VIEW-3274 | Yonge Street, Toronto, ON, about 1897

Yonge Street, Toronto, ON, about 1897
Wm. Notman & Son
About 1897, 19th century
Silver salts, frosting on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Cityscape (3948) , Photograph (77678) , streetscape (1737)
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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. 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. 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.

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, it was Notre Dame and St. 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