In 18o8, an American immigrant named Thomas Adams became the first settler in the area. He was a successful businessman and built the first schoolhouse.
In 1847 following the building of a wharf, Port Union entered a golden age of growth as a shipping port. Arrival of the The Grand Trunk Railway in 1856 boosted the area as a shipping and rail hub. Port Union was born.
A branch of the Anishinabe who settled along the north shore of Lake Ontario were known as Mississaugas. The territory of the Mississaugas in the Toronto region stretched from Long Point on Lake Erie to the Rouge River at the southeastern edges of what is now Toronto. Now referred to as Mississaugas of the New Credit, it’s believed they had seasonal camps at the mouth of the Rouge River.
1808 Tommy Adams first settler
An early settler was American Tommy Adams, referred to as Uncle Tommy Adams or the American Dutchman. Adams built the first schoolhouse in the area in 1836, a cottage of planks which stood on Kingston Road. Many of the first frame houses in the neighbourhood were also erected by him. In 1967 Adams Park was opened and is named in recognition of Thomas Adams..
1849 William Helliwell launched Port Union shipping
Scarborough’s lakefront connections to trade and transportation reached it’s zenith when the Scarborough and Pickering Wharf Company was established in 1847 near the mouth of the Rouge by local farmer and entrepreneur William Helliwell along with partners Daniel Knowles and Will Hetherington.
1852 Andrew Annis Family
Andrew Annis purchased 100 acres of land from Tommy Adams in Port Union at the corner of Lawrence and Port Union Road in 1852 He built the stone house that was to become the family social center for years to come. The home was affectinately called “The Manor”. The house eventually became a branch of the Bank of Montreal and stood near the east end of what is now the local plaza.
1856 The Grand Trunk Railway
The Grand Trunk Railway was built along the shore of Lake Ontario and Port Union became a major commercial centre with both rail and shipping options. Hetherington built a hotel nearby and other businesses such as a blacksmith and cooper (barrel making) were established.
1860 Thomas Laskey Hotel
A second hotel was built near the railway station and operated by Thomas Laskey. It later became a private residence and was located where the Port Union Commons washrooms are located today.
1865 Post Office
The railway and shipping businesses at Port Union peaked in 1865 with a permanent population of over 100 residents and as many as 300 on any given business day. The growing community was granted its own post ofﬁce, which survived until 1934.
1890 Morrish Store
This was the finest store in the district when it was built in 1890 and owned by William J. Morrish. The Morrish building at Meadowvale and Old Kingston Road provided space for living, sales and storage. The business included hardware, dry goods, boots, shoes, farm machinery and groceries with flour, sugar, tea and salt being a small part of the business.
1895 Wharf Company closes
A massive storm severely damaged the wharf and with shipping losing more of its business to the railway, the Wharf Company closed and the community gradually declined over the next ﬁfty years.
1921 Watson’s Orchard
Until recently, the property southwest of Centennial Road and Lawson Road was known as Watson’s Orchard. It was originally a 50-acre parcel of land bought by John Cecil Watson and his wife Beatrice Alberta Acheson in 1921 from The Stanley Piano Company.
1948 Johns-Manville Asbestos Plant
Johns-Manville took advantage of the railway access and built its massive plant overlooking the lake and employing hundreds of local residents. It was later closed due to health issues with its asbestos production.
1949 William Dempsey founds the CCRA
.Founded in 1949 and incorporated in 1950, the Centennial Community and Recreation Association (CCRA) celebrated its 70th Anniversary in 2019 making it one of the oldest continuing community organizations in the GTA. William Dempsey was the founding President and in his own words outlined the purpose of the CCRA:
“From the beginning in 1949 there have been people of vision and conviction who have stood firm in the cause of the Centennial Community and Recreation Association. Community improvement, preservation of the environment, clean air, open space, the recognition of sound land use development principles aimed at keeping characteristics of the early community, recreation facilities and programs to meet the needs of the people of all ages are continuing objectives”.
1967 – How Centennial got it’s names
The community was built on the former Annis farm and since much of the planning and construction took place in 1967, the community was named in honour of the 100th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation. The Charlottetown Conference gave the community, street and school its name. Other street names recognize several of Canada’s 1867 Fathers of Confederation: D’Arcy McGee, Samuel Tilley, J.C. Chapais, Ambrose Shea, Hector Langevin, Thomas Haviland, J. Cockburn, Charles Tupper, J. McCulley. Oliver Mowat was also recognized in the naming of the Collegiate Institute.
2006 – Port Union Waterfront Trail opens
Phase one opened in September 2006. The second and final phase opened in November 2012. You can access the Centennial portion of the trail by the pedestrian underpass at the Port Union Village Common at the southern end of Port Union Road. From 1849 to 1895 this was the location of the wharf built by the Scarborough, Pickering and Markham Wharf Company to facilitate Lake Ontario shipping.