The ‘myth’ of Yonge Street being the world’s longest road lives on

Toronto used to hold two world records: one for the tallest free-standing structure and another for the world's longest road, Yonge Street.

The CN Tower is no longer the tallest structure, but it has retained the title of tallest tower.

As for the longest road, all that changed in 1999 when the Guinness Book of Records dropped Yonge Street from its list.

Despite that decision, the record-holding myth continues. If you search 'world's longest street' on the Internet most results show 'Yonge Street'.

No one disputes the start of the street at Queen's Quay in downtown Toronto on the waterfront. There's lettering in the sidewalk stating, "This is the start of Yonge Street." It couldn't be clearer.

It's the end of the street which stirs debate. The claim is the street stretches 1, 896 kilometres from Toronto to Rainy River, near the Minnesota and Ontario border. (A tourism website for the area is among the sites that continue to claim the world's longest street title.)

But by the time "Yonge Street" reaches the U.S. border, it has turned into Highway 11 - and it takes a roundabout way to get to Highway 11 - prompting some to argue the street breaks up.

The latest person to make the point is Spacing Toronto magazine's Sean Marshall, who writes that Yonge Street and Highway 11 have never been the same street.

When former Ontario premier Mike Harris downloaded responsibility for Highway 11 south of Barrie to regional municipalities, its claim to being one and the same grew even weaker, he writes.

Instead, Marshall says the end of Yonge Street is a farm access lane, west of Keswick, Ont.

"To continue on Yonge Street requires a right turn off Highway 11. But Yonge continues directly north as a two-lane county road through the village of Holland Landing, before ending just north of Queensville Sideroad in the Holland Marsh.

"A short section picks up again off a dead-end section of Ravenshoe Road just west of Keswick, but by this point, it is merely a farm access lane and not even marked on many maps or on street signs."

It's far away from the Minnesota border, but it's still a good trip.

In 2006, journalist and author James Bow took a day trip from the start of Yonge Street to the last address on the street before the turn. The trip took him seven hours, and he documented every landmark along the way.

The last official address on Yonge Street happens to be the Riverview Inn and Restaurant at 20,650 Highway 11

Stopping in, Bow recalls a friendly argument with the waitress who he says, "held on to the myth of Yonge Street."

He tells her: " . . . it's Highway 11 that goes all the way to Rainy River, not Yonge Street."

The waitress, he says, gets a little miffed.

The myth of Yonge Street goes beyond its length. Last month, Bravo! aired the documentary "Yonge Street: Toronto Rock & Roll Stories" showing two decades of music on the street, and its cultural significance to rock music in Canada, not to mention it has been the heart of SCTV skits and is still mentioned in songs.

The longest street record seems to be still up for grabs.

Wikipedia's reference to Yonge Street is similar to what Marshall describes. It states that the street was removed from the world record list after provincial changes, which separated Highway 11 from the rest of Yonge Street.

According to Wikipedia, the Pan-American Highway is the world's longest "motorable road."

The legend and myth live on.

(Photo credit: Adrien Veczan/The Canadian Press)