Early History

Scarborough Bluffs at Bluffers Park

The last ice age scraped the rocks in a NNE (north-north-east) to SSE (south-south-east) direction. At the end of the last ice age, all the waters in central Ontario (and the great lakes) drained to the east,
toward the St Lawrence River. After the weight of the glaciers left this area, the land slowly began to rise.

Pond at Eglinton FlatsDuring the last Ice Age, much of Toronto was covered by Glacial Lake Iroquois, with a series of steep escarpments marking the lake’s former shoreline. These are most noticeable in three areas: along the current lakeshore at the Scarborough Bluffs, most prominent between Victoria Park Avenue to Highland Creek, and near St. Clair Avenue West between Bathurst Street and the Don River, and north of Davenport Road (around Casa Loma). Although not remarkably hilly, The city has a 200 metre (640 ft) elevation drop from Steeles Ave in the north to Lake Ontario, and over the last 10,000 years erosion has created a number of steep banked ravines along the city’s waterways.

North of Toronto, between Whitchurch-Stouffville and Aurora is the Oak Ridges Moraine, formed by sediments dropped by the glaciers about 14,000 years ago. Today, the moraine has gently rolling landscape, low hills, kettle lakes, kettle bogs and wide river valleys. Even today, about 30% of its area remains forested, and the Oak Ridges Moraine offers refuge for forest birds as well as significant flora and fauna and is a significant wildlife corridor in well-populated Southern Ontario.

Early Settlement to War of 1812

Iroquois tribes occupied the region for centuries before 1500, but by the time Europeans first arrived at present-day Toronto, the Hurons had pushed them south into upstate New York and Pennsylvania. The first Nations long ago discovered the shortest route between Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe to Lake Huron goes up the Humber River, portage across the Oak Ridges Moraine and then head down the Holland River to what is now Lake Simcoe. This route was followed (in north to south direction) by Samuel de Champlain in 1615.

The name “Etobicoke” was derived from the Mississauga Indian word wah-do-be-kang (or wadoopikaang), meaning “place where the black/wild alders grow”, which was used to describe the area between Etobicoke Creek and the Humber River.

Old Fort YorkIn 1750, French traders founded Fort Rouillé at the current Exhibition grounds, but was abandoned after the defeat of the French at the Plains of Abraham. The British established the Colony of Upper Canada, so named because it was upstream on the St Lawrence River from French-speaking Lower Canada (now Quebec). In 1787, the British negotiated the Toronto Purchase with the Mississaugas of New Credit, thereby securing more than a quarter million acres (1000 km²) of land for settlement in the Toronto area. Following the American Revolutionary War, United Empire Loyalists fled for unsettled lands in Upper Canada.

Though the British may have intended Etobicoke to be included in the Toronto Purchase of 1787, the western boundary of the purchase was noted as the Humber River, not or Etobicoke Creek as intended. The Mississauga Indians allowed the land to be surveyed and allowed the purchase to be extended to Etobicoke Creek for an additional 10 shillings.

In 1793, Governor John Graves Simcoe established the town of York, named for Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany. Simcoe chose the location, believing the new site would be less vulnerable to attack by the Americans, and constructed Fort York at the entrance of the town’s natural harbour, which was sheltered by a long sand-bar peninsula (formed by sand and gravel eroded from the Scarborough Bluffs being pushed westward by the lake’s currents). The settlement was clustered at the eastern end of the harbour behind the peninsula, today roughly Parliament Street & Front Street. Unfortunately, in 1813, and American invading force captured, plundered, and burnt down much of the city in the Battle of York during their five-day occupation.

To Confederation

Montgomery InnEarly settlers of Etobicoke included many of the Queen’s Rangers, who were granted land to help protect the new capital of Upper Canada. One of the first grants in 1795, was to Samuel Bois Smith, a captain in the Queen’s Rangers, received a grant of 1530 acres, from Kipling Avenue to Etobicoke Creek, extending north to Bloor Street. By 1805, 84 people lived in Etobicoke, and in 1806 a grist and lumber mills was built on the Humber River, just south of Dundas Street, and in 1816 the Dundas Street Bridge was built. In the early 1840s, Montgomery’s Inn (shown right) was built as a stop on the colonial coach road between Toronto and Hamilton.

In 1846 the Albion Road Company was incorporated to develop a road to the north-west corner of Etobicoke to a new community they had planned. The same year another settlement was planned for the Islington Avenue and Albion Road area. The township of Etobicoke was incorporated in 1850, when it had a population just shy of 3,000.

Development in the 1900s

In 1911, the community of Mimico was incorporated , and in 1913 New Toronto was incorporated to develop lakefront vacation/leisure communities for Toronto city dwellers.

In the 1931, the city had the world’s first concrete 4 lane limited-access highway, the Queen Elizabeth Way, connecting Mississauga with Hamilton, and later extended east of Highway 27 with the Gardiner Expressway into downtown Toronto, and south to Niagara Falls, and then to Fort Erie (across the Niagara River from Buffalo).

Post World War II

Toronto SubwayIn 1954, Etobicoke Township became a part of the newly-formed regional government, the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto (“Metro”).
In the 1950s Toronto built a subway system to speed commuters into the downtown and across the city. The Bloor-Danforth line services Etobicoke with several stops.

Highway 427 at 401In the 1960s, the Malton Airport (now Toronto Pearson International Airport) to the northwest of Etobicoke was expanded with extra runways and terminals to handle the growing volume of international jet traffic. in the north, Highway 401 was built with 16 lanes of traffic to speed cross-town automobile traffic, connecting to Windsor-Detroit in the west and Montreal to the east>Shortly thereafter, Highway 27 was expended to the multi-lane Highway 427, which connected the QEW/Gardiner Expressway with the 401 and with Pearson Airport.

Etobicoke was incorporated as a city in 1984. In 1998, the Ontario government merged six Toronto municipalities (including Etobicoke) to form the amalgamated city of Toronto.