Toronto Through My Lens

Month: August 2023

“Sundial Folly”

Sundial Folly is a large concrete ball sitting on the edge of Lake Ontario. Located at at 25 Queen’s Quay West, it was created by John Fung and Paul Figueiredo and installed at Toronto’s Harbourfront in 1995.

A folly in architectural terms is a building or structure built for decoration without any real function. This particular folly, though, is supposed to work as a sundial – I’m not sure if that happens or not. Even if it is useless as a sundial, it’s an interesting piece of art and you can actually go inside of it.

Someone, obviously an “Aliens” fan, created this image on the inside of the sculpture

The folly rests in a pool of water. The water feeds a small waterfall that tumbles a few feet into Lake Ontario on the east side of the pier in Harbour Square Park.

Panorama India 2023

Panorama India 2023, with the support of the Consulate General of India, celebrated India’s 76th anniversary of Indian Independence Day on August 20th, 2023 at Nathan Phillips Square.

The Panorama India Parade

The Panorama India event celebrated the vibrant culture, art and heritage of India. The event started with the Grand Parade down Bay Street, across King Street West, up University Avenue, then back to Nathan Phillips Square on Queen Street West. There, Nathan Phillips Square was transformed into a lively place with the sites, sounds, and flavors of India.

These two gentlemen on Queen Street West were preparing for the Panorama India Parade, which was gathering at Nathan Phillips Square
On Queen Street West, arriving back at Nathan Phillips Square

Panorama India Celebrations at Nathan Phillips Square

As the parade wound down the crowd returned to Nathan Phillips Square. There was plenty of food, entertainment and dancing for the rest of the day:

At Nathan Phillips Square
Henna application
Dancers from the Tamil Nadu Cultural Society Of Canada

Toronto Chinatown Festival 2023

On August 19 and 20 the Toronto Chinatown Business Improvement Area hosted its 23rd annual Toronto Chinatown Festival on Spadina Avenue, running from Sullivan Street to College Street.

This year the Festival’s theme was Flaming Phoenix: Rebirth & Uprising, signifying the rebirth of our city after COVID-19. In Chinese mythology, the Phoenix is an immortal bird whose rare appearance is said to be an omen foretelling harmony at the ascent to the throne of a new emperor – the same might be applied to our city as we try to put COVID behind us.

Falun Dafa Parade

Making my way up Spadina Avenue to the Festival, I encountered a parade from the Falun Dafa practitioners. They were supporting the 417 million Chinese people who have withdrawn from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its youth organizations. The parade began at Clarence Park and wound through the streets of Chinatown. As far as I know, this parade was not connected with the Chinatown Festival in any way.

Toronto Chinatown Festival

Moving further north up Spadina Avenue I found the actual Festival. This year’s Festival seemed really scaled back to me and there didn’t seem to be that much of interest to photograph; regardless I found:

Lots of street food…

Plenty of jewellery and clothing vendors…



And various street stuff…

Moving out of the Festival area and further down Spadina Avenue, I encountered Saturday afternoon market shoppers:

And that was about it!

“The Watchers”

At the corner of Queen Street East and Victoria Street sits a sculpture by artist Peter von Tiesenhausen. Entitled The Watchers, the sculpture was established in 2002 and is made from cast iron and granite.

The iron figures in The Watchers are direct casts of five wood originals which were carved and blackened in a fire on the Canadian prairies. From there began a journey that took them 35,000 kilometres through every province and around every territory. From Newfoundland they navigated the Northwest Passage to Tuktoyaktuk. Down the Arctic ice road, through the mountains of the Yukon and the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia, The Watchers returned to the prairies five years later. Having nearly traced the geographical boundaries of Canada, they had come full circle.

If you’d like to read more about their story, click here.

Milkman’s Lane

This post is sort of a companion piece to my last post on Craigleigh Gardens. The quiet and scenic urban trail known as Milkman’s Lane is located off South Drive in Rosedale, next to Craigleigh Gardens.

Though short and steep, the trail connects with the Beltline Trail which leads to the nearby Evergreen Brick Works, Moore Park Ravine and the Lower Don trail system.

