In April 1971, 68-year-old Francis Berghofer’s century-old house, near the corner of Sherbourne and Earl streets, was dwarfed by the brand-new towers of St. James Town and surrounded by the rubble of her former neighbours’ homes. A few weeks later, it too was demolished to make way for the final phase of St. James Town.
A German immigrant who arrived in Canada in 1929, Berghofer was the last resident to resist the appeals of Meridian Group, the development company that constructed the new high-rise neighbourhood. “They started two years ago, these real-estate people, knocking on the door day after day wanting me to sell,” she told the Star at the time. “I talked to my neighbour and we agreed we wouldn’t give in. Then one day she told me she’d sold.”
Urban-renewal schemes like St. James Town radically altered the city’s landscape in the middle of the 20th century—Berghofer alone had been kicked out of three homes in two decades. Her first, on Maitland Place, was expropriated by the Ontario Board of Education in the ’50s. A few years later, she sold another house, on Sherbourne, under threat of expropriation to the Ontario Cancer Institute. Then came St. James Town.
“I’ve had enough of being pushed out,” she told the Star. “If they force me out of my new house, the next place I move to will be the cemetery.”
Berghofer’s house was just about where the Sherbourne Street entrance to St. James Town is now, but there’s nothing left today to suggest what was once there.