Toronto Through My Lens

Month: May 2024

The “Village Gateways”

On Church Street there are “village gateways” which indicate the boundaries of the Church-Wellesley Business Improvement Area (BIA). The markers consist of two 22-foot signposts with swirling rainbow blades. At night, lights inside the markers illuminate writing on the cube base, which reads: Church-Wellesley Village. Each of the two markers is accompanied by a colourful utility box depicting caricatures of people living in and around the village.

The gateway markers were designed by architect Claudio Santo and installed during early 2013. Claudio Santon says the BIA gave him a fair amount of artistic freedom within certain design specifications. He says they wanted a representation of the rainbow flag, which is iconic of the Church-Wellesley Village. They also wanted the markers to convey a sense of inclusion, because everyone is welcome in the Village.

The South Gateway

The South Gateway is located at 484 Church Street, on the west side of Church Street between Wood and Alexander Streets. It accompanies the The Village utility box (left, in shot below):

The North Gateway

The North Gateway is located at 557 Church Street, outside Hasty Market, between Gloucester and Monteith Streets. It is also coupled with a fun and colourful depiction of village folks on a nearby utility box (right side, below):

A Yorkville-Annex Walk

The Annex is one of Toronto’s oldest neighbourhoods. It has an old world feel to it and is somewhat diverse, including U of T, trendy eateries, art galleries and one-of-a-kind shops. On its side-streets are gorgeous residential homes — many built around 1880.

For this walk I started at Bay Street, crossed Scollard Street, went down Hazelton Avenue, then on to Yorkville Avenue. From there I completed the rectangular route of Avenue Road, Prince Arthur Avenue, Huron Street, Lowther Avenue, returning to Avenue Road.

Scollard Street

Let’s start out with some beautiful spring tulips on Scollard Street:

Table of Love

At 120 Scollard Street there is this absolutely delightful sculpture called Table of Love by the artists Gillie & Marc.

The text accompanying the work reads:

Even though it was their first date he asked her to marry him. And she said YES. They say when you know, you know, and Dogman and Rabbitwoman both did after just one date. They met, they had dinner, he asked, she said yes. And within a week of first meeting each other they were in Nepal getting married in the foothills of Mount Everest. They still love going on dates together, sharing food, laughter and conversation. And after all this time – to adventure, to chance, to each other – they always say yes.

Hazelton Avenue

Outside Gallery Gevik at 12 Hazelton Avenue I encountered The Chorus, a 1966 sculpture by the Canadian artist Sylvia Lefkovitz:

I’ve always thought this sculpture dark, depressing, foreboding; it fills me with a sense of dread, à la the Dementors in the Harry Potter movies…

Time to move on to something a little cheerier…

Prince Arthur Avenue

Prince Arthur Avenue was named for the Duke of Connaught (1850-1942) who became Governor-General of Canada from 1911 to 1916. He first visited Canada in 1869 and this street name appeared on the Toronto registered plan in 1870.

I’ve been wanting to revisit Prince Arthur Avenue for a while. I’ve always admired the historic homes and buildings on this relatively upscale street:

15 Prince Arthur Avenue
“This dwelling dates to the 1870s. Its side entrance is innovative for the time, but the general tone is conservative as symmetry prevails under a conventional gable roof. Of special interest are the pairs of semicircular arched windows across the façade”.

If you’d like to read my post dedicated to Uno Prii’s architectural creations in the Annex, click here.

Painted utility box outside 20 Prince Arthur Avenue
The Duke of York – 39 Prince Arthur Avenue
The Duke of York Pub is a Toronto landmark restaurant with a long history. It opened in 1976 and has been in successful operation since.
36A Prince Arthur Avenue
Outside the restaurant Trattoria Fieramosca
“Rosamund” by Frances Gage (1968) – 50 Prince Arthur Avenue
“Able to work in a variety of media (wood, plastic, terracotta, plaster and cast stone) and execute a number of techniques (carving, modeling, commercial bas-relief, garden sculpture and portraiture), Frances Gage is one of Canada’s most prolific sculptors. After studying at Oshawa Collegiate and Technical Institute (1943), the Ontario College of Art in Toronto (1951), and the Art Students’ League in New York (1953-55), she received a scholarship from the Royal Society of Canada to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where she remained for two years.

