Spacing presents the Toronto Town Buttons

You only have to look as far up as its street signs to realize that Toronto is a city cobbled together from other former boroughs, towns and villages. Like other major metropolitan areas, Toronto has annexed and absorbed former municipalities since it began as a city back in 1834.

In recognition of Toronto’s 175th anniversary in 2009, Spacing has created a new series of buttons that highlight the coats of arms and official seals of the numerous small towns and villages that now make up Toronto.

You can buy  a set of the 16 buttons for $20 (includes shipping) starting today through our e-store using your credit card or our online merchant PayPal. Let us know your thoughts about the buttons, and if you’d be interested to see some of the seals on t-shirts.

Sadly, not all former towns and villages are represented in the buttons since some places only used a watermark (such as the Town of Yorkville) or were never legally incorporated (like Lansing or The Beaches), and thus never produced an official coat of arms. Below, check out all the buttons  and a few facts/rumours about their origins.

The town buttons include: Brockton, Mimico, Parkdale, Weston, Long Branch, Scarborough, North York, York, Swansea, Leaside, Forest Hill, New Toronto, North Toronto, The Junction, Etobicoke, and East York.

The Junction seal is from 1893 and includes a great steam-powered train and a billowing smokestack from an industrial building.

East York was settled predominantly by the British, thus the use of the bulldog. This seal is from the 1930s.  Etobicoke’s seal is nice for its simplicity but not sure if its the most appropriate.

Brockton was not named after Sir Isaac Brock, a famous War of 1812 general, but for his cousin James. Parkdale’s seal represents each of the town’s first councillors described in a post by Matthew Blackett a few weeks ago.

Gotta love the Leaside button: they have a glowing sun setting/rising behind a very suburban-looking bungalow.

Many people assume that Mimico’s seal has a seagull standing on top, but it is actually a pigeon. “Mimico” is a breed of pigeon that found a home in the Mimico area. The Long Branch seal is charming because it looks like it was designed by the winner of a primary school competition.

The New Toronto seal is rendered in an obvious Art Deco style, with a plane, train, and a muscled bicep with a hammer. An aboriginal hut is also thrown in. Forest Hill is slightly morbid: there is an arrow through the neck of the deer with blood drops on the entry and exit points of the arrow. The deer is also sticking out it’s tongue, presumably in the throes of deaths. So much for gentle Forest Hill.

Spacing thanks our researcher Nick Anapliotis and the folks at Heritage Toronto for their help.


  1. Those buttons are sweet! Any chance of getting an East York seal on a t-shirt?

  2. I can’t help but think of football(*soccer) jersey emblems here. I love em!

    Now, if only these neighbourhoods were part of a new Metro Toronto Football League(tm) these would come in real handy. TFC mania already proves Toronto enjoys the sport, right?

    Come to think of it, apart from regular tees, why not print(or sew) these puppies onto soccer jerseys? With the freedom to print personalized names and numbers?

    These should also be incorporated into public space more visibly by the neighbourhoods themselves(*not just t-shirts) Like maybe plaques or sculptures?(*w/historical significance underneath)

  3. These are very impressive but [don’t publish this] there may be a problem. It’s kind of like asking a ‘Habs’ fan to be seen in a Maple Leafs sweater. O.K. bad example, nobody would want to be seen in a ML sweater! But will people in RoseDale be wearing their Spacing ‘ParkDale’ button any time soon?
    But as a set they rule! I guess from now on, a new neighbourhood name will have to be accompanied by a coat of arms for Spacing!

  4. Nice idea, beautiful drawings, but poor planning. You should have gone for a modern visual look – then you could have extended it to every neighbourhood in toronto, and it would be something the kids would actually wear. These smack of WASPY coat of arms type stuff

  5. Ed K> These are historic, not new. They don’t smack of WASPy coat of arms type stuff, they are WASPy coat of arms type stuff. That’s what Toronto was. Unless you mean something else, you’re advocating some kind of revisionist history.

  6. I mean to say, as a moneymaking concept, it has limited appeal to most torontonians. I would assume you are doing this to make money. Because the upside potential to something that includes the whole of toronto is huge (think that Nike Run TO neighbourhood t-shirt gimmick) This project though, only draws attention to where the real action is, by virtue of how it misses the mark.

