History of Vaughan
Vaughan, named for Benjamin Vaughan (one of the peace negotiators ending the American War of Independence), was created in 1792 when Governor John Graves Simcoe divided Upper Canada into townships for ease of administration. In the ensuing years, the township was surveyed and roads were established from the town of York (Toronto) as a means of encouraging settlement in the area.
The first settlers to arrive were Pennsylvanian Germans from the United States, but the influx of homesteaders was a mere trickle at first. In 1800, there were a mere 54 people in all of Vaughan Township. After the war of 1812, however, a massive wave of British migrants flooded the area. By 1840, all arable land in Vaughan was accounted for, the population stood at 4,300, and most of the communities we recognize today, had been founded.
Thornhill and Woodbridge were the two principal villages in Vaughan. Thornhill, founded around 1805 and named after prominent resident Benjamin Thorne, owed its importance to its strategic location along Yonge Street, the main thoroughfare into northern York County. Woodbridge was a relatively late starter. It was founded in 1837, when Rowland Burr built wool, saw, and grist mills along the Humber River. The village that emerged around these industries was originally known as Burwick, but later became Woodbridge. Throughout the 19th century, this community was home to a thriving lumber trade and a large agricultural implements factory.
As a whole, however, Vaughan Township retained its rural character. In fact, by 1935 the population stood at a mere 4,873. However, the end of World War II sparked a second influx of immigration, so that by 1960, the population had more than tripled to 15,957. Many of these newcomers were Italians and Eastern Europeans, changing forever the ethnic landscape of Vaughan.
Today, the City of Vaughan is a cosmopolitan urban centre that embraces residential, commercial and industrial development, looking proudly and confidently toward the future while also preserving the past.
In the past 20 years, Vaughan has experienced unprecedented industrial and commercial growth. From virtually no industrial base in 1980, the City of Vaughan is now home to more than 7,000 businesses. Per capita, its business development is the fastest of any municipality in Canada, and it was selected as one of the Five Best Cities in Canada for Business by the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business magazine. Much of this attraction is due to low taxes, a readily available labour force, and access to major transportation routes. With an extremely positive and proactive approach to business, the City of Vaughan has ambitious plans for continued growth over the next quarter century.
The evolution of the communities that these businesses call home has been just as dramatic. Vaughan has grown from a loose collection of small towns into a major urban centre prosperous and unified with a shared vision for the future, boasting state of the art public facilities and world-class infrastructure. It’s a city not just in name, but in deed as well.
Vaughan is served by York Region Transit, GO Transit, and the TTC, which combine to provide an intricate transportation network. In addition, York Region is developing a rapid transit network linking the urban centres along Highway 7 and Yonge Street, and the Spadina subway line is expected soon to run to York University, Highway 7, and then the new downtown core of the City of Vaughan.
Today, the population sits at around 185,000. This is expected to rise to about 305,000 in 2021. Woodbridge, currently the largest community with 75,000 residents, will reach 110,000 at that time. Maple, home to 30,000 today, will experience the greatest growth, peaking at 80,000, while Thornhill, the historic heart of Vaughan, will experience only modest growth from 70,000 today to 82,000. The growth has been planned, however, to ensure that Vaughan remains an attractive and enjoyable place to both work and live.
As befits a modern city, Vaughan is home to numerous attractions. Key among them is Paramount’s Canada Wonderland, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, and the huge new Vaughan Mills shopping mall. There are also excellent golf courses, unrivaled entertainment experiences at the Famous Players’ Colossus and Interchange 400 cinemas, and several conservation areas to serve as sanctuaries in an increasingly urbanized environment.
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