Frances Gage’s numerous commissions include a twice-life-sized sculpture and four walnut relief panels for Fanshaw College in London, Ontario (1962), a portrait relief of Dr. Bertram Collip for the University of Western Ontario (1963), crests for the Metro bridges in Toronto, a fountain for the rose garden of Mrs. F.S. Albright of London, Ontario, “Woman,” a marble sculpture for the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, and many others. A member of the Council of the Royal Canadian Academy, and teacher at the Artists’ Workshop in Toronto, her other accomplishments include the Rothman purchase award (1965) and the development, with the help of her engineer father, of a new durable material called epoxy-resin. Her work has been shown in several group exhibitions, perhaps most notably at the International Congress of Medallic Arts in Florence, Italy (1984), but also in Colorado City, Colorado (1987), Helsinki, Finland (1990), and London, England (1992).”

Lowther Avenue

Construction of permanent dwellings began on Lowther Avenue around 1875, and shifted to the semi-detached houses that are so characteristic of the 1880s.

82 Lowther Avenue
“Architect Frederick H. Herbert designed this 1896 house, which is part of an attractive group of houses lining Lowther Avenue. This home’s hallmark is a circular tower with terra cotta stylings accompanying the dormer. The requisite arches and recessed entryway mark a Romanesque inspiration”.
80 Lowther Avenue
This home is a City of Toronto Heritage Property, built in 1900 by architect F.H. Herbert.
78 Lowther Avenue
This heritage Eaton Coach House was originally built in 1899. It was converted into luxury three-unit condos in 1985. Suite sizes range from 1800 square feet to 3500 square feet. One of the units is currently on the market for a mere $4.295 million. Alternately, one can rent the townhomes – in 2017 they were renting for $14,000.00 per month. The listing agent says Ryan Reynolds once lived here for a little while.
39 Lowther Avenue
Carriageway Houses: 25-29 Lowther Avenue
“The Georgian style had come and gone and not quite come back again when this singular duo was constructed in 1875. Although not much older than their neighbours, the twin units recall an earlier urban type far removed from high-Victorian eclecticism. Restrained in detail and guided by symmetry, the houses follow the standard Georgian rules. Curiously, however, the central focus is a shared carriageway (which led to the backyard stables), topped by a gingerbreaded gable. The latter contains an oriel window, the only eccentricity in an otherwise tempered composition. Number 25 (the left side) gets the oriel”.
31 Lowther Avenue
This cute little house is a Heritage Property, built in 1877.
6-8 Lowther Avenue
This double house is a Heritage Property, built in 1892. It exhibits the Bay-n-Gable architecture theme of that era, embracing a Romanesque arch.

Avenue Road

Returning to my starting place of Avenue Road, I noticed this intriguing sculpture entitled Figure Catching a Fly by David Altmejd (2019).

Made of bronze, the sculpture sits in front of the Yorkville Private Estates at 200 Cumberland Street; the front of the sculpture faces Avenue Road.

“Altmejd’s bronze statue, standing more than eight feet in height, fancifully updates the traditional bronze figurative monument. Clad in billowing, flowing robes, the sculpture’s striding female figure arrives like a deity, simultaneously gesturing downward to earth and skyward triumphantly. With arresting appeal, Almejd’s animated bronze figure conjures the history of the Yorkville neighbourhood that in the 1960s became Toronto’s epicenter of fashion, fine art, and nightlife, signalling the city’s sophistication and cultural aspirations.” – storeys.com

That’s it for today! Thanks for joining me on this mini-tour of Toronto’s Yorkville-Annex neighbourhood.

