Once one of the poorest areas of Toronto, Cabbagetown is now a vibrant community running largely along Parliament Street and a designated heritage conservation district. Lauded as the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in all of North America, Cabbagetown is home to many artists, musicians, journalists and writers, as well as professionals, doctors and social workers affiliated with nearby University of Toronto or one of the many hospitals on University Ave. This colourful community is home to many fantastic and quaint businesses, low-rise historic buildings, and fantastic pubs and restaurants.
Cabbagetown was once known as the village of Don Vale, just outside of Toronto. The community got its name from the Macedonian and Irish immigrants who first moved to the area beginning in the late 1840s: they were said to be so poor that they grew cabbage in their front yards. In the 1850s, the area consisted of farmland with cottages and vegetable plots.
Don Vale was absorbed into the city of Toronto in the late 19th century, still home to many working-class Irish. Many brick, Victorian style houses were built and the working-class neighbourhood reached its peak of prosperity just before WWI, which is the age of many of the homes.
After the war, the area became impoverished. Many families were forced to take shelter under one roof, and the beautiful brick houses began deteriorating, which lowered the perceived value of the neighbourhood. It was at this point that much of the southern area known as “Cabbagetown” was razed to become what is now known as Regent Park.
In the early 1970s, efforts were made to preserve the area against the urban renewal of Regent Park, which resulted in borders being drawn for the Cabbagetown we know today. A ban was put in place to keep any building higher than 4 storeys from being built, as residents worried for the aesthetic of their community. Gentrification eventually set in, as wealthier residents began restoring the small Victorian row houses and became activists for their community. Several forerunners of the efforts were headed by gay and lesbian residents, leading to the neighbourhood being known as queer friendly. Property values steadily rose.
In the early 2000s, after decades of fighting developers plans to change the landscape, the community was able to convince the City of Toronto to designate Cabbagetown as a heritage conservation district. This allows the area to hold onto its overall appearance, landscapes, and open spaces, and has lead to the beautiful pocket of colour and history we all know and love today.