First Chinatown (1890-1960)

First Chinatown (1890-1960) is an interactive archive and map documenting the history and memories of Toronto’s First Chinatown, located within the Ward, the city’s first immigrant neighbourhood. In the late 18th century, many Chinese migrant workers came to Toronto to establish a new life in Eastern Canda. Located along Chestnut Street and Elizabeth Street, many of the individuals within this community would be some of the early pioneers to Canada’s multiculturalism as we know it today.

In the 1960’s, the City of Toronto had proposed, with little consultation with the Chinese community, to expropriate the area for the development of Nathan Phillips Square and New City Hall. By the end of the 1960’s, only one-third of the original first Chinatown remained, many businesses and residents having moved further west down Dundas Street to Spadina Avenue to what many now call today as West Chinatown, or simply downtown Chinatown. 

The project is a communal archive, attempting to recreate the original community through oral histories with individuals connected to the original neighbourhood. By bridging the gap between history and memory, this project aims to provide a greater understanding of the resilience of individuals within the early Chinese-Canadian community.

This project is currently ongoing, if you’re interested in participating, please contact.