The Chinese in Early 20th Century Toronto: 29 Queen Street East – Chon Tai’s Laundry

Among the many names and establishments listed in Valerie Mah’s The Bachelor Society was Chon Tai, of 29 Queen Street East. According to the Goads Fire Insurance Plan Maps, the wooden building was constructed some time before the turn of the 20th century. The Toronto Tax Assessment Rolls indicate that it was a laundry service that predated Chon’s association: as early as 1897 it was staffed by and possibly lived in by Lee Ping, with Chon taking his place the following year. The laundry was part of a larger collection of neighbouring businesses, including a livery (a horse rental service) and a hotel, which were owned–leased to Chon–by the McCarron family.

Over the next 28 years Chon worked at the laundry service, through changes in ownership (from the McCarrons to the James & Bach Macdonald Supply Company; and later to Daniel Kenson and Alfred and Ruth Johnston) and directory assignment (29 Queen Street East was originally part of Division 1B within Toronto Ward 3. Between 1910 and 1911 the location was merged into Division 3 of the same Ward). The first two years, Chon spent all alone, living in his workplace. In 1901 he was joined by another Chon, unfortunately one without any first name listed in the Toronto City Directories. 1901 was also the year Chon Tai moved to 279 Church Street (which opened its own laundry service, possibly by him, in 1902), while the other Chon was stated to live at 177 McCaul Street. It’s possible that the two Chons were married or relatives; the unnamed Chon might have been a relative who immigrated to Canada in 1901. The second laundry service at 279 Church could indicate either Chon opening his own service or getting a second job to make ends meet, which would make sense given the presence of someone other than himself to support. Valerie Mah listed two other Chinese immigrants with Chon Tai, but only the one, unnamed Chon is listed in the city’s records.

Between 1926 and 1927 Chon Tai passed on the lease to a new owner, Tong Chui. The laundry business continued until 1946, when it was demolished and replaced with a parking station. Such became the lot’s purpose until the present day, for it is now part of a multi-level parking garage owned by the Toronto Parking Authority.

 

Sources

Toronto Tax Assessment Rolls: Ward 3 Division 1B. 1898-1910. Toronto Archives. Microform.

Toronto Tax Assessment Rolls: Ward 3 Division 3. 1911-1946. Toronto Archives. Microform.

Toronto City Directory. 1899-1901. Toronto Archives. Microform.

Goads Fire Insurance Plan (1899, 1913). Web. Obtained 04/08/2014 from http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=b1ab757ae6b31410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD&vgnextfmt=default

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

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