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Agincourt Part II: Agincourt South

May 20, 2012

Time to finish our exploration of Agincourt with the southern and likely more well known section of the neighbourhood.

Like most fledgling rural communities in this area, both a church and a post office defined the neighbourhood. The church in this case was Knox Presbyterian at the corner of Midland and Sheppard, but the post office is where the neighbourhood gets its name. John Hill was able to acquire one for his general store in 1858 with the help of a Quebec MP, on the condition that it be given a French name. In a truly tongue and cheek manner, he called it “Agincourt” after the site of an English victory over the French in 1415.

The development of two rail lines (currently a CP and a GO corridor) at the end of the 19th century brought this neighbourhood to life. However like much of Scarborough, most of the current development and layout stems from the post-war period. The 80s and 90s influx of Taiwanese and Hong Kong immigrants also represented a boom time for Agincourt, with many new retail establishments, small malls, and shopping centres opening. While this population and retail life continues, Markham has become more of a destination for new Chinese immigrants in recent years.

Agincourt is bordered by Kennedy to the west, the 401 to the south, and the Finch Hydro Corridor to the north. On the east it is bordered by McCowan, the CN rail corridor, and Markham. I drew the north-south line along Huntingwood Drive, so this walk takes place south of there.

I started walking at Sheppard and McCowan heading west, and finished at Brimley and Heather going south.

Agincourt South was walked on May 11, 2012.

It is the Chinese retail presence, particularly along Sheppard East, that defines this community. A variety of different retail can be found including, big glassed in corner plazas, stand alone establishments, street level plazas and little semi-enclosed malls with abundant parking. The plaza is the central theme that ties them all together though. Many independent businesses and entrepreneurs fluorish in this area by catering to the local population. Some Chinese franchises can also be found, including many Chinese banks , which often set up shop in these kind of ethnic enclaves, sometimes with humorous labelling. For example the Bank of China labels itself as “Bank of China (Canada)”, as if we might get confused and think that we are in China. Some argue that its heyday is behind it, but I’m inclined to think the GTA is perfectly capable of supporting a multitude of Chinese districts.

The actual “Agincourt Mall” is a larger enclosed mall just east of Kennedy on Sheppard. It tends to host more of your established big name chains with Wal-Mart as its anchor. There is also a cluster of highrises in the vicinity of the mall, with a fenced off empty lot on Bonis, and development notices a precursor of more to come.

Also on Bonis Avenue behind the mall is the Agincourt branch of the library, which contains a beautiful corner vista. Various other community features can be found, such as Agincourt C.I. on Midland, and the Agincourt Community Centre attached to Agincourt Park on Glen Watford. As you can tell, like any strongly branded neighbourhood, the name carries itself across many locations, community features and businesses.

There is also of course the aforementioned Knox Presbyterian Church, one of the oldest community hubs which has existed at Midland and Sheppard since 1846, although the current structure dates from 1872.

While the rail infrastructure that runs through this neighbourhood was once a boon, much of it is now simply there, or even a burden. Although they do also enhance the area still through Agincourt GO station, which provides the area with peak unidirectional service.

The CP corridor carries freight trains regularly, and a particularly long one was heading when I was on my walk. The bridge under it was slightly unusual as there were blue bathroom tiles running along the wall, not what one normally expects to see when walking under an otherwise non-descript rail underpass.

Agincourt station is just north of Sheppard, and used to be a grade crossing. However a large construction project is underway to send Sheppard under the railway tracks.  It is obviously causing traffic delays, as well as making it more difficult to access some buildings such as a local church and community services centre. However it should make things smoother and safer in the future. This corridor causes most of the residential streets to the north to be dead ends, but some like Havendale actually cross the tracks. It feels weird to see a grade rail crossing in the middle of a typical residential street. It doesn’t seem like there is a huge right of way to build more track, so one wonders how they intend to implement all day two way service on the route eventually.

Many of the houses are standard post-war bungalows, although there are some larger, more stately houses on Midland.

The GO rail tracks also run through Havendale Park, a typical local park, where I stopped to eat my lunch. The Highland Creek watershed branches throughout this part of Agincourt as well. On major streets like Kennedy, or Sheppard, it is channeled through  deep concrete walls. Through the residential streets, it runs through a landscaped spillway. Trails run next to the streams here, which I walked along just south of Huntingwood. Bridges and walkways connect to the trails and community infrastructure like North Agincourt Jr. P.S. And that wraps up the coverage of Agincourt, until next time…

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  1. Scenes From Agincourt | Scenes From A City

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