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August 18th, 2017
The Tiny Village of Chester Grows to Today's Greek Town

Q2. The original immigrants to the village of Chester came from which three countries? (P10)


By Beth Parker

When Danforth Avenue was first built, there was one main family in the area, the Playters. Their original farmhouse remains today at 28 Playter Crescent, just north of Danforth and east of Broadview. They had arrived as United Empire Loyalists in 1790, and although market gardeners, soon developed various business interests in the area. The new road cut right across their property. In the 1860s the Playters sold off a few parcels of land that fronted on Danforth. This created the little Village of Chester.

In 1900, Chester was a rural family village, but all that soon changed. The population of the City of Toronto had started to grow substantially, starting in the 1880s, with new immigrants pouring into the area. Around the same time, transportation to the area, such as the Toronto Civic Railway, was expanding. The new streetcars came along Queen Street to Danforth Avenue, going right to Chester Village. The neighbourhood experienced a boom. By 1912, most of the land around the Playter estate had been sold so it could be subdivided for houses and streets and more buildings were erected along the Danforth.

When the Bloor Viaduct was completed in 1919, the Village of Chester was annexed into the City of Toronto along with lands north of the Danforth to Donlands.

The Rich Diversity of the Danforth

The new immigrants who came to Toronto from 1880-1920 were all Irish, Scottish, and English. They needed places to live as well as services, such as transportation, schools, etc. Being working class folk, they settled along the Danforth in places like Chester, as well as Leslieville and Riverside. They filled the various schools and churches in the area, went out to the numerous movie theatres, and worked in the many small industries and retail establishments, either in the area or a street railcar ride away from "downtown" Toronto.

One writer (Robert Thomas Allen) described the Danforth during this period as "a flat suburb of English, Irish and Scotch cops, TTC motor men, and T. Eaton Company tie clerks."

After the Second World War, the Danforth community once again opened its arms to new Canadians, this time, Italian and then Greek families. This added another rich layer to the area, one which we still enjoy today. The Danforth in 2013 is still home to one of the largest Greek towns in North America, offering hundreds of restaurants, pubs, romantic cafés, organic and healthfood stores, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and family-owned fruit and vegetable stands.

Each year, in celebration of the area's Greek heritage, the annual Taste of the Danforth brings 1.3 million visitors to the area from Broadview to Jones, for one weekend!




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