Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Richard Harris




I explore the relationships between successive images of a neighbourhood, social and housing conditions, and planning policy, using a longitudinal case study of one neighbourhood in Toronto. The neighbourhood, Parkdale, was developed as a politically independent suburb in the late 1870s and 1880s. At the time, it was described as a middle-class, residential "flowery suburb", although it was also a working class industrial community. During the early part of the 20th century, it began to be described as a declining neighbourhood at risk of "becoming a serious slum", although it continued to offer good housing conditions. By the 1970s, a third phase of image-making had begun: Parkdale began to be described as a revitalized "urban village" of historic homes, along with growing reportage as a "dumping ground" for psychiatric out-patients. The research suggests that the images of suburb, slum, and urban village used to describe Parkdale bore more of a relation to changing societal norms than social and housing conditions. However, the images had strong direct and indirect impacts on planning policy and mortgage lending, which in turn influenced social and housing conditions. The research contributes to historical and contemporary theories of neighbourhood transition, and the evolving analysis of the relationship between planning discourse and social conditions.

McMaster University Library

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