This is the first in a series I plan to do over the next little while on the hidden villages and hamlets that have been engulfed by urban sprawl in the Greater Toronto Area. This is going back to the beginning for me, as one of my first posts on Spacing Toronto was on the lost village of Ebenezer, now part of Brampton’s sprawl.
I chose Agincourt to launch this occasional series for two reasons: this is one area in which many, if not most, Spacing readers should have some familiarity with; and it is here that Transit City has its humble “groundbreaking” – namely the grade separation of the CN Uxbridge Subdivision and Sheppard Avenue East.
Unlike lesser known villages around like O’Sullivan’s Corners (Sheppard and Victoria Park), or Hough’s Corners (Eglinton and Birchmount), Agincourt as a geographical place name lives on, in the form of a GO Transit train stop; a mall at Kennedy and Sheppard, local schools, amongst other things. Indeed, today, many Torontonians would describe Agincourt’s boundaries as from the 401 to the south, Steeles to the north, Victoria Park to the west and McCowan or Markham Roads to the east (the City of Toronto’s neighbourhood definition for Agincourt isn’t clear either, splitting “Agincourt” into two neighbourhoods).
125 years ago, Agincourt was a bustling, yet unincorporated, rural village at the corner of what is today the intersection of Midland and Sheppard Avenues, assisted by the construction of the pioneering Toronto and Nipissing Railway in 1871 (which became part of the Midland Railway of Canada empire, the origin of the name Midland Avenue) and the Ontario and Quebec Railway, later the CP mainline to Montreal.
The suburban creep of Toronto didn’t catch up to Agincourt until the early 1960s, after the construction of Highway 401 and the wholesale bungalowization of Scarborough Township after the Second World War by Reeve Oliver Crockford. The train has stopped continuously in Agincourt, first hosting passenger trains to Coboconk and Lindsay, later CN, then VIA rail diesel coach commuter trains to Markham and Stouffville. GO Transit took over the service in 1982.
Today, Agincourt village still maintains much of its original building stock, though urbanization has blurred the old boundaries. This has had the effect so that Agincourt is a village lost in plain sight. Several churches from the village era remain in use today, though there have been some adaptations to the area’s changing demographics, including Mandarin and Cantonese language services. The local school, built in 1912, still welcomes students, and the old Victorian and Edwardian housing stock, while standing out from the ranch houses, high rises and townhouse complexes that surround the area, are plentiful on several local streets as well as Midland Avenue and even Sheppard.
Agincourt Public School
Old houses stand next to strip malls on Sheppard
At Agincourt Station, the first work on the Transit City LRT network is beginning, though only on an underpass for Sheppard Avenue under the CN/GO tracks, avoiding the need for TTC tracks to cross a mainline railway at grade. So far, utility relocation and the demolition of an automotive shop are the only signs of what is to come.