CCLCS Scarborough and the Golden Mile: What a Difference 60 Years Make

Scarborough water tower by sunrise by @gtanophotography
Scarborough water tower by sunrise by @gtanophotography
CCLCS Scarborough ESL Language School - LINC Classes
CCLCS Scarborough ESL Language School – LINC Classes

Article by Tim Cloutis / Feature Image by @gtanophotography

After reading the last few posts about the downtown location (hip, homey, happenin’), I wanted to look into our neighbourhood to the east! Now, I know that if you have visited our Scarborough location at 1921 Eglinton Avenue east, you’ll probably have the same opinion as those of us who work and study there – it ain’t all that pretty!

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with flea markets, nail salons, and the Ontario courts but the area won’t win any prizes for urban design.

But that doesn’t make it any less interesting. There’s a lot here for fans of city history.

Scarborough’s Rootes

For starters, take a look at this old photo:

Rootes Canada

This was the Canadian headquarters of Rootes Canada (not the clothing line!). Rootes was one of the largest British auto manufacturers in the world. (For you car enthusiasts, the picture shows a Sunbeam Rapier Series 111A). Their Canadian HQ boasted the largest auto showroom in North America when it opened in 1952.

FUN FACT: Rootes was well known for its annual Canadian International Winter Rally through the 50’s and 60’s. Over 150 cars of all makes and sizes rolled off the ramp at Rootes for a race to North Bay and back – in the dead of winter. Only a few managed to complete the race.

So what? you may ask. Well 40 years later, CCLCS moved in to the rooms shown on the upper right.

It’s hard to picture – the front has changed quite a bit. But if you compare …

THEN – S/E Corner Warden and Eglinton

NOW – S/E Corner Warden and Eglinton

Today the second floor windows are no longer flush with the face of the building. Perhaps the ground floor was extended further forward. The Rootes tower is gone but I’m guessing the staircase inside is the same one the students take every day to go to class (pre-covid). Those odd window ridges along the top are still there but the light shines down on the Flea Market (what else can you do with “North America’s largest auto showroom”?).

And in case you’re still a little doubtful, look closely at this ad from the time and check out their address.

Ad for Hillman address 1921 Eglinton Ave East

Grand Designs 1950 – The Golden Mile

Rootes was part of the much bigger story of Scarborough’s expansion. I’ll let the City plaque explain:

“Surrounded by farmland until the 1940s, this stretch of Eglinton Avenue, from Pharmacy Avenue to Birchmount Road, became famous in the 1950s as Scarborough’s “Golden Mile of Industry” – a hub of large-scale manufacturing and a celebrated symbol of post-war prosperity.
The area’s transformation began during World War II, when the government of Canada acquired a vast tract of farmland for a munitions plant known as GECo (General Engineering Company)****. After the war, the Township of Scarborough purchased the plant and additional surrounding land for proposed development….The Golden Mile promised inexpensive land and low property taxes to industries growing with Canada’s post-World War II economic boom. By 1955, corporations such as Frigidaire, the John Inglis Company, Thermos, and Warner Lambert had major manufacturing facilities here. Automobile makers and dealers joined them, including Volkswagen, Rootes Motors, and as late as 1974, a General Motors van plant.
Their move to this area provided much needed industrial property taxes, and served as a catalyst for further development. Residential subdivisions sprang up to house the Golden Mile’s workforce, followed by strip plazas, which were then celebrated as modern conveniences.
By the 1980s, larger industries were moving to less expensive properties, and the Golden Mile of Industry gradually became the Golden Mile of Commerce – known for its large retail stores and car dealerships… “

City of Toronto plaque

A map from the Toronto Daily Star, October 16, 1952 shows what they had in mind.

The Golden Mile epitomized the optimism and growth of the post-war boom. It helped create housing for thousands of workers who worked alongside their neighbours in local factories that produced the consumer goods to fill those houses.
It was the land of opportunity, tax revenues and jobs until … it wasn’t.

