In the early 1800s, Toronto was still largely covered in forest, making travel from one community to another—to engage in commerce or social visits—very difficult.
However, Toronto’s early European settlers did find a handful of First Nations trading routes, which they adopted as a means of passage through various parts of the city.
One of these early routes was the Davenport trail, an ancient First Nations footpath that was part of an overland route connecting Montreal to Niagara. It was heavily used by French fur traders in the 1600s and later by the first European settlers to this area in the 1790s.
In the early 1800s the Davenport trail was converted into a roadway by a private company that built and maintained the road in return for tolls that all users were required to pay.
There were five tollgates built between the Humber and Don rivers. Miraculously, one of these tollkeeper’s cottages is still around. It was flagged by a local resident who had information that the structure next door to her home on nearby Howland Avenue had been relocated from Davenport Road and was a former tollkeeper’s cottage. A second former resident collaborated her story.
Extensive research by local history experts validated this finding and immediate steps were made to preserve and restore the cottage, which was sitting in the path of development. After many generous volunteer hours and donations, and many years of hard work, The Tollkeeper’s Cottage—formerly known as Tollgate #3—was finally moved back to its rightful place in a bucolic park setting on the northwest corner of Davenport Road and Bathurst Street in Midtown Toronto. The Tollkeeper’s Cottage is believed to be the only early tollhouse still surviving anywhere in Canada.
The Tollkeeper’s Cottage officially opened on July 1, 2008. It is open to the public on Saturdays, and has an addition which accommodates school groups and other events. For more information on this piece of history visit www.tollkeeperscottage.ca.
David Dunkelman is a Broker and ABR* with Royal Lepage R.E.S.Ltd/Johnston and Daniel Division. David is also the Author of “Your Guide to Toronto Neighbourhoods”. *ABR* The Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR®) designation is the benchmark of excellence in buyer representation. This coveted designation is awarded to real estate practitioners by the Real Estate BUYER’S AGENT Council (REBAC) of the National Association of REALTORS® who meet the specified educational and practical experience criteria.