Roncesvalles, also known as Roncesvalles Village, is a Toronto neighbourhood with an old world atmosphere and charm. Bound by Bloor Street West to the north, Queen Street West to the south, Lansdowne Avenue to the east, and High Park to the west, the area is centered on Roncesvalles Avenue and is often referred to as Little Poland as it is mainly comprised of a Polish community featuring prominent Polish institutions and businesses.

The area began its existence in the mid 1800’s as farm land owned by architect John G. Howard and the Ridout family. The eastern part of the neighbourhood was owned by Colonel Walter O’Hara, of Irish origins, who named the land Roncesvalles as a tribute to a gorge in northern Spain where, in 1813, he fought in the British ranks against the retreating army of Napoleon Bonaparte.

As the construction boom started to take place in Toronto during the early 1900’s, dwellings began to be erected in Roncesvalles where the majority of residents were of British descent. The advent of the Gardiner Expressway in 1955 led to the area’s demise, from a commercial standpoint, which caused its real estate value to sink and its wealthy residents to move out to the suburbs. 

Polish immigrants who made their way to Canada, Toronto in particular, following the end of the Second World War began to settle in the neighbourhood. Shortly after, the district became mostly Polish comprised of Polish business establishments and places of worship; although, many of Roncesvalles current streets continue to carry names reminiscent of Colonel O’Hara such as Constance Street which he named after his daughter, Geoffrey Street after his son, Marion Street after his wife, Fermanagh Avenue after his county of birth in Ireland, and Alhambra Avenue after a Palace in Granada, Spain.

Roncesvalles Village is now a bustling residential district with a multitude of restaurants, deli shops, cafes, shopping venues, and markets. The Roncesvalles Village Polish Festival, the largest of its kind in the country, is held in the area every fall. The neighbourhood is also home to a number of loft-style condo conversions such as the 347 Sorauren, the Robert Watson Lofts at 363 and 369 Sorauren Avenue, Roncesvalles Lofts at 25 Ritchie Avenue, and others.

As far as green spaces, Roncesvalles is home to High Park, Toronto’s largest public park with diverse vegetation, hiking trails, sports facilities, and a gorgeous lakefront. There’s also Sorauren Park at the intersection of Sorauren and Wabash avenues with 2 soccer fields and 2 tennis courts.

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