Torottawalk: Dovercourt Park Area (1:00 today!)


You may have noticed my little side project: The Dovercourt Park Community Association. Or at least, I hope you have, and I hope you’re interested in partnering up with us!

Today, I’m walking around the area, starting at Dovercourt Park and walking to our boundaries while chatting about community development, our history, and our future with some local community members.

You’re more than welcome to come, or follow along our Torottawalk on Instagram or Twitter

Torottawalk: High Park @ 1:00

Painting of Colborne Lodge, Toronto, Canada, 1865.

Painting of Colborne Lodge, Toronto, Canada, 1865. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After accidentally heading to High Park for the cherry blossoms, I became dedicated to the idea of returning for a Torottawalk. The park is huge, and I’m hoping to see High Park’s Grenadier Pond – a one-of-a-kind geological feature and tell the perplexing story of how it got it’s name.

But how did we get High Park in the first place?

John and Jemima Howard purchased a lakeside stretch of land – from Lake Shore Road to Bloor Street – in 1836, four years after immigrating to York (Toronto) from England. They called the property High Park because of the height of the hill overlooking Humber Bay and Lake Ontario. In 1873 the Howards gave their country property to the City of Toronto to be maintained as public parkland, over the next 3 years, the city took over 120 of the Howards’ 165 acre estate – all but Colburn Lodge, essentially. The Howards retained ownership of Colborne Lodge and the surrounding 45 acres until John’s death in 1890.

Colborne Lodge – their home – is now open to the public as a historic house museum containing many of the Howards’ original belongings. As avid gardeners, the Howards filled their land with gardens – in John Howard’s 1883 diary he recorded that he had counted 10,993 spring bulbs in bloom- and had farmed and rented portions of the land to tenant farmers.

In an 1873 letter to the Globe, Howard wrote “In my donating High Park to the City of Toronto it is distinctly stated that …the grounds are to be kept select, for the wives and children of the mechanics and the working class generally, also the Sunday School children and the different charities picnics… [and that High Park be held by the City as a] Public Park for the free use benefit and enjoyment of the citizens of the City of Toronto forever.”

Since that time The City Parks Department has initiated study after study to rehabilitate and maintain High Park and the unique ecological factors; defining transportation and traffic flow, safety and recreation, the natural environment and virtually all aspects of park use, development and maintenance and has since been declared an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI).


For more information on High Park, check out High Park Nature 

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!


Torottawalk: Downsview Farmer’s Market and Area

English: map of Downsview

English: map of Downsview (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s fitting that a farm is now a farmer’s market.

I’ve been talking about, and planning for, a different walk all week – a “Weed Walk” (far lamer than it sounds) where we walk about an urban area identifying edible, ingestible, drinkable plant life. After gardening for the last month and learning to identify the plants I grow from seed, I thought it would be lovely, forgetting that my sister – an amateur urban farmer, landscaper, florist, and general hippie – would be a great guide along this trip. As it’s too late to invite her for today, I’m pushing a Weed Walk until later.  Instead: Downsview.

Downsview was originally John Perkins Bull’s farm. Bull, a Justice of the Peace who settled in this area around 1842, named his farm “Downs View” as his property was situated on one of the highest elevations in Toronto. [This does not bode well for our 50+ minute bike ride to the flea market, but coming home, I anticipate hitting top speed.] Bull who balanced being a centre of justice with farming, included in the basement of  his farm house built a courtroom addition and a jail.  I’m sure they’ve remodelled extensively for the Nursing Home currently occupying The John Perkins Bull house (450 Rustic Road).

For 100+ years, Downview was its own self-sustaining area, with large post-WWII subdivisions, beautifully built churches, and lovely schools. In 1928 De Havilland Aircraft Company, followed by The Canadian Armed Forces set up military bases during World War Two. Following the end of the Cold War the  land was transformed into an urban park known as Downsview Park.

If you’re interested in learning a lot more about Downsview, check out From Oxford to Ontario : a history of the Downsview community

Today, we’re taking a tour of the over 600 friendly vendors of the Downsview Farmer’s Market offering unique merchandise from around the world.  I’m shocked we haven’t gone before, but I can only assume it’s because it’s so far without a car. Welp, After conquering the North for Torottawalk and Jane’s Walk, we’re pumped to head out on bikes and find bargains in consumer electronics, fashion clothing, jewellery, home furnishings, cosmetics, housewares, food produce and Downsview’s antique market.