Woburn: Toronto Neighbourhood Explorer

Jesse in Neighbourhoods, Neighbourhood Explorer

Ed. Note.  Neighbourhood Explorer is a regular feature in which our
intrepid adventurer presents an up close-and-personal tour of a Toronto
neighbourhood.

Woburn is a very large and impressive neighbourhood, in which old and new homes are set among expansive green spaces and conveniently planned commercial property (see Realosophy's Woburn neighbourhood profile for local school and housing stats). In 1959, my grandparents purchased their first house on Painted Post Drive - formerly Old Danforth Road.

I lived in the area until I was six years old and returned every summer
throughout my childhood, learning important youth skills during my
visits such as riding a bicycle.  I have nothing but fond memories (and
the occasional bicycle-associated scar) of my experiences growing up in
Woburn.  They tend to flood back, twenty years later, when I see
children in the area mastering the same skills I once coveted.

Accessibility and convenience is important to every neighbourhood.  In our eco-conscious city, public transit has become a successful alternative for many Torontonians. Woburn boasts an array of TTC bus routes: the #54 Lawrence Avenue and #102 Markham Road are two of the busier lines in the area, along with the #95 York Mills (Ellesmere Road) and the #133 Neilson Road.  Woburn’s eighteen elementary schools and three high schools are within easy reach of the TTC.    

Throughout the portion of Woburn that lies south of Ellesmere Road, north of Lawrence Avenue, and east of Bellamy Road, square bungalows with large front windows line the streets.  Back-splits and side-splits appear every so often, but it is the quaint bungalow that dominates.  Despite the architectural conformity of central Woburn, individuality is still maintained.  HomeOwners have added distinguishing features to their houses such as cedar shingles, new driveways, roofs and entire second-storeys.  Care was taken with each project not to distract from the flow by making each improvement look fresh and authentic.  East of Orton Park Road, bungalows remain the staple housing style, but the addition of carports sets this pocket of Woburn apart.  As in the rest of the neighbourhood, some HomeOwners have chosen to remodel their one-storey home, taking care to retain highly functional and convenient carports, integrating them into their artistic and decorative vision.

The southernmost segment of the neighbourhood is home to an eclectic array of residential styles.  Older back-splits mingle with two-storey homes under construction.  West Highland Creek flows through, acting as the southern border of Woburn and giving HomeOwners spectacular views of protected conservation land.  The Cedarbrook Community Centre is located in this green space, as is Masaryktown Private Park.   Built originally as a Czechoslovakian social club in the 1940s, Masaryktown continues to be a place that emanates Czech-Slovak culture.

Morningside Park is one of the most beautiful parks in Toronto.  Covering a large expanse of northeastern Woburn, hiking trails and fishing holes along Highland Creek are a welcome distraction from bustling city life.  Deer and other wildlife are commonly spotted in this little pocket bordered by Ellesmere Road, Highway 401 and Morningside Road.  Houses in this northern slice of Woburn are a mix of classic back-splits alongside one and two-storey all-brick detached homes.  Throughout these streets, low-key gardens are set-off by spectacular houses while bountiful gardens surround more modest housing, each accenting the other fabulously.

Woburn’s immense size is only to its advantage as the many smaller communities
it encompasses make it the dynamic and multicultural center that it is
today.  Hindu, Muslim, Chinese and a multitude of eastern European migrants live together, not in mutually exclusive pockets, but alongside one another.  Specialty supermarkets and restaurants, which have popped up all over, allow transplanted cultures to share their traditions with the entire city.  Cedarbrae Mall, located at Markham Rd. and Lawrence Ave., has been the neighbourhood shopping centre for decades.  After a much-needed renewal and the addition of a gym and a Second Cup, Cedarbrae plaza continues to be a hub of activity in Woburn.

Just as this neighbourhood remains significant in my memories, Woburn is integral to the history of Toronto.  There is a large stone monument on the corner of Painted Post and Markham Road where Dowswell’s Inn once stood.  In 1850, Dowswell’s Inn was the meeting place for the Scarborough Home District Council, a governing body for the district outside Toronto, as well as the first, and only, post office for the entire community.  Destroyed by fire in 1927, the solitary stone marker commemorates the rich history that Woburn was once part of.  The neighbourhood finds itself in no less a storied position today.

Jesse Fleming is a freelance writer specializing in Toronto neighbourhoods.

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