A Home for New Canadians

As the post-war boom chugged along and the subway system expanded, Scarborough grew and flourished but by the end of the 60’s the Golden Mile lost its glitter. Industry found greener pastures to pave over and the community suffered job losses. Those modest suburban homes became available and affordable to the waves of immigrants that started to move in. Initially, a number of immigrants moved to Scarborough from the congested neighbourhoods of Toronto – southern and eastern Europeans mostly. But eventually, Scarborough became a “first stop” for newcomers to Canada through the 70’s onwards. According to the StatsCan 2016 Census, 53% of Scarborough residents were foreign-born.

Among those immigrants who settled in Scarborough were Paul Galea’s parents – Paul is one of our LINC teachers. He grew up a little further east of Warden and Eglinton. He remembers:

“In the plaza where our school is now, there used to be something either called International Caravan or perhaps International Bazaar. It was meant to be like a bazaar where you could buy products from other parts of the world. That was more unusual in the 70s than it is today. There were flags from all over the world on the roof. It was one of the few places in the city where I could see the Maltese flag (my parents immigrated from Malta in 1954), and I always got a kick out of seeing that flag as we drove by.
A few doors down from our school is Dolphin Gaming, but it used to be a somewhat expensive restaurant called, Boy on a Dolphin. I believe it closed in 1984. I remember a big dolphin sculpture either on the roof or out front. My parents had a tradition of taking the whole family, including aunts, uncles, cousins, spouses and grandchildren, to a big, expensive dinner every New Year’s Day.
The area around Eglinton and Warden was never what anyone would call beautiful. For as long as I can remember, it has always been mostly industrial and commercial. However, I could go on and on with memories of things I did or experienced in that area. My father’s audiovisual company was just up the street at Warden and Lawrence. He started it in the early 60s and it closed only a few years ago. Our school even has some equipment that the company sold. That’s where I had a summer job every year in high school, so the area will always be ingrained in my memory.”

Paul Galea

In the midst of all that, there was another “Golden Milestone”: the opening of CCLCS at 1921 Eglinton East on July 1, 1999

Grand Designs 2020 – The Golden Mile Secondary Plan Study

These days, the Eglinton LRT is driving changes in the area. We’ve been watching it grow outside our windows and suffering its inconveniences for a couple of years now but that’s the price to pay for a faster, smoother service. (Let’s face it, public transit in this area is no joyride).
But with better transit comes (fortunately or not) condos and highrises. The City recently approved the “Golden Mile Urban Design Guidelines” which stresses “a comprehensive vision and planning framework for a connected, accessible, diverse, complete and livable community in the historic Golden Mile”. It highlights low- and mid-rise residences, pedestrian walkways, and parks and services from Pharmacy to Birchmount. Pedestrian-friendly sounds great to me! Let’s hope it lasts a little longer than that other plan from 1950.

Pictured above is one developer’s proposal for the Golden Mile Shopping Centre at Eglinton and Victoria Park (looking NE). A little overwhelming if you ask me. Whether it jibes with the City’s development framework remains to be seen

But where does CCLCS fit in the Golden Mile Secondary Plan? Will we be swept away by the tides of urban planning? Will the good ol’ Rootes building be torn down?
Well you can’t stop progress and you can’t fight City Hall. Changes are surely ahead but you can be sure that CCLCS will continue to support those that come to call Scarborough home.

****During the 1940s, before the Golden Mile and just west of Warden was the sprawling GECO munitions complex – a manufacturing community built in just 7 months to house and serve the thousands of, mostly female, employees who built bombs and bullets for the war effort. The original “bomb girls”. Great story. You can see this terrific mural in the underpass at Warden and St. Clair.

