Among the first areas of the City of Toronto to be settled was the district within the Bloor-West Village known as Swansea.
The earliest recorded visit to this area of the Bloor-West Village can be found in the journals of the French explorer, Etienne Brule, who was a companion of Samuel de Champlain. Brule came through the area on his way south from Lake Simcoe with Mississauga guides on August 12, 1615. The route became known as the Passage of Toronto and was an important link in the fur trade route between Montreal and Lake Superior.
The first permanent resident of the Swansea area was Jean Baptiste Rousseau. Rousseau moved to the area around the time of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and built himself a house. He stayed after the American Revolution when large numbers of United Empire Loyalists began to move into the area following the defeat of Great Britain in its war with the fledgling United States. Rousseau became known for his cherry trees and was often visited by the wife of Governor Simcoe who chose to locate the capitol in Toronto, then known as York because it was far from the United States, but situated on Lake Ontario which allowed for easy access to rest of North America.
The area began to develop in 1804 when construction on what is now Lake Shore Boulevard began in addition to the King’s Mill, both of which were built on the orders of Governor Simcoe. The lumber from the mill was used to build bridges across local rivers and to provide building materials for settlers in the region to build homes with.
Development of the Swansea area was slow in coming as many settlers bypassed the area in favor of what would one day become the Region of Peel, due to Swansea’s sandy soil. Development of the area remained slow until1882 when the Bolt Works was built by a Mr. J Livingston. He eventually sold the Bolt Works to James Worthington, who built several rows of houses on Windemere Street to provide accommodations for his workers in 1886. Around the same time St. Olave’s Churuch was built and the Village of Swansea was given its name. Swansea was so named because, its original name, Windemere, was often confused with the region of the same name in Muskoka. The Swansea was chosen because it was the name of a local steel mill that provided jobs for many local residents.
The land boom that began in the 1880s ended in the 1890s. It began to pick up again in the early 20th Century and by 1907, Swansea had grown large enough to be separated from the Township of York and incorporated as a village.