Literal street names

Here’s a Sunday afternoon pastime — I was walking up Broadview Ave. on that suddenly mild New Year’s Day and was reminded again how that street is named literally — it gives a broad view of the city across the Don Valley. It got me thinking about what other streets in Toronto are named in a literally descriptive way. It seems to me that they don’t make up a very large proportion of street names in Toronto, the vast majority of which seem to be named after people, unrelated locations, or words that simply evoke a pleasant place to live.

One type of literal street name describes its orientation to the water:  Lake Shore Blvd., and its predecessor Front St. (which was the waterfront when it was named), plus Harbour St. There’s River St., which goes along the Don River, and Bay St., which goes to the bay.

Then there are streets whose name describes where they go to — University Ave. and College St., which go to the University of Toronto campus, and Kingston Road, which was the road to Kingston.

There’s also Parkside Drive, which goes along the side of a park. There are lots of names that mix an proper name and a description — Scarborough Heights Blvd., for example, or Baby Point Rd. (on a point) and Humberview Rd. (with a view of the Humber) — but those aren’t quite the same.

Another category of literal names could be those named after tree species — Elm, Oak — if that type of tree was dominant on the street, but I suspect in most cases the naming has more to do with creating an evocative atmosphere with which to sell real estate. Do any of our readers know, for example, if Oakridge Drive is actually along a ridge that features or once featured a lot of oaks?

There’s also the question of neighbourhoods. I grew up in a neighbourhood of Ottawa called Sandy Hill, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that it was, in fact, built on a sandy hill. The obvious Toronto one is The Beach(es), which is alongside a beach (or series of beaches, depening on where you fall in that naming battle), but there are others. I notice a neighbourhood on top of the Scarborough Bluffs called Cliffcrest, for example, and I expect Forest Hill was once, in fact, a forested hill.

According to Wikipedia, the Bridle Path name was a bit of description but probably more salesmanship — it doesn’t actually seem to have been a riding path, but was named so because one was planned. But in all likelihood the evocation of wealth that comes with horse-riding was also part of the equation. Rosedale, by contrast, was apparently actually named for the abundance of wild roses in the area, and it does in fact include dales (valleys).

I’m sure there are other literally descriptive Toronto street or neighbourhood names — what are some of the other ones?

Photo by Smaku.


  1. Beachview and Golfview — two streets near Gerrard and Woodbine — once did provide a view of a golf course and a beach. You can probably still see the beach from Beachview, if you stretch a bit.

    Old Bridle Path (in Rosedale) actually was an old bridle path.

    Poplar Plains Road did once cross plains with poplars.

    Parliament Street (beside the old Parliament buildings at Front and Parliament)

    Church Street

    Mill Street.

    College Street.

    Pottery Road (They once made pots in Todmorden Mills.)

    Bayview Avenue. (You can see the bay from the top of the hill at Moore Avenue.)

    Weston Road

    Markham Road

  2. I live on Oakridge Dr. It is on a ridge, although that can’t been detected from the street. From behind Oakridge, along the pedestrian path / bikeway that runs from Brimley to the GO Station at Eglinton, the ridge can be seen – you`re looking up at backyards of the houses on the north side of Oakridge, particularly between Brimley and McCowan. The prominent view there from up high would be the loading docks of the industrial park on Scagway Ave. Beyond those are a city works yard, piles of aggregate and the railway tracks. Since the view isn’t desirable, those backyards are heavily treed, although I couldn’t tell you if they are mostly oaks. I seldom pay attention to the types of trees.

  3. Despite idle pondering on more than one occasion, I still can’t come up with a plausible explanation for the Lakeview Diner’s name. There really couldn’t have ever been line-of-sight down to the lake from there in the recent past. Did it move at some point? Is the name some sort of arch-hipster trick question?

  4. It’s been “Lakeview” since before the hipsters moved in, I believe. There is Lakeview Avenue just a little west on Dundas. The lake, from there, is not in view.

  5. One particularly poor example of this would be Humberside Ave, which not only runs more or less perpendicular to the Humber River, but the westernmost point lies at Quebec Avenue, well away from the river. Anyone have any clue as to how Humberside managed to get its name?

  6. Indian Road was the main road between the lake and the 1st concession north in John Howard’s days. It followed an original aboriginal road.

  7. Davenport Road had a “lost village” called Davenport on it. Islington Avenue is named for the unincorporated village of Islington. Vaughan Road and Albion Road led to their namesake townships (Albion Township is now part of Caledon).

    The biggest one left out so far is Dundas Street, which led to Dundas (and later to London via Governor’s Road), though it started at Queen and Ossington, everything east of Ossington was later incorporated into Dundas.

