Trefann Court history

The Trefann Court Residents Association has a long and colourful history; its founding meeting was August 11, 1966. Earlier in their respective careers, four ex-Toronto mayors helped organize this neighbourhood: David Crombie, John Sewell, June Rowlands and Barbara Hall.

The Trefann Court area is bounded by Queen, Parliament, Shuter and River streets. In 1966, the city wanted to demolish almost all of the existing buildings, and to build public housing in the area from Parliament to Sackville (continuing the Regent Park “urban renewal” area immediately to the north). On the east part of the site, from Sackville to River, the city would permit industrial buildings. (Industrial use for this area was suggested by a private developer, who in 1957 constructed the large warehouse at 90 Sumach for the CBC, who used it for 30 years as prop storage, construction and rehearsal space.)

But the Trefann Court residents urged the city that their homes not be expropriated, that they be allowed to have significant involvement in replanning their community, and that an alternative to public housing be found. This was the genesis of citizen participation in planning, which now happens in all Toronto neighbourhoods. During the past 30 years, additional 2-3 storey housing has been built to strengthen the stable low-rise residential character of Trefann Court: on Sydenham Street, Wascana, and most recently, the south-west corner of Shuter + River.

The history of Trefann Court makes for interesting reading. Gordon Fraser’s 1972 book: “Fighting Back; Urban Renewal in Trefann Court” (300 pages) is available from the library. John Sewell has also written extensively about Trefann Court, including this entry (included in a summary of downtown neighbourhoods, titled “East/West“, published in 2000).

Update, Dec 2013):

  1. In an article for the Fall 2012 Corktown News, John Sewell described the how Edna and Gus Dixon were instrumental in organizing Trefann Court during the 1960s.
  2. Pro Tem, founded in 1962, is York University’s oldest student-run publication. They published some articles about Trefann Court, which are available online:
    • Nov 21 1968, Page 6,7 – “Trefann Court residents are caught between the poverty grind and manipulating bureaucrats” (read online or download PDF)
    • March 6, 1969 Page 3 – “Urban Renewal in South City – some answers for Trefann Court” (read online or download PDF)
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