That the name itself – the Junction – conjures up the Wild West is telling. For most of its 150-year history, this neighbourhood way out in Toronto’s west end has possessed somewhat of an edgy, frontier ethos.
The Junction was born, and named for, the intersection of four railway lines, which spawned the area’s growth and determined its subsequent booms and busts. The initial boom began in the late 1800s, when factories, mills, and meat packing plants sprang up along the tracks, drawing scores of labourers, as well as enterprising bars and brothels. The party was so out-of-control that in 1909 – a year after the independent town of West Toronto Junction joined the city of Toronto – residents petitioned for a total ban on booze – which lasted until 1999!
It wasn’t until the 21st century that the busted Junction, its factories shuttered and stockyards converted into big box stores, began to boom again. With the end of its century-long dry spell, bars and restaurants began popping up, along with cool cafes, craft breweries, art galleries and vintage stores. Lured by eternal western promises, priced-out artists arrived, followed by young families, and, for better or worse, a certain degree of gentrification and hipsterfication.
Today’s Junction still feels west, but not quite so wild. Yet its mixture of old school-Ontario grit and gracious red brick Victoriana, its mash-up of leafy parks, industrial warehouses and train tracks, still give off a bit of a frontier aura. If you travel out to the area north of Annette Street and south of St. Clair West, running east from Runnymede Road to the CP railway before extending east and south to the Junction Triangle, you’ll find establishments that, whether old-school or too-cool-for-school, have a distinctive neighbourhood vibe. A Junction vibe.
Writing for The Toronto Star, proud Junctionite Edward Keenan noted that, of all Toronto’s hoods, only in the Junction can you ride the Junction 40 bus to a party at The Junction City Music Hall where you can sip Junction Craft Brewery beer, express grief that the Junction Farmers’ Market is closed for the winter, and get into a heated debate over the building of the new Junction House condo complex – a story covered by local news blog, The Junctioneer.
As he confessed, “I’m pretty sure I’ve never lived in a neighbourhood where residents spend as much time talking about how much they like living in the neighbourhood. And saying its name while doing so. It’s fun to say. Try it: Junction.”