Now that the Yonge-Eglinton mess has been cleared up (almost)

Whether you’re driving, riding or walking, you may have noticed it’s suddenly a lot easier to get through the centre of midtown now.

Much of the recent road, transit and building construction has been completed at Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue, taking away most of the barriers creating traffic and pedestrian jams at the famous intersection over the past year or so.

It’s back to being like any other big-city corner of highrises, crowded sidewalks and vehicle-clogged roads.

Which makes it seem like a good time to have a look back at a time when traffic jams were unheard of. And check what buildings and roadways used to dominate the North Toronto intersection.

For example, take that recent photo (above) of the southeast corner of Yonge and Eglinton with its massive office and retail building. Nearly 90 years ago that particular corner featured several small shops, including a tobacconist and a barber:

Yonge-Eglinton southeast
NOW: The new look on the northeast corner of Yonge and Eglinton.

Swivel around and we come to the northeast corner that today sports a shiny new highrise tower.

But if we go back far enough in our archival photography, say back more than a century, we realize Eglinton really marked the northern boundary of the city, beyond which lay the countryside.

In this photo (below) from the early 1900s, the land appears to be for sale. It would have been clever — and consequentially rich — developers to snap it up then.

Yonge-Eglinton northeast
THEN: Talk about a classy address. If you lived at 2277 Yonge Street in North Toronto in the early 1900s, you were probably a a barn animal.

Turn back around from this corner today, facing west, and you’re confronted with the Yonge Eglinton Centre which has recently gone through its own expansion:

Yonge-Eglinton northwest
NOW: The Yonge Eglinton Centre dominates the midtown landscape today.
Yonge-Eglinton northwest
THEN: The George E. Coon general store was the big retail outlet on muddy Yonge and Eglinton streets in 1920.

But a century ago the northwest corner was dominated by the slightly smaller store run by George E. Coon — an emporium that sold groceries, animal feed and most anything else needed by the semi-rural denizens of North Toronto.

Now, on the remaining corner — the southwest —are the building and Eglinton subway station entrance that is likely overfamiliar to you, so we’re not going to take up space for another photo of it.

However, to finish off, we’ve got to show you one more archival photo, a picture (below) of Eglinton as seen from just west of the intersection, just because it’s so darn adorable.

The two little girls in their summer finery steal the show, but also note the somewhat rough shape of the northern roads then.

And you thought Eglinton is a mess these days!

Yonge-Eglinton southeast facing west on Eglinton
THEN: Two small girls pose on the south side of Toronto’s muddy northern border (Eglinton Avenue West) in this 1922 shot facing west from near Yonge Street.