Welcome to Walk Liberty!
Walk Liberty is an interactive, online portal that showcases the rich history, public spaces, and dynamic and eclectic businesses of Liberty Village. Get outside, explore the neighbourhood and support your local businesses.
This is one of thirteen stops along a walking tour of Liberty Village.
1209 King Street West, at the southeast corner of King and Dufferin Streets, was one of Toronto’s first automotive plants. Built for the Russell Motorcar Company, the factory produced auto parts, and during the First World War, munitions for the war effort. After the war, Russell was acquired by American firm Willys-Overland, a predecessor to American Motors and Chrysler. Today, the building is home to offices, studios, and shops, including communications and marketing firms.
For over 125 years, streetcars served this intersection, bringing commuters to work and school, sports fans to nearby stadiums, and fairgoers to the Canadian National Exhibition and Royal Winter Fair.
The 504 King streetcar is the third-busiest transit line in the Greater Toronto Area, behind only the Yonge-University and Bloor-Danforth subways, and the 29 Dufferin is one of the TTC’s busiest bus routes. Though the railways shaped Liberty Village, it was the streetcar – and in later years the bus – that filled it with workers for over 125 years.
The King Streetcar — Toronto’s third transit route — reached Strachan Avenue in 1878; by 1894, new electric streetcar service was extended west to Roncesvalles Avenue and south to the Exhibition Grounds at the end of Dufferin Street, bringing workers to the front doors of Liberty Village factories. Another streetcar route, Dovercourt, terminated at King and Shaw Streets, bringing in thousands of workers from the north.
By the 1980s, commuting patterns changed. More transit riders were headed downtown, working in new skyscrapers, shopping at new malls, and visiting new entertainment venues. In the meantime, old industries in and around Liberty Village were in decline. As streetcars were snarled in downtown traffic, transit service to Liberty Village — which was quickly transforming with new residences, studios, and offices — suffered.
Improvements to Exhibition GO Station and a new TTC loop for Bathurst and Waterfront streetcars helped better connect Liberty Village, as did an extension of the 63 Ossington bus through the neighbourhood, but the slow and overcrowded King Streetcar remained the biggest problem, a victim of the city’s success.
By 2017, the City of Toronto introduced transit priority measures on King Street, while the TTC added new, larger streetcars to meet the needs of residents and workers in Liberty Village, Parkdale, and elsewhere along the busy corridor. A proposed new GO Transit/SmartTrack station at King Street at Atlantic Avenue will help even more people arrive at Liberty, while the planned Ontario Line will terminate at Exhibition GO Station. Soon, Liberty Village will be among the most connected places in Toronto.
King and Dufferin Streets, 1917, looking towards the Russell factory on the southeast corner. Department of National Defence, Library and Archives Canada, Item 3371129
Workers from Inglis, Massey-Harris and other nearby plants line up to board the Dovercourt Streetcar in February 1927. Twenty years later, the Dovercourt Streetcar would be replaced by modern trolley buses. Today, the 63 Ossington bus follows a similar route.
City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 385
Continue your tour…
Location 5 King St W and Atlantic Ave – 500 metres east (136 Atlantic Avenue)
Location 7 Dufferin and Liberty Streets – 175 metres south-east (233 Dufferin Street)
Location 9 Liberty and Mowat Streets – 175 metres south-east (67 Mowat Avenue)
Support Liberty Local. Check out these nearby businesses!
Cafés and Restaurants
Caffino 1185 King St W
Louie Craft Coffee 1187 King St W
Subway 1207 King St W
Family Care Pharmacy 1209 King St W
Athlete’s Care 1209 King St W
Liberty Village Eye Care 1209 King St W
Explore the amazing history of Liberty Village. Check out the full walking tour here!