TorontoWalk: Tommy Thompson Park

Today, we’re trying to do this bike/walk trip. We’ll go as deep as we can into the Leslie Street Spit which extends five km into Lake Ontario and is over 500 hectares in size. If you’re interested in joining us, but don’t want to face the traffic, there’s this virtual tour.

For a history of TTP (Tommy Thompson Park), look to TTP’s website. TTP is completely man-made, originally constructed by Toronto Harbour Commissioners (THC) in 1959,  the land was drastically increased in 1973. From 1974 to 1983 approximately 6,500,000 cubic metres of sand/silt were dredged from the Outer Harbour and placed at the spit which created the many lagoons and sand peninsulas. And it hasn’t stopped. OVer the years, additional fill has widened and extended the shoreline, and despite the restricted operation hours (mainly weekends) well over 100,000 visitors enjoy TTP annually. Given the high visitor numbers, the proposed residential growth in the West Don Lands that could see local resident numbers reach 60,000 and the development of Lake Ontario Park, TTP is recognized as one of the best areas for greenspace improvement along the Toronto waterfront.

With the construction in the area, we’re hoping to start our walk close to the regular 1:00 time, but that could change!

TorontoWalk: Dufferin St.

My parents recently came back from Uganda after participating as Curricula Consultants with “Teachers Helping Teachers” and they’re coming over tonight for dinner. So today’s TorontoWalk will include a stop off for some groceries at a Dufferin locale. But! The history!

“Dufferin” is named for Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, who served as Governor General of Canada from 1872 to 1878. He’s known as one of the most successful diplomats of his time, due in part to his work in Syria and Lebanon – and in part to having pretty outstanding facial hair.

Dufferin – the street – has also earned notice. In 2003, 2007, and 2013 it was voted as one of “Ontario’s Worst 20 Roads” in the Ontario’s Worst Roads Poll.  Today we’re doing a Dufferin leg between Dupont and College, where the street is primarily residential on both sides though there are some historical notables:

The Dufferin Mall, for example, sits on land that until 1955 was occupied by a half-mile race track officially called Dufferin Park, but unofficially nicknamed Little Saratoga and Sufferin Park. Once owned by the Denison family, the racetrack had been operating since the 1800s and survived a battle with churches and newspapers against race-track gambling in Canada. You can tell that the bad blood continued for sometime as an obituary that appeared in the Globe and Mail described Abe Orpen (the Racetrack’s owner and operator) as “the lawbreaker who ran the poolroom in old Toronto Junction, and came within an inch of going to jail as the proprietor of a gambling club on Wellington Street.”

The Dufferin Mall and Dufferin Grove Park area – in addition to being one of many a race track in Toronto – also served as a stadium for events like circuses and wild west shows like the Young Buffalo wild west shows that featured performers such as Annie Oakley, “peerless rifle and wing shot of the world.” Just imagine: Annie Oakley, the animals and performers of the circus marching along Bloor and Brock from the old TTC barns on Lansdowne down to the track on Dufferin.

North of College, and west of Dufferin is the former village of Brockton and on the east is the Dufferin Grove neighbourhood, named after the park on the east side of Dufferin. From Bloor Street to Davenport, Dufferin is lined with homes built from the 1920s to post-World War II. The Galleria Mall is located on the west side of Dufferin and on the south side of Dupont Street, and for most in the area, it serves as a reminder of local business struggling against a lack of consistent anchor stores. After Zellers was replaced by… nothing,. The only things holding this building together are the Fresh Co, LCBO, and Dollar store.

The neighbourhood west of Dufferin in this area is known as Wallace Emerson, while on the east it is known as Dovercourt Park (which recently launched a Community Association). North of Davenport, Dufferin ascends the former Lake Iroquois shoreline escarpment.

Torontowalk: The Junction

One of the most interesting areas, sought after locales, and generally awesome place in the City of Toronto, is the Junction. and today: we’re walking it. Junction is one of those areas – bigger than the strip with a deep history and quickly gentrifying – that I love exploring. Not my first walk in the area, but the first TorontoWalk!

“The Junction” is where the Canadian Pacific Railway east-west mainline crosses the Canadian National Railway tracks in the west end of Toronto. Prior to the rail line and before even the European settlement, there were two native trails which intersected in the area. Very much like the Davenport area, the space that is now the Junction was primarily rural up until the 1870s. From 1857-1876, much of it was the site of the Carleton Race Course – a tract of land that became the headquarters of the Toronto Turf Club and hosted the first running of the Queen’s Plate on June 27, 1860. The first four Plate races were run here.Following the arrival of the railways in the 1880s, the old racetrack and surrounding area were developed by Daniel Webster Clendenan, and the two main straightaways of the track are now High Park Avenue and Pacific Avenue. (For some great maps head over to Junction Craft Brewing)

WestTorontoMap1886The Village of West Toronto Junction was founded in 1884 and in 1889, it merged with the nearby villages of Carleton and Davenport to become the Town of West Toronto Junction. Quickly growing to the Town of Toronto Junction in 1892, then the City of West Toronto, before it was amalgamated with the City of Toronto in 1909.

Primarily a manufacturing community, the foundries, mills, wire factories, and industries of the 1800s are still vaguely present today. Also present, the influence of early immigrants — Irish Catholics who moved from poor, crowded tenement housing in other areas of the city, immigrants from English industrial cities such as Birmingham and Manchester, and then from non-English speaking countries, including Italians, Poles, Macedonians and Croatians.


Like any city, the Junction has its booms and busts – the massive industrial upheaval, followed by the Long Depression where construction ground to a halt and factories closed, it was amid the mounting civic debt and depression that the Junction was annexed in 1909. It’s no wonder, then, that the Junction (just before amalgamation) had a reputation. Booms result in the growth of a population, the need for entertainment, the building of bars on every street corner; busts meant heavy drinking, as was the case with many railway and factory workers’ towns. By 1903, alcohol was such a serious problem that the town voted to go dry in 1904. This bylaw was not repealed until 1997. It was the last area of Toronto to do so.

For more information on the prohibition – a great read – go here

So, that’s where we’re walking today. Hope you can follow along, or join in from wherever you are. We may even stop by the Indie Alehouse and Junction Craft Brewery, my favourite little bits of irony,

Changing Torottawalk

With the “Ottawa” component of your favourite walking portmanteau moving to Toronto: I’m looking to rename the weekly walk around the city. We’re now TorontoWalk and tomorrow we’ll be walking at 1:00 in a new area of the city!