Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Richard S' Harris




Urbanethniclandscapeshavereceivedlittleattentioninthe immigrationandethnicstudiesandculturalgeographyliteratures.Marxist historical materialism, speculations on modern(ist) urbanism and assimilation have either denied or neglected the study of ethnic landscapes in the city. A small body of literature on the ethnic use and meaning of space is beginning to emerge which shows that ungrounded theoretical speculation can misinform us about both ethnicity and the buitt environment' This study of retail facades in Toronto's post-war Little Italy addresses the debate and shows that more empirical case studies are needed before \Ye can theorize the urban landscaPe. The retail strip along st. Clair Ave. around Dufferin st' rvas the focal. point of post-war Italian immigration to Toronto' Although the strip n'as mostly built up in the second decade of this century, documentary photographs from the Toronto Real Estate Board's Multiple Listing service show that it changed little before Italian immigration' Property assessment data for the City of Toronto show a rapid ethnic succession from Britishorigin and jewish to Italian for st. clail stores, providing information on tenure, business type, and occupants, names. \{ith this information, I r,vas abletocontactltalian-originmerchantsalongSt.Clairforinformant interviews on their renovations and the changing identity and meaning of St' Clair. Usingthephotographs,Iconclud.ethatSt.Clairisanurbanethnic land.scapeforanumberofreasons:Itaiianimmigrationand entrepreneurship brought visible changes to the original Georgian idiom of the strip, namely the widespread use of stucco, marble/granite and tile' Georgian features were also removed and/or replaced' vestibules were coopted for plate glass windows, cafe windows installed to serve sidewalk patrons and new outdoor patios for ca{es and restaurants' These changes can be explained by the pre-migratory experiences of Italian immigrants and the public quality of Italian culture' I could further support this conclusion with information from my interviews. The interviews revealed that retail facades and the streetscape is imbued with ethnic pride and tensions. Merchants spoke of their pride and preference for ltalian-style renovations, work which was usually done with the aid of family and community members. Merchants' also told me about their dislike for the aesthetic choices of non-Italian entrepreneurs. It quickly became clear that retail facades were being used as a vehicle to express discontent with st. Clair',s previous population and the visible minorities that are novv beginning to dominate the area numerically' TheprocessandmeaningofchangebehindSt.Clair,sretailfacades ultimately speak of the strip's territorial history' Ethnic pride and community involvement helped to change its original identity' Yet this is balanced by ethnic bigotry expressed as discontent for the aesthetic preferences of others' Thus,incontrasttothedominanttheoreticalviewpointsontheurban landscape,themeaningandvisibleaPpeafanceofSt.Clairhasbeen influenced by ethnic relations to produce an urban ethnic landscape'

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