  8. Humberside Avenue is in the Humberside neighbourhood, which, is beside the Humber, even though the Avenue isn’t.

  9. Bolton had a lot of -view streets. Birchview (for the trees in the Humber River ravine), Kingsview (King St/Rd was just at the bottom of the hill from it) and Humberview S.S. (Humber river again). There was also Whitehead Cres at the end of Longwood Dr, no joke!,+ON&gl=ca&ei=GUIqTbvXOM-0nAeyw_yMAQ&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=image&resnum=1&ved=0CBYQ8gEwAA

    Riverside drive up by Steeles and Islington is aptly named since one side of the street is houses and the other is the Humber river.

    Good thing Havelock isn’t literal, as in “You better/on your doors”

  10. Dundas Street still goes all the way to Dundas!  I have on more than one occasion gone home to Hamilton by taking Dundas St. all the way to where it turns into Hwy 5, which will take you all the way to Dundas (now part of the City of Hamilton itself).

  11. Great Oak Drive in Etobicoke. Look west off Islington, and there, on the north side, you see its namesake…

  12. Avenue Road – It doesn’t get more literal than that.

  13. Hillcrest Drive north of Davenport at Christie.  Ride your bike to this street from the south and you will realize just how literal the name is.  Also, the park of the same name has an incredible view of the downtown skyline.

  14. Also… Front st was historically on the waterfront, and I am fairly sure The Esplanade would have been a literal street name before the harbour infilling began.

  15. RE: Lakeview
    Totally a guess, but I wonder if when the street was named, from the top (north) end of Lakeview you could see the lake – perhaps from a house that used to be there. I notice that the two houses there now are newer than the ones that surround it, and the big trees that line Lakeview wouldn’t have been so big then.
    Street view of the new houses – 180degrees to guess the view:

    Why the Lakeview Lunch is couple blocks away, I don’t know

  16. – Spadina might not be a literal name in English but it’s derived from the literal Ojibwe description “ishpadinaa” which means “sudden rise in the land.”

    – Harbour Street

    – Avenue Road, mentioned by Michael, evolved from “The Road to the Avenue” (University Avenue)

    – Eastern Avenue

    – The Pond Road and Arboretum Lane (at York University)

  17. Parliament Street – site of the first parliament buildings. Kingston Road, which one can still take to Kingston. Military Trail, built as a defence against US military aggression. Main Street (self-explanatory). And let’s not forget the newly-named “OMB Folly.”

  18. Carlingview Dr. was a fine place to catch a whiff of the O’Keefe Brewery. Kinda makes you wish Fleet St. had been called Elsinoreview Dr.

  19. I figured there had to be a “Hillcrest” somewhere in the city – good to know.

  20. I also realized after posting this that Riverdale is a literal street/neighbourhood name – Riverdale Ave. goes to the river dale (valley), and the neighbourhood abuts it.

  21. “Forest Hill” was a forested hill? So were a lot of places. Boring. “Rosedale”? Come on, these are generic names that rich conservatives went for that now actually stand for something. If you want something distinctive, try The Junction, the city that grew around the large railway diamond known as West Toronto Diamond.

  22. Rusholme Rd – I discovered this while running back home (on Rusholme) from a good jog!

  23. Shawn: because Rosedale and Forest Hill come off as generic “pleasantville” names, the early conservative suburbs of the time. I find their names about as interesting as the “Mapleview” or “Applewood” names that would come in the Modern suburban era, where the trees have been cleared and the streets named after them. Now, they’re more interesting than they might have been when the name was chosen.

    The Junction actually suggests a varied history from the Industrial era. I’m not being classist; The Junction represented the affluent industrialist and the working man. There’s a lot of social history in the community because industrialization spurred by the railroads had many different effects on people. The name provides insight to the starting point for multiple histories (political, industrial/technological, and social history).

    One affluent neighbourhood which has a good name is nearby, too, Baby Point. You can find hundreds of Rosedales but one Baby Point; the latter points to something more unique and interesting than roses which might not have even been there. So does St. Lawrence and Yorkville. Uninteresting names can change, after all, it’s up to us to fashion ourselves well; it doesn’t just happen naturally. Few things in cities just happen naturally: not names, not transit projects, not attractive public spaces, not architecture, nor heritage preservation.

  24. “Rosedale” has a direct historic connection to the estate that was first there. I don’t see why the Junction’s historical connections are more or less of note.

  25. So where did the name for the estate originate? What did the estate have to do with the developers who eventually subdivided it in a bid to create an exclusive neighbourhood, an effort that initially struggled to get off the ground?

    Suit yourself. I have my subjective preference, and I took the time to justify it.

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