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Toronto Communities Profile: Cabbagetown C08

Cabbagetown is a neighbourhood located on the east side of downtown Toronto. It comprises “the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in all of North America. Cabbagetown’s name derives from the Irish immigrants who moved to the neighbourhood beginning in the late 1840s, said to have been so poor that they grew cabbage in their front yards.

In the late 19th century the area was absorbed into the city as it became home to the working class Irish inhabitants who were employed in the industries along the lakeshore to the south in Corktown. Brick Victorian style houses were built throughout the area. The name Cabbagetown came from stories of new Irish immigrants digging up their front lawns and planting cabbage, as had been done during the years of the Irish Potato Famine. In this era the Cabbagetown name most often applied to the area south of Gerrard Street, with the part to the north still being called Don Vale. It was a working-class neighbourhood, but reached its peak of prosperity just before the First World War, which is when many of the brick homes in the area date from.

Cabbagetown was gentrified by affluent professionals, beginning in the 1970s. Many residents restored small Victorian row houses and became community activists. Darrell Kent (1942–1989), a resident and local businessman, is recognized by the community as having been the driving force behind the restoration of many of the area’s beautiful and unique Victorian houses.

In 1983 the Globe and Mail wrote that “Cabbagetown is probably the epitome of successful labelling. The core of the area—generally defined as being bounded by Parliament, Wellesley and Dundas Streets and the Don Valley was once Toronto’s skid row. Today, about a decade after the area was invaded by young professionals, speculators and real estate agents, there are still a few derelicts around to give the area colour. The houses, meanwhile, sell for upward of $200,000.” 25 years after that article was written, some homes in the area have sold for more than $1 million.

The neighbourhood is home to many artists, musicians, journalists and writers. Other residents include professors, doctors and social workers, many affiliated with the nearby University of Toronto. Proximity to the financial district and downtown core have also made the area popular with other professionals such as lawyers, management consultants and those in financial services.

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