The Chinese in Early 20th Century Toronto: 281 Church Street – Private Grounds

According to a letter to Rev. Mackay (July 25, 1900) of the United Church noted in Valerie Mah’s  independent research paper “The Bachelor Society”,  a Chinese man named Charlie Lee either had a business or was living at 281 Church Street. The Goad’s Fire Insurance Plan Map indicates that the property at 281 Church Street was built sometime between 1884 and 1890. Goad’s Fire Insurance Plan Map depicts the property in brown which indicates that it is was a brick building.  The Toronto City Directories for 1899 show a man by the name of Charles J. Taber, a butcher, living at the property. The property was considered to be private grounds. The following year in 1900 it was indicated to be vacant, and in 1901 the address was no longer listed within the directory. Looking through the Assessment Rolls, the only assessment roll available for the address 281 Church Street was in 1899. The information was quite consistent with the information from the directory, however the name was recorded as Tabor, Arthur J. instead of Tabor, Charlie J. Due to the fact that this person only lived at the address for a short period of time and it was accounted for as private grounds, it can be deduced that the person living there did not run any kind of business and even if he did, it would have been a private shop that was available to a few people. In 2014, the property where 281 Church Street was located is now a part of Ryerson University. The George Vari Engineering building is located at that site.

281 Church Street (2014)


Works Cited

– Assessment rolls (1899) Roll#7332; Toronto Archives

– Toronto Directory (1899, 1900, 1901); Toronto Archives

– Goads Fire Insurance Plan (1899); Toronto Archives Website

– Mah, Valerie.  The “Bachelor” Society. A Look at Toronto’s Early Chinese Community from 1878 – 1924 (unpublished, 1978).



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