Large, white on blue map of the Township of York showing the names of landowners as well as streets and municipal boundaries.
Ownership Map – Township of York, showing unsubdivided areas of 10 acres and over with names of owners and acreages
Series 726, Item 359


In 1849, the Municipal Corporations Act (also known as the Baldwin Act) established a new two-tier system of municipal government and York Township was formed as part of York County. York Township encompassed the lands bounded by Lake Ontario, the Humber River, Steeles Avenue and Victoria Park Avenue. In the early 20th century, York Township Council was concerned primarily with the urban issues of the more populated, southern part of the township: sidewalks, streets, lighting, waterworks, sewage, etc. The 6,000 people living on the farms north of the City of Toronto felt neglected. Owing to the density of population in the urban portion of York, the rural residents had no representation on Council despite paying nearly 23% of the taxes collected by the township. A committee was formed in 1921 to divide the rural from the urban portions of the Township of York, and this was the origin of the Township of North York.


Crowd of people in front of an unfinished timber barn structure.
Barn raising, farm of Joseph Bales, Lansing, York Township
[ca. 1905]
Fonds 1568, Item 177
Group of young people in field with flax bundles.
Harvesting flax in Willowdale, York Township
[ca. 1917]
Fonds 1244, Item 4639
View of rail track, unpaved road and hydro lines.
Yonge Street, looking south from ½ mile south of Finch’s Corner
Fonds 1568, Item 162
View of dirt road with rail line, hydro line and a house.
Yonge Street, looking north from just north of Newtonbrook
[ca. 1920]
Fonds 1568, Item 435

Two of the photographs above show the streetcar tracks for the line that served north Yonge Street. The route had been operated by the Toronto and York Radial Railway until 1921 when that company’s assets were absorbed by the newly formed Toronto Transportation Commission.

The Township of North York was incorporated as a separate municipality on June 13, 1922. A five-man council, comprised entirely of farmers, was elected on August 12, 1922, with Mr. R.F. Hicks as the first reeve. Council meetings were held initially at the Brown School and later in the Golden Lion Hotel. On September 15, 1922, an office was opened in a store on Yonge Street at Sheppard, but in February 1923 there was a fire which destroyed some official records. Seeking more permanent quarters, a site was purchased at 5145 Yonge Street and Empress Avenue. The first municipal office for the township, designed by architect Murray Brown, opened on December 19, 1923, and continued to serve until 1956. Incidentally, Murray Brown also designed the seal for the Township of North York in 1923. On it, the words “Progress with Economy” surrounded an ornamental shield with a Canadian beaver, a wheat sheaf and scales.


Black and white head and shoulder portrait of a man in a suit.
R.F. Hicks, first Reeve of the Township of North York
[ca. 1924]
Series 249, File 230, Item 1
View of two story brick building with road in foreground.
North York’s first municipal offices at 5145 Yonge Street
[ca. 1966]
Series 249, File 355
The new Township got right down to the business of providing services to the community. A Board of Health was formed as were police and fire departments. Water services, including a pumping station and filtration plant, were installed on the east branch of the Don River. Hydro service was provided for the more populated areas along Yonge Street by taking over the power lines of the radial railway. North York’s Hydro Commission was established on December 7, 1923. The township’s first secondary school, Earl Haig High School, was built in 1929.
The prosperous days of the 1920s were unfortunately followed by the lean years of the Great Depression. At the height of the Depression, from 30 to 40% of the people in North York Township were unemployed and this had a devastating effect upon the collection of taxes. In October 1933, the township defaulted on its bonds, and in February 1935 the province placed North York under its supervision. This supervision required provincial approval for all expenditures and did not end until 1941.


Woman working at a sanding machine wearing sweatshirt that says De Havilland Mosquito.
Bernice Colter sanding aircraft parts at De Havilland Canada plant in Downsview, North York
January 21, 1943
Fonds 1266, Item 83188


During the Second World War, people who were employed in war work came to live in the township. Nevertheless, by the end of the war, North York was still just a few small settlements amidst acres of farmland. In the post-war period, things began to change, and by 1950 the population had soared. The township welcomed waves of veterans and immigrants looking for inexpensive land and housing for their families. North York Council began to concern itself with the need for planning to manage the subdivision of farmland and the tremendous expansion of residential, commercial, and industrial development.

The provincial Planning Act of 1946 led to the formation of the North York Planning Board on September 25, 1946. The Board directed the work of the North York Department of Planning and Development, whose main tasks were to assist council to formulate a land development policy and to ensure that community needs were met. In the post-war period, the population of North York boomed, with an increase from 20,382 in 1940 to 62,646 in 1950. This explosion in growth led to a high demand for diverse housing, shopping centres, industrial properties, warehousing and institutional facilities such as schools and hospitals. To meet these needs, North York produced its first Official Plan in 1948. Additionally, with the aid of Dr. E.G. Faludi, Planning Consultant, a zoning bylaw was prepared and passed by Council in June 1952. North York was one of the few municipalities to have such comprehensive legislation, and an important feature was the Township’s emphasis on the protection of the Wilket Creek and Don and Humber river valley lands for green belt zones.


Man and a woman looking at a map mounted on a wall. Woman points to the map with a pen.
North York plans
[ca. 1970]
Series 1745 File 40, Item 18
Black and white photo of three men looking at a map. The map title is visible and reads Key Zoning Map Borough of North York Department of Planning and Development.
Planners working on zoning maps
Series 1745, File 40, Item 19a
Colour view of woman riding horse in wooded area with autumn leaves.
Natural beauty preserved in Wilket Creek Park
[ca. 1966]
Series 249, File 187, Item 1