North York is a municipality within the current city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Geographically, it comprises the central part of the northern section of Toronto. As of the 2006 Census, it has a population of 635,370. The official 2001 census count was 608,288. Until 1998, it was the second-largest of six municipalities that comprised another larger municipal structure called Metropolitan Toronto. The previous year, the provincial Government of Ontario passed legislation to merge these municipalities into a single, new amalgamated City of Toronto.
While much of the area still retains a suburban nature, efforts led by former Mayor of North York and Toronto Mel Lastman were made to intensify development in the North York Centre area along Yonge Street between Finch and Sheppard Avenues, coinciding with the path of the Toronto Transit Commission's Yonge subway line.
There are many stores and high-rise office and condominium apartment buildings along this central North York corridor, particularly centred around the old North York City Hall. Directly beside the old City Hall is the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Thanks to a new subway line along Sheppard Avenue, more high-rise condominiums are being built along the Sheppard East corridor.
Major corporations have built their own office towers along Yonge Street in central North York, including the Canadian head offices of Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, Cadbury Adams, Lindt & Sprüngli, Equifax, and Xerox, while the Government of Canada maintains offices north of Sheppard Avenue. McDonald's of Canada is also located in North York, although not along this corridor.
In the 1980s, the administration of Mel Lastman transformed North York. The former North York City Hall looks out upon a reflecting pool. Directly south of the city hall in the same complex is the former North York Board of Education building (now home to the Toronto District School Board. To the north and east of the complex are two large malls connected by an underground passage with subway access. The northern mall is connected to the North York Central Library, the largest full-service Toronto Public Library building in Toronto (second to Metro Reference in square footage). The library is a part of a much larger facility including a school board work station, swimming pool, snack bar, veterans centre and large hotel, the rooms of which look onto the inside of the mall. The more recently-built eastern mall (called "Empress Walk") is built around a large multi-storey cathedral-like hall and contains an Empire Theatres movie theatre and a Loblaws supermarket.
Major shopping malls in North York include the Yorkdale Shopping Centre and Fairview Mall. Smaller locations include Centerpoint Mall, Bayview Village, Yorkgate Mall, Steeles West Market Mall and Sheppard Centre. It is also home to campuses of York University, Seneca College, Osgoode Hall Law School, and Tyndale University College and Seminary.
Major health-care facilities, such as North York General Hospital, Humber River Regional Hospital (Finch Avenue Site previously called York-Finch Hospital) and the massive Sunnybrook Hospital complex which includes a veterans' residence, a regional cancer centre and regional trauma centre are located in North York.
An aircraft manufacturing facility and a former military base are located at Downsview. With the end of the Cold War, much of the land was transformed into a large park now called Parc Downsview Park.
Black Creek Pioneer Village, an authentic nineteenth-century village, and the Ontario Science Centre, which boasts over 800 science-oriented exhibits, are North York's primary attractions. Not far from Black Creek Pioneer Village is York University's main campus.
There are a multitude of North York sports clubs including the North York Storm, a girls hockey league, Gwendolen Tennis Club in the heart of North York near Yonge and Sheppard, and the venerable North York Aquatic Club, which was founded in 1958 as the North York Lions Swim Club and has produced many Olympian swimmers.
The Township of North York was formed on June 13, 1922 out of the rural part of the Township of York. The rapidly-urbanizing parts of the Township remained in that township. As North York itself became more urbanized, it became the Borough of North Yorkin 1967, and then on February 14, 1979, the City of North York. To commemorate receiving its city charter on St. Valentine's Day, the city's corporate slogan was "The City with Heart". It now forms the largest part of the area served by the "North York Community Council", a committee of Toronto City Council.
Originally, North York was known as a regional agricultural hub composed of scattered villages. The area boomed following World War II, and by the 1950s and 1960s, it resembled many other North American suburbs.
Willowdale was originally settled by Jacob Cummer, who immigrated to Canada from the United States in 1797. Cummer was a mill owner on the nearby Don River, a proprietor of a tinsmith shop on Yonge Street and a self trained doctor and veterinarian. Cummer was held in such high esteem by his neighbours that this area was originally known as Kummer's Settlement.
David Gibson, a distinguished land surveyor, was another leader in this community. Like most of his neighbours, Gibson participated in the ill-fated Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837. He was thus charged with high treason and escaped to the United States were he found employment as the First Assistant Engineer on the building of the Erie Canal.
Gibson returned to his Yonge Street farm in 1851, after being pardoned for his role in the Rebellion. He then helped to establish the "'Willow Dale"' post office, named after the many willow trees that once graced this district.
Members of the Gibson family were still living in Gibson House in the 1920s when the residential subdivision of Willowdale began to take place. The Gibson House, circa 1851, is still standing in its original location at 5172 Yonge Street and is now a historic museum.
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