Wascana Avenue by Jay Morrison
Wascana Avenue by Jay Morrison

Corktown is the first community of its kind to be conceived in the heart of Toronto; it’s also one of its most historic neighbourhoods. In the early 1960s, a great part of Corktown was demolished to make way for several elevated roadways. Among the most significant buildings destroyed was the House of Providence (1857–1962), an institution run by the Sisters of St. Joseph to care for orphans and the elderly poor.

How did Corktown Get Its Name?

The name Corktown is believed to have derived from the original Irish settlers, many from County Cork, who arrived in the early 1800s and found work in local brickworks and breweries. Another version is that the presence of distilleries, breweries and cork-stopper manufacturers in the vicinity may have instigated the nickname.

Distillery District by Ken Mist
Distillery District by Ken Mist


So many remarkable transformations are currently taking place in Corktown that this once determinedly working-class community seems destined to further increase its recent popularity. First comes the rebirth of the Distillery District project to the southeast, with its Gooderham and Worts Distillery condos and lofts welcoming hoards of new residents to the area. Strolling around Corktown, you will also see the multi-year mega project aimed at reshaping Regent Park to the north as well as reintegrating the community with the rest of the city. On unused land along the banks of the Don River at the east end of Corktown, you will recognize the massive West Don Development project. It is estimated that this project will bring thousands of additional residents to this central area.

The West Donlands redevelopment project includes:

  • The 18-acre Don River park
  • Public transit within a five-minute walk of all residences
  • 5,800 residential units, including 1,200 units of affordable rental housing
  • One-million square feet of employment space
  • Pedestrian & cycling connections within the neighbourhood and to the city
  • An elementary school
  • A recreation centre
  • Two childcare centres
    Don Valley by pquan
    Don Valley by Perry Quan

Real Estate

Corktown is extremely convenient to Toronto’s downtown business and entertainment districts; as a result, new zoning bylaws have spawned the conversion of many Corktown commercial buildings into live-in work studios, condominium lofts and professional offices. This change also provoked a demographic shift from blue to white collar.

Some of the oldest Victorian row-houses in the Toronto area can be found in Corktown, and believe it or not, many of these date back to the mid 1850s and 1860s. They were known as “workers’ cottages” and can be found on the narrow laneways that are tucked away off of Corktown’s main streets.

Examples of late 19th century British-style row-housing can still be seen lining Corktown side streets such as Bright Street, Trinity Street, Wilkins Avenue, Ashby Place and Gilead Place. In the neighbourhood, you‘ll find many vacated industrial buildings, some in use by production and movie studios.

Anyone contemplating buying property in Corktown District should consider the impact of the area’s revitalization on their quality of life and their housing investment. Homes in Corktown can range from $300,000 and upwards, allowing a wide variety of people from all walks of life to reside in this area. The popularity and value of Corktown homes for sale are increasing substantially.

Shopping in Corktown

Even though there are a limited amount of shops within the main core of Corktown, residents can enjoy shopping with Corktown Advantage Cards that promote local businesses by offering patrons special discounts and rewards for shopping locally. The membership cards were introduced two years ago and have been a great success. Local businesses participating in the program are posted on the Corktown Residents and Business Association (CRBA) official website where you’ll find links to their sites. Businesses are issued a sign to post in their front windows indicating their participation in the program, and only Corktown residents and business owners are eligible to join. A 12-month CRBA membership costs $12 per resident and $24 per business owner.

Corktown Chamber Orchestra

The Corktown Chamber Orchestra is a downtown Toronto collective of talented non-professional musicians who gather to foster an appreciation for music and community. An eclectic bunch, its members have taken the study of music to a higher level at some point in their lives. What music do they play? Traditional chamber repertoire for strings, with forays into jazz, pop, folk, and tango.

Little Trinity by Loozrboy
Little Trinity by Loozrboy

Unlike most community orchestras, Corktown’s Chamber Orchestra does not charge an annual fee to participate. None of its members are paid for their contribution, and the orchestra does not ask for money from arts funding institutions. All members contribute to the Orchestra’s artistic, marketing and administrative welfare, and membership is dependent on artistic and non-artistic contribution and “fit”.

Little Trinity sanctuary by Loozrboy
Little Trinity sanctuary by Loozrboy

In addition to an annual 4-concert season at Little Trinity Church (425 King East at Parliament), the Orchestra has performed for Corktown Residents Association community events, The Dominion on Queen and in a Led Zeppelin tribute live broadcast from Hard Rock Cafe on Q107.

Corktown Comedy

Time for free fun! Every Wednesday at 9 pm, Corktown Comedy presents stand-up, sketch and other surprises in the intimate upstairs bar at Betty’s, a popular bar and restaurant on the east side of downtown Toronto (240 King Street East). The open-mic stage welcomes everyone from first-timers to up-and-comers to well-known pros. If you’d like to perform on the show, you can contact them to book your spot.

Sackville Playground

For the younger members of the family, take a trip to the Sackville playground on King St. E, where children can swim in the wading pool and play at the “kiddy park”. Meanwhile, adults can play a game of basketball on the park’s basketball court.

Annual Corktown Christmas Dinner Party

If you ‘d like to enjoy a fabulous turkey dinner with all the trimmings, live entertainment with music by the Corktown Chamber Orchestra, door prizes and an exciting live fundraising auction, join the Corktown Christmas Dinner Party! This annual event is an all-ages party, so bring your whole family and tell your neighbours! Reservations for the Christmas Dinner Party 2011 are available; 416-368-6893.

Pick Up a Map and Look Around!

Home to the original Upper Canada Parliament Buildings that were torched during the War of 1812, Corktown is also home to historic monuments that are still standing…

Corktown by philosophygeek 1
Corktown by philosophygeek
  • The Enoch Turner Schoolhouse on Trinity Street, just south of Little Trinity Church, was built in 1848. This was Toronto’s first ‘free school’. Its benefactor was Enoch Turner, a prominent Corktown brewer, and one of Toronto’s great philanthropists. Today, children and adults are still taught in the Trinity Schoolhouse, which is now run as a museum designed to replicate a mid-19th century classroom.
  • Little Trinity Church just east of King and Parliament is Toronto’s oldest surviving church building, its cornerstone laid on July 20, 1843. It was built because Protestants could not afford the lofty pew rents at nearby St. James Cathedral, an Anglican church.
  • The first Catholic parish in Toronto, St. Paul’s Basilica, was built in 1822 and is found in Corktown.


Boundaries & Transportation

Corktown spans from the Don River westwards to approximately Jarvis, and from Queen Street East down to approximately Front Street. It is just south of Regent Park and north of the Gardiner Expressway, Shuter Street to Lakeshore Boulevard. This area also includes the Distillery District. The West Don Lands, slated to be redeveloped over the next few years, will encompass the south-east corner of this area. The King and Queen streetcar and subway lines provide convenient transportation for the residents of Corktown.

Interested in living in the neighbourhood? Browse the MLS Listings for the perfect house or condominium available in this area.

Corktown map
Corktown map
Corktown sat
Corktown sat