Spadina Avenue

Spadina Avenue

Spadina Avenue is one of the most prominent streets in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Running through the western section of downtown, the road has a very different character in different neighbourhoods.

Spadina Avenue ends at Bloor Street; another street named Spadina Road continues north from this point, but with new street address numbering starting over at zero. For much of its extent, Spadina Road is a less busy residential road (especially north of Dupont Street and the railway track underpass).


Spadina Avenue is always with the "i" being long; the Spadina House museum on Spadina Road is always pronounced with the "i" as if it were a long "e". Spadina Road, however, may be either way. This was historically an economic class marker in Toronto, with the upper classes favouring the long "e" pronunciation but is less so today.

The name originates from the Ojibwa word "ishpadinaa" meaning "be a high hill or sudden rise in the land." The Ishpatina Ridge, a mountain in Northern Ontario which is the highest elevation in the province of Ontario, derives its name from the same word. [History of the name Spadina Avenue as recorded in APPENDIX B: The Origin of Street Names in Toronto from TORONTO NO MEAN CITY: "'Spadina,' the country home of Dr. William Warren Baldwin, to which it was the approach. The name is derived from 'Espadinong,' an Indian word meaning a little hill." - Eric Arthur, TORONTO NO MEAN CITY, p. 266, University of Toronto Press, 1964.

W.W. Baldwin (1775-1844). M.D. Edin. 1796. [A biography from the same book] - "...He will be remembered in Toronto for the magnificent gift of Spadina Avenue from Bloor to Front Streeet which he laid out in 1820 along with a widening of Queen (at Spadina) to 90 feet. Spadina, itself, is 160 feet wide. Spadina is said to mean a sudden rise of ground, and it was on the east of the hill above Davenport east of the present Casa Loma that Dr. Baldwin built his house. "Spadina", as it was called, was destroyed by fire in 1835." - Eric Arthur, TORONTO NO MEAN CITY, p. 244, University of Toronto Press, 1964.]

Spadina was the original name of the street from Bloor Street to Queen Street West, built by Dr. William Baldwin from 1815 onwards. The southern portion was named Brock Street and remained so until 1884.

For a number of decades Spadina Avenue and nearby Kensington Market were the centre of Jewish life in Toronto with the area around Spadina being the home of the garment district--where many Jews worked--as well as numerous Jewish delis, tailors, bookstores,cinemas, Yiddish theatres, synagogues and other political, social and cultural institutions. In the 1950s and 1960s the Jewish community moved north along Bathurst Street but signs of Spadina's Jewish history can still be found in many locations. The city's Chinatown moved west along Dundas onto Spadina when much of the original Chinatown was expropriated to build Toronto's New City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square.

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The southern end of the street is at Queen's Quay right at the shore of Lake Ontario and runs north under the Gardiner Expressway and the railway tracks. This area was the heart of Toronto's industrial area for most of the twentieth century, but in the 1970s most of the factories left. Most of the land south of Front is infill on Lake Ontario. The Rogers Centre (formerly known as the SkyDome) was opened just east of Spadina in 1989. This area was previously the site of the CNR Spadina Roundhouse. Some land along this portion of Spadina has also been turned into condo towers under the CityPlace project.

From Front Street, Spadina runs along the western edge of the Fashion District and clubs area, which also contains a number of office buildings.

North of Queen Street West, the Avenue passes through the Alexandra Park neighbourhood which is made up of a number of vast housing projects.

At Dundas Street West and Spadina is the centre of Toronto's oldest Chinatown, with a multitude of restaurants and shops catering to the Chinese community. The Chinese Spadina began in the 1970s after the departure of Jewish Toronto (1920s to 1960s) from the area. It supplanted an older Chinatown centered on Dundas Street West and Elizabeth Street, which was disrupted when New City Hall was constructed in the early 1960s.

Just to the west of the Avenue in this area is the famed Kensington Market. Shopsy's Deli, Toronto's famous eatery, was located on Spadina north of Dundas Street, but it later moved and burned down in the 1980s.

