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Man standing with Development of Cedarvale ad poster, Cedarvale area, circa 1915. Courtesy of the City of Toronto Archives.

Apartment buildings, Site of proposed office buildings, Bathurst Street at Eglinton Avenue West, southeast corner, 1953. Courtesy of City of Toronto Archives.

Subway view and cars on Allen Road looking towards Eglinton, 1978. Courtesy of the City of Toronto Archives.

Little Jamaica Walking Tour co-led by Jay Douglas, August 8, 2019. Image by Ali Mosleh.

  • Eglinton West Origins

    A newcomer's haven

    Many of the new immigrants would help build the city of Toronto, working in construction, machine operation, or as farm hands. Eglinton Avenue was initially constructed on the east on Yonge, but the road was progressively extended westward over the years. Housing communities and businesses emerged along Eglinton and off the side streets as well. Several apartment buildings went up in the area to accommodate the working class, but those who could afford it were encouraged to buy plots of land in the developing area or purchase already-built single family homes.

    Eglinton’s midtown location would make it a prime location for several proposals to aid transit across the metro Toronto area. The exact reasons Jamaican and other Caribbean immigrants chose to settle in the area varies, but historian Frances Henry noted that English Canadians were reported to be notoriously cold and harsh to anyone who wasn’t in their racial or social group. Other newcomer groups, such as Jewish and Italian communities, were more welcoming and did not hold the same reservations about Black immigrants in the city.

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  • Eglinton West Origins

    Roads and routes to Little Jamaica

    One of the major transit operations that shaped the area now known as Little Jamaica was the Spadina or William R. Allen Expressway. Proposed in 1951, the expressway would have connected Spadina Road south of St, Clair Avenue to Wilson Heights Boulevard. The hope was to extend Spadina Road and bring people from northwest of the city to downtown Toronto. The City approved the plans and construction began in the late 1950s. The road was built with space for a subway at Lawrence Avenue and steady progress was made on it into the 60s.

    However, it soon became obvious that the initial budget of $73 million was not enough. The planned expressway would have cut through the Cedarvale Ravine and the Annex. Local residents organized protests against the plans for years during the construction.


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  • Eglinton West Origins

    Roads and routes to Little Jamaica

    In 1971, the construction plan was halted by the provincial government. Eventually, the expressway area was filled by the development of a subway line connecting to the downtown core. The completed road was shortened and made an abrupt end at Eglinton Avenue West.

    The expressway, now known as Allen Road, opened in July 1976 and the Eglinton West subway station opened on January 28, 1978. Cafes, food markets, tailors shops, and hair salons began to open in the area, serving local residents as well as city commuters. This solidified Eglinton Avenue as a major corridor of movement and transit in the city and opened up a community space for the Caribbean immigrants that had already started to call the area home. As Little Italy wasn’t too far away, the growing group of Caribbean residents started to call the neighbourhood “Likkle Jamaica” or the “Likkle Caribbean.”

    Listen to Little Jamaica resident D’Andra Montaque describe what Little Jamaica means to her and who its people are. 

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