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Political Science City Planning & Urban Development

The Ward

The Life and Loss of Toronto's First Immigrant Neighbourhood

edited by John Lorinc, Michael McClelland & Ellen Scheinberg

Coach House Books
Initial publish date
Jun 2015
City Planning & Urban Development, Urban
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2015
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    Publish Date
    Jun 2015
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The story of the growth and destruction of Toronto's first 'priority neighbourhood.'

From the 1840s until the Second World War, waves of newcomers who migrated to Toronto – Irish, Jewish, Italian, African American and Chinese, among others – landed in 'The Ward.' Crammed with rundown housing and immigrant-owned businesses, this area, bordered by College and Queen, University and Yonge streets, was home to bootleggers, Chinese bachelors, workers from the nearby Eaton';s garment factories and hard-working peddlers. But the City considered it a slum, and bulldozed the area in the late 1950s to make way for a new civic square.

The Ward finally tells the diverse stories of this extraordinary and resilient neighbourhood through archival photos and contributions from a wide array of voices, including historians, politicians, architects, story-tellers, journalists and descendants of Ward residents. Their perspectives on playgrounds, tuberculosis, sex workers, newsies and even bathing bring The Ward to life and, in the process, raise important questions about how contemporary cities handle immigration, poverty and the geography of difference.

The Ward shines a light on one of Toronto's most historically significant and most forgotten neighbourhoods. Instead of a straight history, the book's editors opted to present the Ward through multiple short essays, each with its own unique point of view. The result is a fascinating and varied look at an area that once concurrently defined the city and acted as its biggest shame. As a result of the Ward's eventual razing, there are few artifacts left to teach newer generations about this important part of Toronto's history. This book helps correct that.’

– 2016 Toronto Book Awards Jury Citation

'[The Ward] should be of interest to Canadians anywhere, reminding us that we all came from some place else.'

– Michael Enright, CBC Sunday Edition

Contents & Contributors

Introduction – John Lorinc

Searching for the Old Ward – Shawn Micallef

No Place Like Home – Howard Akler

Beforethe Ward: Macauleytown – Stephen A. Otto

My Grandmother the Bootlegger – Howard Moscoe

Against All Odds: The Chinese Laundry – Arlene Chan

VJ Day – Arlene Chan

Merle Foster's Studio: 'A Spot Of Enchantment' – Terry Murray

Missionary Work: The Fight for Jewish Souls – Ellen Scheinberg

King of the Ward – Myer Siemiatycki

Where the Rich Went for Vice – Michael Redhill

A Fresh Start: Black Toronto in the 19th Century – Karolyn Smardz Frost

Policing the Lord’s Day – Mariana Valverde

'The Maniac Chinaman' – Edward Keenan

Elsie's Story – Patte Roseban

Lawren Harris's Ward Period – Jim Burant

'Fool's Paradise': Hastings' Anti-Slum Crusade – John Lorinc

Strange Brew: The Underground Economy of Blind Pigs – Ellen Scheinberg

The Consulate, the Padroni and the Labourers – Andrea Addario

Excerpt: The Italians in Toronto – Emily P. Weaver

Arthur Goss: Documenting Hardship– Stephen Bulger

Fresh Air: The Fight Against TB – Cathy Crowe

The Stone Yard – Gaetan Heroux

William James: Toronto's First Photojournalist – Vincenzo Pietropaolo

The Avenue Not Taken – Michael McClelland

Timothy Eaton’s Stern Fortifications – Michael Valpy

Settling In: Central Neighbourhood House – Ratna Omidvar & Ranjit Bhaskar

Toronto’s Girl with the Curls – Ellen Scheinberg

Chinese Cafés: Survival and Danger – Ellen Scheinberg & Paul Yee

Defiance and Divisions: The Great Eaton's Strike – Ruth A. Frager

Elizabeth Street: What the City Directories Reveal – Denise Balkissoon

Growing Up on Walton Street – Cynthia MacDougall

Revitalizing George Street: The Ward's Lessons – Alina Chatterjee & Derek Ballantyne

Taking Care of Business in the Ward &ndash Ellen Scheinberg

'A Magnificent Dome': The Great University Avenue Synagogue – Jack Lipinsky

Reading the Ward: The Inevitability of Loss – Kim Storey & James Brown

Toronto’s First Little Italy – John Lorinc

The Elizabeth Street Playground, Revisited – Bruce Kidd

Divided Loyalties – Sandra Shaul

Crowded by Any Measure – John Lorinc

A Peddler and His Cart: TheWard’s Rag Trade – Deena Nathanson

Toronto's Original Tenement: Wineberg Apartments – Richard Dennis

Excerpt: Tom Thomson's Diary – Tom Thomson

An Untimely Death – Brian Banks

Paper Pushers – Ellen Scheinberg

The BMR's Wake-Up Call – Laurie Monsebraaten

Excerpt: Report of the Medical Health Officer … – Charles J. Hastings

Dr. Clarke's Clinic – Thelma Wheatley

Slum-Free: The Suburban Ideal – Richard Harris

The Glionna Clan and Toronto's First Little Italy – John E. Zucchi

'The Hipp' – Michael Posner

Before Yorkville– John Lorinc

Sex Work and the Ward’s Bachelor Society – Elise Chenier

Public Baths: Schvitzing on Centre Avenue – Ellen Scheinberg

The Health Advocates: McKeown on Hastings – John Lorinc

Remembering Toronto's First Chinatown – Kristyn Wong-Tam

Tabula Rasa – Mark Kingwell

Unrealized Renewal – J. David Hulchanski

A Short History of the 'Civic Square' Expropriation – John Lorinc

Storytelling is Part of the Story – Tatum Taylor

How We Think About What (Little) Survives – Patrick Cummins

Institutional Memory – Scott James & Victor Russell

Alternative Histories – MichaelMcClelland

About the authors

John Lorinc is a journalist and editor. He reports on urban affairs, politics, business, technology, and local history for a range of media, including the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Walrus, Maclean’s, and Spacing, where he is senior editor. John is the author of three books, including The New City (Penguin, 2006) and Dream States: Smart Cities, Technology, and the Pursuit of Urban Utopias (Coach House Books, 2022), and has coedited four other anthologies for Coach House Books: The Ward (2015), Subdivided (2016), Any Other Way (2017), and The Ward Uncovered (2018). John is the recipient of the 2019/2020 Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy. He lives in Toronto.

Karon Liu has been a staff food reporter for the Toronto Star since 2015 and aims to link food with culture, history, identity, politics – anything you can imagine. He's also an avid home cook, and his favourite utensil is a pair of wooden chopsticks his grandma used to use.

John Lorinc's profile page

Michael McClelland, OAA, FRAIC, is a registered architect with over twenty years of experience. He is actively involved in the promotion of Canada’s architectural heritage and is a founding member of the Canadian Association of Professional Heritage Consultants (CAPHC). Prior to establishing E.R.A. Architects with Edwin Rowse in 1990, McClelland worked for the Toronto Historical Board. He is the recipient of a certificate of recognition from the Ontario Association of Architects and the Toronto Society of Architects for his outstanding contributions to architecture and a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. He currently lives in Toronto. 

Michael McClelland's profile page

Ellen?Scheinberg is a historian, writer and the president of Heritage Professionals, which specializes in archival, museum and information management initiatives. She lives in Toronto.


Ellen Scheinberg's profile page


  • Short-listed, Toronto Book Awards
  • Winner, Heritage Toronto Book Award

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