References:
Old Toronto Houses by Tom Cruickshank
storeys.com
waymarking.com

Budapest Park

In my previous post on Beaty Boulevard Parkette I mentioned nearby Budapest Park, located at 1575 Lakeshore Boulevard West. Beaty Boulevard Parkette is located at the busy junction of Queen Street West, King Street West and Roncesvalles Avenue. From the Parkette, you can cross the Pedestrian Bridge spanning the Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Boulevard West, and wind up in Budapest Park.

Budapest Park was created in remembrance of the fallen freedom fighters of Hungary who fought against the rule of the then-Soviet Union. The Park is located on the shore of Lake Ontario, to the east of Sunnyside and the Gus Ryder Pool. Facilities at Budapest Park include beach access, bike trails, drinking fountains, field houses, outdoor fitness equipment, a playground and splash pad, a parking lot and washroom facilities.

It was early spring when I visited, so the greenery was just in the very early stages of popping out.

Crossing the Gardiner Expressway

Looking west from the Pedestrian Bridge spanning the Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Boulevard West

Reaching the Lakeside

The Pedestrian Bridge on the south side of The Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Boulevard West
The Palais Royale
After crossing the Pedestrian Bridge one of the first buildings encountered is The Palais Royale at 1601 Lakeshore Blvd. West. The Palais Royale is a dance hall from a bygone era. Originally built as a boat works, it became notable as a night club in the now-defunct Sunnyside Amusement Park, hosting many prominent Big Band jazz bands. Since the Park’s demolition, the building has ceased to be a nightclub, and is now used for special occasions, weddings, meetings and concerts.

Springtime in Budapest Park

Entering Budapest Park
Monument in Budapest Park: “The Crossing of Lake Ontario by Marilyn Bell”
On the evening of September 9, 1954, 16-year-old marathon swimmer Marilyn Bell became the first person to swim across Lake Ontario. Racing unofficially against the heavily favoured American swimmer Florence Chadwick, Bell endured eels, high winds, and frigid waters for almost 21 hours to complete her world-record-breaking 51.5-kilometre swim here. Her courageous achievement won unprecedented attention both at home and abroad for the sport of marathon swimming in Canada. This particular spot in Budapest Park is significant as this is the place where Marilyn Bell climbed ashore to complete her gruelling swim.

Freedom For Hungary Monument

The Freedom for Hungary monument in Budapest Park was designed by Victor Tolgesy and erected in 1966. The monument commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution and Freedom Fight of 1956.

This totem poles are the gifts of Andrew and Eva Heinemann in memory of the fallen freedom fighters of the 1956 Hungarian uprising against the Soviet rule in Hungary. Erected by the Canadian Rakoczi Foundation on October 23, 2008.

Budapest Park’s Lakeside Boardwalk

Seeking some lakeside vibes, someone slung a hammock between the trees
Looking west

Returning to the north side of The Gardiner

Artwork on the Pedestrian Bridge over The Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Boulevard West, leading back to Beaty Boulevard Parkette
Crossing above The Gardiner Expressway, returning to Beaty Boulevard Parkette
Returning to the busy junction of King Street West, Queen Street West, Roncesvalles Avenue and Beaty Boulevard Parkette

Cherry Blossoms

You know it’s springtime in Toronto when the cherry blossoms suddenly pop out for their all-too-brief stay.

In Japan, flower viewing is an age-old tradition called hanami. Called sakura in Japan, the cherry blossom trees bloom in Toronto at the end of April to early May. When they bloom the trees look quite stunning, displaying their delicate, fluffy, pink and white flowers.

The first Japanese cherry tree was planted here in 1959; it was a present from the citizens of Tokyo. In High Park, 34 cherry trees were received from the Sakura project. Other cherry trees were also donated to other locations around the city, including Exhibition Place, York University and U of T.