The intersection of Spadina Avenue and College Street is well known as the cheapest place to buy electronics in Canada with a number of independent stores in the area. It is also the location of the El Mocambo, where the Rolling Stones performed one night to a small audience that included the soon-to-be ex-wife of Prime Minister Trudeau.

North of College Street, the avenue forms the western border of the University of Toronto and is home to several businesses catering to students, as well as University facilities such as the Athletic Centre and a number of student residences. Just north of College St, the roadway splits into a traffic circle, called Spadina Crescent. The building in the middle of the circle was built as Knox College, but now houses University of Toronto offices.

North of Bloor Street, Spadina Avenue gives way to Spadina Road. Here the street passes through the upper middle class neighbourhood known as The Annex. For this stretch of the road the Yonge-University-Spadina subway passes underneath. The two stations, Spadina and Dupont, are under it. South of Bloor, Spadina is served by TTC streetcars. The street was originally served by streetcars, but they were removed when the Toronto Transit Commission began to implement buses. The Harbord Line (Dundas to Harbord) was replaced by buses in 1966 when the Bloor Danforth Subway opened; tracks remained from College to King for turnback or detour purposes on the respective cross-town routes.

The 77 Spadina bus route inspired a song, "Spadina Bus", which became a surprise Top 40 hit in Canada for the jazz fusion band The Shuffle Demons in 1986. In the 1990s, however, the TTC rebuilt and reinstated the 510 Spadina streetcar line, which now runs largely in a dedicated right-of-way in the middle of the street. Prior to the construction of the Spadina LRT, streetcars ran down the street until it was replaced by the 77 Spadina bus. Bricked road bed was used along the streetcar route. Small sections of the brick road bed remained until the LRT was constructed.

Spadina Road is interrupted just north of Dupont Street by an escarpment, Davenport Hill. It continues atop this escarpment in front of Spadina House, one of Toronto largest mansions. Casa Loma is also nearby. The house and the street are named after the escarpment, the word "ishapadenah" meaning "hill" or "rise" in Ojibway. Spadina Road continues north through the wealthy neighbourhood of Forest Hill. Starting north of St. Clair Avenue and continuing a few blocks further north is lower Forest Hill Village, which forms the main street of a small commercial area, the historical downtown of Forest Hill before Toronto grew around the town. Forest Hill continues to just north of Eglinton Avenue. The street continues north through this green, rolling residential neighbourhood itself. This stretch is served by the 33 Forest Hill bus route.

Most of the section known as Spadina Avenue is a six-lane urban arterial, with a speed limit of 50 km/h (30 mph) although it is unposted. The section known as Spadina Road is a two to four-lane collector road with speed limits alternating between 40-50 km/h (25-30 mph).

North of Eglinton Avenue Spadina Road is again interrupted, here by the trenched right of way for the defunct Belt Line Railway, now a popular walking trail. It briefly resumes north of Eglinton, and finally ends where it meets New Haven Drive (1100 Spadina Road - Northern Preparatory Junior Public School - Toronto District School Board). A separate Spadina Road exists in Richmond Hill, Ontario, but it is not related to this street in Toronto, it lies in a suburban development that takes many of its names from roads in Forest Hill.

In the 1960s, city hall was planning to tear up Spadina and most of the buildings on either side to construct the Spadina Expressway, a proposed highway that would have run straight into downtown. After a long public battle, with the opposition to the project led by Toronto urban writer Jane Jacobs and former Toronto mayor John Sewell, the plans were halted.


* The Globe and Mail
* 1 Spadina CrescentKnox College (1875–1914)
* University of Toronto Athletic Centre
* Knox Presbyterian Church
* The Scott Mission
* El Mocambo

See also

* Spadina Expressway
* Baldwin Steps


External links

* [ Spadina Avenue]
* [,+ON&daddr=Bloor+St+W+%26+Spadina+Ave,+Toronto,+Toronto,+Ontario,+Canada&mrcr=0&mra=pe&sll=43.65217,-79.39789&sspn=0.052166,0.11673&ie=UTF8&cd=1&z=13&om=1 Google Maps of Spadina Avenue]

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