Toronto Through My Lens

Category: Murals (Page 1 of 10)

Jean Lumb Lane

In Chinatown there exists a small lane dedicated to the memory of a remarkable Chinese-Canadian woman named Jean Lumb:

Jean Lumb Lane, off Dundas Street West, near Huron Street

Who Was Jean Lumb?

Since coming to live in Toronto I have heard the name Jean Lumb mentioned but was not aware of her historical importance and influence until doing a bit of research.

Jean Lumb was the first Chinese-Canadian woman, and the first restauranteur, to receive the Order of Canada for her community work. Most notably, she was recognized for her pivotal role in changing Canada’s immigration laws that separated Chinese families, and for her contribution in saving Toronto’s First Chinatown.

Jean Lumb was very active in community work throughout her life. As mentioned earlier, she was instrumental in organizing the campaign to save Toronto’s First Chinatown from complete demolition. She also galvanized the community against further expropriation of remaining portions on Dundas Street West.

Jean was a major force – and the sole woman – in the 1957 Chinese delegation which lobbied the government of John Diefenbaker. They lobbied to repeal explicit racial discrimination from the immigration laws, which contained race-based criteria for admission to Canada.

Early History

Jean Lumb was born in Nanaimo, B.C. in 1919. Her father emigrated to Canada to work as a farm labourer. Jean Lumb left school at age 12 to work and support her family. In 1935, she moved to Toronto and later opened her own grocery store here at the age of 17.

The mother of six children and grandmother of nine grandchildren, Jean Lumb was the co-owner (with husband Doyle Lumb) and director of the Kwong Chow Restaurant in Toronto for 23 years. The restaurant was highly successful and popular with both Chinese and Westerners, with many clientele who were politicians due to its proximity to Toronto’s City Hall.

Jean achieved many “firsts” in Toronto. This included being the:

  • First Chinese woman on the board of governors of the Women’s College Hospital.
  • First Chinese woman on the board of University Settlement House
  • First Chinese restaurateur and first woman to receive the Fran Deck Award for outstanding achievement in Toronto’s restaurant industry
  • First Chinese-Canadian woman to sit on the board of Rotary-Laughlen Centre

She also served as director and honorary advisor of the Yee Hong Chinese Nursing Home for Greater Toronto and the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto, respectively.

Jean Lumb was honoured with around 20 Awards, her first being the Order of Canada in 1976.

This remarkable woman’s legacy continues long after her passing in 2002. The Jean Lumb Foundation awards high school students with Chinese heritage annually for their accomplishments.

You can visit the Jean Lumb plaque in Diversity Garden (southeast corner of Elizabeth Street and Foster Place) near the original site of the Kwong Chow restaurant.

The Jean Lumb Lane was officially opened on November 13, 2019 (below):

Photo: Chinatown BIA

If you’d like to listen to Jean Lumb’s daughter Arlene Chan and Jean Lumb herself, here is an interesting YouTube video:

A Walk Down Roncesvalles Avenue

I love Roncesvalles (aka Little Poland) – it has such a welcoming village-feel to it and exudes a laid-back yet slightly hip vibe. Roncesvalles Avenue itself stretches for 1.8 km, and is filled with gardens and charming, independent shops along the way. About 15,000 people live in Roncesvalles Village’s vintage buildings.

Known as “Roncy” to the locals, Roncesvalles consists of the stretch of Roncesvalles Avenue from Bloor Street south to Queen Street West.

“They Came From Roncesvalles”
The mural wall which greets visitors. The artists who painted this mural are Spud1, Wales, Random & Cruz.
More of the Mural
Artists: Spud1, Wales, Random & Cruz

A Very Brief History of Roncesvalles

Roncesvalles Avenue was originally owned by Colonel Walter O’Hara who named the street after the Roncesvalles gorge in Spain, where he had won a battle against Napolean’s army circa 1813. British settlers began to arrive in the early 1900’s as residential homes appeared. After WWII large numbers of Polish immigrants arrived and set up all sorts of businesses; that is why this neighbourhood celebrates the Roncesvalles Village Polish Festival every year.

Little Poland

Culturally, the area is known as the centre of the Polish community in Toronto with prominent Polish institutions, businesses and St. Casimir’s Catholic Church located on Roncesvalles Avenue. The businesses along Roncesvalles have formed the Roncesvalles Village Business Improvement Area and hold the largest Polish Festival in North America, which takes place every September.

Mural Outside “Jimmy’s Coffee”
2210 Dundas Street West. You know the area is urban-hip when there’s a Jimmy’s Coffee in the ‘hood.
The Revue Cinema, 400 Roncesvalles Avenue
Built between late-1911 and early-1912, the theatre is a designated heritage site and is Toronto’s oldest standing movie theatre in use for showing movies. When news of its closure became public, a grass-roots community movement sprang up in order to save the cinema. After a great deal of effort, the movement was ultimately successful and the Revue reopened in October 2007. It is now operated by the not-for-profit “Revue Film Society”.

Roncesvalles is very well known for the large number of small restaurants, cafés and specialty food shops of various cuisines. There are several bakeries and delicatessens found along the full length of Roncesvalles.