Seen on historic maps since at least 1890, the abandoned roadway is 130 years old. It’s been said the pathway was originally intended for mostly commercial transport including, presumably, deliveries of milk.

It’s now a beautiful dirt pathway bordered in by wooden fences and plunging hills on either side as you’re led further into the ravine system. It’s primarily frequented by cyclists, hikers and dog walkers.

The lush vegetation includes black cherry, hemlock, yellow birch, ironwood, the endangered butternut, oak and maple trees.

If you keep following the Park Road Reservation Trail west at the bottom of the ravine, you’ll be offered up pretty views of Yellow Creek as it flows by.

Reference: BlogTO

Craigleigh Gardens

Craigleigh Gardens is a quiet 3.4 hectare park near Castle Frank Road and Bloor Street East. The park features an entrance with ornamental gates, a mature tree canopy and a dog off-leash area. The secluded gem of a park is tucked away in the middle of Rosedale, one of Canada’s wealthiest neighbourhoods and is surrounded by beautiful Victorian-style homes.

Craigleigh Gardens used to be the site of the 25-room estate of Sir Edmund Osler, a wealthy businessman, founder of the Royal Ontario Museum, and trustee at the Hospital For Sick Children. Osler lived at Craigleigh for nearly 50 years until he died. The house was torn down in 1924 following his death and his family donated the 13 acres of manicured grounds to the city to build the park.

The ornate gates have the date 1903 in the metalwork on either side of the centre, which means they stood in front of the Osler estate at one time.

These gardens are presented to the people of Toronto as a memorial of Edmund Boyd Osler, and Ann Farquharson, his wife, by their children . A.D. 1926. Here, amidst his children and grandchildren, his flowers, trees and birds, Edmund Boyd Osler made his home from 1877 to the date of his death in 1924 A.D.

from Plaque on gate

The Loch Gallery

The Loch Gallery at 16 Hazelton Avenue in Yorkville usually has amusing artwork out front of the gallery, which change on an occasional basis. I haven’t been past the gallery in a while, but here is a sampling from my last visit:

Village of Islington Murals

For this TOcityscape we’ll head to the west of the city and take a look at Islington Village and the beautiful, historic murals there. The Islington Village murals run along Dundas Street West from Islington Avenue to Kipling Avenue:

In 2004 the Islington Business Improvement Area (BIA) was charged with the responsibility of beautifying and enhancing this part of the city. Over the next few years BIA-appointed artists created many large-scale murals on the sides of the area’s buildings. These beautiful, vivid and detailed murals depict some of the history of the community; to date there are 26 murals covering over 25,000 square feet of public art.

Each of the murals has a descriptive panel mounted beside it, telling the particular history and details of the scene. I have transposed those descriptions to my shots below.

Golfing In Islington

This 7.3 by 7.0 metre mural depicts golf in the 1920s. The Islington Golf Club – designed by Stanley Thompson, one of the foremost golf course architects in North America at the time – is located just minutes from this site.

In the foreground of the mural, golfers dressed in late 1920s fashion enjoy their day on the green. The lead golfer is attempting to hit the ball away from the tree line at the western edge of the course where it landed after an overzealous tee off. The impatience of the group is shared by the small boy and the ball collector. The little boy has found distraction in a stray frog, and the ball collector – wearing upper body protective gear – is waiting for the group to play through so he may resume his duties.


Hurricane Hazel struck Toronto on October 15, 1954. In her wake most of the Islington Golf Course and low-lying areas near Mimico Creek were flooded. This mural shows a volunteer clean-up crew arriving at the scene as a member of the Islington Fire Brigade helps moor their boat. Behind them, members of the 48th Highlanders are clearing away the debris. Above, an army supply helicopter prepares to use the 9th fairway, then high ground, as a landing strip. Islington United Church, which became a makeshift supply depot for the whole region, is visible on the horizon (near top left).

The Manse Committee

This mural shows the interior of this Dundas Street West building as it might have appeared around 1888. At that time it was the manse, or minister’s residence, for Islington’s Wesleyan Methodist Church.

