Development of Roads and Transportation in Islington

Islington Village quickly became the hub of a road network that consisted of Dundas Street, Islington Avenue (put through from Dundas Street north to Albion Road in 1844,) the Etobicoke and Mono Sixth Line Plank Road (a toll road incorporated in 1846 that ran from Dundas Street, along today’s Burnhamthorpe Crescent and Burnhamthorpe Road, northwest into Mono Township,) and Montgomery Road (built by Thomas Montgomery as a shortcut for his customer on their way to and from grist mills on the Humber River at Bloor.) The conjunction of these roads made Islington an ideal service centre for the surrounding farming area – a place to locate stores, services, taverns, a post office, churches and schools. By 1835, William Weller of Cobourg was offering regular winter stage coach service between Toronto and Hamilton along Dundas Street through Islington.

Convenient Transportation Leads Growth

The village grew in waves that were closely related to the development of convenient transportation. In 1877, the Credit Valley Railway opened, running just south of and parallel to Dundas. This rail service meant that commuters could now take a 25 minute ride to or from Toronto by train, and mail now arrived and left by train.

Islington Avenue was discontinuous between Bloor and Dundas Streets because there was no bridge over Mimico Creek. In 1879, Canning (now Cordova) Avenue was opened to provide a connection between Dundas and Bloor, and also provide access to the new Islington railway station built that year on the west side of Cordova, north of the tracks. This new road gave the community’s residents, store owners, and local farmers easier access for delivering goods and receiving supplies. The Credit Valley Railway was bought by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883, which still operates today on the same route through the Islington area.

An electric interurban rail line, called the Toronto Suburban Railway, ran through Islington from 1917 to 1931. After crossing Islington Avenue beside the CPR tracks going west, it ran behind the buildings on the south side of Dundas, crossed to the north side of Dundas where Cabot Court is today, and then ran behind the buildings along the north side of Dundas into Peel County and on to Guelph.

Starting in 1921, Russell Fife operated a 15¢ jitney bus service along Dundas between Keele Street and Cordova Avenue, later extended west to Six Points.

Post WWII in Islington

Perhaps the most dramatic changes in Islington happened after World War II. The post-war suburban boom, with an accompanying large investment in roads and automobiles, filled in any remaining farmland north and south of Dundas with streets and houses. Apartment buildings arrived in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1960, a bridge was built on Islington Avenue over Mimico Creek and Islington was finally open between Dundas and Bloor Streets. The subway’s arrival at Islington Avenue in 1968 brought unprecedented access to downtown Toronto, resulting in even more development. Apartment buildings, condominiums, and “monster homes” replacing smaller houses has become the norm today.

Find out more about Early Settlers Johnston, Wilcox and Montgomery Families