Toronto Through My Lens

Category: Utility Boxes

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.” –

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

Old Toronto Houses by Tom Cruickshank

Musical Boxes

While working feverishly on my new site TO Utility Boxes (which is now complete by the way), I noticed a few utility boxes that could be grouped together thematically to portray Music and Dance in Toronto.

With that out of the way, here are some Toronto utility boxes dedicated to music and dance in our city:

Jeff Healey Tribute

Utility box painted by artist Adrian Hayles, 2018
147 Tecumseth Street just south of Queen Street West

I had looked forward to photographing this box for some time. When I finally reached the site I was extremely disappointed to see the damage done by taggers and vandals since the piece was created in 2018.

The box artist comments on his work:

Jeff Healey is a profound member of our Rock and Roll Canadian history and his knowledge of jazz is unmatched. His part in the classic movie Road House will forever mar my memory. Jeff once owned a bar called “Healey’s” at the corner of Bathurst and Queen just a couple of blocks away from his freshly painted bell box. At first, like with most public projects, I was meet with very suspicious eyes as passers-by would question my reason for being there spraying. After about two hours, the piece started to take form and the compliments came pouring in.

Queen Street Vibe in the 80s

Utility box painted by artist Glen Guerin (aka Noxious), 2018
4 Markham Street, southwest corner of Markham Street and Willis Street

Ah yes, Carole Pope and Nash the Slash. So 80s, so Queen Street West back in the day. It was all about the look – shoulder pads, raccoon eyes and bandages.

The box artist comments on his work:

The theme given me was local musicians of the “Queen St. Days”. As a patron of the Gary’s Horseshoe days, then a regular on the “Queen St. scene of the 80’s” I thought of many, many artists I’d like to commemorate in a mural who inspired me as a young artist. Then it hit me, NASH THE SLASH! However, boxes are usually two panel, and who to compliment him, but his friend Carole Pope of Rough Trade. One guy in a car stopped and yelled out who they were, gave me a thumbs up and moved on. Another middle age woman with a thick accent told me she saw Rough Trade in Poland when she was younger (who knew?!). Others were curious and asked who they were and I explained the best I could. All in all, it was a fun and learning experience and I’d do it again any day.

Echo Beach, Far Away In Time

Utility Box painted by artist Julii McMillan, 2019
5 McCaul Street, northeast corner of Renfrew Place and McCaul Street

Continuing in an 80s Queen Street vibe, this box is an excellent tribute to Martha & The Muffins.

Gordon Lightfoot

Utility box painted by artist Adrian Hayles, 2021
6 Scollard Street, in the Frank Stollery Parkette

Gordon Lightfoot… a Canadian institution.

Tribute to Salome Bey, Canada’s Queen of the Blues

Utility box painted by Adrian Hayles, 2021
2 Grosvenor Street, northwest corner of Grosvenor Street and Yonge Street

Bell Box Murals comments on this box:

If the style looks familiar, this DJ/artist/muralist has done numerous murals in the City. In 2016, Adrian took 8 weeks to paint a 22 storey Downtown Yonge BIA music mural on the north wall of 423 Yonge Street, just south of College Street. The next year, he painted the south wall of the same building, continuing the musical theme. Adrian also painted a substantial mural on Reggae Lane in the Oakwood Avenue/Eglinton Avenue West area.

The Dance

Utility box painted by artist Keight MacLean, 2017
230 College Street, northeast corner of Huron and College Streets

The box artist comments on their work:

‘The Dance’ celebrates Toronto’s communities, past and present, as a literal dance. Everyone holding hands in a continuous circle around the box, jumping and dancing barefoot and smiling and laughing. Bright fluorescent splashes of colour weave in and out of the dancing group to further highlight how people come together in Toronto to form a unique tapestry.


Utility box painted by artist Louise Reimer, 2017
542 College Street, northwest corner of College Street and Euclid Avenue

The box artist comments on their work:

The design is an homage to dancer. In our current world, where most people work at highly sedentary jobs, it is important to promote movement and an active lifestyle. Dance is not only exercise, but expressive, non competitive, and joyful. All cultures have some form of dance, which brings people together and allows for joy and expression. Contemporary dance is the result of a lot of work done by pioneering women, and especially queer people, and people of colour, which deserves to be honoured. These groups of people are all cultural producers in Toronto who still struggle for space and recognition within the art world.

Parkdale Social Club

Utility box painted by artist Cesar Rodriguez, 2017
2 O’Hara Avenue, northeast corner of O’Hara Avenue & Queen Street West

The box artist comments on their work:

‘Parkdale Social Club’ pays tribute to the history of vibrant music and arts communities in Parkdale. It was a great experience. I met many interesting people and met some friends who happened to live and work around the neighbourhood. Some people brought me gifts and others were interested in commission some of my work as well. I was not expecting that. Even a guy who seemed homeless said he had money and would love to get some of my art.

Piano Hands

Utility box painted by Jerry Silverberg, 2013
244 Bloor Street West, northeast corner of Bedford Road & Bloor Street West

Outside The Box comments on the work:

Jerry Silverberg’s box is located across from the Royal Conservatory of Music. He chose to depict hands playing piano to acknowledge the presence of the conservatory and create synergy between the two.

Sams + A&A Records

Artist and date unknown
189 Mutual Street, northeast corner of Mutual Street & Gerrard Street East

This box is a bit of a mystery; the only ID on the box is the artist’s email address: I appreciate the throwback touch, though, to when record stores at Yonge and Dundas ruled that stretch of Yonge Street.

The box is affiliated with 6 St. Joseph House.

That’s about it for now. Special thanks to Vince who, after running an editorial eye over my new Utility Box site, suggested this box theme 🙂

And of course, I can’t publish this post without giving one more shameless plug for my new site:

A New Year, A New Site

Happy 2024 everyone!

I thought I’d start the year by introducing a new site I’ve been working on for the past couple of months. Actually, it’s more of an addition or adjunct to TOcityscapes. Enter…. TO Utility Boxes! (OK, not the most exciting/glamorous topic or website on the planet, but some may find it interesting….).

For about 10 years now I’ve been capturing shots of those painted utility boxes you see scattered around Toronto – they exist either to control the traffic lights or house Bell Canada’s telecommunication lines.

There’s been a movement for some time now to turn these grey, ugly, utilitarian boxes into something a little more attractive in the urban landscape. Local artists have transformed hundreds of these boxes into their own personal masterpieces. Viewing these boxes over the last few years it’s obvious there are some extremely talented people out there.

This is my first site off-shoot from TOcityscapes. I have two other urban photo projects which I plan to launch sometime later this year, time and energy permitting. In addition to TO Utility Boxes, eventually you will see TO Sculptures and TO Murals as part of TOcityscapes.

OK, so how exactly do you check out this hot new site? Simple – you can either click on the link TO Photo Projects > TO Utility Boxes on the top TOcityscapes website menu above, or click on the big button below.

As I mention on my TO Utility Boxes site, it – like TOcityscapes – is a constant work in progress, and I will be adding to it on an ongoing basis.


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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