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Wellesley

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Wellesley station is a moderately busy subway station on the YONGE SUBWAY, just below Bloor station. It opened with the rest of the original Yonge line on March 30, 1954. As well as serving its local community north of Toronto’s downtown core, the station contains a number of unique features which has led to the City of Toronto’s recognition of the station as a heritage property. Operating in the shadow of Bloor-Yonge station and under the literal shadow of development that opened after the station was built, Wellesley contributes to the subway’s utility and history.

A Brief History of Wellesley Street

The area where Wellesley Street runs was north of the city when Toronto incorporated in 1834. It’s not on any maps before 1843. However, development was building north on Yonge Street and a street on Wellesley’s alignment appeared in the 1851 Fleming Topographical Plan of the City of Toronto, running from Surrey Place to Jarvis Street. The street may have been named Duncan Street in 1855, and the section from Yonge west was named St. Albans Street in an 1858 map, which also showed the street extending west to Parliament.

The name Wellesley was applied to the street in 1859f, running from Queen’s Park Circle to east of Parliament Street, ending near the Rosedale Valley ravine. The name was chosen to honour Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), who was the first Duke of Wellington, and the leader of the military fforces that defeated Napoleon in Waterloo.

The street remained primarily residential through the 19th century and well into the 20th. It saw no direct transit service until November 1, 1935, with the launch of the WELLESLEY-ROSEDALE bus. This route, which served the neighbourhood of Rosedale, filled in the gap between the CARLTON and BLOOR streetcars, serving the University of Toronto campus, and terminating at Spadina Avenue where HARBORD cars picked up service for points west. Service operated Mondays to Saturdays, but the route confirmed Wellesley’s place as an important local street.

The First Outdoor Station Building

Wellesley’s importance made it a stop on the Yonge streetcar subway as part of the TTC’s 1942 subway plan. Although this plan was sent back to the drawing board, Wellesley station was still in place as part of the 1946 plan for the YONGE SUBWAY. This plan, which was approved by Toronto voters, called for the subway to operate beneath Yonge Street from Front to College, before diverting east and heading north parallel to Yonge Street to St. Clair. Initial plans called for the line to be in open cut through most of the alignment, while later plans covered over the alignment from College to north of Bloor.

This alignment effectively split the YONGE subway into two distinct sections, which roughly corresponded with the travel patterns of the time. The stations south of Wellesley were built beneath Yonge Street itself, and budgetary concerns meant that the TTC did not spend much when it came to station structures. The fare collection areas were in mezzanine levels directly beneath the streets. The entrances to the subway were stairwells built into the sidewalks on the surface or, in a few cases, entrances built into the basement levels of nearby buildings.

Moving out from under Yonge Street into an open cut meant that the TTC wasn’t as restricted in its surface architecture. The lower land prices north of College meant that some investments could be made. And while the stations from College south to Union were seen as downtown stations where passengers would get off and walk to nearby jobs in the surrounding office buildings, the stations from Wellesley north to Union were designed to receive passenger traffic from elsewhere. Here, in the morning rush hour, the TTC expected more passengers to come to these stations, and continue their journey south.

Thus, coming up from Union, Wellesley Station would be the first station on the YONGE subway to have its own entrance building on the surface, and care was taken to build a well-lit, clean-looking modern structure, courtesy architect John Parkin. Nathan Ng, on his website Station Fixation notes the words of W.H. Petersen, who was the TTC’s General Manager of Subway Construction and Engineering at the time, as posted in his unpublished memoirs entitled Canada’s First Subway:

“It was intended that the Wellesley Station would set a pattern to be followed in the design of other above ground stations—which it did… this meeting with the Commissioners, who were pleased with what they saw, gave us the necessary guidance to get on with the design of all the stations.”

Design Features and Changes Since the Opening.

Welllesley Station was built several metres east of Yonge Street on the north side Wellesley Street, featuring a combined entrace and bus terminal facility within a single-level glasa and brick structure. The building faces Wellesley Street with a long, flat roof with a crescent edge facing towards the street as well as a long line of glass doors between two walls of bricks. The building’s back is curved to match the bus roadway, and features glass doors nad windows running floor to ceiling between brick and concrete posts. Stairs and (later) escalators took passengers down one level from this entrance to the two side platforms around the tracks.

The station followed the same tiling style of the rest of the original YONGE subway line, using glass Vitrolite tiles (in this case, grey) and a complementing trim (green). The station also offered lockers, and spaces for pay telephones.

When Wellesley Station opened on March 30, 1954, the bus terminal served ROSEDALE buses. This service followed the modern day 82 ROSEDALE route to Rosedale station then, after looping through that station, continued south on Yonge to loop through Wellesley station, and then went west on Wellesley to loop near Spadina Avenue. DOWNTOWN buses arrived on October 21, 1954, operating from Wellesley station south on Yonge to Front Street, largely at the behest of stores and busineses on Yonge which wanted to bolster shopping traffic. The Wellesley Street portion of the ROSEDALE route would be broken off into WELLESLEY on April 11, 1955, operating from Wellesley station to Spadina Avenue. Service on Wellesley east of Yonge was eliminated, with residents expected to walk to the station, or to CARLTON or BLOOR streetcars, and this would remain until February 26, 1966, with the opening of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway and Castle Frank Station.