  7. What does the “M.C.” stand for in “Township of Scarborough M.C.”? (I assume it isn’t “Motorcycle Club”…)

  8. Six of them have beavers! Cool!
    The gentleman in the Etobicoke one appears to be firing his arrow directly at the snarling bulldog! 🙂

  9. Never knew Brockton was its own incorporated municipality. Always assumed it was part of Parkdale or York before becoming part of Toronto.

  10. what came first? the seal for east york or the well-known logo for Mack Trucks…

    I know they’re both bulldogs but I’m just saying its an awfully similar angle/pose.

    great idea! can’t wait until the are available for purchase.

  11. They are interesting, but definitely don’t compare to the subway buttons!

  12. Is there a map of the old boroughs for those of us who don’t remember the boundaries?

  13. What did the Town of York’s seal look like? Is the current City of Toronto seal and the original seal look the same, or has it changed over the years?

  14. I recall seeing a much different Etobicoke seal down around the Long Branch GO station. I’m not entirely certain, though. I’ll have to take a photo next time I’m around there.

  15. The logos are range from the 1870s to the 1950s. About half of these logos were taken from the cover of a report in 1960. Others came from documents and two from lithographs.

  16. I was just in the Sutton Place hotel and noted that they have a variety of these town symbols reproduced on their lobby tiles. Provincial symbols too. Maybe they should sell the buttons?

  17. In a way I agree with Ed K – neighbourhood-themed buttons would had have me opening my wallet, nice those these historical tokens are.

  18. Brent > “Township of Scarborough M.C.” as Motorcycle Club made me laugh. I’d be willing to guess the ‘M.C.’ is short form for Municipal Corporation, or such, but then I’d just be guessing. Anyone else?

  19. Yes, some of the seals changed over time. Swansea’s changed slightly (a single longhouse instead of the 3 teepees), East York became a bit more bland and modern (the seal above is from letterhead from the 1930s, I believe – I don’t know if this was pre-Mack truck), and Etobicoke used to have a different Native figure that was standing.

    An effort was made to get visual material for all the incorporated towns inside the present Toronto boundaries, but some (to date, at least) have proven to be elusive. The only visual representation of Yorkville’s seal that we found is on the fire hall next to the Yorkville library. The East Toronto seal is only to be found as an embossed indentation on paper. Both of these wouldn’t translate well into an image for the buttons. Otherwise, the whole of present day Toronto is represented above.

  20. Nice as artifacts but I’m with Pat T. I’d prefer something contemporary.

  21. I’m not sure, but I think these were made up. Totally a fake by some acid-tripper back in the 70s.

  22. Love these! Love love love love!

    Not sure why people are “complaining” about more contemporary buttons: these are to celebrate the city’s anniversary, not create brand new identities for neighbourhoods. They are heritage. And I suspect Spacing wouldn’t be able to use the current BIA or neighbourhood names seen on street signs since those are owned by the BIAs.

    Someone also “complained” about it covering the whole city: Um, doesn’t the inclusion of Etobicoke, Scarborough, York, North York, etc covering the entire city? In fact, downtown Toronto (and the old city of Toronto) aren’t even represented here.

  23. Terrific!! I love the coat of arms for my little home Town of Weston, I love how it says “Equality Justice To All” and would love to know the story behind that! Thanks, Spacing!!

  24. “Equal Justice To All.” How good is that?

  25. Now I know why the East York Soccer Club’s rep team is called the “Bulldogs.” Kudos!

  26. I love the spirit… but I think its worth remembering that these municipal seals were also the face of colonialism and dispossession. At the time of the Scarborough centennial there was still no signed treaty with local native peoples, for example.

  27. Where’s the seal for Rosedale? I guess since the city of Toronto unilaterally abrogated the terms of annexation in 1998, Rosedale’s history has been cleanly eliminated to prevent unpleasant questions about this illegal act.

  28. right on moya. shawn but moreso deb make even better points.
    i love this city with all of my heart, but there are a lot of people, past and present, who have never been given a reason to.

  29. “These smack of WASPY coat of arms type stuff”

    “This project though, only draws attention to where the real action is, by virtue of how it misses the mark.”

    “I’d prefer something contemporary.”

    “these municipal seals were also the face of colonialism and dispossession”

    What a bunch of wet blankets. If you want contemporary buttons, go make your own, if you think they represent oppression and injustice, don’t buy them.

