Welcome to Garden District:
Lush gardens, a dynamic urban university, stylish century homes and condos with excellent proximity to downtown make the Garden District a little green gem in the city’s core. Residents chose the neighbourhood’s new name in 2001, paying homage to the lovely Allan Gardens Conservatory at the corner of Carlton and Jarvis Streets. Today this busy and diverse community draws urbanites who love the easy access to sprawling parks and top-notch shopping.
The Garden District stretches from Carlton Street in the north to Dundas Street in the south, and from Yonge Street on the west end across to Sherbourne Street on the east end. Locals tend to be young, on account of the university, but there are lots of boomers and some affluent families in row houses and condominiums as well. For every Garden District couple that has children, there are three who do not.
What you'll fall in love with:
The crown jewel of the Garden District is the Allen Gardens Conservatory, a 16,000 square foot collection of seasonal flowers and exotic plants that bring colour and warmth to even the coldest Toronto winters. Former Toronto Mayor George Allen donated the land for the gardens in 1858, and in the 150 years since then it has expanded to become home to an extraordinary variety of plants and flowers from around the world, including orchids, bananas and cacti. The tall trees and manicured grass makes for an enchanting urban retreat, with an off-leash dog park for city pooches and lovely pathways for walking. It’s no wonder locals love it here.
One of Canadian hockey’s greatest cathedrals, Maple Leaf Gardens, is located in the Garden District – the place where Toronto’s hockey team won the Stanley Cup no less than 11 times. While the games stopped in 1999, the building remains steeped with memories for many Canadians, and was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2007. It is currently home to Loblaws’ flagship Canadian store and a Ryerson University athletic facility that includes an NHL-sized arena.
The lively Ryerson University campus anchors the Garden District community along its western edge, with residential buildings for students, classrooms and expanding school facilities. The well-regarded public research university focuses on career-focused undergraduate studies with excellent programs in nursing, fashion and journalism, among many others. The streets and neighbourhoods are filled with students of all ages who love the energy of downtown living.
Shopping in the area is unparalleled, with the Eaton Centre just across the street. The mall is the busiest shopping centre in North America, receiving more visitors each year than Disneyland and Walt Disney World combined. If you cannot find it here, it cannot be found. Beloved local restaurants include Ramen Raijin for the ultimate Japanese noodles, and The Senator, a 1940s-style diner that bills itself as the oldest restaurant in the city and serves hand-squeezed orange juice, scratch batters, house-smoked salmon and locally-roasted coffee along with milk, meats and maple syrup from Ontario producers.
The Garden District is served by two active residents’ associations. The Garden District Residents’ Association, established in 2001, covers the whole neighbourhood. The smaller McGill Granby Residents’ Association, established in 1978, advocates for two tree-lined streets in the centre of the community that are home to a handful of beautiful Edwardian row houses dating back to the 1800s. Both organizations are engaged in ongoing battles to rein in developers who want to build tall buildings.
A little bit of history:
There are two histories in the Garden District: One for the west, and one for the east. The area west of Jarvis Street was subdivided in 1834 after the landowner, John McGill, died; It quickly became home to churches and institutions including the Metropolitan United Church, Massey Hall and Ryerson University.
The area east of Jarvis Street was subdivided in the late 1850s after the lives of two wealthy landowners were touched by tragedy. First, banker William Allen died – “at last, from sheer exhaustion” – after losing his wife and ten of his 11 children of consumption, probably tuberculosis. His only surviving son, George, sold off the Moss Park land after his death, and it was quickly subdivided and built up. Second, Samuel Jarvis, the Chief Superintendent of Indian Affairs, was subject to a public inquiry and found to personally owe the government 4,000 pounds. With seven children to feed, Jarvis had no choice but to subdivide and sell his land, which required the demolition of his 1824 home, Hazelburn.
Once a wealthy enclave close to downtown, the neighbourhood eventually became home to smaller, working-class homes and, later, condominiums and institutions. Today the area is thoroughly mixed, with million-dollar condos built steps away from homeless shelters and hostels.
Garden District on a map
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