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Rich in culture and history, Cabbagetown is a neighbourhood located on the east side of downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Its 19th Century architectural flavour has been largely preserved. The Cabbagetown Preservation Association says the neighbourhood comprises "the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in North America".

Cabbagetown is so named because of the thousands of poor Irish immigrants who arrived and lived there from the late 1840's. The name comes from the fact that many of these immigrants who were so poor, that they actually grew cabbage in their front yards. This was an Irish enclave for many years, as was Corktown further south, but Corktown's origins date further back to the 1820's.

Canadian writer Hugh Garner's most famous novel, Cabbagetown, depicts life in this neighbourhood during the Great Depression.

Original boundaries

The original boundaries of Cabbagetown were:

  • Gerrard Street to the north
  • Queen Street to the south
  • Parliament Street to the west
  • the Don River to the east.

Cabbagetown had long been one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Toronto, and much of the original Cabbagetown was razed in the late 1940's to make room for the Regent Park housing project. Subsequently, the Cabbagetown name came to be applied to the Victorian neighbourhood a few blocks to the north, which was previously known as Don Vale.

Current boundaries

Cabbagetown's current boundaries may be broadly defined as:

  • Gerrard Street to the south (east of Parliament)
  • Shuter Street to the south (between Sherbourne St. and Parliament St.)
  • St. James Cemetery to the north (east of Parliament St.)
  • Wellesley Street East to the north (between Sherbourne St. and Parliament St.)
  • Sherbourne Street to the west
  • the Don River to the east.

The inclusion of the area west of Parliament Street is disputed by some people, to the extent that there are separate residents' associations (see below).

Cabbagetown is bordered by St. James Cemetery, and includes Wellesley Park, the Necropolis Cemetery, Riverdale Farm, and Riverdale Park West. A farmer's market is held regularly in Riverdale Park.

The neighbourhood of Corktown, south of Regent Park, now incorporates part of the southern reaches of 'old' Cabbagetown. Along with a small number of houses east of River Street, this is the only part of the original Cabbagetown that remains today.


Cabbagetown was gentrified by affluent professionals who began to move into the "new" neighborhood in the 1970s. Many restored homes and became community activists. Today, wrought iron fences, stone walkways and beautifully kept gardens are common in some parts of Cabbagetown.

But Cabbagetown is still home to some of the poorest of the poor in Toronto. Welfare recipients from public housing projects mingle with affluent professionals at a local discount supermarket. Panhandling and drug-dealing are part of the urban landscape; so are gourmet shops, upscale boutiques and arts festivals. Some traces of a 1960's counter-culture feeling are evident in vintage clothing stores, a gestalt therapy clinic and an adventure travel agency. The gritty Cabbagetown Boxing Club is a reminder of an earlier, and rougher, past.

A restaurant review in a September 2005 community newspaper captures something of the neighborhood's dichotomy: "Cabbagetown might be one of Toronto's most exclusive neighbourhoods but you'd never know it from strolling down its main drag. A jumble of discount stores and cheap coffee shops that attract the down-on-their luck and the just plain unlucky, Parliament (Street) is the polar opposite of the leafy avenues lined with million-dollar piles only a block away."

Community Associations

Donvale Cabbagetown Residents Association

The Donvale Cabbagetown Residents Association (DVCRA) was originally established in 1967, according to its webste. It states its purpose to be protecting and improving the general quality of life and character of the community. The association defines its western boundary as Parliament Street.

Cabbagetown South Association

The area between Sherbourne St. and Parliament St., from Shuter St. to Carlton St. has its own residents' association, Cabbagetown South Association, which leaves the area north of Carlton Street and west of Parliament Street without representation. Cabbagetown South Association was formed in 2002 from the amalgamation of Central Cabbagetown Residents Assocoation (CENTRA), which previously represented the part of Cabbagetown South that is north of Gerrard Street E., and the Seaton Ontario Berkeley Residents Association (SOBRA), which previously represented those streets south of Gerrard Street E.

Cabbagetown Preservation Association

The Cabbagetown Preservation Association (CPA) was founded in 1988 to preserve the architectural integrity and historic character of the Cabbagetown neighbourhood, and initiated the establishment of the Heritage Conservation District (see below).

Old Cabbagetown Business Improvement Area

Old Cabbagetown Business Improvement Area (OCBIA) is an association of local businesess that describes its mission as:

  • To serve our members and our community
  • To encourage specialized & profitable business appropriate to our community
  • To preserve and enhance our historic streetscapes

They are the prime organizers of the fall Cabbagetown festival.

Heritage Conservation District

In 2004 part of Cabbagetown became a Heritage Conservation District, protected by municipal bylaw. The district was established in two stages: first an area centred on Metcalfe, and later areas to the north and east of the initial area.
The boundaries of the combined district are currently:

  • St. James Cemetery to the north
  • just east of Parliament Street to the west (i.e. excluding Parliament Street itself)
  • Carlton Street to the south, including the south side
  • Wellesley Park, the Necropolis and Riverdale Park to the east

The area south of Carlton Street and north of, but excluding, Gerrard Street, is under consideration for future inclusion.

Cultural activities


A Heritage-designated renovated church on Winchester St houses both Toronto Dance Theatre and The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, and close by, on Parliament St, the Danny Grossman Dance Company, the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, and TILT Sound + Motion share a large renovated building that formerly housed CBC recording studios.

Forsythia festival

The first Sunday in May sees the annual Forsythia festival organized in large part by the Cabbagetown Preservation Association. The festival includes a small parade from Riverdale Park West to Wellesley Park, where games and family entertainment are held.

Cabbagetown festival

The second week-end in September sees the annual Cabbagetown festival, which is a two day event, with an arts and crafts fair both days in Riverdale Park West. Vendors come from far afield for this event. The highlight of the festival is the parade on Saturday morning, which usually starts at 10:00 a.m. at Riverdale Park West, though the route may vary from year-to-year. Parliament Street between Wellesley Street East and Carlton Street is closed to traffic for the week-end. Organization of the festival is coordinated by the Old Cabbagetown Business Improvement Area (OCBIA) association. The festival also includes a 'Tour of Homes', in which several local homes are opened to a paying public. Tickets are limited and usually sold out ahead of time.


Predominantly liberal, the neighborhood is home to many artists, musicians, doctors, lawyers, social workers, journalists, writers, and professors. Former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney railed against his trendy Cabbagetown opponents on "The Secret Mulroney Tapes" -- conversations with journalist Peter C. Newman.

Celebrities who have at some time been residents of Cabbagetown include:

Books about Cabbagetown

  • Cabbagetown, Hugh Garner (novel)
    • McGraw-Hill Ryerson/Trade (1978) ISBN 0070827028 (415 pages)
    • McGraw-Hill Ryerson/Trade (2002) ISBN 0070915520 (424 pages)
  • Cabbagetown Store, J.V.McAree (short stories)
    • Ryerson Press (1953) (113 pages)
  • Cabbagetown: The story of a Victorian neighbourhood, Penina Coopersmith
    • James Lorimer & Co (1998) ISBN 1550285793 (96 pages)

See also

External links