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Living in Willowdale

Willowdale is a vibrant and cosmopolitan urban centre filled with luxury condominiums, custom built homes, shining office towers, a newly renovated shopping mall and theatre complex, an ultra modern civic centre, a world-class aquatic centre and a highly acclaimed Centre for the Performing Arts which hosts local and world class entertainment. Willowdale is also the home of the newly rebuilt Earl Haig Secondary School which has an outstanding academic reputation. Earl Haig is also highly regarded for its Claude Watson Arts program where students can major in either dance, drama, music or visual arts.


History of Willowdale

Willowdale was originally settled by Jacob Cummer, who immigrated to Canada from the United States in 1797. Cummer was a mill owner on the nearby Don River, a proprietor of a tinsmith shop on Yonge Street and a self trained doctor and veterinarian. Cummer was held in such high esteem by his neighbours that this area was originally known as Kummer’s Settlement. David Gibson, a distinguished land surveyor, was another leader in this community. Like most of his neighbours, Gibson participated in the ill-fated Toronto Rebellion of 1837. He was thus charged with high treason and escaped to the United States were he found employment as the First Assistant Engineer on the building of the Erie Canal. Gibson returned to his Yonge Street farm in 1851, after being pardoned for his role in the Rebellion. He then helped to establish the “Willow Dale” post office, named after the many willow trees that once graced this district. Members of the Gibson family were still living in Gibson House in the 1920’s when the residential subdivision of Willowdale began to take place.


Editors Note: The Gibson House, circa 1851, is still standing in its original location at 5172 Yonge Street and is now a historic museum.


Homes in Willowdale

Willowdale’s beautiful tree-lined streets include a mix of older and newer homes. The original housing stock built in the  1940s and 50s consists of charming bungalows and pretty brick 2-storey homes. Many of these original houses have recently been torn down and replaced by new custom designed houses. Willowdale features very expansive lots which is the reason so many new homes have been built here. This neighbourhood also offers homebuyers a large selection of condominium townhome and condominium apartments that provide a more affordable entry into this popular North York neighbourhood.


Lifestyle in Willowdale

The Yonge Street shopping district which runs through the centre of this neighbourhood is a curious mix of small retailers, big box stores, one-of-a-kind specialty stores, fast food restaurants, small shopping plazas and a large shopping centre. This vibrant shopping mecca also features an international selection of restaurants including French, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Japanese and Middle Eastern foods. If you prefer making dinner at home there are numerous food markets along this street. The Bayview Village Shopping Centre, located at the north-east corner of Bayview and Sheppard Avenues, is known for its excellent selection of clothing stores and restaurants. Willowdale Avenue provides residents in the east part of this neighbourhood with additional convenience-type shopping and also contains a number of specialty service stores and professional offices.


Recreation in Willowdale

The North York Civic Centre located on Beecroft Road, one block west of Yonge Street, is a multi-faceted facility that includes the Douglas Snow Aquatic Centre and the North York Central Library. Adjacent to the civic centre is Mel Lastman Square, a popular public promenade that is equipped with a spacious amphitheatre, intimate wedding pavilions, a garden court, and a reflecting pool which doubles as a skating rink in the wintertime. Next to Mel Lastman Square is the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts which includes the Art Gallery of North York, the George Weston Recital Hall, and the Studio Theatre. The Willowdale Lawn Bowling Club is located across the street from the civic centre at 150 Beecroft Road.


The Mitchell Field Community Centre located at 89 Church Avenue includes an ice arena, an indoor pool, a gymnasium and community meeting rooms. Tennis courts and baseball diamonds can be found at Bayview Village Park off Bayview Avenue and Edithvale Park on Edithvale Drive. Willowdale Park, located off Hollywood Avenue also has tennis courts. In addition, the Willowdale neighbourhood contains many children’s parks, equipped with playgrounds, that are conveniently situated throughout the neighbourhood.


Transportation in Willowdale

Bus service along Sheppard, Finch and Bayview Avenues connects passengers to stations on the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line. The Bathurst Street bus links up with the Bathurst station on the Bloor-Danforth subway line. A York Region GO Transit bus terminal is located at the Finch subway station for those commuters heading north of the city. Yonge Street runs right through the centre of Willowdale providing a quick and easy access route both into and out of the city. On-ramps to highway 401 are conveniently located off Bayview Avenue and Yonge Street, south of Sheppard Avenue.

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