    These are great, and an excellent idea for the city’s 175th. Many of these images would be lost in “dusty antiquity” but for ideas like this. Bravo!

  30. Rahb> Rosedale was never incorporated, therefore it never had a seal. It would have been part of the Township of York.

  31. Deb writes of the face of colonialism….perhaps there was something to this version of colonialism (if you want to call it that) that allowed Toronto to become the welcoming place it is today.

  32. I am wondering what the criteria is for a town/village to be official and getting on this list. I presume actually having a coat of arms would be a requirement.

    When Metropolitian Toronto was created in 1954, it consisted of the City of Toronto and twelve municipalities: towns of New Toronto, Mimico, Weston, and Leaside; villages of Long Branch, Swansea, and Forest Hill; and the townships of Etobicoke, York, North York, East York, and Scarborough.

    So in addition to these, Brockton, The Junction, Parkdale, and North Toronto get buttons, but towns and villages such as Agincourt, Lansing, and several others don’t? [This is really a tongue-in-cheek comment, not a complaint!]

  33. As mentioned above a few times by myself and Nick, we were only able to find the above towns and villages, so the requirement is to actually have a coat of arms.

    No slights, disrespect, or revisionist history. Availability is the only criteria. If anyone wants to spend hours pouring over documents in the archives looking for any missing town we would greatly appreciate it.

  34. Not that anyone cares, but since I’m a regular around here, I feel compelled to say that Ed K is not me. And plus that I think the buttons are hot. But since I live in The Junction and we have the coolest coat of arms, I would think that.

  35. I’d wear a Village of Long Branch T-shirt while waiting for a 501 LONG BRANCH car.

  36. “So in addition to these, Brockton, The Junction, Parkdale, and North Toronto get buttons, but towns and villages such as Agincourt, Lansing, and several others don’t? [This is really a tongue-in-cheek comment, not a complaint!]”

    The difference is, each of the former was an incorporated municipality (West Toronto in the case of the Junction)–and they were all amalgamated into the City of Toronto by WWI. OTOH Agincourt, Lansing et al never were incorporated, hence they technically never were “towns” or “villages”–they were hamlets that answered to their respective townships. (If they were lucky, they might have attained the semi-incorporated status of “police village”–don’t know how many of those existed within the 416, let alone whether any of them went to the effort of commissioning crests, coats of arms, etc.)

  37. Some curious mottoes there…

    North Toronto reads (if I get that right) ‘Nor fear, nor favour, nor affection’ – to whom, I wonder?

    Leaside translates (if my Latin is right) to ‘Transport, Health, Stability’ – interesting priorities.

    New Toronto alliterates nicely – ‘Integrity, Intelligence, Industry’.

    I’d love to know what the York one says, but this version is too small to read.

  38. Interestingly, New Toronto reversed Toronto’s old motto–was that by way of critique? (The Toronto motto used to be ridiculed for placing “industry” first and “integrity” last.)

  39. Great idea, what about having a TORONTO button (or buttons?). I love the City crest which is stamped on many of the street drains along sidewalks in the older area of the City. They are all dated 1889 – did someone order a multi-year supply then or did they simply recast them with the old molds for many years? I like the idea they have been in use for well over 100 years.

  40. Adam Sobolak wrote, “The difference is, each of the former was an incorporated municipality…”

    I understand that, and that is part of why some of these villages and hamlets do not have a coat of arms – the reason for no button.

    I find the different status of neighbourhoods somewhat fascinating, not just with who had what status, but also with how it is perceived by others. Many were recognized by the post office, while some were not. When did Canada Post finally recognize “North York”? I believe it wasn’t until sometime after it became a city on February 14, 1979!

  41. I’ve been told that ‘Etobicoke’ is a First Nation’s word for “where the alders grow”. My source was a tree lover, not a historian, so this needs to be confirmed. But if correct, the Township of Etobicoke crest makes a little more sense. It’s certainly more visually arresting than a tree outline would be — and perhaps we’re meant to assume the figure’s bow and arrow are made from alder!

  42. Weston actually has two crests: the one shown and a more known one which has 2 strands of ivy surrounding the centre crest and bird. And it’s much nicer.

  43. I am almost a year late to the button talk, but I am curious to know if Dovercourt was ever incorporated. In lieu of a Dovercourt button, I will get Brockton and York buttons, and make a third button for the middle that says “here.”

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