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By James Bow

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Davisville station is a moderately well-used stop on the original YONGE subway line, serving the neighbourhoods of old Davisville Village. It is known for its proximity to the Davisville subway yards and, since 1958, its location beneath the TTC Headquarters building. Despite its modest profile, the station itself has considerable history and has seen changes earlier than other stations on the original YONGE subway line. It also has the potential to see considerable redevelopment that could dramatically change the atmosphere of the station and increase local ridership.

A Brief History of Davisville

Davisville station is located at the intersection of Yonge Street and Davisville Avenue/Chaplin Crescent. The area was first settled by Europeans in the early part of the 19th century, with resident John Davis opening the first post office in the area (on the northeast corner of the Yonge/Davisville intersection) in 1840, naming the area after himself and serving as its first postmaster. John Davis also established the Davisville Pottery Company, which served as the area’s largest employer for years.

The Davis family owned large tracts of land in the surrounding area, but didn’t move hard to develop it. The village of Eglinton developed more quickly, and was eventually absorbed, along with the Davisville area, into the Town of North Toronto in 1890. An attempt to spread a real-estate boom that was happening in Toronto north into the area took place in 1889 with the construction of the Belt Line Railway, connecting the area to downtown Toronto via a large track loop. Passenger service began on July 30, 1892, but the rail line failed to spark interest and, as the real estate boom went bust, the passenger rail service went bankrupt and stopped serving passengers on November 17, 1894. The tracks remained behind for freight movements for the next few decades.

The Davisville area remained a rural gap on Yonge Street (including a large tract of land called the “Clergy Reserve”) for years until 1911, when the Davis family sold much of its land to the Dovercourt Development Company. This time, the market was ready for development, and the sell-off sparked a boom of single family housing over the next few decades, which intensified as the City of Toronto annexed North Toronto in 1912, and the Toronto Transportation Commission replaced the interurban Toronto & York Metropolitan Line with the YONGE streetcar.

Davisville Avenue began as William Street in the mid 19th century, but by 1889 had its current name. It ran from Yonge Street east to Bayview Avenue. Chaplin Crescent appeared between 1903 and 1913, serving some of the new developments west of Yonge. During this period, the focus of village life was on the main commercial street — Yonge — and on downtown Toronto, which was easily accessed by travelling south on Yonge. As a result, early local transit in the area focused on linking passengers to Yonge Street. For instance, on June 19, 1922, the TTC established the MOUNT PLEASANT trolley bus, which served Mount Pleasant Road from Eglinton to Merton before turning west to Yonge Street, connecting with streetcars there. This trolley coach would operate until August 31, 1925, before being replaced by an extension of the ST. CLAIR streetcar.

The Davisville area’s first bus route was the ORIOLE BUS, serving Oriole Parkway and crossing Chaplin Crescent before turning east at Lonsdale and connecting with the YONGE streetcar at Lawton Loop. It would operate from July 30, 1927 until November 18, 1934, when it was replaced by the DAVISVILLE bus, operating from a wye at Manor Road and Cleveland Street via south on Cleveland, west on Davisville, west on Chaplin, north on Oriole Parkway and west on Eglinton to Heddington. Buses operate every ten minutes throughout the day, every six minutes during rush hours. This route would operate as the area’s main east-west route until March 30, 1954, and the opening of the YONGE subway.

Subway Planning

As the City of Toronto grew, ridership on the YONGE streetcar line increased until it was clear that the service had to be replaced by a subway. In 1942, the TTC proposed building a streetcar subway beneath Bay and Yonge Streets that would emerge on the surface north of Lawton Avenue and head into the suburbs via two branches, one on Yonge Street to the City Limits, and another on the Belt Line northwest to Dufferin Street. This proposal was rejected by Toronto City Council and sent back for revision. A proposal in 1946 called for a heavy-rail subway to be built beneath Yonge Street from Union Station via Front north to Eglinton Avenue, and Davisville was one of the stops on the line.

One constraint to the development around Yonge Street between Davisville and St. Clair was the presence of the Yellow Creek, a stream which travels through a ravine through Summerhill and Rosedale, including what is today the Park Drive Reservation Lands. The creek used to pass through Mount Pleasant Cemetery and cross Yonge Street before heading north between Yonge and Lawton. This and the cemetery limited the number of buildings that could be built, and most residential development took place west of Lawton. As the city grew, it put Yellow Creek underground, freeing up land that could be used for a subway yard. Although the residents of the Oriole neighbourhood objected to the yard plan, the City responded by moving the subway yard closer to Yonge Street, and proposing the construction of apartment buildings along the east side of Lawton to act as a buffer zone between the subway trains and houses.

