Thorncrest Village is a planned suburban subdivision in south Etobicoke, designed by architect Eugene G. Faludi and developed by Marshall M. Ross in the late 1940s. It was named after Thorncrest Park, a summer estate of Sir William Pearce Howland (demolished in 1999).
Historically, the community is located within the boundaries of Islington Village. Its name was associated with exclusivity. According to historian Patrick Vitale, Thorncrest Village was “an orderly and controlled suburb that secured upper-middle-class residents’ financial investments and their social status,” exempifying “the ideals of modern suburban planning: conformity, community, privacy, stability, and a careful mixture of nature and city.”
Homebuyers wishing to build a house in the neighbourhood were required to seek the approval of the Thorncrest Village Homes Association. Ross reserved the right to review and approve all proposed house plans. Once they made the neighbourhood their home, they had to purchase a membership in the homeowners’ association, which also granted them the right to use the Village’s clubhouse.
Ross also settled in the neighbourhood, on Thorncrest Road. His residence was among the houses based on the designs executed by architect Edward Cecil Strong Cox, who was commissioned by Faludi to design other homes in the community.
Unlike the largely unplanned neighbourhoods in Toronto’s suburbs (such as Hunter’s Glen in Scarborough), the Village offered a compact, livable neighbourhood, situated in a countryside setting, with the added convenience of a local shopping centre. Although the plaza (located at the corner of Islington Road and Rathburn Road) has been altered over the years, the façade pleasantly retains many of its original atomic-age architectual details.
Today, a walk through the neighbourhood offers a strange juxtaposition of the elegance visible in the mid-century modern houses contrasting with the tackiness of new mansions. Unforunately, the historical style of the community is perceived to be as disposable as the countryside it transformed when the subdivision first appeared on the map.
Thorncrest Village has attracted the attention of many historians as an example of postwar residential planning in Canada.
History Nerd features a detailed historical essay on the history of the community and is illustrated with many interesting photographs, original architectual plans of the neighbourhood, and maps. S.D. Clark, a prominent Canadian sociologist and researcher of suburbanization in Canada, studied and surveyed the residents of Thorncrest Village in his seminal book, The Suburban Society.
City of Toronto Archives have a number of photographs of the subdivision and the shopping centre available from the digital collections, in addition to aerial images depicting the growth of the community. Dennis Harris, the Heritage Officer of the Etobicoke Historical Society contributed a column on the history of the neighbourhood to the Etobicoke Guardian.
Original advertisements promoting the virtues of living in the Village and newspaper articles documenting the milestones in the history of the neighbourhood can be found in Toronto Star Historical Newspaper Archive and Globe and Mail Historical Newspaper Archive (both resources can be accessed with your library card).
“Cox, Edward Cecil Strong.” Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, 1800–1950, http://dictionaryofarchitectsincanada.org/node/985. Accessed 6 March 2021.
Harris, Denise. “Etobicoke History Corner: Once Visionary Thorncrest Village a Victim of Modern Development.” Etobicoke Guardian, 31 July 2015, https://www.toronto.com/news-story/5769275-etobicoke-history-corner-once-visionary-Thorncrest-village-a-victim-of-modern-development/. Accessed 6 March 2021.
Newton, Hugh. “Plan Model Village for Toronto Area.” The Globe and Mail, 17 March 1945, 15.
Therrien, Marie-Josée. “Changing Trends in Canadian ‘Mallscape’ of the 1950s and 1960.” JSSAC: Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada, vol. 36, no. 2, 2011, pp. 13–26.
Vitale, Patrick. “A Model Suburb for Model Suburbanites: Order, Control, and Expertise in Thorncrest Village.” The Urban Space of the Elites, special issue of Urban History Review, vol. 40, issue 1, 2011, pp. 41–55.