Every visitor to Toronto has a chance to see a unique place that entered the Guinness Book as the longest street in the world. It is 54 km long Yonge Street, which is also a popular location in the city center. It introduces passers-by to local architecture, culture and centuries-old history. Here, you can feel the active rhythm of life as well as the impressive and positive vibes of Toronto. Learn more at toronto-future.
Origin and first settlers of Yonge Street
One of the world’s longest streets is located in downtown Toronto. It begins at the Lake Ontario Waterfront, runs to Lake Simcoe and the town of Cochrane and then ends turning west to the state of Minnesota.
In the 17th century, Yonge Street was just a trail of Indian tribes, the first local inhabitants. In 1788, European and English pioneers started to come there and in 1793, British Governor John Simcoe named the location Yonge Street after his friend and businessman George Yonge. He also forced the Young Street area owners to construct buildings around it and lay a road. Thus, it was used for horse-drawn carriages regularly since the 1800s and in the middle of the 20th century, modern surface and underground public transport appeared there too.
Young Street through centuries
In the 17th century, there was nothing in this area except Indian settlements and walking trails. Only sand, earth and channels of the Ontario River could be seen there. However, everything changed drastically after the arrival of the first settlers. At first, they used that area as a strategic military location. The British were the first settlers who bought that land. Then the Americans started coming there too.
The Anglo-American war began in 1812 and Yonge Street was used by British troops. John Simcoe organized the construction of fortifications, defensive structures, crossings and shelters on the eve of the American invasion. Thus, Yonge Street served as a place of military preparation for the American offensive. Here, John created a military plan for the British army, which was supposed to move from the north to the south of the country. However, they lost the war in 1813. The Americans captured the city of York and renamed it Toronto.
A few years after the war, the city was completely rebuilt and Yonge Street gradually became European-looking. New houses with utility systems were built. The first trams, long-distance routes and horse-drawn carriages appeared there too.
In the 19th century, people from other countries started to visit Toronto more often and many of them settled there. As the population grew, the city’s central street, Yonge Street, became a place for shopping, cultural recreation, education and living, as shopping centers, cafes, restaurants, schools and residential buildings were opened. In addition, two new roads were laid nearby too. Later, Yonge Street became one of the few places for local gatherings.
Walking along the street, you can also visit the local Lake Ontario beaches and markets. In 1954, the city subway was officially opened beneath and in 1977, the largest city shopping center, Eaton Center, was built there too. Many entrepreneurs set up their offices and shops inside and thus, developed Toronto economically. Since then, it is always crowded, noisy and features interesting places to visit.
However, Yonge Street lost its status as the world’s longest one in 1999, it remains among the most popular tourist destinations in Toronto.