Thank you for reading the article. What do you think about this history of the neighbourhood at Scarborough CCLCS? Please leave a comment


Writing by Tim Cloutis

Feature image by @gtanophotography (follow them on Instagram)

Other images public domain or credited in caption


  1. John C McCorkell

    Wow! And I thought the big changes to 1921 Eglinton Ave. East during my lifetime were the little classroom becoming the office, and later, the lunchroom becoming part of my classroom (oh, and the new carpet!). Fantastic job on this article – fascinating stuff about Rootes Canada, and the “bomb” girls. I’ve seen that mural and never connected it to our location.
    Paul’s reminiscences were touching – I can just see little Paul Galea staring up out of the backseat of a big Buick or Chevrolet at the flag of Malta. I performed my juggling act many times at Boy on a Dolphin in the late 70s and early 80s – I remember several years in a row, doing family shows at what was then the Boy on a Dolphin banquet hall, on New Year’s Day! So, Paul, I think you have seen my show, without having to come up to Santa’s Village!

    • CCLCS

      Thanks John. That whole area was the site of big ideas and undertakings. There’s lots of info out there about GECO and the bomb girls. Check it out.

    • Thomajm

      I work in that area for 18 yrs. First at Phillips Cables in 1972 @ Warden & Cromstock. Then at International Parts in 1974 @ Mansville & Sherry. It was an industrial Area with lots of factories. There was the Alcan Building on Warden. It was a good area. I never saw the Rootes Building.

      • CCLCS

        Rootes closed this location around 1967. By the early 70’s it might already have become unrecognizable.

        • Nancy Solman

          She’s just alittle ways away at Goldenmile Chrysler in North York… it’s been over 50 years since we moved from Scarborough but I go back to see her and my old house … Memories of my childhood and seeing her changing clothes every season . I use to live near Clairlea Public school off Pharmacy .
          Have a beautiful day !

  2. Dawn Michael

    Wow, Tim! I had no idea of the extended history of our Scarborough site. Love your memories, Paul. My memories go back to setting up the site with donated furniture – sitting on the floor, on the phone – negotiating our agreement for classes to start following Canada Day. Cheers and Thanks to all our wonderful staff over the past 22 years who created and nurtured a warm, welcoming space for newcomers to Canada.

    • CCLCS

      Thanks Dawn. You never know what stories those classroom walls hold.

  3. Bob Ward

    Great little piece of research/journalism, Tim! That Rootes building had class.

    Paul, you bring back a great memory. The market you remember as International Caravan (or Bazaar) opened back around 1970 as Cargo Canada. I used to love going there with my parents and coming home with $1.99 treasures: Buddhist prayer bells, wooden sculptures of giraffes, and such. It was also the first place where you could buy Toblerone chocolate bars.

    • CCLCS

      Now all the fond memories of Scarborough start coming out! Sounds like that International Bazaar was a popular destination for the locals.

  4. So many nice memories from Tim and the staff in the comments! It is a great article. My memory is doing my practicum with Kathryn. And of course quite a few supply teaching sessions.

    My family is from the area – Scots who settled in Scarborough in the early 1900s when farms were first subdivided into plots for immigrants. I think the area is too car-centric so if the redevelopment is more pedestrian friendly bring it on.

    Good job Tim!

  5. Pat

    Too bad the Rootes building wasn’t left alone. Very cool. How funky would CCLCS be having a school in the original building?

  6. Patricia Cornwell

    I remember the girl on the swing from the Auto dealership, just West of Victoria Park on Eglinton, she was swinging there since we immigrated to Canada in 1964.
    Where did she go?

  7. Yasmin

    Lovely history lesson. Thnx for sharing. Btw the “bomb girls” building…is’nt it now housing Scotia Bank!

    • CCLCS

      I’m glad you liked it. The “bomb girls” building was actually a number of buildings in the area from Warden to Birchmount, Eglinton to St. Clair. Some of the buildings are still standing. I hear that some of the tunnels that were part of the design also still exist.

  8. Lynda

    I was born and raised in Scarborough where I have spent most of my 60 years. My parents lived in the Kennedy and Lawrence neighborhood from the mid 50’s to the late 80’s. I remember we always used to drive to the Golden Mile at Eglinton and Pharmacy for our shopping needs every Saturday afternoon back in the day.
    Thanks for the memory!

  9. CCLCS

    Hi again Lynda! Thanks for checking out our past posts!

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