History of Davenport
Davenport's history can be traced back thousands of years, to the days when Davenport Road was used as an ancient foot path by the First Nations people seeking an overland route between the Humber and Don Rivers.
Davenport Road continued to be an important passageway, for French Fur traders in the 1600's, and for the first European settlers who arrived in this area in the 1790's. One of these early settlers was Ensign John McGill, the original owner of 'Davenport' house, after whom this neighbourhood is named.
Davenport was primarily a farming community until 1861, when the Northern Railway opened a line just south of here. The Railway attracted industry to this area, and a small village named Davenport emerged.
Davenport amalgamated with the Village of West Toronto Junction in 1889. Then in 1909, Davenport was annexed by the City of Toronto. Residential development of this neighbourhood began shortly thereafter.
In the early 1800s, Toronto was still largely covered in forest and it was very difficult to travel from one community to another to engage in commerce or social visits.
However, Toronto’s early European settlers did find a handful of First Nations trading routes that they would adopt as a means of passage through various parts of the city.
One of these early Toronto roads was Davenport Road an ancient First Nations footpath that was part of an overland route connecting Montreal to Niagara. Davenport Road was heavily used by French fur traders in the 1600s and later by the first European settlers to this area in the 1790s.
In the early 1800s the Davenport trail was converted into a roadway by a private company that built and maintained the road in return for tolls that all users of this roadway were required to pay.
There were five tollgates built between the Humber and Don Rivers. Miraculously one of these tollkeepers cottages was flagged by a local resident who had information that the structure next door to her home on nearby Howland Avenue had been relocated from Davenport Road and was a former tollkeepers cottage. A second former resident collaborated her story.
Extensive research by local history experts validated this finding and immediate steps were made to preserve and restore the tollkeepers cottage which was sitting in the path of development. After many generous volunteer hours and donations and many years of hard work The Tollkeeper’s Cottage formerly known as Tollgate #3 was finally moved back to its rightful place in a bucolic park setting on the northwest corner of Davenport Road and Bathurst Street. The Tollkeeper’s Cottage is believed to be the only early tollhouse still surviving anywhere in Canada.
The Tollkeeper’s Cottage was officially opened on July 1, 2008. It is open to the public on Saturdays and has an addition which accommodates school groups and other events. For more information on The Tollkeeper’s Cottage visit their website www.tollkeeperscottage.ca
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