Yonge Street is Toronto’s principal thoroughfare and reflects the city’s vibrancy. The Longest Street in the World (according to the Guiness Book of World Records) begins at Toronto Harbour, runs north through the city, then passes through numerous Ontario towns all the way to Rainy River, Ontario, on the Manitoba and US border. Total distance is 1,896 km (1,178 miles.)
During the 1800s, Yonge Street had reached the edge of Lake Ontario and became the main thoroughfare for traders, farmers, militia and stage coach passengers entering and leaving the city. By 1850, there were only two large estates on Yonge between College and Bloor Streets. Land grants of 200 acres (with a quarter of a mile of frontage) made Yonge a street mostly lined with forests. In 1869 Timothy Eaton revolutionized Canadian shopping with his large department store at 178 Yonge Street. This attracted other merchants, and by the early 1900s Yonge became Toronto’s premiere shopping street.
Today, the street (from King to Bloor Sts.) is filled with shoppers, commuters, young people cruising “the strip”, theatre-goers and anybody who’s simply interested in soaking up the atmosphere. At Yonge and Dundas, one of the street’s busiest intersections, Yonge is a strange mix of quality stores next to shops with garrish neon lights and tacky window displays. Street vendors try to entice customers; buskers (both good and bad) perform for the curious; and loud car stereos add to the ambiance.
As soon as you leave the downtown core, Yonge takes on a whole new personality, or better still, personalities: from the quant antique stores in Rosedale, to the trendy cafes at Eglinton Avenue, all the way up to the strip malls of Richmond Hill. And then it travels further north on its journey as the World’s Longest Street, and as in Toronto, becomes the main thoroughfare for the town or village that it crosses.