Torottawalk: Church on Sunday!

Picture from Wikipedia, where all really good research comes from, right?

My partner loved the idea of heading off to Church for a walk today. As a couple of gay ladies, Church has a distinct meaning for us, and researching it has allowed me to see it through a new lens.

We’ll be starting our walk in the northern end of Church, a sleepy portion that would be shocked, I’m sure, to be called part of the Village. While the rest of church was part of the Molly gay land of Mr. Wood, this little area was founded as a residential suburb in 1830 by entrepreneur Joseph Bloore (yep: that Bloor) and William Botsford Jarvis of Rosedale, Toronto. A full twenty years after the scandal that found  Alexander Wood, a merchant and magistrate in Upper Canada, investigating a rape case by examining the “private accounts” of several men 1810. After facing ridicule for his investigation, and being charged with sodomy, Wood was cast our of Upper Canada and returned to Scotland, only to return to fight in 1812.

(Seriously, this man is amazing, he even had a Alexander Wood Lager beer named for him)

Speaking of beers, though: Bloore operated a brewery north-east of today’s Bloor and Church Street intersection, which is about where we’re starting.


North side of King Street, Toronto to Church Streets John Howard, 1835

The area of Church south of Yonge was known as “Molly Wood‘s Bush” in the early nineteenth century — which I love, as “Molly” or “Mol” was slang for gay at the time, and “Queer Wood’s Bush” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. In the spring of 2005, a statue of Wood was erected at the corner of Church and Alexander Streets (the latter named for Wood), honouring him as a forefather of Toronto’s modern gay community.

Along church still exist some of the oldest landmarks in Toronto, including Oakham House at 322 Church Street – Ryerson University, which through it’s Gothic architecture should tell you it was built around the mid to late 1800.

The further south on Church the closer you get to some interesting history where in 1808 York built its first substantial Wharf at the bottom of Church Street between the present day Old York Tower and the Performing Arts Lodge. This explains the huge differential in grading in the area, as back then: a shear, 20 foot drop from Front Street down to the beach made the waterfront more accessible the grading of the embankment began.

On February 14 1872 a massive fire swept – one of many – swept through Church and the Area. I’d love to know more about the lost buildings, and hopefully along our walk today we can see a few!


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