Wellesley station’s clean modernist look was recognized in 1984 when the City of Toronto declared it a heritage property. However, much had already happened to the station which hid its architectural finery from the public. In the mid-1970s, a parking garage was built overtop the station building, enclosing the bus terminal and blocking off the sun. In 1984 and 1985, the TTC renovated the station, removing the cracking and unfortunately irreplacable Vitrolite tiles and changing the colour scheme using teal ceramic tiles and a complementary trim of a darker blue green. The lockers were removed, and a newsstand and convenience booth was added.

Further Developments and a New Entrance.

For years following its opening, Wellesley was a secondary station on the original YONGE subway line. Bloor and College stations received more traffic, and Wellesley’s bus terminal rarely saw more than a single bus route. Most of its passengers walked in from residential neighbourhoods northeast of the station, or left to head to the University of Toronto (until the opening of the UNIVERSITY subway offered a more convenient connection). However, over time, the area began to change.

The rise of the LGTBQ community around the Church/Wellesley intersection, and increasing development in downtown Toronto at the end of the 20th century saw an increase in commercial and residential development up Yonge Street and around Wellesley station. New condominium projects raised ridership, and the TTC started looking at upgrading its older stations to handle the new ridership and meet more modern safety regulations. Wellesley opened with a single entrance, whereas subway stations today need two distinct paths between teh subway platforms and the surface in case of emergencies. With the development of a new condominium project on Dundonald Street at the north end of the station box, the TTC worked with the developer to arrange for a secondary entrance to be established. Strasmanarch Architects was commissioned to design the entrance that would be built with the condo tower. Initially a separate entrance building was proposed, but changes to the building’s design ended up incorporating the entrance into the larger structure.

Plans for the new entrance was tendered in 2011. Work on the second entrance within the Wellesley station box began in the fall of 2014, and the stairs and the secondary mezzanine level was largely complete by 2017. The building that housed them, however, was not, whcih prevented the opening of the new entrance until well into 2019.

At the same time, the TTC began work on making Wellesley station wheelchair accessible, building two elevators to connect the mezzanine level with each of the subway platforms. Work continued through 2018 and 2019, and the station is expected to be designated as accessible in 2020.

The Future

Wellesley station continues to serve as a secndary station of the YONGE-UNIVERSITY subway line, with most of its passengers walking in from surrounding residences and businesses. However, the number of businesses and residences has significantly increased from the time Wellesley station opened in 1954. Redevelopments along Wellesley Street will be carried in by the 94 WELLESLEY bus and a segment that didn’t operate between 1954 and 1966 (Wellesley to Castle Frank station) is now part of the TTC’s 10-minute network. New condominium towers in and around the station should bolster traffic well into the future, and while the gem of the station’s entrance has been covered over, its architectural subtleties can still be seen and appreciated inside.

Trivia

  • Wellesley station is the site of the only baby to be born on Toronto’s subway. On February 6, 2006, the pregnant Sun Hee Paik took the subway from her Scarborough home with her family to try and reach St. Michael’s Hospital to deliver her baby. She did not make it to the hospital, and went into labour on the train. They disembarked at Wellesley station, where her husband delivered the baby until Toronto Emergency Medical Services personnel arrived to help finish the birth and send mother and child onto St. Michaels. TTC officials promised that the baby, Mary Kim, would receive a lifetime transit pass to the TTC.

Service Notes (as of August 1, 2019):

  • Off-Site Resources:
  • Line: 1 Yonge - University - Spadina
  • Hours of Operation:
    First Train Finch: 6:01 a.m. weekdays, 6:02 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:12 a.m. Sundays.
    First Train Union/Vaughan: 5:56 a.m. weekdays, 6:03 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:07 a.m. Sundays.
    Last Train Finch: 1:52 a.m.
    Last Train Union/Vaughan: 1:44 a.m. weekdays, 1:41 a.m. weekends/holidays.
  • Address: 16 Wellesley Street West
  • Opened: March 30, 1954
  • Wheelchair Accessible: Not until 2020; bus terminal is accessible.
  • Average Weekday Ridership: 23,510 (2018), 22,280 (2016), 23,140 (2015), 24,480 (2014), 24,340 (2013), 22,640 (2012), 24,440 (2011), 23,120 (2010), 20,530 (2009), 24,290 (2008)
  • Entrances: 2
    • Wellesley Street East Main Entrance, location on the north side of Wellesley Street East, 64 metres east of Yonge Street. Entrance leads to bus terminal. Stairs lead to subway platforms.
    • Dundonald Street Entrance, located on the south side of Dundonald Street, east of Yonge Street. Not yet open. Under construction.
  • Escalators (click here for maintenance schedule): 2
    • Westbound platform to main entrance (Up at all times)
    • Eastbound platform to main entrance (Up at all times)
  • Forms of fare payment include credit or debit
  • Side platforms

TTC Surface Connections:

Previous TTC Surface Connections

Document Archive


Wellesley Station Image Archive


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