The scene is a light-hearted portrayal of “The Manse Committee” which advised the minister’s wife on décor and conducted periodic inspections to make sure the residence was kept acceptably clean. Reverend Richard Bowles, who later became the Chancellor of Victoria University, is shown having tea with the Committee Chair while his wife prepares food in the kitchen and Committee members conduct a white gloved inspection of the premises.

The mural depicts a typical late Victorian residence with furniture that would have been available in Toronto in the 1880s. The floor plan, construction methods and interior were designed according to building practices at the time.

The Faces Of Islington

This mural celebrates the ethnic and cultural character of Islington as it has changed over the last century. The faces and traditional design patterns of fabrics from all four continents travel along the timeline, telling the story of settlement in the area.

Beyond depicting the passage of history as grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren share the same space, notice the change in Islington from a predominantly Eurocentric community during the 1950s into the ethnically diverse neighbourhood it is today.

Faith Of Our Fathers, 2

This mural depicts the history of Islington United Church from its early Wesleyan Methodist days on Dundas Street West to the building of the church now located at 25 Burnhamthorpe Road.

As early as 1815 circuit riders, ministers on horseback, rode from hamlet to hamlet attending to the spiritual needs of roughly 30 rural communities. The first Methodist Church in the village was located at 4946 Dundas Street. When the congregation outgrew the building, it was sold to the Etobicoke Township. The Township added a red brick façade (shown above) and the building became the Municipal Offices and Police Station. Much altered, it is now the Fox and Fiddle, Precinct.

The circuit rider in the mural has the face of Dr. Stewart East who, along with other ministers as part of the dedication ceremony, rode up the steps of the new church at 25 Burnhampthorpe. This re-enactment created quite a spectacle.

Portraits From Our Past

Inspired by old area photos, Manitoba artist Sarah Collard has created a gallery effect on this 6 metre by 10 metre wall. The mural is actually four separate works, each depicting a “slice of life” from the village’s past. These include:

The Village Shoemaker
Mr. Nelson, as he appeared early in the 20th century.
Islington’s First Car
A 1917 Chevrolet owned by the Appleby family
Apple Packers
Bigham family orchards ca. 1917

Battersby’s March, 1813

On July 29, 1813, Lieutenant Colonel Francis Battersby was ordered to leave York (Toronto) with all the soldiers under his command to secure Burlington against an imminent American threat. Dispatched in a “march of extraordinary celerity” along Dundas Street, this force, consisting largely of Battersby’s own regiment, the Glengarry Light Infantry, arrived in time to dissuade the enemy from attacking this key position. However, this troop redeployment left York vulnerable, setting the stage for the second American raid on the town on July 31, 1813.

Briarly – Gone But Not Forgotten

Also known as the Gunn house, Briarly was built in the 1840s. Originally a frame Regency style cottage built just east of T. Montgomery’s Inn, it was redesigned in the 1850s to have an Italianate appearance. From 1970 until 1985, the home was owned by the Montgomery family and their descendants.

Although the heritage community lobbied to save the home from demolition, Briarly was demolished by developers in August 1989. Town houses now occupy the site at 4681 Dundas Street West.

This mural, by artist John Kuna was designed not only to illustrate a part of Islington’s history but also to convey a sense of comfort, peace, home and family. Rather than becoming a theme of mourning and end, it is instead conceived as an image of endurance and renewal.

The Pub With No Beer

This mural depicts a scene from the prohibition era (ca. 1928) with a pop truck rounding up empty bottles outside of the old Islington Hotel, which was once a local watering hole. At the time Burnhamthorpe Road was on the west side of the hotel and the hotel’s drive-shed stretched across what is now the intersection of Dundas Street West and Burnhamthorpe Road and Cordova Avenue.

Gordon’s Dairy, ca. 1940

The 3.3 x 7.3 metre mural depicts Gordon’s Dairy, a local landmark once located in this building. The original structure had a yellow-tile front, with a lunch counter and diary bar inside. In the 1940s, Gordon’s Dairy was a popular hang-out for area youth, and the dairy’s horse-drawn milk wagons were a familiar sight on Islington streets.

