MP-0000.25.179 | Yonge Street looking north from Queen Street, Toronto, ON, about 1890

Photograph, glass lantern slide
Yonge Street looking north from Queen Street, Toronto, ON, about 1890
Anonyme - Anonymous
About 1890, 19th century
Silver salts and transparent ink on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
8 x 10 cm
Gift of Mr. Stanley G. Triggs
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Cityscape (3948) , Photograph (77678) , streetscape (1737)
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Keys to History

In the era of department stores, as in that of the warehouse, exclusive retailers tended to be concentrated on one or two main shopping streets, generally near upper-class residential neighbourhoods. These streets became the busiest and most prestigious in Canadian cities. Around 1900 every major Canadian city had such streets in its downtown: in Montreal, they were Notre Dame and Saint Catherine streets; in Toronto, Yonge and Queen; in Ottawa, Sparks Street. With their colourful awnings and wide sidewalks, these major arteries, usually on a streetcar line, were also the cultural heart of the city. Theatres, concert halls and large picture houses sprang up nearby.

  • What

    This photograph takes us straight into the heart of Toronto's main shopping area, the corner of Yonge and Queen, the location of the two biggest department stores in the city: Eaton's and Simpson's.

  • Where

    By around 1890 Toronto was the largest city in Ontario and the second largest in Canada. It had over a population of over 180,000 and was established as a manufacturing, business and financial centre.

  • When

    Between 1880 and 1900, downtown Toronto underwent a huge expansion and areas became very specialized. Retail businesses moved north, away from the new financial district.

  • Who

    The men and women who thronged Yonge Street and its many stores came from all over the city and even the outskirts. The electric streetcar was a fast, easy means of transport.