Patios along Roncesvalles Avenue
One of the many fruit and veg shops along Roncesvalles Avenue
Sweetpea’s Floral & Gift Boutique
This is a floral studio located at 294 Roncesvalles Avenue. It’s widely recognized as Toronto’s Best Florist (Toronto Life, BlogTO).
Another shot of Sweetpea’s
Sweetpea’s was just so colourful and inspiring I had to take yet another shot…
Neighbourhood garage doors, Roncesvalles Avenue
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church
263 Roncesvalles Avenue
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church
Pope John Paul II Monument
The piece was created in 1984 by Alexander von Svoboda. The bronze statue sits outside St. Casimir’s Polish Parishes Credit Union Limited at 220 Roncesvalles Avenue.
The Chopin Restaurant
Polish cuisine, 165 Roncesvalles Avenue
More fruit & veg shops
Old-style barber’s pole on Roncesvalles
In window of Roncesvalles restaurant. Plenty of restaurants in Roncesvalles.
Grafton Community Garden
In Grafton Avenue Park, 23 Roncesvalles Avenue. Resident Walter Ruston painted the mural (on wall behind the garden) of the Sunnyside Amusement Park. This area used to be a neglected scrap of land but was turned into a thing of beauty by local gardening committees.

I’ll leave you with a couple of sites to explore it you’d like to learn more about Roncesvalles:

From Destination Toronto:
An excellent post on their website

Roncesvalles BIA:
Local info found here

Vincent, Murals & Alleyways

Yesterday I thought I might go to Chinatown to shoot the events of the Lunar New Year celebrations at Dundas Steet West and Spadina Avenue (it’s Year of the Dragon, by the way). When I got there I found the Dragon City Mall to be a little too packed for me, so I headed through Chinatown to see what other photo opportunities might present themselves.

Dundas Street West

Walking along Dundas Street West opposite the AGO, I spied Vincent van Gogh in front of the Mayberry Fine Art Gallery at 326 Dundas Street West:

One of the things that made this piece so compelling was its presentation in a three-dimensional perspective. van Gogh’s face is carved and embedded into the rest of the frame; unfortunately the effect doesn’t translate well in a photograph but is still impressive nonetheless.

I always love passing by the Mayberry Gallery as they consistently exhibit such interesting pieces street-side. This recent installment was promoting the Immersive van Gogh Exhibit at the Lighthouse ArtSpace Toronto, located at 1 Yonge Street. More info and tickets here. By all appearances it looks like a great exhibit.

Alleyway Murals

I made a turn on to McCaul Street and headed north. One very short block north of Dundas Street West I encountered a laneway leading off McCaul Street:

I could see quite a bit of colour in the distance so I went further in to check things out… I wasn’t disappointed with my findings:

This van was covered in street art. I guess anything that stood still long enough got the full treatment.
The lane itself is quite unspectacular, but I loved the street art
Exiting the alley, I noticed these hands gracing the side of someone’s garage

Just Off Baldwin Street

Walking further north up McCaul Street, I encountered another scenic laneway just south of Baldwin Street. This alleyway art was not quite as extensive as the previous lane, but interesting all the same.

Clearly, the artist was a Dr. Seuss fan:

The last mural before heading home:

Street Art in Renfrew Place

Renfrew Place sounds like a posh street but in actuality is a back alley. It’s located one block north of Queen Street West and runs between Simcoe Street and John Street:

An interesting and colourful segment of Renfrew Place is the small section between St. Patrick Street and McCaul Street, which is where I captured these images:

Crossing McCaul Street and moving toward John Street, the alley is a little bland at first but becomes more interesting and colourful as you progress further west:

The Green Glow of Renfrew Place

As I moved further west down Renfrew Place I became aware that everything was bathed in this odd green light. The green glow in these shots is from the setting sun reflecting off the green exterior of the Umbra building on the corner of Renfrew Place and John Street. It was late afternoon when I took these shots, so the slowly setting sun was strong, illuminating everything in the alley and turning it green:

More Elicser

If you’ve been following TO Cityscapes for a while you’ll find the occasional post about the very talented Toronto street artist Elicser. I’m a big fan of his urban art. His style is instantly identifiable and his murals can be found in so many interesting spots in the city. I was pleased to find some more of the man’s work in this alley.

If you’re interested in reading some of my previous posts featuring Elicser’s mural art, please check out the posts below:

Barbara Barrett Lane

Barbara Barrett Lane is located just south of Bloor Street West, running between Brunswick Avenue…

Read More

“Apple Alley”

I call this street art site Apple Alley because of its location: the first alley…

Read More

Alleyway Art

I discovered this street art in an alley off King Street West, east of Strachan…

Read More

Continuing On…

The colours of these Elicser murals may seem a little odd but, again, the alley was bathed in a strong reflected light from the Umbra building on John Street:

And here is the very building which was casting the unusual green light on the alley

Renfrew Place terminates at John Street. Just before exiting the alley to John Street, a couple more Elicser murals can be found:

Looking back at Renfrew Place from Queen Street West, one more Elicser mural can be found atop the building. Note the Umbra building in the background, responsible for casting such an interesting green glow on the alley.
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