Ordinary Folk, Extraordinary Lives

This mural commemorates the original founding families of Islington who now rest in the Islington Burying Ground just east of this site, one of the oldest cemeteries in Toronto, dating from the 1840s. While the subject matter is somber, this mural has been infused with light reminiscent of both dusk and dawn to hint at life’s cycle. Six windows remind us of our human vulnerability to the passage of time.

The settler families are depicted in a formal and dignified way to suggest their important and permanent role in the community’s history. The few precious photos that exist of these original families have been incorporated into the mural design, including members of the Montgomery, Death, Shaver, East and Johnston families. Their faces are generally solemn because subjects were required to remain motionless during the early days of photography.

Each family’s headstone is placed to strengthen the composition of the figures and add to their appearance of dignity and gravity. Details of the old tombstones showcase the beauty of their carved emblems and inscriptions. Today, most of the original tombstones have been consolidated into brick friezes to preserve them.

Images of trees taken from the actual cemetery have been used to fill in the background. These have been blended seamlessly with the tombstone motifs as a reminder of growth and renewal, and to show that our past, with its inclusion of permanence, is only a moment in our continuously evolving story as a community.

Islington – The Way We Were, Part I

Looking east along Dundas Street from Cordova, this mural depicts Islington at the turn of the century. Collaged from images in the photo archives at Montgomery’s Inn and posted on, both the buildings and the people were real. The family shown at left was inspired by figures in a photo by famous Islington photographer, Walter Moorhouse. Hopkins’ store was located at 4906 Dundas. The old Wesleyan Methodist Church and manse – which were also seen in our first mural, “Faith of our Fathers” – were across the street.

Islington – The Way We Were, Part II

Designed as a companion piece for the mural on the opposite wall, this mural depicts Islington ca 1912. Together they form a unique historical diorama with the first one looking east and this one looking west along Dundas Street.

This mural shows the old Islington Hotel and drive shed as well as neighbouring shops then located on the north side of Dundas Street at Burnhamthorpe Road. The Islington Burying Grounds are seen in the distance and in the foreground workers are depicted preparing the road to be paved in the ongoing development of Islington as a thriving community.

In 1912 Burnhamthorpe Road was located west of its present location. As shown in the mural, it ran between the Islington Hotel and Clayton’s Butcher Shop. The hotel’s drive shed stretched across the current intersection which has now been reconfigured to connect Burnhamthorpe Road and Cordova Avenue.

Honouring Islington’s Volunteer Fire Brigade

This mural, by artist John Kuna, honours the men of the Islington Volunteer Fire Brigade whose hall was located in this block. Fighting fires, often at great personal risk, was their main purpose; but in the 1940s these men also served their community in a more light-hearted fashion. During the winter months they would dam Mimico Creek below T. Montgomery’s Inn to create a much used and loved skating rink.

Note how the winter mural’s design ingeniously incorporates a boarded window in the back of the building, using it as the serving window for the little hut from which volunteers played ‘dance’ music and dispensed hot chocolate and other refreshments.

Mimico Creek In Fall, ca. 1920

Mimico Creek was a key factor in attracting settlers to the Islington area, as was Dundas Street itself. Islington Avenue did not extend south of Dundas Street until around 1962. Before that time and before the Shell station was built on the north side of Dundas at Islington, artists gathered on the steps on T. Montgomery’s Inn to paint the glorious fall colours. In this mural we see Mimico Creek winding through the valley, framed by sumac, spruce and pine, with Montgomery’s Inn shown at right.

Ontario Gothic

Based on a photo of the Appleby family taken around 1900 in front of their farmhouse on the northwest corner of Dundas St. West and Islington Avenue, this mural is intended as a parody of Grant Wood’s iconic 1930s painting entitled “American Gothic”. A little known fact about that work is that the couple shown were not husband and wife. The same is true of the couple here; the man is William Appleby shown with his sister Mabel. The Appleby’s farmhouse was built in an Ontario Gothic style with fine gingerbread trim.