I wasn’t up this year for the full-on urban battle that is High Park cherry blossom viewing, so I opted for a couple of alternate locations which offered a calmer, quieter experience:

103 Maitland Street

Robarts Library, University of Toronto

Trinity College, University of Toronto

Beaty Boulevard Parkette

Beaty Boulevard Parkette is a long, finger-like patch of grassy, manicured land situated near the intersection of Queen Street West, King Street West and Roncesvalles Avenue:

There’s plenty to see and do in this historic neighbourhood; if one crosses the Pedestrian Bridge over busy Lakeshore Boulevard West, you will find the Palais Royale, the Boulevard Club, Budapest Park, Marilyn Bell Park and Sunnyside Beach.

A Bit Of History

Beaty Boulevard Parkette is the former location of the Sunnyside Railway Station, located at this King/Queen/Roncesvalles intersection. The Sunnyside Railway Station operated passenger service from 1910 until 1971.

The Sunnyside Station in 1915 (City of Toronto Archives)

The station was built by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1910 and was well-placed, with access to nearby streetcars and the Sunnyside Amusement Park.

GO Transit began service in May 1967 and took over CN’s Toronto to Hamilton route. While CN’s Hamilton train had stopped at Sunnyside, GO’s Lakeshore West line bypassed the station resulting in a significant drop in its use. CN closed the station in 1971 and its buildings were demolished in 1973.

The Katyń Monument

Beaty Boulevard Parkette is home to the Katyń Monument, which commemorates the 1940 Katyń massacre in Poland:

“In remembrance of fifteen thousand Polish prisoners of war who vanished in 1940 from the camps in USSR at Kozelsk, Ostashkov, Starobelsk. Of these over four thousand were later discovered in mass graves at Katyn, near Smolensk, murdered by the Soviet state security police.”

Made of bronze and erected in 1980, the monument was created by artist Tadeusz Janowski. The monument’s location here is quite appropriate in this, a largely Eastern European, neighbourhood.

“In remembrance of fifteen thousand Polish prisoners of war who vanished in 1940 from the camps in USSR at Kozelsk, Ostashkov, Starobelsk. Of these over four thousand were later discovered in mass graves at Katyn, near Smolensk, murdered by the Soviet state security police.”

But what was the Katyn massacre you may ask? The Katyn Massacre was a series of mass executions of nearly 22,000 Polish military officers and intelligentsia prisoners of war carried out by the Soviet Union, specifically the NKVD (“People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs”, the Soviet secret police) in April and May 1940. Though the killings also occurred in the Kalinin and Kharkiv prisons and elsewhere, the massacre is named after the Katyn forest, where some of the mass graves were first discovered by German Nazi forces (Source: Wikipedia).

The Smolensk Tragedy

Also in Beaty Boulevard Parkette is a secondary monument related to the Katyn Massacre. The inscription on the plaque for this memorial reads:

In memory of the 96 person Polish delegation headed by the President of the Republic of Poland Lech Kaczynski, who all died tragically in a plane crash at Smolensk, on April 10, 2010, en route to the official commemoration ceremony of the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre. Without the Katyn Massacre there would have been no Smolensk tragedy.

Canadian Polish Congress, April 10, 2011

Memorial For Perished Polish Soldiers & Civilians

A few feet away from the last two monuments there is a third: this is the Memorial For Perished Polish Soldiers & Civilians:

The plaque on the memorial reads:

1940-2000

In Memoriam… Lest We Forget

May the tragic death of tens of thousands of Polish citizens in Soviet forced labour camps, political prisons and execution sites, always remind the world that freedom is bought with great sacrifice.

Dedicated to the memory of over one million seven hundred thousand Polish soldiers and civilians arrested in eastern Poland by the Soviet Secret Police (NKVD) in 1940-1941, for the only reason that they were Polish citizens and were departed to the far reaches of the Soviet Union (Siberia), where many were executed or died of hunger, cold, disease and exhaustion during World War II.

Alliance of the Polish eastern provinces in Toronto, February 10, 2000

Stay tuned for the second part of this post – a look at Budapest Park, which is on the other side of Lakeshore Boulevard West beside Lake Ontario.

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