It’s more than just part of our name: Yonge Street is unlike any other in the city. It runs like a river through Toronto, connecting communities before flowing right into Lake Ontario. It separates our city into east and west, while linking the north and south. It boasts hundreds of distinct hotspots, cultural hubs and points of commerce. We walk, drive and bike along it every day. Toronto just wouldn’t be the same without Yonge.
Here at Yonge Eglinton Dental, we wanted to take a moment to share some facts about this amazing thoroughfare.
Myths and History about Yonge Street
The name “Yonge” comes courtesy of Ontario’s first administrator, John Graves Simcoe. He named it after a close friend, Sir George Yonge, a British Secretary at War and later Governor of the South African Cape Colony. This wasn’t just a nice gesture for a good bud Sir Yonge was considered one of the foremost experts on Roman roads at the time, and Simcoe decided to give him a little appreciation for this (rather specific) passion.
The road was constructed between 1794 and 1795, an undertaking that is now recognized officially as an Event of National Historic Significance. Yonge Street became a cornerstone in the original planning of what was known in the 1790s as Upper Canada (read: Southern Ontario), and would become the model on which many of Ontario’s concession roads were based. These roads were “conceded” by the crown to the public so that farmers could easily access their fields from a single route. That’s right: two hundred years ago, there were people ploughing fields in the spot where you now get your teeth cleaned.
For a long time, Yonge Street was called “the longest street in the world.” In fact, you may still hear proud Torontonians informing visitors of this fact. Popular consensus held that it was nearly 1,900 km long. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The myth originated with the connection of Yonge Street to Ontario’s Route 11, which runs through the province. Yonge itself comes in at about 86 km. Still nothing to sneeze at.
Culture and Commerce
Yonge Street is host to hundreds of events each year, from marathons to concerts. The annual Toronto Pride Parade makes its way along Yonge from Dundas up to Bloor, as huge crowds from around the world come to appreciate the warmth and hospitality that make our city great. The North by Northwest festival holds a massive free show at Yonge-Dundas Square each year to cap the weeklong celebration of great music. On the (unfortunately rare) occasion that a Toronto team wins a championship, Yonge is the go-to destination for jubilant fans. For example: when the Jays won the World Series in ’92 and ’93, a crowd of nearly 1,000,000 people flooded Yonge to share their joy.
And it’s not just a place for celebration: Yonge has always been a street where small businesses can rub shoulders with major multinational corporations. Mom-and-Pop cobblers and convenience stores share walls with tech start-ups and legal practices. Pedestrians can enjoy dozens of different types of ethnic cuisine without ever turning off Yonge. You could live your whole life on this street without eating or shopping at the same place twice.
As you travel north away from the bustling downtown hub, Yonge passes through beautiful green spaces before connecting with up-and-coming centres of urban life — like our corner of the world.
So next time you’re rushing up or down Yonge, perhaps to your next appointment with us, take a second to appreciate that you’re part of the beating heart of Toronto. Despite the often frantic speed of city life, you can go just about anywhere from here at your own pace. Few people have put it better than Toronto’s own K-OS: “Walking down Yonge Street on a Friday / Can’t follow them, gotta do it my way / No fast lane, still on a highway.”