Timeline, Islington Then and Now

This mural depicts Dundas Street at three stages in Islington’s history. The shops on the right are currently located in this block. The cars in the centre are from the 1950s. The buildings at left are from the early 1900s.

At that time, flowering catalpa trees graced the south side of Dundas Street stretching from Mimico Creek to Cordova Avenue. They had been planted by Mr. J.D. Evans and lent a quaint yet exotic feel to the village.

Dunn’s Store was located on the north east corner of Dundas Street at Burnhamthorpe Crescent. The store sold dry goods, groceries and hardware. It was also Islington’s Post Office. That site was later home to Old Mill Donuts and is now the Second Cup.

Harold G. Shipp’s ‘First High Flier!’

In May of 1944 an eighteen-year-old Etobicoke High School student named Harold G. Shipp convinced a pilot, who ferried Lancaster bombers from Toronto to England during the war, to fly over the school’s football field and drop cards which could be redeemed for prizes. The stunt was to raise money for bleachers, but it went awry when a wind came up scattering the cards across the Chinese market gardens near Montgomery’s Inn.

The scene at right shows a football game in heated progress while the massive Lancaster bomber makes its daring low pass over the field, trailing a stream of promotional cards behind it. The scene at left depicts the unsuspecting farmer looking up in disbelief at the shower of colourful paper descending upon his field.

Imagine the impending disaster as 600 excited football fans converge on the field to collect their prize cards, trampling the carefully tended cabbages in the process. Mr. Shipp later became a successful Toronto developer. He still has a flair for promotion.


A satellite branch of the Royal Conservatory of Music was located in this building from the 1950s through the 1980s. This mural honours that history showing the RCM’s most celebrated former student Glenn Gould, circa 1947, with his childhood teacher Antonio Alberto Garcia Guerrero. In the bottom left corner is a copy of a manuscript by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Together these elements allude to the passing on of musical tradition and how humble yet prodigious beginnings may be nurtured to great heights, as illustrated by a current audience in the conservatory’s celebrated new concert venue, Koerner Hall.

Riding The Radials

From 1917 to 1931 the old Guelph Radial Line, that ran behind this site, linked communities from Lambton Mills to Guelph. Forerunners of today’s electric streetcars, radial trains were so named because they “radiated” from the city centre outwards to neighbouring towns and villages. Long before the construction of provincial highways, radial lines were part of a transportation network that facilitated the integration of communities such as Islington into what is now the Greater Toronto Region.

To evoke feelings of nostalgia, artist John Kuna used a painterly style recalling old coloured postcards and turn of the century paintings. Note how the radial masts are painted so as to form part of the adjacent building to convey a sense that the train is presently docked at station before carrying passengers onwards to their destination.

Toboggan Hill

This mural continues the theme of children at play, first introduced in the Riding The Radials mural at 5110 Dundas Street West. Both are set in the 1920s. This one shows children tobogganing on the hill behind Montgomery’s Inn in fresh snowfall. In the foreground a group of children are depicted on a “tandem” sleigh which was custom built for the Appleby family. The image is borrowed from a photo in the Islington archives at Montgomery’s Inn, our community’s living history museum.

The Old Swimming Hole

This is an artist’s conception of the old swimming hole once located on Willow Dale Farm and a fanciful look at the swimwear of earlier times. The 6.5 m x 8.5 m mural was inspired by Mary Appleby’s note in Villages of Etobicoke, describing the remains of a mill pond which became a favourite swimming hole for generations of young Islington residents. The mill pond was below what was once a functioning sawmill on Mimico Creek, likely near the little parkette at Burnhamthorpe Road and Burnhamthorpe Park Boulevard, on property now owned by Islington Golf Club.

Although there are no known photos of the sawmill, historical interpreters suggest it would have been a wooden structure no more than two stories tall and powered by a water wheel. The swimwear featured in the mural came from actual European swimwear designs from no later than the 1920s.

If you would like to see a map of these Islington Village murals along with further descriptions, click here.

Festival of South Asia 2023

This past weekend saw the two-day Festival of South Asia take over Gerrard Street East from Glenside Avenue to Coxwell Avenue.

