Roncesvalles neighborhood, also known as Roncy Village, is located at the west of downtown. This charming neighbourhood is one of the best places to live in Toronto. The significant feature of this neighbourhood is its prominent European climate and in particular its Polish culture. Let’s review some distinctive attributes of the Little Poland of Toronto.
History of Roncesvalles
What is now known as Roncesvalles neighbourhood was originally farm lots that belonged to the Ridout family. They only built two houses on the farm, one of which is now St. Joseph’s Hospital, and the other one is High Park now.
Roncesvalles was first established in 1850 by Colonel Walter O’Hara. He named the streets after his family members and history, including Marion Street (after his wife), Constance Street (after his daughter), and Geoffrey Street (after his son). Roncesvalles Avenue borrowed its name from the Battle of Roncesvalles in 1813 took place in the Roncesvalles gorge in Spain and Colonel O’Hara has fought in.
After World War II, a very large number of Eastern Europeans, especially Poles, immigrated to Canada and settled in Roncesvalles. They built their churches and changed the atmosphere of the neighborhood with the Polish culture. But the main development of the neighborhood started in the early 1900s when streetcars came to the area.
Demography of Roncesvalles
This neighborhood has a population of 15,050 residents, 45% of which are homeowners. Until 2006, 5.5% of the population of Roncesvalles identified Polish as their mother tongue. The impact of Polish culture is completely recognizable by the collection of Polish language books in the local library and the Polish-language lessons in the local school, St. Vincent de Paul separate school.
Architecture of Roncesvalles
There are a number of Victorian homes in the Roncesvalles neighborhood built in 1900 with the ‘foursquare’ style originally designed for the middle class. Later from 1910 to 1930, some wealthier families came to Roncesvalles and built many magnificent houses on High Park Gardens and High Park Boulevard. The Old Howard Park School was the first school of the neighborhood built in the 20th century.
The Revue Cinema is Toronto’s oldest movie theatre. It was built between 1911 and 1912 with a brilliant Art Deco Edwardian architecture. Its theatorium had a small stage with a movable screen which was used as both playhouse and showing the latest movies. In 1936, Kaplan & Sprachman architects reconstructed the cinema with a marquee and 543 seats.
In 1980, the Revue joined the Festival Cinemas chain and operates as a repertory cinema. After the death of its owner and the end of the Festival Cinemas chain, they intended to close the theatre. But the Revue Film Society put their best effort into preserving the cinema. Now, it is Toronto’s longest running independent cinema since 1911.
St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church
St Vincent de Paul is a parish of the Roman Catholic Church located in Roncesvalles neighborhood. It was first established in 1914 by Fr Launcelot Minehan. The building was designed by Mr. James Michael Cowan who borrowed elements from the Madeleine Catholic Church in Paris, and finished it based on the local circumstances and financial resources.
After the development of the neighbourhood in the early 1900s, the nearby industries brought many job opportunities to the new immigrants and St.Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church was a kind of spiritual center for them.
Best schools in Roncesvalles
There are 9 public schools, 6 catholic schools and 1 private school in Roncesvalles neighborhood. The school test scores in Roncesvalles are 31% higher than the national average.
Fern Avenue Public School was established in 1894 and serves more than 500 students until now including Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8. It also has a child-care center, a parenting center, and a swimming pool.
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School St. has a friendly, challenging, and exciting educational environment. They also provide programs for Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8. They have many co-curricular activities like field trips, concerts, festivals, musicals and chess and mathematics contests. Areas with the best schools in Toronto are very popular for families.
Recreation in Roncesvalles
The Roncesvalles neighbourhood is centered on Roncesvalles Avenue. This street has always been famous for the cultural and commercial impact of its Polish residents. Roncesvalles Polish Festival has been held every year in the neighbourhood. It is the largest celebration of Polish culture in North America.
There are so many small businesses, small restaurants, and cafés serving various cuisines in this street. Roncesvalles neighbourhood has 7 parks, 1 Dog Park and 7 playgrounds.
Parks in Roncesvalles
High Park, which was Colborne Lodge of Mr. Howard’s own cottage back in 1837, was opened to the public as a park in 1876. Now it is a 161 hectares (400 acres) municipal park with sport facilities, cultural and educational facilities, playgrounds and a zoo. High Park is Toronto’s second-largest municipal park, which has a rare oak savannah ecology. It is a favorite spot for walkers, joggers and nature lovers.
One of the significant events in High Park is the Cherry Blossom Watch Tour. These trees aged back in 1959, when the Japanese ambassador presented 2000 Japanese Sakura trees to the citizens of Toronto.
Sorauren Park was a farm back in the 1800s and opened as a park in 1995. Now it is a 2.42 hectares Public Park with several sporting fields and a farmer’s market each Monday. The fieldhouse in Sorauren Park hosts many community gatherings. It also has two mini-soccer fields, two tennis courts and one baseball diamond. Every Halloween, the event of the annual “Pumpkin Parade” challenges all the residents around the park.
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The Charles G. Williams is a small park founded in 2017. It has a big playground and very kid-friendly environment. One of the prominent features of CGW is its mature tree canopy. It also has a basketball court, a wading pool and community recreation facilities.
Where to eat in Roncesvalles
Toronto’s Roncesvalles neighborhood has many restaurants, pubs, and coffee houses, Polish butcheries, delicatessens, showing its strong Polish roots.
Roncesvalles Village or “Roncy” is a very charming place for those who love European foods. There are many family-owned cafes and shops in the area with the tempting smell of the local bakeries. You can eat hand-made perogies, desirable sausages, sauerkraut, cabbage rolls and different types of traditional soups.
One of the best polish restaurants in the neighborhood is Cafe Polonez. They serve home style Polish dishes with many Polish beers in a very fun and relaxing space. They also serve breakfast, everything is so simple but so good. The price is fair and the food is marvelously tasty.
Another choice for eating Polish food would be Chopin Restaurant in Roncesvalles neighborhood. They serve Polish specialties like schnitzel and pierogi. You can enjoy every meal there, from breakfast to dinner. Or enjoy the night with the taste of wines and soft drinks in a good vibe and friendly atmosphere.
And for a sip of good coffee in Roncesvalles neighbourhood, you can go to Extra Butter café. In this lovely café you can taste a good coffee, delicious donuts and see a wonderful book and mug library. You will love this blue painted cozy café at the first moment.
Galleries in Roncesvalles
Gallery House is a commercial gallery devoted to the work of senior artists. It was founded in 2009 to exhibit the works of most in demand contemporary artists. They specialize in absorbing more audiences and developing relationships with art dealers around the world. It has a very welcoming atmosphere with a lovely store selling magical art pieces.
Where to get fit in Roncesvalles
If you are looking for a professional healthy space to get fit in the Roncesvalles neighborhood, the Fit District is a good choice located right in the middle of Roncesvalles Avenue. It has a non-competitive environment in small groups of maximum ten clients per class or personal training classes. Their professional coaches focus on personal needs and fitness goals of each client.
Snap Fitness is also located in Roncesvalles Avenue. It is a 24/7 facility with a friendly and comfortable environment. They have custom training programs, nutrition education and meal planning and access to modern strength and cardio equipment.
As a Toronto real estate agent, I can characterize Roncesvalles neighborhood with its European ambience. Living in the beautiful Victorian and Edwardian century houses of Roncesvalles feels like a small-town area. Its proximity to downtown, excellent access to public transit (streetcars, subway station, and bus station) and the perfect walkability of the area make it a convenient place to live in. In recent years Roncesvalles has become one of the hottest neighbourhoods in Toronto’s real estate market.