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cityscape

The 100-Year Legacy of Wychwood Barns

What we know today as Wychwood Barns was once part of a bold, early experiment in Toronto public transit.

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If it weren’t for the stubbornness of a privately-run transit provider, there’s a good chance nobody would be enjoying this week’s 100th anniversary celebrations for the structure now known as Wychwood Barns. The old carhouse, now a community centre and live-work space for artists, stands as a reminder of why the City of Toronto entered the public-transit business to begin with.

Despite the City’s numerous annexations in the early 20th century, the privately-run Toronto Railway Company (TRC) refused all municipal requests to extend its streetcar service beyond the boundaries that existed when it won its franchise in 1891. When a court upheld the Railway Company’s right to stay within its original territory, voters in the 1911 municipal election gave the City permission to form its own streetcar company, Toronto Civic Railways (TCR), to serve new Torontonians.

The growing string of neighbourhoods along St. Clair Avenue West was fertile ground for a TCR line. Beginning in 1913, the St. Clair carhouse serviced the St. Clair line and many other routes that eventually carried passengers as far as the ferry docks, North Toronto, and Earlscourt. The TCR’s modern repair and storage complex looked especially impressive compared to the aging, decaying facilities of the TRC, which let its system rot as its 30-year franchise wound down.

If your fare is ready, hop into our gallery for a ride through the early days of the St. Clair carhouse.

Additional material from The Toronto Civic Railways: An Illustrated History by J. William Hood (Toronto: Upper Canada Railway Society, 1986), St. Clair West in Pictures by Nancy Byers and Barbara Myrvold (Toronto: Toronto Public Library, 2008), the August 25, 1913 edition of the Toronto Star, and the August 26, 1913 edition of the Toronto World.

CORRECTION: September 11, 2013, 9:40 AM We incorrectly identified Oakwood Avenue as the present name of the former section of Ossington Avenue that intersected St. Clair Avenue West in 1911. The current identity of this street is Winona Drive.

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