City of Toronto residents approved the construction of the Yonge subway by a wide margin in 1946 and construction started in 1949. By 1953, however, the open air section of the YONGE subway was largely complete between the Lawton and Berwick portals, and the first subway cars had arrived at the Yard by way of the Belt Line. By March 1954, short turning buses on the DAVISVILLE route were using Davisville station’s bus terminal to turn around, even though the station was not yet opened. Finally, on the morning March 30, 1954, dignitaries and a jubilant public gathered within the open air bus terminal of Davisville station to watch a stage set up on Chaplin Crescent, where Ontario Permier Leslie Frost and Toronto Mayor Allan Lamport officially opened the YONGE SUBWAY. The first official train departed Davisville station north to Eglinton and then proceeded south to Union where dignitaries were treated to a lunch at the Royal York Hotel.

Station Architecture

Davisville station was located to the west of Yonge Street, straddling Chaplin Crescent. It sits on land that has been excavated to keep Davisville Yards level, and to meet a cut that proceeds north paralleling Yonge Street before diving underground at Berwick Avenue. Chaplin Crescent passes over the station and the tracks, as well as the main operations building of Davisville Yards, via a bridge. The platforms connected to each other via a concourse level bridging the tracks, with further steps leading to a station entrance building and an open-air bus terminal.

Davisville station was built to the same modern architectural standards as the other outdoor stations of the Yonge line, with large steel-and-glass windows and doors at the station entrances letting in lots of light. Station architect John Parkin followed the pattern established by Wellesley and Rosedale stations further south. The interior of the station featured walls lined with “English Eggshell” (pale green) Vitrolite tiles accented with darker blue trim, following the pattern established by the other stations on the original YONGE subway. A bus terminal was built above the station, with buses looping from entrances on Chaplin Crescent and Yonge Street.

Davisville, however, differed from the other stations on the line by featuring a third platform. The northbound tracks faced a single side platform to the right of arriving trains, while southbound trains disembarked on an island platform, on the other side of which trains from Davisville Yard could pull up to either pull in or out of service. The views of the trains laying over at Davisville Yard made this station a favourite for transit fans.

New Headquarters and First Renovation

When the YONGE subway opened, the Toronto Transportation Commission had its administrative operations located in the old Toronto Board of Trade building, built in 1890 on the northeast corner of Front and Yonge. By 1954, the aging building was clearly insufficient for the commission’s needs, and the TTC decided they needed to find space elsewhere. There were obvious advantages to building and operating one’s own building, but land costs were likely to be expensive. Fortunately, the TTC already owned plenty of land, particularly the Davisville Yards and Davisville station.

The TTC commissioned Charles B. Dolphin to design the new headquarters. This British-Canadian architect, who lived from 1888-1969, had built other works in the region, including the Toronto Coach Terminal and the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Port Credit. He also designed the station building for the Bloor-Yonge subway station, although this did not survive the station’s renovations. The TTC headquarters building was designed as a modern seven-storey concrete, steel and glass structure.

The TTC decided to name the building the William McBrian Building after former TTC Chairman William C. McBrien, who died in his office in June 1954. In recognition of his service, the TTC stopped all its streetcars, subways, buses and ferries for two minutes on July 21, 1954, his funeral day.

Construction of the McBrien building forced the TTC to demolish the original bus terminal and build a new one within the first floor of the headquarters building. The station’s bus terminal was torn down by May 1956, barely two years after it opened to the public, and a temporary entrance was installed from Chaplin Crescent atop the Davisville Yard storage building.

As part of the renovations TTC also took the time to build a new connection between this terminal and the south side of the subway platforms, including a new escalator, and a new covered footbridge connecting the two platforms. The new bus terminal had a single pedestrian platform running down the centre, with a bus roadway on either side. This differed from the previous arrangement where two platforms sat on either side of a wider central bus roadway.

