Welcome to Corktown (Trefann Court):
A burgeoning neighbourhood just east of downtown Toronto, Corktown is undergoing a great revival. It offers some of the oldest Victorian row houses in the city, which once belonged to the Irish immigrants who toiled in the nearby distilleries, along with boutique condos going up at an unprecedented rate. A recent influx of hip stores and easy access to Corktown Common, a new 18-acre park that connects to running and biking trails, make this a great neighbourhood for those who want still-reasonable prices close to downtown.
What you'll fall in love with:
Corktown has the edgy feeling of a neighbourhood in transition, with some unpolished areas that still leave something to the imagination. This up-and-coming vibe in one of the oldest parts of the city has locals feeling like they’re part of something special: making a tiny, urban neighbourhood great once again.
Corktown is like a small town in the big city, and a heartbeat away from everything that’s wonderful about living downtown. The impressive proximity to the business and entertainment districts is a big draw, as is the nearby St. Lawrence Market, which is a foodie’s dream. Popular as a destination for Torontonians and tourists alike, it’s home to more than 100 bakers, butchers, artisans and antique dealers, as well as a local farmers’ market on Saturdays. Locals often head to the Distillery District, which is a bit further along the gentrification curve, or to neighbouring Leslieville, just past the Don Valley Parkway.
Corktown’s own amenities are steadily growing and improving, and local officials say more than 25 new businesses have moved in since 2013. In addition to stalwart businesses like Fusilli (rustic southern Italian food), the community is now home to Tandem Coffee (tagline: “precious coffily fluids”) and Roselle Desserts (try the house-made buttermilk soft serve with strawberry coulis). Swank furniture and design stores, like Made, stock handmade Canadian furniture, lighting and textiles, while Ethel features vintage finds (think: “Mad Men meets your best friend’s basement”). There’s even a cross-fit gym.
The neighbourhood is small and tight-knit, with an active residents’ and business association and its own newsletter, The Corktown News. Two local parks – Orphan’s Green and Sackville Playground – offer some nice green spaces to enjoy, too.
A little bit of history:
Nobody really knows how Corktown got its name. Some say it’s because the first European immigrants who arrived here came from the County of Cork in Ireland; others say it’s because the area was so close to distilleries and cork-stopper manufacturers. Either way, the name has stuck to this small neighbourhood since it was first developed in the early 1800s.
St. Paul’s Basilica, the first Catholic church in Toronto, was built in 1822, and the impoverished local Protestant families built the Little Trinity Church in 1842, so they would have somewhere to worship. A few years later, the Trinity Schoolhouse (now the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse) was constructed for area children, and all three still stand today. Most of the early settlers worked in the nearby distilleries and brickyards, and their workers’ cottages can still be seen in some places. Residents were poor and many lived in slum housing, and the House of Providence Catholic Charity was very active in the area. Much of the Corktown neighbourhood was demolished in the early 1960s to make way for new roads.
More recently, the area has been undergoing a major renaissance, which picked up momentum in part due to the 2015 Pan Am Games (the Athlete’s Village was in the nearby West Don Lands). The transformation of Corktown continues, with the arrival of new neighbours like The Globe and Mail, which recently moved its media headquarters to King Street East near Berkeley.
Corktown is bound by Shuter Street on the north side, Eastern Avenue on the south side, Berkeley Street on the west end and Bayview on the east end. Many recent arrivals live in new condominiums, while others live in old Victorian row houses or worker cottages dating back to the mid-19th century. Most are young professional couples with or without children, but there are lots of older adults living in Corktown, too. The average after-tax household income is just over $53,000 a year.
It will take you about 15 minutes to get from Corktown to Union Station by bike or transit, and you’ll shave about five minutes off that time if you take the car. Walking will take 20 minutes or so. It will take about the same amount of time to get to Yonge and Bloor by car, transit or bike, but if you go on foot you’re looking at about 45 minutes.
There are two schools in the neighbourhood. St. Paul’s Catholic School is the oldest Catholic elementary school in Toronto, and Inglenook Community High School bills itself as a “small, friendly alternative community high school with a family-like atmosphere.” Inglenook is housed in a historical building that is the oldest continually operated school building of the Toronto District School Board.
Corktown (Trefann Court) on a map
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