The Old East Village (OEV) is an eclectic neighbourhood unlike any other in London. Originally incorporated in 1874 as London East the area has its roots deep in industry and railroad. Its origins begin in 1856 when Murray Anderson, later to become London’s first mayor, opened the Globe Foundry Ironworks at Adelaide and Dundas along with the establishment of Lilley’s Corners in 1867. London East got its next big stimulate when Fredrick Fitzgerald founded The Imperial Oil Company (a.k.a Esso) and built one of the first of sixteen refineries in London East. This spark created a manufacturing boom and the trigger for the installation of the extensive railroad systems that now create OEV’s north and south borders.
The subsequent economic prosperity caught the eye of the City of London which amalgamated London East in 1885, but due to its independent nature and strong sense of community, a trait which stands today, the neighbourhood was officially name Old East Village (OEV). Following annexation Western Fair established itself in Queen’s Park in 1887 drawing numerous citizens for its many events and yearly agricultural fair.
Continuing to be a growing manufacturing center the physician Fredrick Banting opened a private medical practice in the front room of 442 Adelaide in 1921. Sometime that year Banting would conceive the idea for the creation of insulin and bring that idea to fruition in Toronto in 1922. 442 Adelaide would become known as “the birthplace of insulin” and a designated National Historic Site of Canada.
Post world war OEV would become a commercial and retail center and the hub of the London Street Railway, the precursor to the London Transportation Commission, located on Lyle Street. The much beloved Chapman’s bakery and its famous kringle could be found at 619 Dundas a neighbour to one of London’s cherished independent department stores Hudson’s. Sadly, OEV slowly lost these treasures as manufacturing moved to the out skirts of the city and retail began coalescing into malls. In 2003 The Planners Action Team of Ontario in partnership with the Old East Village BIA and the residential community, created a road map of revitalization of the neighbourhood, Re-establishing Value – A Plan for Old East Village. It was this report that informed the City of London Community Improvement Plan in 2005 which formalized the path to area renewal.
Since then, the BIA has worked together with local businesses, property owners, residents and the City of London to successfully lower the vacancy rate from over 40% to 10% and attract over $250 million in commercial and residential development. In 2013 the BIA determined through extensive research, the economic drivers of the area as; One of a Kind Shopping, Food and Beverage and Arts and Culture. The BIA continues to develop these sectors by recruiting and supporting new and existing businesses to further stimulate the thriving local grassroots economy of the Old East Village.