Draper Street is notable for its collection of 28 19th Century Second Empire-styled row cottages. The houses were designated by the City of Toronto in the 1990s to have heritage status. The entire street is designated as a Heritage Conservation District as a way to preserve its heritage for posterity.
The street is named after William Henry Draper, a lawyer, judge, and politician in Upper Canada later Canada West. The street was laid out in an 1856 plan of subdivision by J. Stoughton Dennis of lands that were part of the 1794 Garrison Reserve.
The Street was annexed to the city in the 1830s. It appears on the city’s maps in the year 1857, though the exact year it was cut through the woods is unknown. In the 1880s, when houses were constructed, it became a working man’s community, unlike Wellington Place at its north end.
In 1997, the residents of Draper Street requested the Board of Heritage Toronto to designate the properties under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Draper’s most notable resident was Lincoln Alexander, Canada’s first Black member of Parliament, who was born on Draper Street in 1922. His parents were immigrants from the West Indies and his mother worked as a maid and his father was a railway porter.
Not only was he Canada’s first Black MP, elected in 1968, he later became Canada’s first Black cabinet minister, serving as minister for labour. He served as the lieutenant-governor of Ontario from 1985 to 1991 (he was also the first Black person to hold that position). He was named the chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation in 2012.