You say ‘Bloor,’ I say ‘Bloore’

I don’t know an easy way to tell Toronto map makers, street sign manufacturers and Bloor Street businessfolk this except to state the facts, straight out… Bloor is spelled wrong! That’s right. It’s not B L O O R, but rather B L O O R E, with an ‘e.’

And how, you may ask, do I know that? Well, while researching the origins of city street names for a book I’m working on, I found a reference to Joseph Bloor in a small booklet on the Town of Yorkville prepared by Barbara Myrvold of the Toronto Public Library. Since this was the very person after whom Toronto’s trendy (in places) ‘Fifth Avenue’ is named, and desirous of learning more about this early Yorkville businessman, I decided to find his place of burial. My search led me to the historic Necropolis cemetery in ‘Cabbagetown’ where a perusal of the interment books revealed he was indeed ‘residing’ there. But even more interesting, upon finding the burial plot I discovered inscribed on his headstone the following: “In memory of Joseph Bloore who died August 31, 1862.”

There it was. Bloore with that final ‘e.’ If that isn’t proof enough that we spell the name of one of our most important streets incorrectly — or if people sply think the spelling of the surname on the headstone may just have been a spelling error on the part of the stone mason, a second line reminds us that there with Joseph is: “Also Sarah, wife of Joseph Bloore.”

And nearby are grave markers to: “John Helliwell, son of Joseph and Sarah Bloore”, while across the way another stone proclaims the final resting place of: “Mary Ann Clarke, daughter of Joseph and Sarah Bloore”.

As both children passed away after their parents, if the stone carver had goofed on Joe?s memorial and has chastised accordingly, surely he would have got it right on the siblings’ stones? But, in both cases, the word again appears with that final ‘e.’

And, one final piece of proof can be found on the card filled out for each death and subsequent burial and kept on file in the Necropolis office. In each and every case Bloore appears with an ‘e.’ I rest my case.

While most of Toronto’s earliest street names were selected to memorialize the English aristocracy — King for King George III, George for his son Prince George, Frederick for another son, Prince Frederick, Yonge for Sir George Yonge, Dundas for Sir Henry Dundas — it turns out that Bloor (or Bloore) was named for an ordinary joe. Joe Bloore to be precise.

Joe was born in Staffordshire, England, in 1789 and emigrated to Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1818, eventually settling in the Town of York, as Toronto was then called. He ran a small hotel called The Farmers’ Inn at the corner of King and Francis Streets, just steps north of the town’s busy St. Lawrence Market.

Around 1830, Bloore decided to get away from it all and made the move north of the town where he established a brewery in the ravine north and west of today’s Sherbourne and Bloor intersection.

As the years went by, a small village began to take shape just to the west of his factory at what today would be described as in and around the Yonge and Bloor intersection. Actually, the term intersection is somewhat of an overstatement as the latter street was simply a narrow dirt pathway laid out years earlier by government surveyors at a distance of 100 Gunter’s chains (a surveying measurement that equals 6,600 feet or 1 1/4 miles) north of their so-called base line, the present Queen Street.

That 1 1/4 miles between major east-west thoroughfares, identified as a concession, lead to Bloor Street’s original name being simply the Second Concession Road, the first of several names by which it would be identified.

As time went by an assortment of communities began to take shape all over the southern part of the young province. Before long, it became obvious that to facilitate the movement of carts and wagons full of produce between villages and marketplaces many roads would not only have to be built, but maintained as well. To raise the money to build and look after these roads the government decreed that a number of toll gates would be erected and fees for passage collected. One of the first toll gates to go into business was at the intersection of a dusty Yonge Street and the even dustier Second Concession Road. Before long, the east-west concession line became the Tollgate Road, with this title soon changing once again to St. Paul’s Road, following the construction of little St. Paul’s Anglican Church on the south side of the concession road east of Yonge in 1842.

All the while, a small community continued to grow in the vicinity of the Second Concession Road/Tollgate Road/St. Paul’s Road and Yonge Street corner. One of the more prominent members of this emerging neighbourhood was Joe Bloore, by now a wealthy brewer who had also entered into the land development business with his good friend William Jarvis. In fact, so involved were Mr. Bloore and Mr. Jarvis in the future of the little community suggestions were made that it should be called either Blooreville or Jarvisville, but Yorkville was eventually adopted.

Joseph Bloore (after all, he was now an important businessman) erected a large family residence on the south side of the concession road, just east of Yonge, and soon the thoroughfare had another new name. As it led to Bloore’s residence the name Bloore Street seemed appropriate. But, somewhere along the line, that final ‘e’ was dropped and Toronto’s famous, though grammatically incorrect, Bloor Street was born.