The historic Town of Mimico is a neighbourhood in the south-western part of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is located in the south-east corner of the former Township (and later, City) of Etobicoke, and was an independent municipality from 1911 to 1967.
The name 'Mimico' is derived from the Mississauga word omiimiikaa meaning "abundant with wild pigeons" (c.f. 19th century Mississaugas omiimii, "pigeon"). The 'pigeon' after which Mimico was named was the Passenger Pigeon thought to have been the most numerous species in the world at the time European colonization began in North America; it is now extinct.
After arriving in the Toronto area, Elizabeth Simcoe, wife of Upper Canada's first Governor and the founder of Toronto, refers to the large number of (passenger) pigeons after which Mimico is named. The area known as "Mimico" originally extended up the Mimico Creek to Dundas Street, where Upper Canada's early highway connecting Toronto to the west and the community of Mimico were located. One of Etobicoke's most prominent businessmen, William Gamble, opened a sawmill on the west bank of Mimico Creek up from the lake, and a small settlement for the mill workers was built nearby. With Mr Gamble's patronage Etobicoke's first church, Christ Church (Anglican), was opened on Church Street (Royal York Road). At this time, Mimico was in Etobicoke Township, which had been meeting with the other townships in the southern part of the County of York (what would become Metropolitan Toronto) as the Township of York (excluding the Town of York, later City of Toronto). Mr. Gamble eventually moved his business away, but with the addition of a school at the foot of Church St (Royal York Rd), southern Mimico would not disappear.
First plan for Mimico
By 1850, after the Union of The Canadas, Etobicoke was formally recognised as a Township. The Great Western Railway (originally chartered as the Toronto & Hamilton Railway) was built through the southern part of the Township. The first Mimico Station opened in 1855, just north of the tracks beside Christ Church on Church St. (now Royal York Rd.). A plan of subdivision was commissioned with side-streets for the 'Town of Mimico'. Mimico was advertised as being '8 minutes' from Toronto (by train), then bordered by Dufferin St. In 1858, a Mimico post office had been opened just south of the Railway Station on Church St. (Royal York Rd.) where St. Leo's church is today and in 1863, the Wesley Methodist Church was established.
Second plan for Mimico
Between 1883 and 1893, there were 13 separate annexations to the City of Toronto which brought the border of that city to the Humber R. In 1890, the Mimico Real Estate Security Company Ltd was formed to divide and sell lots in the Etobicoke community of Mimico. This plan included the subdivision of Mr. Edward Stock's land as far north as the Stock's Side Road (an extension of Toronto's Queen Street, now the Queensway) and a cattle path he had established as a shortcut from Church St. (Royal York Rd.) to Lake Shore Road became Mimico Avenue.
At this time Mimico was loosely defined as North of Lake Ontario, West of the Humber River, South of North Queen Street (Delroy Drive) and East of Mimico Avenue (now Kipling Avenue). A year later a Presbyterian Church was built on Mimico Avenue. Mimico was expected to grow quickly. A second post office was opened in New Toronto (established in 1890). A small number of Victorian buildings were built on the newly laid out streets assuring that this time they would not simply disappear. Mimico and the other lakeshore communities west of the Humber River were eventually linked by an independent radial railway line run by the Toronto and Mimico Electric Railway and Light Company, which originated in the Sunnyside area. This line was originally intended to link with a line started from Hamilton. However, the western end of the T&M was never completed past Port Credit.
The radial railway line brought many of Toronto's wealthy to The Lakeshore area in Etobicoke where several large estates were built. First and most impressive of which was the Featherstonaugh Estate which was shaped like a castle at the bottom of Royal York Rd. This period in which Mimico took shape was also the period in which Mimico's namesake, the passenger pigeon, disappeared from the area, the last known bird dying near the beginning of the next century in the United States. A Mimico resident, Mr. John Kay on noticing the disappearance of this species donated a stuffed passenger pigeon to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto to preserve some of the last evidence of what had been Mimico's namesake.
Mimico became a police village in 1905 and the next year the Grand Trunk Railway's Mimico railway yards were opened. Mimico became a Village in 1911 electing its first Village Reeve, Robert Skelton. The same year a second post office named 'Mimico Beach' was established to serve the southern half of Mimico, located on Lake Shore Road. Mimico became the smallest community to obtain a Carnegie Library in which the town council met at first. The first immigrants began to arrive in Mimico and at this time Etobicoke's first Catholic Church was built in Mimico, St. Leo's.
