The Soup That Fuelled Don Mills

1952

Don Mills

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While most streets in “Toronto the Good” rolled up the sidewalks shortly after the workday was done, Chinatown — the original, that is, where Viljo Revell’s “new” city hall stands today — was the exception. And there, in the corner of a brightly lit, steamy restaurant, a knot of urban planners dreamt up much of Don Mills, in 1952–53.

Don Mills 1939, Courtesy Survey and Mapping Services, City of Toronto.

Their leader, 27-year-old Macklin “Mack” Hancock, liked the food, while the others at the table, which included at least one person of Asian heritage, 25-year-old architect Douglas Lee, were happy for the change of scenery.

These Chinatown visits weren’t social calls: jockeying for position amongst the soup bowls, plates of noodles and spicy meats were topographic maps, survey reports and piles of statistics. A recipe, if you will, for a modernist “New Town” spread over 2,000 acres that would house 30,000 people, a newfangled “Convenience Centre” and dozens of light industrial plants. “I used to get in at four in the morning,” remembered Lee a half-century later, “because we were working really late planning out streets, choosing street names, and so we’d always go out for dinner… and one of our favourite dishes was a soup made of what English people would call mustard greens but in Chinese it’s ‘guytoi.’”

Today, near the corner of Don Mills Road and The Donway West, tiny Guytoi Court commemorates these steamy, busy nights… while revealing a little urban planning humour.

By Dave LeBlanc

Don Mills 1939, Courtesy Survey and Mapping Services, City of Toronto. View the image gallery