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December 15th, 2018 
Patricia A. Brewitt
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History of Woodbridge

Like many early Ontario communities, Woodbridge developed around a waterway.  The Humber River provided a ready-made transportation system and the power source necessary for economic growth.  The village consequently became the commercial centre of an excellent farming area.

Woodbridge has its origins with the British Crown granting the west half of lots six and seven, concession 7 of Vaughan Township to Jacob Philips and Hugh Cameron in 1802.  During the early 1800's there was some development in surrounding areas.  A school had been built on Vaughan's eighth concession; a flour mill and store flourished at Pine Grove, and scattering of houses arose around Smith's mill  (what is today Hayhoe Mills at Pine Grove),  becoming known as Smithsville.  A similar settlement, known as Brownsville, came into being around a mill run by John Brown (on the Humber at what is today Wallace Street).  Woodbridge proper, however, did not begin to take the form of a settlement or village until the arrival of Rowland Burr in 1837. 

Rowland Burr is credited with being the founder of Woodbridge.  Between the two settlements of Brownsville and Smithsville, there developed a third settlement.  This, too, grew around a flour mill, Rowland Burr's mill, and so took on the name of Burwick.  In 1838, Burr also erected a saw mill and textile mill.  By the  1840's Burr's enterprises had evolved into the most prosperous businesses in the area.  As the population of Burwick increased, the government was petitioned to establish a post office.  In order to avoid confusion with another settlement in Canada West with the same name, Burwick was renamed Woodbridge in 1855.

Railways also played an integral part in the growth of Woodbridge. The Toronto, Grey, and Bruce Railway arrived from Weston in 1870. This line was constructed as a narrow gauge railway through Caledon and completed to Owen Sound in 1873. Owing to financial difficulty, it was operated by the Grand Trunk Railway until 1883, when it was leased to the Canadian Pacific Railway. Conversion to standard gauge required realigning some of the track curves, particularly around Woodbridge. In 1908 this line was linked to the transcontinental route through Sudbury, while the original route between Bolton and Orangeville, was abandoned in 1934.

Woodbridge was also served by a branch of the Toronto Suburban Railway until the 1930s. The Radial railway from Weston came in along the west side of the river, north of Humber Summit, after descending from its route along Albion Road and Kipling Avenue.

Construction of Highway 7 began in the 1920s, passing south of the business section and through an underpass of the Canadian Pacific. The original railway bridge spanned the valley of the Humber River, while construction of 407 ETR has undermined the banks of the river on both sides, requiring a third overpass for the railway.

Hurricane Hazel in the 1950s ruined a bridge over Highway 7 and devastated much of the community.

In the 1950s, Woodbridge experienced growth from suburban Toronto houses. The suburban expansion began east of the Humber and East Humber and to the northeast. Prior to the expansion, the urban area was up to Kipling Avenue and to the Humber. It later expanded in the west up to Martin Grove Road with a north to south width of about 800 m in the 1960s and to the north and portions of the northeast of Langstaff Road. It later expanded north in the 1970s and the 1980s. The housing developments in the west expanded north to Langstaff and in the central part of Woodbridge including a part which transformed older stores into smaller units of housing in the early-1980s and west to Highway 27 in the late-1980s and in 1992. The houses expanded north to 400 m south of Rutherford Road in the 1980s and east up to Weston Road from Highway 7 to 400 m south of Rutherford Road and south to 200 m north of the present-day Highway 407. The Industrial areas began appearing first to the west and then to the southwest and to the east. The housing developments in mid-1990s expanded Martin Grove Road northward. Woodbridge Highlands was formed in the northwest E of Highway 27 in the 1990s. In 1994 housing developments reached to Rutherford and continued until 1996 except for the northeast and the southeastern part. The condominiums began construction and now appear between Woodbridge Avenue and the Humber. Sonoma Heights at Islington and Rutherford and the Vellore area at Weston and Rutherford have been developed. The Vellore area includes Vellore Village, and the Vellore Woods area.

The population was 3,000 until the 1950s, it reached 10,000 in the 1960s, 20,000 in the 1980s, 40,000 in the mid-1980s, 50,000 in the early 1990s, 60,000 in 1997 or 1998, and 70,000 in the 2000s, in the late 2000s, it is slightly over 100,000.

Source: Cityof Vaughan Archives and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodbridge,_Ontario

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