Mimico's largest employer was traditionally the railway (with its yards mostly located in New Toronto), but because New Toronto was planned as an industrial town, many larger industries located there. Nevertheless, a new train station was needed and was built on the south side of the tracks near the north end of Station Road. In 1909, a hotel was established beside the railway called the Windsor Hotel (today the Blue Goose Tavern). Although other 1890s subdivisions in Toronto at Roncesvalles and the Beaches were entirely built up in the pre-war years Mimico's growth was slow with no street being fully built and some still without any residences built on them. Nevertheless many foursquare houses were built mostly in south-central Mimico in this period. In 1916, a referendum was held on the question of New Toronto joining Mimico, this was accepted by Mimico voters but rejected in New Toronto.
World War I and the Depression
During the First World War, in 1917, Mimico became a Town and elected its first Mayor, John Harrison, by acclamation. The town also reacted to the sensational execution of British Nurse Edith Cavell by naming Mimico's old Southampton Street in her memory in 1916. Another street was also given this name in Toronto's East End leading to recent attempts by Toronto to rename Mimico's Cavell Ave. At the end of the war, the local Daughters of the Empire, who met at the Carnegie Library, presented the town with two plaques honouring all those from the town who had enlisted and another honouring those who had died.
With the union of the Methodist, Congregational and many Presbyterian churches, the old Wesley Methodist Church on Church St (Royal York Rd) became vacant as a new United Church was built on Mimico Ave. The Town of Mimico purchased the old Methodist Church which served as the Town Hall. In 1922, Mimico's Baptist Church was built. Many bungalow style -story homes were built in the interwar years, especially south of Mimico Avenue, and most notably, the tree-lined 'crescent' streets (Lake Cres, Eastbourne Cres, Dartmouth Cres and Lake Shore) were developed with large cottage–style homes. In 1928 the local streetcar line merged with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) which at first combined the line with Toronto's 'Queen' line.
Doubts about Mimico's survival appeared during the Great Depression when the Town went deeply into debt and many businesses disappeared. The depression also bankrupted some of Toronto's wealthiest including Sir Henry Pellatt (builder of Casa Loma) who had already built a house in Mimico (Bailey House) which stood at the bend in Lake Shore near Fleeceline overlooking the commercial stretch on Lake Shore. Just before the outbreak of war, Canada's first 'Limited Access' Highway, the Queen Elizabeth Way, was opened by Queen Elizabeth just north of the Town of Mimico's northern boundary.
World War II
Mimico's longest serving Mayor (at different periods from 1936–1948) was Amos Waites who alternated in this post with Mayor Archibald Norris. About the time of the Second World War many 1-story houses were built, filling in most of the gaps in the housing especially in northern and western Mimico. Smaller industries moved into areas around the railway tracks. Many new immigrants came to Mimico in the 1950s. In 1953, Mimico became one of thirteen cities and towns which formed the new Metropolitan Toronto. The next year Hurricane Hazel struck and while communities around Mimico were some of the worst affected, the storm left Mimico largely untouched. The Town of Mimico saw its future in attracting many more small families and working people to the area and began to tear down older homes that stood on large lots and filled in these and the last remaining empty lots with apartment buildings.
Smaller 3-story apartment buildings went up on almost every street while larger apartments appeared along much of the Lake Shore on the south side. More commercial space was also built especially on the northern side of Lake Shore Road from Mimico Ave. to Burlington St. A period of church expansion occurred with Christ Church Anglican and St. Leo's Roman Catholic Church building new Churches at this time for larger congregations. St. Leo's new church was built on the site of Mimico's 1858 Post Office which was demolished and shortly after the postmaster's home (Werner House) was purchased to become the new rectory. In 1958, the Presbyterian Church built a new church building beside the old church. A legion hall was established in Mimico in Sir Henry Pellatt's former Bailey House.
