The Ward (officially “St. John’s Ward”) was the area in Toronto where early immigrant communities first settled. It was a densely populated neighbourhood in what is now downtown Toronto. The Ward was home to refugees from the Irish Potato Famine, Americans who escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad, and Russian and Eastern European refugees. From the late 19th century to the 1920s, it was also the centre of Toronto’s Jewish and Italian communities, and the site of Toronto’s first Chinatown. While few physical traces of The Ward’s history remain, the stories of its former residents and the challenges they faced as newcomers continue to resonate.
WHY THE WARD?
Today, while the majority of immigrants live outside Toronto’s downtown core, the themes in the history of The Ward continue to be relevant to the experiences of newcomers. Reviving the history of The Ward will serve as a contextual starting point from which visitors can explore the stories of newcomer communities from the 19th century onward and across the Greater Toronto Area.