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.

Toronto Walk: Little Tehran

from with gratitude

Yonge and Finch (named for John Finch who operated a hotel on the corner) has evolved over the years from a farm, to a hotel (where the wood from the building would be reused to build the Bedford Park Hotel south of Fairlawn*), to a brewery, and a neighbourhood, to become another “little” in our series.

Yonge and Finch has been called “the other Koreatown” , TehranTo, or just plain ol’ Newtonbrook.

The population of the area is split between Chinese, Korean, Russian and Jewish and Iranian.

First settled in the early 19th century, Newtonbrook’s early industries were dominated by mills (saw and grist mills) on the east and west branches of the Don River. Later, the “Bird in the Hand” hotel and restaurant would serve the workers of the area. Newtonbrook, named for Reverend Robert Newton.

Streets we’re hoping to pay attention to:

  • Drewry Avenue also known as “Pope’s Lane” (to see the only original house of the times left)
  • 43 Drewry – the site of the Village of Newtonbrook’s fourth schoolhouse built in 1878 and demolished in 1997.
  • The Second Newtonbrook General Store, circa 1907, located on the north-west corner of Yonge Street and Drewry Avenue.
  • The manse in the intersection of Yonge Street and Hendon Avenue: birthplace and hometown of Nobel Prize winner and Liberal Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson.

For more information, check out the Toronto Neighbourhood Site

* research drawn from Toronto Neighbourhoods 7-Book Bundle:A City in the Making / Unbuilt Toronto By Mark Osbaldeston, F.R. (Hamish) Berchem, Frederick H. Armstrong, Scott Kennedy, Jane Pitfield

Toronto Walk: Little Jamaica

Courtesy of Nick’s Travel Bug Blog

Eglinton West, also known as “Little Jamaica”, is this week’s walk area. Eglinton and Oakwood is often a bustling neighborhood, punctuated by barbershops, restaurants, jerk chicken street BBQs, and cosmetics stores, but it wasn’t always this way. As a “Black Enclave”, the area gathered together the Caribbean/West Indian communities including TrinidadianBarbadian, and Guyanese immigrants, and the black identities of the community work together to strengthen themselves through supporting local business and entrepreneurs. You could say that Cultural Enclaves, whether voluntary or prescribed, are the hipsters of the “Shop Local” movement.

The businesses along Eglinton Avenue West are frequented by many in the Greater Toronto Area‘s 177,000-plus Jamaican community.[2]

Over the last decade, the area has gained a reputation for being riddled with crime; however, in the last three years the real estate development boom has looked upon Little Jamaica as an area ready for massive redevelopment and reconstruction. Another kind of development, transportation development, has also had a massive impact on the area; many businesses have been forced to shut down or relocate due to LRT development and concerns of increased rent. While the increased development will no doubt be evident today on our walk, I’m sure the changing face of Eglinton West will also be omnipresent; with little to no support for local residents and businesses in the area, the local community feels out of control of the future of a long-held stronghold of Caribbean and West African people.

Gentrification has been sweeping people out of their solidly working-class neighbourhoods for more than a decade, from Parkdale to Regent Park to Lawrence Heights. Without a strong sense of unity amongst the existing working class residents in these neighbourhoods, the roots of these communities will be as wiped out as they have been in Queen Street West and Liberty Village. 

For a look at the neighborhood from a local’s perspective, check out Pretty Hype TO.