The main focus of the Festival of South Asia is to celebrate the diversity of South Asian culture. The festival is now in its 21st year, and is one of the largest festivals of its kind in North America. It’s a multi-cultural experience of tastes, sounds and sights of South Asia.

Throughout the day there were stage performances, a kids zone, an arts and culture market, participatory workshops and activities, and roaming entertainers along Gerrard Street. Unfortunately the sun was particularly cruel last Sunday so I didn’t stay quite as long as I would have liked.

Dance exhibition
Food stalls
Colourful clothes for sale in the market
Pakora, Samosas and more
Some of the Kids Zone
Jewellery Vendor
Dance exhibition
Dance exhibition
Mural on Gerrard Street East
Henna application
Food truck
Grilled food on Gerrard Street East

A Walk Through Leslieville

It was a sunny day for my Leslieville photowalk. I started my ramblings on the corner of Dundas Street East and Broadview Avenue, then slowly worked my way further east, then south, to Queen Street East. I called it a day when I reached Leslie Street then caught the streetcar home.

Leslieville is great for photography and offers so many quirky opportunities. I know I certainly enjoyed the day.

Mini Mural
Corner of Dundas Street East and Broadview Avenue
On the side of SEED Alternative Secondary School, 885 Dundas Street East
House With Character
948 Dundas Street East
Under the Railroad Tracks
Dundas Street East, near Logan Avenue
Can I give you a hand?
Seen in someone’s front yard on Dundas Street East
“The Giant Storybook Project”
Created by the artist Herakut in 2012. Located at 1135 Dundas Street East.
“The Signature Marker” by Pierre Poussin
Located in Carlaw Dundas Park, on the corner of Dundas Street East and Carlaw Avenue. Pierre Poussin’s Brick Obelisk is a three-sided pyramid which responds to the shape of the Carlaw Dundas Park where it is erected. It is 9.2 metres high, ensuring that all traffic – pedestrian, bicycle or car – will be able to see it as they enter and explore the neighbourhood. The obelisk is made with corten steel onto which historic maps of the neighbourhood, spanning from 1851 to 2016, are etched. The structure is illuminated from within by LED lights so that details of the etched steel are visible at night.
Building the Railroad Bridge
Enlarged photo in Carlaw Dundas Park, on corner of Dundas Street East and Carlaw Avenue
Welcome to Leslieville
1130 Queen Street East
1137 Queen Street East
“Leslieville Is Beautiful”
Queen Street East
“Leslieville” Mural
Mural by Elicser and Sight, 2016. Corner of Queen Street East and Jones Avenue.
Utility Box
Northeast corner of Queen Street East and Jones Avenue, Leslieville
Vintage Stove
Reggie’s Queen East Appliance Centre, 1180 Queen Street East
The Duke
1225 Queen Street East
Mural on side of The Duke
1225 Queen Street East
Nice Schnozz
Gio Rana’s Really, Really Nice Restaurant, 1220 Queen Street East
Dave’s Hot Chicken
1130 Queen Street East, corner of Bertmount Avenue and Queen Street East
Kristapsons Smoked Salmon
1095 Queen Street East
Anvil Jewellery
Nice paint job! 1015 Queen Street East.
Mural on side of Cask Music
1054 Queen Street East, corner of Queen Street East and Pape Avenue
Queen Street East Presbyterian Church
947 Queen Street East
Dr. R.J. Black, D.V.S.
923 Queen Street East
“Life Is Sweet”
Northeast corner of Logan Avenue and Queen Street East. This interactive mural is a creative placemaking collaboration between Contemporary Canadian Artist Benny Bing, Paulina O’Kieffe-Anthony, Craig’s Cookies and 908QSE Inc., integrating arts and culture in community development and rejuvenating the Queen Street East and Logan Avenue streetscape.
Mural on the side of Cannoe Cannabis
698 Queen Street East, corner of Boulton Avenue
Queen Garden Centre
771 Queen Street East
Cool storefront on “Civilian House of Cannabis”
745 Queen Street East
Paper Mache Bunny
Queen Street East

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