Don Mills

In 1946, the industrial tycoon E. P. Taylor, owner of the Angus Corporation, started buying farmland north and east of Toronto where he meant to build another one of his breweries. Upon realizing the profit-making opportunity provided by Toronto’s severe housing shortage, Taylor recruited the businessman Karl C. Fraser to direct a property development venture in an area of over 2,000 acres. After travelling to London to study the building of its surrounding “New Towns”, Fraser hired his son-in-law, the young urban planner Macklin Hancock, to design a similar plan for the 850-hectare suburb of Toronto. Hancock’s comprehensive plan, completed in 1952, envisioned a whole new town cut into quarters by two arterial intersecting roads (Lawrence Avenue and Don Mills Road), creating four neighbourhoods, each with an elementary school. Together they would have about 8,000 new units, accommodating an estimated 35,000 residents, divided into single-detached houses – with 53 different house designs to choose from – and small-rise apartment buildings. The plan also included a shopping mall and office towers at the centre, and light industrial areas in the fringes. Like the Lawrence Manor “neighbourhood unit”, the residential street system was looped and discontinuous, with plenty of culs-de-sac, green spaces (including natural ravines), and large house lots. Hancock’s plan became an influential model for other postwar suburban developments around Toronto, including Bridlewood, Don Valley Village, Scarborough Township, and Erin Mills in Mississauga. Construction on the Don Mills suburb began in 1953 and ended in 1965. Built by Don Mills Development Ltd., this was the first land development in North America to be solely funded by the private sector, including the construction of its own temporary sewage plant on the East Don River, which was finally connected to Metro’s sewer system in 1959. Seven construction workers died in building projects on Don Mills between 1953 and 1968.

Excerpt from the 2nd episode of the City Builders’ documentary. Motion graphics designed by Andrey Osipov. Narration by Paulino Nunes. 2018.