 1947 and 1960, as students and skilled workers arrived from Hong Kong, Guangdong and Chinese communities in Southeast Asia and the West Indies.
- When plans emerged in the late 1950s to construct the new Toronto City Hall at the intersection of Queen and Bay Streets, it became clear that most of Chinatown would be displaced by the project. As Chinese businesses began to relocate, some stores were taken over by other developers, and most stores that occupied the project site were cleared through expropriation.
- More than two-thirds of Elizabeth Street from Queen to Dundas Streets was destroyed. Construction on City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square began in 1961. In 1967, city planners proposed that Chinatown be moved again for the development of office buildings north of City Hall. This endangered many more businesses. Community leaders, including Jean Lumb, established the "Save Chinatown Committee", with Lumb acting as coordinator and face of the campaign. She later received the Order of Canada in 1976 for her role in helping to save Chinatown.
- The Chinese community migrated westward to Chinatown's current location along Spadina Avenue, although a handful of Chinese businesses still remain around Bay and Dundas. Chinatown approximately covers a long, narrow stretch of area centered around Spadina Avenue from Oxford Street in the north to Phoebe Street in the south, with its epicenter at the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West.
- As property values increased in downtown Chinatown, many Chinese Canadians migrated to Toronto's east end in Riverdale. A second, somewhat smaller, Chinese community was formed, centred on Gerrard Street East between Broadview Avenue and Carlaw Avenue. Chinese-Vietnamese and mainland Chinese immigrants dominate this district.
- Ryerson Jr. & Sr., 96 Denison Ave, (416) 393-1340 (Public School)
- Oasis Alternative Secondary, 707 Dundas St, (416) 393-9836 (Public High School)
- West End Alternative Secondary, 70 D'Arcy St, (416) 393-0660 (Public High School)
- The local park and meeting place for Chinatown residents is Bellevue Square, which is located right in the centre of the neighbourhood. This park has a tot's playground and a wading pool.
- East Chinatown is somewhat smaller than Toronto's main Chinatown, but is growing. At the northernmost corner of East Chinatown (northwest corner, Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street) is the Riverdale branch of the Toronto Public Library. This branch is bilingual in Chinese and English.
- The Grange City Park is one of Toronto's most dignified public promenades. Its paved walkways provide passageways to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Grange House, St. George's Church, Ontario College of Art and the Harrison Baths and Swimming Pool. A children's play area is located next to the Harrison Community Centre.
Living, Shopping and Grooving in Chinatown
- The Chinatown shopping district, at Spadina Rd. and Dundas St., is a festival of fruit and vegetable markets, fish markets, exotic crafts and herbal remedy stores.
- Queen Street West has a distinct arts flavour with many bookstores, galleries, fashion boutiques, and trendy restaurants along this route.
- The tiny Baldwin Village shopping district, on Baldwin Street between McCaul and Beverley Streets, is one of Toronto's prettiest places to shop. This street is filled with cozy little cafes and restaurants that will delight any palate.
- Chinese Dragon Boat Festival – This exciting event takes place in the Toronto harbour every June, off the Toronto Islands. Each of the distinctive dragon boats is powered by more than a dozen rowers. The event is one of the biggest of the summer, attracting thousands of spectators.
- Chinese New Year – With the large Chinese population in Toronto, this event grows every year. One of the most accessible ways to celebrate is to attend the Dragon Dance Parade, which winds through the Dundas St. Chinatown (end of Jan. or early Feb.). Colourful dragons, over 20 ft. long and supported by 12 or more people, dance through the streets to bless the shops and restaurants. Drummers, whose constant beat drives away evil spirits, accompany the dragons.
Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) District: C01
Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) Communities: Chinatown (0960)