Canada's First Planned Community
This once wide open area was nothing more than farms and ravines nestled upon the rolling hills at the centre of Don Mills and Lawrence. It's hard to imagine that it would one day become the community that it is today.
The project to create the Don Mills community was announced on March 11, l953 by its financial backer, legendary E. P. Taylor, and designed by Macklin Hancock a young urban planner. Developed between 1953 and 1967, Don Mills was the first planned and fully integrated post-war community in North America and became a template for urban developments around the country.
The first house to be built was on Jocelyn Crescent., behind the present day location of the library at Lawrence and The Donway West. It was among the first 530 homes being constructed in the northwest quadrant of Don Mills. In 1954 a modest bungalow on a 60 foot lot sold for $12,000 ($1000 extra for a carport) and $19,000 could get you one of the few two storey homes. In 1954 an average down payment for a house in the area was $3500.00 and mortgage interest rates were 5.5%.
Construction of the new suburbia continued quadrant by quadrant incorporating a mix of housing which included semi-detached, ranch style bungalows, three storey units backing onto parks, garden terraced townhouse rentals and apartments. Each quadrant was to contain a school, a church, and a park. Rather than detached homes overlooking parkland, semi-detached homes were built on sub-collector roads so that residents could enjoy park or ravine views as compensation for location on higher traffic roads. In the early years, there was no telephone service and residents walked to pay-phones.
By 1956 Highway 401 was nearing completion and five years later the Don Valley Parkway opened, connecting with Don Mills Road, which gave way for Don Mills becoming a commuter colony. As the community expanded so did the requirements for schools. In l954 Norman Ingram Public School in the northwest quadrant was the communitys first elementary school. It was soon followed by Greenland, Mallow Road and Overland. Three Valleys School opened their doors in l958, Don Mills Collegiate opened in l959, and Don Mills Junior in 1961.
Today Don Mills is surrounded by a flurry of luscious ravines, beautiful parks, greenbelts, walking paths and bicycle trails that can take you all the way to the Leslie Street Spit (which we have biked many times). Many of the smaller local parks are connected by paved walkways that run behind Don Mills homes. No matter what time of year, these trails have become a haven for runners, cyclists, roller bladders, cross country skiers, speed walkers, and bird watchers.
There are many well known landmarks in Don Mills such as; The Donalda Golf and County Club, which opened its doors in November 1960; Edwards Garden with its beautiful manicured lawns and well kept flower beds that makes it an ideal location for wedding photos; the newly constructed and soon to be opened Shops of Don Mills, (aka- Don Mills Centre); Don Mills Civitan Arena, home to many aspiring local hockey players; and of course The Science Centre, one of Canadas most visited attraction centers, opened its doors to the public in September 1969. Amongst these landmarks Don Mills is also has a good commercial base being home to IBM, Rogers Cable, Global Television, The Toronto Real Estate Board, Wrigley's, and Celestica, just to name a few of the many businesses that flourish in the area.
Regardless of all the developmental changes that Don Mills has experienced in its more than 50 years of growth, its beauty and unique historical aspects have been preserved. It's evident when you walk through the neighborhood and you observe the pride of ownership that people take in their homes. Many of the original residents are gone, although I have had the pleasure of meeting some of those that still live here and not surprisingly I often meet the children of those original residents that have moved back to Don Mills to raise their own families.
Some say that Edward Plunket Taylor's most notable accomplishment was the breeding of the famous racehorse Northern Dancer on his Windfields Farms, but Canadians know him best as the principal founder of Argus Corporation. E. P. Taylor's name became a caricature of Canadian capitalism for a quarter of a century after. But for the residents of Don Mills he was known for initiating and financing a vision for a community of what is today known as Don Mills
Being a family that truly enjoys the outdoors, we have fully taken advantage of what this wonderful neighborhood, Don Mills, has to offer. It's proximity to ravines, parks and trails, and of course the highways for easy getaways to the cottage, was the ideal place for us to raise our family. We are very fortunate to be living in one of Toronto's finest neighborhoods, so we don't foresee moving anytime soon.
Toni Vernon and George Klump