In 1967, the Town of Mimico was merged with two other lake shore communities (the Town of New Toronto and the Village of Long Branch) and the Township of Etobicoke to form the Borough of Etobicoke. The Last Mayor of Mimico, who was first elected in 1960, was Hugh Griggs who edited Mimico's official history 'The Mimico Story'. While Canada celebrated its Centenary, the new Mimico Centennial Library was opened. Mimico had torn down the Carnegie Library (the only of Toronto's Carnegie Libraries to be demolished) and two or three surrounding houses to build the larger Mimico Centennial Library, which was set back from the corner location of the previous library building. The plaque honouring the towns First World War veterans was removed to a new park named 'Vimy Memorial' at Lake Shore Blvd. West and Queens Ave. The legion hall that had been in Sir Henry Pellatt's Bailey house was moved to Eden Court, the former farm residence of the Stock family, when Bailey house was demolished for a street to serve new industries east of Mimico. Bailey House's time as the Legion hall is commemorated in the name of the street it was demolished for: Legion Road.
Mimico began slowly to decline as the children of families who lived in the small houses of the 1940s moved to the growing outer suburbs and the apartments did not live up to the hopes they had generated as they quickly deteriorated. Businesses also continued to fail and many of the small industries moved out. In 1984, Etobicoke became a city and a plan was prepared to rejuvenate Mimico which called for limiting the amount of commercial space by rezoning Mimico Avenue as non-commercial. The same year Humber Bay Park was opened; two artificial peninsulas, one in the east and one in the west (enclosing Mimico's beach to create a harbour), which connect to the main land at the end of Mimico Creek. The creation of the artificial park led to unintended consequences with the naturally sandy shoreline in Mimico quickly eroding away. With declining enrollment at Mimico High School, the building was offered to the Catholic board as the number of Catholics had been increasing with many Italian and Polish immigrants arriving in Mimico. This offer was refused and an Adult Learning Center was opened there until that institution swapped schools with John English Elementary School. An estate on Lake Shore was bought by the Polish government at this time to become their Toronto Consulate. A new railway station was built in the 1970s to service GO trains on the site of the 1855 station on the north side of the tracks just south of Christ Church on Royal York while the old 1916 Station fell into disrepair.
Attempts at rejuvenation
In 1998, Etobicoke was amalgamated with Metro Toronto and its five other municipalities into the new City of Toronto. Much of the former industrial land was subdivided for 'Monster Homes' in the 80s and later for townhouses, a process that continues today. Old plans for rejuvenating Mimico and its waterfront are also slowly being realized. In recent years the tide of condominium development along the Lakeshore has closed in on Mimico. Recently Mimico's oldest church, Christ Church Anglican experienced two fires within a short period of time and the remains were demolished leaving the old cemetery and a new park where the church once stood. The possibility of Mimico 'gentrifying' is sometimes mentioned in plans for Mimico but this has only taken place on a very small scale. Greater attempts at preserving Mimico's history are also being made with the historical designation of Eden Court (former home of Edward Stock) and the preservation and ongoing restoration of Mimico's old railway station.
Efforts have also been made recently to prevent the demolition of the Town of Mimico's last municipal building (Firehall at #13 Superior Ave.) and the Franceshini/Ormsby Estate (Amedeo Garden Court property).
The primary source for basic documents (vital statistics, land records, wills) for people who lived in the Province of Ontario is the Archives of Ontario, 134 Ian Macdonald Blvd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M7A 2C5.
Civil registration did not begin in the province until 1869. Before then there may be church records of baptisms and burials. For the most part these are still held by the denomination who recorded them. Copies of marriage records made pre-1869 had to be sent by individual clergymen to the registrar of the county in which the marriage took place. These marriage records are available through Ontario Archives, on micorfilm through LDS libraries, and on paid and unpaid websites, but because they were copied at the registrars' offices, they cannot be considered a primary source.
Vital Records after 1869
Birth, marriage and death registrations are not open to the public until a specific number of years after the event occurred. Births to 1914 are now available [October 2012]; dates for marriages and deaths are later. Birth and death registration was not universally carried out in the early years after its adoption. Deaths were more apt to be reported than births for several years. The more rural the area, the less likely it would be that these happenings were reported to the authorities.
Land Records and Wills
Information on how to access land records and wills is best sought on the Archives of Ontario website. An ancestor's land holding might be found on Canadian County Atlas Digital Project if he was in occupancy circa 1878.
Association for the Preservation of Ontario Land Registry Office Documents (APOLROD). A list of Land Registry Offices for all Counties of Ontario.
The original censuses are in the hands of Library and Archives Canada. All of the original census (1851-1911) images are online with the exception of that for 1861. Not all of them are indexed. Later censuses are not yet available. Census divisions were redrawn as the population increased and more land was inhabited.
E-books and Books
Websites with more local information on the City of Toronto