The Village of Swansea … looking back
Swansea is that green hilly area in Toronto, Ontario, Canada bounded on the west by the Humber River, on the north by Bloor Street, on the east by High Park and on the south by Lake Ontario. On the first maps used by the French explorers, this area was known by its Mississauga Indian name “Toronto”, the meeting place. The Iroquois named for the major settlement in the area was Teiaiagon. Swansea is rich in indigenous history. Swansea Town Hall acknowledges the land we are on is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We also acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit. Swansea traces its modern history from the arrival of Etienne Brule, a contemporary of Samuel De Champlain, in 1615 Brule explored the southern reaches of the Humber River where it empties into Lake Ontario and established a French influence in the area, which would persist for almost the next century and a half. In 1670, Jean Baptiste Rousseau became the first permanent settler in Swansea when he established a trading post on the Swansea side of the Humber River, possibly on the site of the original French Fort.
During the latter part of the 19th Century, the area we now know as Swansea was called Windermere because, to the many immigrants from the British Isles, its hills, valleys, and seven ponds resembled the area of the Lake District, in the north of England, which went by that name. No one seems certain as to how the community became known as Swansea. Some say it was because of all the immigrants from Swansea Wales in the United Kingdom that settled here; others attribute it to the Bolt Works that carried the Swansea name. It is thought that the owner of the local Bolt Works, James Worthington, came from Swansea in Wales, so perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between.
In 1926, Swansea had grown to such a size that it was able to successfully petition to become independent from the Township of York and was incorporated as a village with a population of 3,255 persons and a superstructure of 908 buildings. By 1936, Swansea had grown to become the second largest village in the Province of Ontario. The Swansea Public School Board, Swansea Volunteer Fire Brigade, Swansea Police Force and Swansea Memorial Library Board were soon woven into the fabric of the Village.
The names of some of the area’s earliest setters are remembered in the streets and parks that bear their names – John Howard, John Ellis, Mark Coe, William Rennie, James Worthington. The solid civic foundation provided a wellspring of Swanseaites whose names many Canadians will recognize, including: naturalist J. A. Harvey; artist Harold Town; politician David Crombie; architect John Gemmell; developer Robert Home Smith; broadcaster Moses Znaimer; authors Lucy Maud Montgomery and Bernice Thurman Hunter; and Ontario’s first woman Reeve, Dorothy Hague.
1959-66 – Our building served as the Swansea Municipal Building for the independent Village of Swansea.
1967-87 – In 1967, by order of the Province, Swansea was amalgamated into the City of Toronto. Swansea still retains its proud and independent traditions which are symbolized by its former municipal building, now simply called the Swansea Town Hall. During this period our building was operated by the City of Toronto’s Parks and Recreation division.
1987-91 – Swansea Town Hall continued to serve as the centre of the political, cultural and social life of the Swansea and Bloor West communities.
1991-93 – During this period the building was renovated with funds from the lease of land to the adjacent James T. Bonham Residence. Room names include some of our historic Swansea residents such as Hague, Gemmell and Harvey.
1993 to present – Swansea Town Hall is governed by a community Board of Management appointed by City Council to provide cost effective, user friendly community access to all, with priority to local community. We are a City Agency, one of 10 independently run community centres within the City of Toronto Association of Community Centres.