Toronto Walk: the Nordheimer Ravine

The interconnected parks that wind around the Nordheimer Ravine are where we’re headed today. From Roycroft Park to Sir Winston Churchill Park, the area which lies just just south of St. Clair between Avenue Road and Bathurst Street becomes a woodsy forest that one can get lost in.

As part of the original grounds associated with Casa Loma, these areas haven’t had the exposure of the great castle, but were a key part of my personal Friday bike rides home from work.

The great history of the area can be found on the wonderful Lost Rivers series, and some things to note about our travels today, include:

Toronto Walk: Cherry Blossoms in High Park

A clear sign that the polar vortex pushed back our seasons are the Cherry Blossoms in High Park. We’ve been keeping tabs on “Cherry Blossom Watch” and hoping that the recent rains haven’t rid the trees of their blossoms, and today, we’re going on the hunt for cherry blossoms. While there are cherry trees across Toronto, High Park’s Sakura cherry trees (located around Hillside Gardens and the Duck Pond) are usually the biggest draws often attracting hundreds of visitors from around the city. 

The first Japanese Somei-Yoshino Cherry Tree was planted here in 1959 and it was present from the citizens of Tokyo. These trees are the earliest to bloom and are much loved for their fluffy pink and white flowers. Another 34 cherry trees were donated to High Park in 2001 from the Sakura project. Other cherry trees were also donated to other locations around the city, for example Exhibition Place and various universities such as McMaster University, York Uni and the U of T.

I’ve just found out, however, there’s an alternate location for cherry blossom spotting: 30 Japanese Cherry trees were planted in 2011 on Toronto Islands, at Centre Island located at the south end of the bridge near the fountain. There are also cherry trees at Exhibition PlaceMcMaster UniversityYork University (near Calumet College and on Ottawa Road near McLaughlin College) and the University of Toronto‘s main (next to Robarts Library) and Scarborough campuses.

My favourite thing about the cherry blossoms season, apart from the history, cultural significance, and reams of instagram pictures, is High Park’s website instructions: 

Some tips for your visit and a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t break off branches from the trees! Not even small ones.
  • Parking will be horrible inside the park – too many cars, long traffic jams, honking, frustrated drivers. Take transit! Or park outside the park.
  • If you park illegally and you get a ticket do not complain about it.
  • If you can, plan your visit for a weekday.
  • There aren’t enough washrooms for the amount of people that are in the park when the trees are blooming.
  • You don’t have to bring your crying two year old child and two dogs when the crowd is the biggest. (And I say this as a father of a crying two year old and two dogs). It’ll be so much easier for everybody if you go during off-peak hours.

For information on the history, cultural significance, and symbolism, check out these links.

Toronto Walks: Lawrence Manor

Turns out, a lot of people explore Lawrence Manor and then write about it on the internets. In  cursory google, “Lawrence Manor History” gets more hits than I’m used to. Bounded by Bathurst Streeton, Highway 401, the Allen, and Lawrence Avenue to the south, the area seems to have a digital following of people just like me, who like walking in areas that have cultural significance and loads of local history. 

I’m impressed with “Doing Jewish in Toronto” and can’t do better than their research, so the following is from them:

Lawrence Manor was once farmland until the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a federal government agency, bought the deed in the 1940s and earmarked the land for residential development. The homes in Lawrence Manor are primarily two-storey houses, split-level dwellings and bungalows. Lots are a respectable 9.14 metres (30 feet) wide at minimum and backyards are often deep. Today, the area is being gentrified and the small mid-century homes are slowly being replaced by larger dwellings.

Bathurst Street in the Lawrence Manor is also lined with low and high-rise apartment buildings as well as a recently built luxury condominium apartment building.

Nowhere in Toronto can you find a more traditional Jewish area than along Bathurst St. between Highway 401 and Briar Hill Ave. Lining this corridor are many little Orthodox synagogues and schools, each one catering to a different branch of Orthodox or Chassidic Judaism. A stroll around the neighbourhood makes it apparent that this area is predominantly Orthodox. Gentlemen with black hats and payos, and ladies wearing long skirts and hats are seen throughout, often with young children trailing beside.

East of Bathurst St. towards Avenue Rd., the neighbourhood undergoes a noticeable transition. Lots and homes are larger and more ornately decorated, and recent renovations to the neighbourhood are visible by the spate of custom-built homes. While the Jewish population west of Bathurst St. is still high – it ranks as the number one ethnic group in census data – the density is lower than at Bathurst St.

If you’re interested in seeing another walk in the area from 2011 (and it’d be interesting to compare the landscape changes) I’d recommend looking into Toronto Neighborhood Walks who unfortunately seems to have halted their walking adventures around the same time Toronto Walk picked up ours.


Toronto Walk: The Six Points

The Lost Six Points is painted across the walls of Islington Village

Go West, Young Toronto Walkers!

For weeks I’ve been pushing to head west and explore a different little: the Islington Village (also known as Six Points).  A few weeks ago, I hopped off at Islington to head to the heart of Mississauga on the MiWay, and gawked at the history around me.

Islington Village is perhaps best known for its painted murals, a series that I saw while driving out to visit my sister. This project of some of the best murals in the city, known as the Islington Mosaic, was put forward by the Village of Islington Business Improvement Area (BIA), he Heritage Etobicoke Foundation and Toronto Economic Development to respond to the community’s growth while promoting a passion for, and respect of the vibrant history of Six Points.

Sites We’re Looking to see: 

  • The historic Montgomery’s Inn, (no, not Montgomery’s Tavern). Now a community museum, this former inn was a Loyalist stronghold, now it hosts farmers markets.
  • Governor’s Road (now Dundas Street West) which first existed as an indigenous trail known as “The Way of the Warrior” stretching from Hamilton (Dundas) into Toronto. This was the first road in the Province of Upper Canada, and was commenced by Governor Simcoe in 1793. It was cleared by the early settlers and built by the soldiers as a military road.
  • Thomas Riley Park—named after Etobicoke’s former commissioner of parks and recreation.
  • The Murals. We’ll do our best to cover as much ground as possible, but this city of murals will take more than one afternoon to cover.

Today, I’m watching the Heritage Toronto’s iTour, and downloading it to my phone to help guide us through the history. Hopefully, it will also address the Six Points Interchange Reconfiguration and the future impacts.