St. John's Ward, popularly known as "the Ward", was an area in Toronto bounded by Queen Street to the south, Yonge Street to the east, College Street to the north, and University Avenue to the west. The Ward was considered to be one of the poorest and unhealthiest areas in the city.
By the turn of the 20th Century, the majority of the Ward's inhabitants were Eastern European Jewish immigrants, who took up residence in the small stuccoed frame cottages dating from the 1850s and 1860s. Initially, settlers chose the Ward because of the need for inexpensive accomodations close to the central business district where employment was available. However, later Jewish immigrants also settled in the Ward because previous settlers had reconstructed the amenities and the security of the shtetl.
By 1911, the Ward was a self-contained community of Jewish services and facilities, supporting education, religious, social and business institutions. But with the influx to the area came a higher demand for housing and as a result, rents increased, congestion became alarmingly high and living conditions deteriorated. Many cottages housed three or four families, plus a workshop, in fewer than five rooms with no plumbing or drainage.
By the onset of the First World War, civic and business development began encroaching on the residential area of the Ward and many Jewish residents began the move westward into the Kensington Market area. The war also brought with it greater opportunities for the small merchant and salvage trades and as the economic conditions of the immigrant improved, the confidence and expectations of the younger generation increased. By the end of the war, only a few Jewish residents remained in the Ward.
There is no information on the source or the acquisition of the images. The slides were probably used as part of a study and presentation on the conditions of the Ward and its immigrant inhabitants.
Scope and Content
This fonds consists of 15 images depicting Jewish life in the Ward and Jewish religious practices during Rosh Hashana. The 15 glass slides are the original images, while the 26 slides and 1 negative are copies that were probably made for presentation purposes.
There are several images of Jewish children of the Ward, including one of Jewish newsboys, as well as two images of Jewish businesses, one streetscape and a typical St. John's Ward home. There are also several images depicting men and women engaged in the tradition/custom of Tashlich at theToronto waterfront on the first day of Rosh Hashana.
Speisman, Steven. St. John's Shtetl: the Ward in 1911.