Plans for Further Developments Fade

The TTC did not plan to stop overbuilding its subway with the William McBrian building. In the 1960s, as the TTC launched plans to cover up some of its open cut subway trenches on the YONGE line, due to safety concerns and noise complaints, it considered a proposal to cover over and develop the space above Davisville station and the adjoining Davisville Yard. A Montreal-based development firm proposed purchasing the air rights above the station and yard to build a large shopping centre on stilts. In exchange for a 100-year lease, the developers (contractor Anglin-Norcross Corp and financial backer Property and General Investments Limited of London) agreed to pay between $85,000 to $127,300 in annual rent to the TTC. The proposed $12 million complex was designed by Peter Dickinson, whose credits included the towers of Regent Park South and the O’Keefe Centre.

The proposed project proved controversial, however, with local residents organizing against it and the Toronto Planning Board advising against increasing the amount of high-rise and commercial development in the area. Delays to the project resulted in Anglin-Norcross declaring bankruptcy in 1967, ending the monthly lease payments the TTC was receiving from the company up to that point. A new developer, David Dennis, bought the air rights from Anglin-Norcross and had the architectural firm Webb Zerafa Menkes Housden produce a new set of designs. Although the plan, renamed Davisville Centre, was approved by the Ontario Municipal Board in 1968, construction stalled and, in 1971, the Oriole Park ratepayers association successfully lobbied the provincial government of Bill Davis to review the project. The project then languished, and was largely dead by 1979.

Throughout this controversy, Davisville station itself settled into a long period of stability. The facility remained largely unchanged until the early 1980s when the station’s walls and interior were renovated as part of a general update and refurbishment of most of the stations of the original Yonge line. The English Eggshell Vitrolite tiles vanished to be replaced by light brown tiles with the station name shown in darker brown.

The construction of a different, and smaller, Davisville Centre on the northwest corner of Chaplin and Yonge in the late 1990s resulted in the creation of a new, automatic entrance from the building directly onto the northbound platform. In 2002, the station was rendered accessible through the construction of elevators from street level to the concourse and from the concourse to both platforms, with access to those elevators via structures built onto the platforms’ roofs. More recently, in late 2019, the TTC renovated the roadways leading into Davisville’s bus terminal.

Potential for Future Redevelopments

As Davisville proceeded into the 2010s, the TTC started to look at updating its administrative facilities. The nearly 50-year-old McBrien building was becoming expensive to maintain, and again the TTC considered the possibilities of redeveloping the site and the air-rights above Davisville Yards to improve cash flow and local ridership. This time, the City of Toronto was more on board, and in 2019 embarked on a plan to modernize all of its city offices to more efficiently serve the city and reduce maintenance costs. Under this arrangement, the TTC would vacate the William McBrien building for facilities elsewhere. Thus far, however, the task of decking over the Davisville Yards for redevelopment appears to prove too challenging for developers and, as of this writing (April 2020), no concrete plans are in the works.

Such plans would have to assuage the concerns of the hundreds of local residents who benefit from the station, but who worry that so much new density could fundamentally alter the turn-of-the-century neighbourhoods that they are used to.

Service Notes (as of March 29, 2020):

  • Off-Site Resources:
  • Line: 1 Yonge - University - Spadina
  • Hours of Operation:
    First Train Finch: 6:07 a.m. weekdays, 6:10 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8.20 a.m. Sundays.
    First Train Union/Vaughan: 5:47 a.m. weekdays, 5:54 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:20 a.m. Sundays.
    Last Train Finch: 2:02 a.m. weekdays, 2:01 a.m. weekends/holidays
    Last Train Union/Vaughan: 1:35 a.m. weekdays, 1:34 a.m. weekends/holidays
  • Address: 1900 Yonge Street
  • Opened: March 30th 1954
  • Average Weekday Ridership: 25,990 (2018), 24,300 (2016), 25,330 (2015), 23,040 (2014), 24,010 (2013), 24,010 (2012), 24,560 (2011), 22,840 (2010), 22,970 (2009), 25,600 (2008)
  • Entrances: 1
    • Accessible entrance, through the TTC Headquarters building on the southwest corner of Yonge and Davisville
  • Elevators (click here for maintenance schedule): 4
    • Southbound platform to concourse
    • Northbound platform to concourse
    • Concourse to bus terminal
    • Concourse to street level
  • Escalators (click here for maintenance schedule): 4
    • East Side - South End of Northbound To Bus Platform (UP at all times)
    • West Side - South End of Southbound Platform To Concourse (UP at all times)
    • East Side - Centre - Northbound Platform To Concourse (UP at all times)
    • Concourse To Street Level (UP at all times)
  • Wheelchair Accessible Since: 2002
  • Centre platform

TTC Surface Connections:

Previous TTC Surface Connections

Davisville Station Image Archive


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