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In Search of Toronto’s Geographic Centre

The geographic centre of Toronto.

Two months ago, our pals over at Londonist set out to find London’s true geographic centre. Their experiment got us thinking about Toronto’s centre, and how for most Torontonians (Torontoist included) the city’s symbolic heart is somewhere downtown—at an intersection like Bloor and Yonge perhaps? But while downtown Toronto is the city’s cultural, financial, and political epicentre, it’s firmly in the south end and nowhere near Toronto’s true midpoint.

To find Toronto’s actual centre we first tried Londonist’s method, which involved cutting out a map of Toronto, gluing it to a piece of cardboard, and then finding its centre of mass by balancing the cutout on a pencil. We tried this method twice, and got two, fairly different results. Next, we tried what’s called the plumb line method [PDF], which again involved cutting out a map, only this time we found the object’s centre of mass by hanging a string with a weight on it from three different points along the cutout’s edge. We then traced the different paths formed by the string on the map and marked where they intersected. This method produced more accurate results, but we still weren’t satisfied. So we decided to go to a pro, and enlisted the help of Marcel Fortin, a Geographic Information Systems and Maps librarian at the University of Toronto. Using Statistics Canada’s border data for the city and a GIS mapping program called ArcMap, Fortin transformed the area within Toronto’s boundaries into a polygon, calculated its centroid, and then plugged those coordinates into Google Earth.

Before we reveal the results, we should note that the method we used is one of several, and that different techniques and data sources can lead to different results. For instance, the City of Toronto’s ward definitions produce a slightly different centre than Statistic Canada’s, as the ward borders include some of the water between the Toronto Islands and the shore. Ultimately, we chose to use Statistic Canada’s border data, as it contains the fewest anomalies and doesn’t include parts of Lake Ontario.

But enough stalling.

Torontoist is proud to announce that Toronto’s geographic centre is in…drum roll please…

33 Wanless Crescent, Toronto’s geographic centre. Image from Google Earth.

Lawrence Park! Or more precisely, an island of cedars in the front lawn of 33 Wanless Crescent, the home of Bill and Judy Haust. “I’m stunned to find out that we’re at the centre of the universe,” Bill told Torontoist when we presented the Hausts with the news. “Frankly, it’s something we would never even have thought about,” continued Judy.

33 Wanless Crescent. Photo courtesy of Bill and Judy Haust.

According to the original architectural plans, 33 Wanless Crescent was built between 1922 and 1923 by a Mr. Lowrey during Lawrence Park’s first wave of development—back when the area was still advertised as a refuge from “the Lake Winds in Winter.” Judy’s parents then bought the house from the Lowreys in 1952, and Bill and Judy purchased the property from Judy’s mother in 2003.

The original architectural plans for 33 Wanless Crescent. Image courtesy of Bill and Judy Haust.

In addition to being at the centre of Toronto, 33 Wanless Crescent also seems to be a focal point for weirdness. The Hausts’ home is mysteriously missing from Google Maps latest satellite image, most map services have trouble locating it, and it’s situated at the point where Wanless Crescent meets Buckingham Avenue, so the neighbours across the road are actually on a different street. “[It’s] useful when ordering pizza that advertises thirty minutes or it’s free,” joked Judy. “This is a phantom house.”

Of course, we aren’t the first organization to make a claim about Toronto’s centre. The Ontario Science Centre argues on its website that it’s “smack in the geographic centre of Toronto.” However, when we contacted the Science Centre, they were unable to back up their assertion with any proof. Toronto Suites Apartments also suggests that it’s “situated in the geographic cent[re] of Toronto.” But, as we previously discovered, developers and landlords seem to think that half the city is at Toronto’s heart.

Now that we’ve solved the mystery of what’s at Toronto’s true centre, we’re keen on taking on another geography-focused assignment. We don’t want to overpromise—the mapping software can only use existing, available, and reliable data sets (think population centre rather than coffee shop concentration), but there are all manner of geographical queries we can try to sort out. So dear Torontoist readers, what should our next mission be?


  • qviri

    If you can get your hands on sufficiently precise data, finding the centre weighted by population density might be an interesting exercise.

  • http://undefined Chester Pape

    Great fun and I really appreciate the effort and research that went into this. This should be held up as an example on how to do a proper well researched human interest story.

  • David Toronto

    It’s interesting to note the verb “shewing” on
    the architectural plans for the address.
    I thought “shew” was limited to the King
    James Bible.
    Live and learn.

  • http://undefined torontothegreat

    It’s actually more west than I thought it would be, I figured it would be a bit east of bayview (judging by eye).
    Great article!

  • http://undefined historyjen

    haha Awesome!

  • http://undefined EricSmith

    I wouldn’t have bet on it appearing in a 20th Century document, either. My fourth-edition Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1951, lists the spelling as “now rare,” rather than calling it out as archaic.

