Urban Toronto has partnered with Heritage Toronto to capture a moment in Toronto's past. On a weekly basis, we highlight historic photos of the city's people, places and events, and tell the stories behind them.
How times have changed! This picturesque scene of cows grazing in the snow was snapped in 1915. It was taken on farmland in Newtonbrook, the northernmost community on Yonge Street in Toronto.
Today, much of the historic community of Newtonbrook has vanished. The area was settled in the early 19th century and came to be centred around two mill sites on Yonge Street. One called Playter Mill was located where Drewry Avenue is today. Another was Cummer Mills that was once located where Cummer Avenue is today. Among the area's earliest residents was Lieutenant Colonel William S. Durie, member of the Queens Own Rifles. Part of Durie's property was subdivided, evolving into what is now known as Drewry Avenue. The nucleus of Newtonbrook was the corner of Yonge Street and Drewry Avenue where the community's 200 some residents passed through.
Among Newtonbrook's significant landmarks was Newton Brook Wesleyan Methodist Church, established in the 1850s. This church, named after a local preacher, has survived more than 170 years and stands today at 53 Cummer Avenue. Interestingly its parsonage was the birthplace of Lester B. Pearson, Canada's 14th Prime Minister. Pearson’s father was minister of the church for a time.
Another building was Finch's Hotel that once stood at the corner of Yonge and Finch. Erected in the 1840s by a John Finch, this two-storey frame hotel was a familiar site on Yonge Street where many other hotels and taverns were located, available to weary travellers along the muddy, and sometimes impassable, Yonge Street.
The community of Newtonbrook was largely replaced with modern buildings beginning in the 1950s but vestiges of its past still remain to be explored today.
Many thanks to both Gary Switzer of MOD Developments and Maya Bilbao for putting together the photos and research.