Scarborough made its name known in the 1950s, with its famous "Golden Mile" of industry (Eglinton Avenue East) and new suburban communities, but its history as an agricultural region dotted with crossroads villages and mills goes back a century and half before that.
The City of Toronto Archives has records, created by municipal governments as well as private groups and individuals, about Scarborough, including personal papers; published books and reports; and visual material, including maps and photographs.
On the beach, Scarborough
- Pre 1850: Scarborough is part of York County
- January 1, 1850: Scarborough is incorporated as a township
- April 15, 1953: Scarborough becomes one of 13 municipalities in the new Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto
- January 1, 1967: Scarborough is incorporated as a borough
- June 1983: Scarborough is incorporated as a city
- Janaury 1, 1998: Scarborough ceases to be an individual municipality and becomes part of the amalgamated City of Toronto
Types of records
The Archives has Scarborough assessment rolls from 1853 to 1991. To find them, ask Research Hall staff for the guide to Scarborough assessment rolls.
The records of the former Metro (regional) government and its agencies, boards, and commissions also include information about matters relevant to Scarborough, including public works, such as water mains; transportation, such as roads and the TTC; planning; parks; and social services. To find these records, search on your research topic in the Gencat database, or speak to Reference Desk staff.
Toronto City Directory 1926
Parts of Scarborough (often written as "Scarboro") are listed in the Toronto city directories in a separate suburban section (see each year's table of contents for page numbers) from 1917 to 1929. Starting in 1930, Scarborough listings are part of the main directory. Between 1983 and 1995, Scarborough listings appear only in the "east" edition of the directory, which is not published every year. After 1995, Scarborough listings appear in one separate volume.
Directories are available on microfilm in the Microfilm Room.
The Archives has fire insurance plans on microfilm for parts of Scarborough for 1950, 1956, 1959, and 1969. They are found in boxes titled "Goad's" or "Underwriters'" in the metal cabinets in the Microfilm Room.
Each set of maps begins with a key map and an index of street names. You can use either to find your area. A key to the symbols used in the maps is found on the bulletin board in the Microfilm Room at the back of the Research Hall.
To find maps showing Scarborough, look in the binder in the Research Hall labelled "Cartographic Collection," or use the Gencat database. Reference Desk staff can show you how to use the database. The Archives also has several atlases that may be useful. They are found on shelves at the back of the Research Hall.
The aerial photographs cover the Scarborough area from 1947 to 1992. A selection of years is online. A smaller group of valley lands from 1937 to 1942 is also online. A more complete run of years is available on computers in the Research Hall.
The Archives holds published reports regarding Scarborough, including those on topics such as public transit, roads, Rouge Valley Park, and the construction of the Scarborough Civic Centre, as well as official plans. Look in the Research Hall Library in the "Government Reports" section under the category you are interested in, or search the Gencat database.
These general reference books on the history of Scarborough are available in the Archives Research Hall Library and are a good place to start your research:
Robert A Bonis, ed., History of Scarborough
(Scarborough: Scarborough Public Library 1965 or 1968)
971.3541 B64 1965 or 1968
Ron Brown, Toronto's Lost Villages
(Toronto: Polar Bear Press 1997)
971.3541 B81 1997
Barbara Myrvold, The People of Scarborough: A History
(Don Mills: City of Scarborough Public Library Board 1997)
971.3541 M99 1997
Scarborough Historical Notes and Comments
(Scarborough: Scarborough Historical Society)
971.354 SC7 1988
Books on more specific Scarborough topics may be found by searching in the Gencat database. These topics might include places (such as The Guild), individual communities (such as Woburn and Agincourt), organizations, landmarks (such as the Scarborough Van Plant and the Scarborough Bluffs), and events.
R.C. Harris Water Filtration Plant
Series 372, Sub-series 72, Item 2033
To find photographs of Scarborough places and events, search on your research topic in the Gencat database.
For general information, see the information file titled "Scarborough." You may also find other information files about more specific topics, including places (such as the Scarborough Bluffs, the Toronto Zoo, and the Rouge River watershed), projects (such as the LRT), landmarks, or events.
For a list of information file titles, please consult Reference Desk staff. For a list of Scarborough mayors and other municipal information, please ask Reference Desk staff for the binder entitled "Scarborough Reference Highlights."
You may also search on your research topic in the Gencat database.
Photographic highlights include the construction of the R.C. Harris water filtration plant (Series 162, Subseries 1 and RG 8, Subseries 76, 77, and 78), and views of the Scarborough Bluffs from 1900 to the 1920s (Fonds 1244 and Series 71). Highlights of other media include records of the Guild of All Arts and the Guild Inn (Fonds 19) and the Tommy Thompson Fonds (Fonds 46), which includes records about the Toronto Zoo. To find these, search on your research topic in the Gencat database, or ask Reference Desk staff for help.
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