    Fowler’s Modern English Usage, 1926, quotes the OED, saying:

    The spelling shew, prevalent in the 18th c. & not uncommon in the first half of the 19th c., is now obs. exc. in legal documents.

    The blueprint in the picture looks like the sort of thing that could be found at a land registry office or in a contract of sale, so the “shew” fits.

  • http://undefined Christopher Merlot

    Hrrrumph. The centre of Toronto is wherever I happen to be.
    That aside, this is a pretty neat story. Thanks for the good read.

  • http://undefined W. K. Lis

    Due to Ontario’s rather odd shape, I wonder where the center of Ontario would be?
    Wonder if the home of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Murdoch is anywhere near it?

  • http://undefined Jason

    Nice article Stephen! I’m looking forward to others! ;-)

  • M@

    Brilliant work, Stephen. I also did the cutout a couple of times, but got the same point on both occasions. Your resolution is much better than we had in London, however.
    The next experiment is to take into account the hills and valleys.
    M@ (from Londonist)

  • http://undefined the_yellow_dart

    I’ve always found this neighbourhood’s street design very strange. Lots of crescents, some cut off, some not… Lots of similar street names continuing rights-of-way… It’s just weird.

  • http://undefined the_yellow_dart

    As for Ontario, I’m betting the center is somewhere:
    a. North of highway 11
    b. Uninhabited

  • http://undefined thelemur

    The Haust’s home is mysteriously missing from Google Maps latest satellite image
    No, not the Haust’s home.
    Bill and Judy Haust = the Hausts
    their home = the Hausts’ home

  • Stephen Michalowicz

    Fixed. Thanks for pointing the mistake out to us.

  • scruss

    By startling coincidence, I worked this out a couple of weeks ago, and came to the same conclusion in my blog: Finding the exact geographic centre of Toronto.
    Curiously, I was getting a fair bit of traffic to just that post in the run-up to this article being posted. How odd!

  • David Topping

    Cool post—and good method. As mentioned, the inspiration for our article was Londonist’s hunt for their city’s centre way back in January; we started work on our hunt right after Londonist finished theirs. We hadn’t seen your post, but if we had, we’d certainly have credited it in some way in our article!

  • http://undefined rek

    How about a map showing where Torontoist’s reader traffic comes from? Confine it to just the city if you want. If my iPod Touch Google Map can pinpoint the location of my router (give or take a few metres), I figure this sort of data is easy to figure out from IP addresses.

  • scruss

    I’ll spare you the details, but I calculate the human centre of Toronto to be at 43.717794°N, 79.390299°W – that’s in Blythwood Ravine, just south of Blythwood Road.

  • scruss

    the_yellow_dart is right on both counts – according to the Political Boundary data available on Geogratis, the centre of Ontario is at 86.067813°W, 50.437664°N.

  • qviri

    Awesome stuff — including the details. I’m kind of surprised how close to the geographic centre this one came out to be.
    Part of me wishes you could use more fine-grained data than by ward, but that’s probably wishful thinking.

  • scruss

    If I could be bothered scraping the Toronto Neighbourhood profiles (PDFs – eww, but doable) it would be the same technique. Wouldn’t take very long, but it’s getting into the minutiae of what is essentially an extremely silly exercise.

  • scruss

    So I did it; and the neighbourhood result is stupidly close to the ward result.

  • Anonymous

    The house next door (#35) is currently on the market for $2.645m…

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  • Peter Janigian

    Yonge and Bloor is the Centre of Toronto, anyone from Toronto knows that.

  • Matt

    This house also appears to be right next to the Old Toronto / North York boundary, check it out on this map

  • MapNerd

    This location is 16.5 km from the western boundary of Toronto, and 22.7 km from the eastern boundary. It is 9.3 km from the lake and 8.2 km from Steeles Ave. How, in any way is that the middle? My reckoning puts the “centre” east of Bayview, north of Eglinton, say somewhere in Sunnydene Park.

    • Conservative Astroturf Brigade

      The “midpoint” of Toronto is not defined by the distance to the boundary, but rather by the line where an equal amount of land lies on either side. Where all these divisions intersect is the “midpoint”.

      Hence, the west is nearly square, while the east is an elongated trapezoid, but both contain the same land area. Same is true north-south – north of the midpoint is relatively close to a rectangle, but the south is the irregular lakeshore, but again, north and south halves both contain about 130 square miles of land.

  • Hunky69


    Yonge and College is the a..hole of Toronto. Do not believe me? Go and visit!

  • George

    The well-publicized “geographic centre” of Toronto has been the intersection of Eglinton Ave. E. and Don Mills Rd.

    Your designation is certainly close-by.

  • Greg Goss

    A city’s center needs to be based on a population-weighted procedure. Which means that Toronto’s center will migrate a dozen miles or so north and south every day.

  • emwatcher

    Yes, this would be more interesting, at least in historical terms.