A lively cosmopolitan neighbourhood in the City of Toronto is Willowdale. It is the home to fantastic custom-built homes, luxury condominiums, a world-class aquatic centre, a modern civic centre, shiny towering office buildings, a newly remodelled shopping centre with theatre complex, and the infamous Centre for the Performing Arts. The Centre for the Performing Arts plays host to both world class, as well as local entertainment. Willowdale is ideal for residents who want to live where they work and play.
This neighbourhood is also home to infamous Earl Haig Secondary School located at 100 Princess Avenue. Earl Haig is best known for the Claude Watson Arts Program, however the academic program at the school is equally as impressive. The Claude Watson program offers students the opportunity to major in one of the four major arts, music, dance, drama, or visual arts. The school has been newly rebuilt offering a fresh and modern learning environment for students.
Willowdale is bounded with Finch Avenue to the north, Highway 401 to the south, Bayview Avenue to the east, and Bathurst Street to the west.
Originally known as “Kummer’s Settlement”, Willowdale was first settled by Jacob Cummer. Cummer had emigrated from the United States to Canada in 1797. He was owned a Tinsmith shop on Yonge Street, and a Mill near the Don River. Cummer was also a veterinarian and self trained doctor. His neighbours held him in such high regard they chose to name the area after him.
Another prominent member and leader of the Kummer Settlement was David Gibson. He was best known as being a distinguished land surveyor. In 1837, Gibson was a participant in the doomed Toronto Rebellion. Gibson managed to escape back to the United States after being charged with high treason because of his participation in the Toronto Rebellion. In the United States Gibson landed on his feet securing a prominent position building the Erie Canal as the First Assistant Engineer.
In 1851, after receiving a pardon for his role in the Toronto Rebellion, Gibson returned to his farm on Yonge Street. After which he established the “Willow Dale” post office. Gibson took inspiration for the post office’s name from the abundance of willow trees in the area. In the 1920’s development of the Willowdale residential subdivision began. There were still members of the Gibson family living in the Gibson House at this time.
Today the Gibson House circa 1851 can be found at its original location, 5172 Yonge Street. It is open to the general public as a historic museum.