The History of the Rosedale Neighbourhood

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Bosley Real Estate

The wealthiest neighbourhood in Toronto came into being in 1824, when William Botsford Jarvis bought a portion of a 200 acre land grant made to Captain George Playter for his role in supporting King George in the American Revolution. Jarvis was the sheriff of the home district, and was a staunch supporter of the crown, continuing the family tradition passed on by his father, who like Playter had fought for the Crown during the American Revolution.

Jarvis moved to the property with his wife Mary. After their house was completed, Mary named the residence Rosedale because of the many roses that grew in the area. The couple would have five children, and Rosedale itself was one of the centres of concentration for William Lyon MacKenzie's rebellion.  MacKenzie and Jarvis had much ill will towards each other, and MacKenzie had stated one of the purposes of his march was to burn Rosedale to the ground. This was averted when a colonel in the ill fated rebellion said he would not fight women and children. Jarvis would later hang this colonel.

Legend has it that the famously meandering streets of Rosedale were patterned after the tracks Mary Jarvis made on her many rides throughout the property. Mary Jarvis died in 1852, and William lived on over a decade after her death until 1864. Although their names are synonymous with the history of the community, theirs was actually the second house built in the area, the first being built on the Don River in 1818.

The Jarvis family continued to have a major role in the development of Rosedale, with William's nephew Edgar being the major developer of the entire region. He acquired much of the land and proceeded to build several houses in a northerly direction, as well as bridges at Huntley Street and from Bloor Street. In 1870, Rosedale seceded to Yorkville, which some say marks the proper beginning of the community.

Housing construction in earnest did not begin in Rosedale until the last little bit of the 19th century, and continued into the 20th, with a brief pause during the Depression and World War II. After the war, urban developers began to undertake high density projects in South Rosedale, until apartment building was halted by a community initiative.

Today, all of Rosedale's streets have been developed, with the last seeing construction begin as recently as 2000. The neighbourhood retains many of its heritage homes, and has been Toronto's wealthiest community for over a century.

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Keith Tarswell

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