1858 WS Boulton: Atlas of the City of Toronto and Vicinity

“Sometime in 1858, William Somerville Boulton (1830-1860) and his brother Henry Carew Boulton (1833-1898), young Provincial Land Surveyors, completed this massive 30-sheet map or "atlas" of the City of Toronto. At one inch to 100 feet, this was the largest scale map of Toronto produced to that date and the first to show buildings in detail. The massive printing job was undertaken by John Ellis, a leading local map printer. It is no wonder the "atlas" took a prize at the Upper Canada Provincial Exhibition in 1858.

The maps indicated the construction material of buildings from stone through brick (red) to frame (grey and white). The legend also indicates a further classification of buildings (by use of 1s and 2s) into 1st and 2nd class buildings in that category. Information on fire alarms is also given.

With its detailed information on building materials, the "atlas" may be considered a forerunner of the fire insurance plans of the 1880s.”

- Isobel Ganton & Joan Winearls, MAPPING TORONTO'S FIRST CENTURY 1787-1884

The Boulton Atlas covers an area south of Bloor from roughly Dufferin in the west, to the Don River in the east. To create the following key map, I committed a slight cartographic atrocity by overlaying the plate areas on top of the 1857 Fleming, Ridout & Schreiber Plan of the City of Toronto -- the Boulton Atlas does not have a key.

Click any number to view the corresponding plate. 

Plate01 Plate02 Plate03 Plate04 Plate05 Plate06 Plate07 Plate08 Plate09 Plate10 Plate20 Plate19 Plate18 Plate17 Plate16 Plate15 Plate14 Plate13 Plate12 Plate11 Plate21 Plate22 Plate23 Plate24 Plate25 Plate26 Plate27 Plate28 Plate29 Plate30

[Atlas of Toronto] [Imprint on most sheets]: Surveyed & Compiled by W.S. & H.C. Boulton Toronto. / Lithographed & Published by Jno Ellis 8, King Street.
Images from this set are courtesy of the Toronto Public Library: 912.71354 B594 1858.
Winearls, MUC no. 2133

To see how the physical structure of the city changed between 1858 and 1880, compare the Boulton plates to those of Goad’s Atlas of Toronto.

Update—zoomable, scrollable version
Try out this stitched-together version my friend and I created! For best viewing, toggle the full page mode (hover your mouse over the map and push the right-most button on the top. You can use your mouse wheel to zoom in and out).

[read: the background story on this version]

This zoomable experiment caught the eye of Matt Galloway at CBC Metro Morning:

Notes on specific plates
(via Ganton/Winearls)

Plate 25: The New Town in 1858
Although this area had been a centre for provincial government buildings since the 1830s, development slowed after the government left Toronto in 1841. After the government returned in 1855, development of the area continued with row housing, rear lanes, and new streets in evidence.

Note that Government House and the Executive Council office, both in spacious grounds, were oriented to the north, rather than to the street grid. Upper Canada College and the Parliament Buildings followed the American tradition of being located in a square, rather than the British tradition of fronting on it.

The Royal Alexandra Theatre now sits on the Upper Canada College grounds and faces Roy Thomson Hall on the site of Government House.

Plate 16: "The Ward", 1858
This area immediately to the west of Yonge Street was built up with inexpensive housing by the time this plan was made. By the end of the century, the district had degenerated into a slum known as "The Ward".

This is one of few sections of the city where not only original buildings, but even many of the original streets have disappeared to make way for hospitals, the Eaton Centre, and City Hall. The few surviving buildings in this area are Osgoode Hall, Trinity Church, and the House of Industry (south of Elm at Elizabeth Street) [Only the north fa├žade of the HoI remains. -N.].

The map shows how the present width of University Avenue was achieved by combining College Avenue with Park Lane, the street giving access to lots to the east.

Plate 17: A Good Address, 1858
The area east of Yonge was also built up by 1858, but with a more substantial type of housing in brick (in red), especially at the "good addresses" along Jarvis and Church.

Most of this area was subdivided according to the McGill plan of 1836 and much resubdivision into smaller lots is evident here.

In contrast, the amalgamation of some lots along Bond Street for large institutional buildings, such as St. Michael's Cathedral and the Normal School, posed a barrier to the eastward expansion of the Yonge Street commercial area.

Plate 28: The Old Town, 1858
The ten blocks of the original town and the blocks to the north had been built up well before the 1850s. Note the Bank of Upper Canada at George and Duke and the Post Office immediately to the east, both erected two to three decades earlier when this area was the centre of town. Although the commercial centre had moved away from the Old Town, it remained a respectable residential area for some time to come.

The bend of Britain Street marks the old detour around the marshes of Taddle Creek, the route used before Queen Street was completed in the 1840s.

The Bank of Upper Canada and the jail were among the few buildings in Toronto built of stone.

Plate 24 Jameson Villa. West of Brock and Wellington on this plate may be found the villa of Robert Jameson (labelled Widder). See here for some detailed history on this building.

For some time, I wanted to do a key-map for the Boulton Atlas as a follow-up to my previous mapping project, Goad’s Atlas of Toronto -- Online! The Boulton Atlas (as discussed above) can be thought of as a fore-runner of the Goad insurance plans, showing building outlines and construction materials.

I kept putting it off because it wasn’t a Goad work, and also because I couldn’t find a satisfactory ‘vertically-aligned’ contemporary map on which to overlay the panel outlines (I’m not one of those technical types who understands kml files and georeferencing). I realized the 1857 Fleming Ridout & Schreiber plan conveniently covered the same area, and could be repurposed accordingly.

Then I thought for completeness’ sake, I ought to also post the 1842 Cane Topological map somewhere, because it too shows many building and structural outlines.

These factors combined as the major impetus for initially assembling this site.

A historical tidbit for those of you who read this far: William Henry Boulton was the Mayor of Toronto in 1858. 

Please ‘Like’ and Share these maps with other Toronto history enthusiasts! (+1s are welcome too!)