Harbord Village History

Children playing street hockey on Major Street around 1910
Children Playing Street Hockey on Major Street (circa 1910). Toronto Archives: Item 84.34 Series 2119, William James lantern slides.

Our area has been inhabited for several thousand years, and HVRA public meetings start with an acknowledgement of indigenous presence.

The first section of Richard Longley’s guidesheet, Historic Walks in Harbord Village, also gives a brief overview of pre-settlement history (provided by Margaret Procter) and the division of land by early British settlers (provided by Wendy Smith).

To capture living memories of our neighbourhood, HVRA sponsored a large Oral History Project. Completed in 2014, it won a number of prizes for its contributions to local history. Volunteers spent several years interviewing people who lived here before 1975 and finding inventive ways to present their stories. The project has its own Harbord Village History website.

  • Its home page links to a selection of enthusiastic news stories and awards won by the project.
  • Read or listen to over 100 hours of interviews, available in both audio form and transcription. You can browse by theme or personal name, or search our extensive index for people, places, and topics.
  • For a quick immersion, listen to StoryPost audio collages created by Nicole Schulman from the interviews. (When you walk around Harbord Village, you can also point your smartphone at the 24 StoryPost plaques in the neighbourhood and hear the audio on the spot.)

Other Harbord Village residents have researched and analysed aspects of our area’s more recent history. Here are three examples:

  • Gus Sinclair narrates the story of  how residents’ associations took shape in the late 1960s, galvanized by the need to stop the Spadina Expressway, with its off-ramp planned for Spadina and Harbord. He includes a link to a 1966 City map of the area north of Harbord identifying all houses built before 1900—evidently with an eye to knocking them down as irredeemably “blighted.”

  • Nicholas Provart moved into a house on Sussex Avenue in 2016 with his young family, and was soon impelled to find out why the Robert Street field nearby wasn’t available to play in. His answer includes fascinating historical maps of the area. It tells several surprising stories about past development plans, and outlines a long-forgotten maintenance agreement for public facilities on the block. His article makes for amusing and informative reading.
  • Tom Mathien, a longtime neighbourhood resident, recalls some of the people and places that made up our community in this reflective walk that reminds us of how much history surrounds us.