Originally published on Torontoist on October 30, 2009.
The Pleasant View neighbourhood in the northeast corner of North York looks placid enough—comfortable middle class demographics, a community centre to take a relaxing skate or swim, and so on. On the surface, the only thing that appears askew is an inability to determine if the neighbourhood’s name should be spelled as one word (the recreational complex) or two (city documents and the local library branch). But one look at the intersection in front of the swimming pool hints that darker forces lurk in the background.
Given certain popular culture associations with the names Lucifer and Van Horne, it’s tempting to think that a devilish wit was at work when these street names were doled out and joined together. It’s an imaginative theory but unlikely, especially in the naming of Van Horne Avenue, which honours nineteeth century railroad tycoon William Cornelius Van Horne.
As for Lucifer Drive, we checked with Brian Hall of the city’s Survey and Mapping Services division for its origins. He revealed that the street received its name in 1968 (the same year Rosemary’s Baby hit local screens—coincidence?) and theorized that the name may have honoured an early type of match or stemmed from a practice of naming streets after the developer’s stable of racehorses.
A stroll down Lucifer reveals a two-block suburban residential street with roomy homes whose owners sweep away fallen leaves. The twisted limbs of the bare trees lining the sidewalks are one of the few hints of seasonal spookiness, though they aren’t droopy enough to provoke a sense that they could come alive and drag you to Hell at any second. For those searching for the truly diabolical in the vicinity, your best bet is to navigate nearby construction work on Victoria Park, or drop into the Value Village a couple of blocks east on Van Horne to pick up devil horns, red makeup, or the proper costume elements to resemble a likely citizen of any form of purgatory that may exist.
Map showing location of Van Horne Avenue (now Dupont Street). New World Atlas and Gazetteer (New York: P.F. Collier and Son Company, 1924). Image via University of Alabama Map Library. Full jpeg of map.
The old City of Toronto also had a Van Horne Avenue, which was one of several streets stitched together to form present-day Dupont Street. Van Horne ran between Dufferin and Ossington.