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In recent years, several projects have began researching, interacting with, and (re)telling the stories of St. John's Ward, Toronto's first multicultural migrant neighborhood. These projects include interactive maps, sound walks, theatre, exhibitions, books and even a cabaret.

Below are some of the many projects Toronto-based artists and researchers have created to learn about The Ward. Click on the images to explore the projects.

The Ward: The Life and Loss of Toronto's First Immigrant Neighbourhood

From the 1840s until the Second World War, waves of newcomers who migrated to Toronto – Irish, Jewish, Italian, African American and Chinese, among others – landed in 'The Ward.' Crammed with rundown housing and immigrant-owned businesses, this area, bordered by College and Queen, University and Yonge streets, was home to bootleggers, Chinese bachelors, workers from the nearby Eaton';s garment factories and hard-working peddlers. But the City considered it a slum, and bulldozed the area in the late 1950s to make way for a new civic square.

The Ward finally tells the diverse stories of this extraordinary and resilient neighbourhood through archival photos and contributions from a wide array of voices, including historians, politicians, architects, story-tellers, journalists and descendants of Ward residents. Their perspectives on playgrounds, tuberculosis, sex workers, newsies and even bathing bring The Ward to life and, in the process, raise important questions about how contemporary cities handle immigration, poverty and the geography of difference.

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Women of the Ward 

Welcome to the Women of the Ward Walking Tour! Through this interactive map, you can explore Toronto's city streets as they stood over 100 years ago. To follow the order of the tour, simply use this side menu to move from one point to another.

The main part of the tour consists of four primary destinations, where you will encounter four different women from The Ward's past.

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From Streets to Playgrounds

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funded research project, From Streets to Playgrounds: Representing children in early 20th century Toronto (2013-2017) draws on the fields of social work, photography and archival scholarship. Our interdisciplinary research team includes artists and scholars from within the fields of the social sciences, visual studies and fine art. Working with archival documents that date back to the beginning of the 20th century, our aim is to present a wider picture of the representation of children in public space at the time. In doing so, we explore connected, transnational histories through a cultural framework and attempt to reconcile different viewpoints by working across historical spaces. 

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Picturing The Ward

On February 22, 2017, Infrastructure Ontario and the City of Toronto launched a unique partnership to showcase artifacts found on the site of the new Toronto courthouse. Four displays were unveiled at Mayor John Tory's Black History Month reception. The inaugural display features artifacts significant to Toronto's Black history, and includes accounts of African-Americans who fled slavery and came to Canada by the Underground Railroad.

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City Hall Exhibits

Due to the artifact collection's considerable size, variety, and degree of preservation, the archaeological assessment of the site has provided an unprecedented level of insight into Toronto's early multicultural history.

As part of the heritage interpretation efforts currently underway, Infrastructure Ontario and the City of Toronto developed a unique partnership to create opportunities to share the artifacts and their stories in four display cases at City Hall. Over the next several years, IO and the City will be showcasing a rotating display of these artifacts in the City Hall rotunda to help share the story of Toronto's multicultural past.

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The Ward Cabaret

The Ward Cabaret, a sold-out hit at the 2018 Luminato Festival, reimagines the vibrant sounds of Toronto's first cross-cultural community. It is inspired by the engaging and impactful “The Ward“ (Coach House Books).

David Buchbinder, Grammy-nominated musician and producer, is joined by a collaborative team of award-winning musicians, singers, and actors to bring the first full production of this musical and theatrical experience.

The Ward was a Lower-East-Side-like enclave shared for over a century by Irish, African-Canadians, Italians, Eastern European Jews, and Chinese. Home to waves of immigrants who settled there, started businesses and religious institutions, learned English, hawked newspapers, ran speakeasies, restaurants, and laundries, while creating furiously, all the while trying to fit into a larger culture that wasn’t sure it wanted them. When these newcomers came to Toronto they brought with them great cultural treasures: deep traditions of stories, music, and song.

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The Ward Museum

When launched in 2015 the Toronto Ward Museum was Toronto’s first museum of migration. It re-imagined the future and rejected physical buildings and collections.   The Museum’s key to success has been programs and exhibits that are produced in collaboration with community organizations, settlement, arts and governmental agencies, and local universities and it is this co-collaboration that ensures the active involvement of newcomers in ways that foster their collective empowerment.

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Museum Toronto

Myseum is your Toronto museum. Our engaging programs and experiences showcase the history, spaces, culture(s), architecture, and the people, that represent Toronto’s unique place in the world.


The Ward Uncovered: The Archaeology of Everyday Life

In early 2015, a team of archaeologists began digging test trenches on a non-descript parking lot next to Toronto City Hall -- a site designated to become a major new court house. What they discovered was the rich buried history of an enclave that was part of The Ward -- that dense, poor, but vibrant 'arrival city' that took shape between the 1840s and the 1950s. Home to waves of immigrants and refugees -- Irish, African-Americans, Italians, eastern European Jews, and Chinese -- The Ward was stigmatized for decades by Toronto's politicians and residents, and eventually razed to make way for New City Hall. The archaeologists who excavated the lot, led by co-editor Holly Martelle, discovered almost half a million artifacts -- a spectacular collection of household items, tools, toys, shoes, musical instruments, bottles, industrial objects, food scraps, luxury items, and even a pre-contact Indigenous projectile point. Martelle's team also unearthed the foundations of a nineteenth-century Black church, a Russian synagogue, early-twentieth-century factories, cisterns, privies, wooden drains, and even row houses built by formerly enslaved African Americans.

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The Ward History

The Ward History Project was developed by a group of five masters of museum studies candidates at the University of Toronto: Sarah Anderson, Jasmine Fisher, Taylor Noble, Daniel Panneton, and Orvis Starkweather. It represents the final project for their Museums and New Media Class with Professor Costis Dallas.

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Lost Rivers

Anthropocene Immersion, Unearthing Lost Taddle Creek is a journey to find the landscape of lost Taddle Creek. These are the stories of the land: the little tributary creeks, a marsh and rivulet, a lost forest, Yonge Street and the Toronto Portages, and the amazing stories of Indigenous peoples, settlers, immigrants in this place called Toronto. Journey through Ryerson, Dundas Square, the Eaton Centre, the old Ward neighbourhood and see the landscape in a whole new light with the imprint of the old paths opening up new possibilities for reconciliation, resilience, and resurgence

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