Draper Street is one block west of Spadina, extending from south Wellington Street West to Front Street. To visit it is like entering a time tunnel into the past. It was named after William Henry Draper (1801-1877), a jurist and politician, as well as the Chief Justice of Upper Canada during the years 1863 to 1869. Today, his portrait in oils hangs outside the second-floor library of Osgoode Hall.
The land occupied by Draper Street, once a part of the military reserve attached to Fort York, was annexed to the city in the 1830s. It appears on the city’s maps in the year 1857, though the exact year it was cut through the woods is unknown. In the 1880s, when houses were constructed, it became a working man’s community, unlike Wellington Place at its north end.
The following is a list of the occupations of the residents of the street in 1892: telegraph operator, policeman, plumber, bookkeeper, labourer, machinist, insurance agent, jeweller, passenger agent, traveller, painter, printer, fireman, employee of Toronto Water Works, stonemason, clerk, engine driver, tax collector, conductor, and Grand Trunk Railway employee.
With few exceptions, Draper Street retains its nineteenth century streetscape. In 1984, in celebration of the city’s one hundred and fiftieth anniversary, the city designated all of the houses as “Heritage Properties.” In 1999 the residents applied for “Historic Designation” and now the façades of the houses cannot be altered without permission.
The first houses appeared on the east side of the street in 1881 (numbers 11-29), and on the same side (numbers 3-9) in 1884. In 1886 houses were built on the west side (numbers 4-18). The four southern lots, two on either side, closest to Front Street, did not have dwellings until 1887. The two on the west side have since been demolished and replaced by a commercial building of cement blocks. House numbers 19 and 21 were knocked down in the 1930s, as they were in a very poor state of repair. The site where they were located is today a small park. It is used for Draper Street’s annual street party. On the west side, at the north end of Draper, there are seven three-storey “Bay and Gable” homes. They were built in 1890 on the site of Benton’s Lumber Yard.
The majority of the houses are small two-storey row houses that were originally workmen’s houses. Some of the lower-ranking officers stationed at Fort York also lived in the these houses. The homes have Mansard roofs and large bay-windows on the first floor levels. They were built using red bricks, trimmed with yellow bricks. Some of the houses contain plaques on their facades that indicate the year they were built and the original occupants. The house at 17 Draper Street is particularly noteworthy. At the north end of the street there are three-storey Victorian “bay and gable” dwellings, their gables stretching from the ground level to the third storey. Their porches are particularly attractive.
Strolling along Draper Street is a pleasant experience at any time of the year, but it is particularly pleasing when the cherry trees are in bloom on the lawn of several of the houses.
Two-storey workmen’s houses with their Mansard roofs
Two semi-detached houses on Draper Street
Bay and gable-style houses on Draper Street
I have spent much of my adult life researching and photographing Toronto. I love the city and enjoy exploring it through my writing. One of the books, “The Villages Within”, was nominated for the Toronto Heritage Awards. If interested in novels with a Toronto setting, descriptions of the books are available by following the link: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/toronto-author-publishes-seventh-novel/
They can be purchased in soft cover or electronic editions. All books are available at Chapters/Indigo and on Amazon.com. The electronic editions are less that $4. Follow the links:
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The Villages Within: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000175211/The-Villages-Within.aspx
Author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/
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