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Is this Lawrence Park home the centre of Toronto’s universe?

It must be nice to claim your lawn is at the centre of Toronto.

That’s exactly what two families in the upscale Lawrence Park neighbourhood can do after Torstar News Service pulled co-ordinates for the city’s “geographic centre.” But are either of them right? It depends who you ask.

“It’s our only claim to fame,” jokes Judy Haust, who grew up in the supposed bull’s-eye at 33 Wanless Cres., where she now lives with her husband, Bill.

When the Torontoist launched search efforts in 2010 to locate Toronto’s geographic centre, co-ordinates led a University of Toronto maps librarian to a clump of cedars on the Hausts’ front lawn. But that may have been off, according to new analysis.

The city might not revolve around the Hausts’ front lawn after all. Instead, co-ordinates determined by running Statistics Canada border data through a mapping program called ArcMap now point to the backyard of Debbie Loduca, two doors down.

“I’d better put a sign up then and charge people to come in,” says Loduca with a laugh. Her twin boys have been running around on Toronto’s new crosshairs for years now. Whether the spot is in her backyard or on the Haust front lawn, Loduca said it’s appropriate that the centre of Toronto’s universe is in Lawrence Park. “It is the centre of the universe, actually.”

Nestled between the Haust and Loduca homes is one with a famous former owner — Canada’s first female astronaut, Roberta Bondar. Loduca’s sister, Lorraine Milne, has a theory on Torstar’s new discovery: “Maybe when she was up in space, she pointed to the centre of the universe — she picked this spot.”

Since the original proclamation in March 2010, the Hausts have proudly touted their lawn’s status in the neighbourhood. Judy crafted a scrapbook for neighbours who moved away, featuring an aerial view of their homes captioned “The Geographical Centre of Toronto!” Friends had even suggested to the Hausts that they reach out to the city and have a plaque installed under the cedar trees.

So how is it that the city’s centre moved two doors down?

When Marcel Fortin, a geographic information systems and maps librarian at U of T, drew the circle around the Haust family lawn, he used Statistics Canada data from 2006. This time, he was able to draw from 2011 data, which may account for the shift. In those five years, data specialists further defined the city borders, particularly along the shoreline, which Fortin suggests may be one reason the city centre has moved from the Hausts’ cedar trees to Loduca’s backyard.

But Lawrence Park’s status as the centre of Toronto is relatively new. Before the birth of the amalgamated “megacity” in 1998, the centre of Toronto was the top right corner of Queen’s Park. That’s closer to the perception of many Torontonians that the city’s true heart is at Yonge and Bloor Sts.

For maps expert Fortin, the most interesting results come from digging into the archives. An 1877 volume refers to Toronto as “one of the most flourishing cities in the Dominion.” In the yellowed pages of Lovell’s Gazetteer of British North America — a kind of geographical dictionary — the co-ordinates listed for the city of Toronto don’t land in Toronto as we know it at all, Fortin points out. Instead, they lead to Thornhill’s German Mills Settlers Park, behind Dawn Hill Trail.

For now, Lawrence Park remains Toronto’s geographic nucleus. But which home can truly lay claim to the title? Other households nearby might yet become the rightful centre, depending on what data is used to pull co-ordinates. With the centre in flux, the Hausts’ claim to fame may be fleeting. Judy Haust heeds a warning she gives to Torstar:

“You could cause some neighbourly wars doing this.”

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