Birth of the Suburbs
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Birth of the Suburbs
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Birth of the Suburbs
Canadians embrace the comforts of home in post-war times
On September 14, 1956 a procession of limousines escorted by motorcycles and majorettes headed toward a three-bedroom brick bungalow in Wishing Well Acres in Scarborough, Ontario.
Post-war Canadians embraced the consumer age and demanded the latest household conveniences including an electric stove, refrigerator, radio and television. Pictured here, the kitchen of the Schiefner farmhouse near Milestone, Saskatchewan with all the la
Post-war Canadians embraced the consumer age and demanded the latest household conveniences including an electric stove, refrigerator, radio and television. Pictured here, the kitchen of the Schiefner farmhouse near Milestone, Saskatchewan with all the latest conveniences, 1956. (National Archives of Canada, PA-205821)

The Camisso family was given the keys to the home, and neighbours brought roses, served coffee and welcomed the new family under the glare of the press. The Camissos had bought the millionth house built in Canada since the end of the Second World War.

And it was cause for celebration. Family life had been put on hold during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Now Canadians wanted to settle down and enjoy the comforts of life.

The housing boom was one of the most visible examples of the post-war heyday as people embraced a consumer age like never before. Residential construction, which had been dormant during the Depression and then through the war, suddenly boomed as returning veterans married and had families.

The Federal government helped veterans with education and financing for houses through the National Housing Act 1944. Many Canadians had postponed families and purchases during the war, now they were ready to spend and raise families.

Frank Camisso, his wife Irene and their two children were delighted with their new house.

"Everything was just about the way we wanted it," said Mr. Camisso. "Conventional layout, six rooms and a wonderful heating system ... No more coal shoveling. We swore that if we ever got a house it would have an automatic heating system, a good one."

In Toronto, many, like Italian immigrant Frank Colontonio, join the citys booming construction industry.

"Things were in a state of frenzied expansion. New subdivisions around the city fringes were being thrown up at a breathtaking pace. Houses got built. The city grew. Builders and developers made big money."

Using new assembly line techniques the Americans had pioneered, homes that took months to build now take days.
In the post-war period, Canadians wanted to settle down and enjoy the comforts of life. Family life had been put on hold during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Pictured here, a mother giving her son a bath in Hull, Quebec, 1947. (National A
In the post-war period, Canadians wanted to settle down and enjoy the comforts of life. Family life had been put on hold during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Pictured here, a mother giving her son a bath in Hull, Quebec, 1947. (National Archives of Canada, PA-205817)

In 1954, Toronto was the fastest growing city on the continent. Prosperity and continued urbanization gave rise to a new concept called suburbs began to take shape. At the turn century about two-thirds of Canadians lived in rural areas. By 1971, two out of every three people lived in towns or cities.

Don Mills was the first comprehensive suburb in Canada It was named for a mill on the Don River and built seven miles northeast of downtown Toronto. It was constructed in 1954 under the auspices of E.P. Taylor, the owner of O'Keefe Breweries.

Don Mills was created to attract a diverse population; the working class would live in its many apartments and work in the nearby mills and factories, while the middle class families would commute to downtown Toronto.

Conceived by planner Macklin Hancock, Don Mills was arranged along a series of curved roads that were intended to foster a feeling of community rather than act as shortcuts for cars.

Within its boundaries were a shopping mall (the modernist Convenience Centre designed by John Parkin), green space, churches, schools and homes that were linked by their design and materials.

A few years after the first stage was completed in 1954, similar developments appeared on the edges of cities across Canada.


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