Bellamy Village, Ontario
Location: Scarborough town lot 20, concession D. Near 43.7405 N, -79.2305 W.
On June 15, 1891 the council of the township of Scarborough considered an application for opening Bellamy and Bye Avenues proposed in the plan of subdivision for an approximately 100-acre (about 40-hectare) parcel of land on the town lot 20 concession D. In those days land subdivisions were not publicly regulated, though any road or street connecting with the town roads had to be approved by local councils and their approval was required for the laying out of subdivisions. This is how Plan 1095 on lot 20 concession D came before the Scarborough council. The decision was deferred to the next meeting.
The proposed development would have been called Bellamy Village, as the special meeting of the council was held on July 15, 1891, a month after the previous meeting, on the site of “Bellamy Village at lot 20 concession D” as recorded in the township council’s minutes. Mr. E.A. Macdonald, the advocate or sponsor of the subdivision, was heard in the petition to consider admissibility of opening up and extending Bellamy Avenue — which in the plan ran parallel to the railway tracks in a southwest-northeast direction, and Bye Avenue, running north-south on the western edge of the subdivision. The meeting concluded with a notice to introduce a bylaw at the next meeting.
On August 28, 1891 the township council approved the bylaw to open and extend the avenues shown on Plan 1095. The plan showed only a piece of land laid out in a barebones subdivision plan meant to be developed later. No houses, communal or individual, seem to have been built. Even the plan as late as 1910 does not show outlines of house lots. The village remained a promise or dream for which land was staked. For almost ten years nothing happened. However, Bellamy Village was said to have been inspired by the utopian socialist novel Looking Backward: 2000-1877 published in 1888 by the American writer, Edward Bellamy (1850-1898).
Bellamy Village site is north of the present day Canadian National Railway track at the corner formed by Bellamy Road North and Eglinton Avenue East. The plan had seven north-south streets fanning out of what is now Porchester Drive (designated as Bellamy in the original plan of subdivision) at the southern end of the site paralleling the railway track along the southwest-northeast axis. What is now Bellamy Road was called North Secor.
Some traces of the original plan survive in the form of sections of the proposed seven streets, which have been laterally interconnected to form loops of typical suburban residential crescents. The site remained vacant until the late 1940s when it began to be built over to form today’s residential subdivision that blends indistinguishably in the vast swath of suburban Scarborough. The renaming of North Secor as Bellamy Road was 2 probably a tribute to Edward Bellamy. The street name is all that remains of the dream to build a utopian community there.
The end to the idea of building Bellamy Village came in a dramatic way. At the December 13, 1900 meeting of the township council, after nine years of township consent to open roads and thus accept the subdivision plan, a petition by Smith Wilson and eighty-two other citizens asked the council to rescind the opening of roads and suspend spending money on streets in Bellamy Village. This petition sank the proposal. The streets remained no more than dotted lines on a map until development occurred in the 1940s and 1950s.
What was it about Bellamy Village that roiled eighty-three citizens of the township to demand choking the subdivision? There are no records of the basis of the petition. Yet the council’s assent suggests that their sentiments had resonance with the petitioners. Could it have been the social ideals associated with the idea of Bellamy Village and/or something about the group proposing the community?
The fact that the sponsor of the Bellamy Village subdivision was a disciple of Edward Bellamy suggests that it was conceived in the idiom of Bellamy’s socialist movement called “Nationalism,” which was closely tied to the Christian Society of Socialists. The Nationalism Movement’s utopian vision is laid out in Looking Backward. The book was enormously successful, and was translated into twenty languages. It envisioned a United States in which the government was the sole corporation and in which every citizen was a shareholder, received equal income, was entitled to own a home, and was assigned jobs according to the country’s needs and an individual’s capabilities. This utopia was to be achieved gradually through peaceful, non-violent means.
Bellamy Village was proposed at the time when Nationalism clubs were being formed across North America. Perhaps the sponsors were a community of Bellamite believers, who wanted to live close together. Their utopia may have been a cooperative society working for public ownership of local utility services. That is a surmise about the social ideals that may have been associated with Bellamy Village. Those ideals could have earned it the title of a utopian community. On the subdivision plan, the Village appeared to be a typical subdivision of those times. Whether it was to have been a utopian community or not remains unanswered, any potential evidence apparently lost in the fog of time. It certainly never came near fruition.
by Mohammad A. Qadeer
- Bonis, Robert R., ed. 1968. A history of Scarborough. Scarborough: Scarborough Public Library.
- Scarborough. Minutes of Scarborough Township Council, 1891-1900. Toronto: Toronto Archives.
- Scarborough. Township plans, 1910. Scarborough: Scarborough Archives.
- Schofield, Rick. Personal communication. November 2011. Archivist, Scarborough ON.
The author wishes to gratefully acknowledge help from Mr. Rick Schofield in clarifying many points and identifying possible sources of information