Bell in Brief: The Derby Tavern was for Corktown dreamers

In the heart of Corktown—on the southeast corner of Parliament and King streets—once stood the Derby Tavern.

The tavern was built in 1846.

Generations of mill workers (on their way home from a long day toiling at the various factories and mills in the area, like the still-standing Gooderham and Worts) would stop off at the Derby. There they would throw back tankards of ale and sing songs of the old country.

Its final years saw the Derby deteriorate into just another dive—in a city full of dives—before it was ultimately torn down in the early 1990’s.

But for over 140 years, the shamrock-inspired Derby Tavern served generations of dreamers. To have heard an Irish ballad sung decades ago in that tavern by someone who had just arrived from Ireland after leaving his home (his land, his mother, his brother…) and deliver it with such utter despair and hope for a better world beyond this one must have been mesmerizing.

The Derby Tavern was as much a part of our heritage as Fort York or St. James Cathedral. Today the tavern site on the southeast corner of Parliament and King is home to the Derby Lofts.

All photos are courtesy of Toronto Public Library.