Torottawalk: Prospect Cemetery (1:00 Sunday)

we may not cover all the grounds, but we're going to try to get a lot done.

we may not cover all the grounds, but we’re going to try to get a lot done.

Torottawalk explores cemeteries! Not nearly as spooky as it sounds. We’re blessed in Toronto with many expansive cemeteries that act as a record of our history, and a culture of land use that makes cemeteries a place for the living as well as the resting.

When I was in high school (Cardinal Newman – what what) after the 1h 30m commute from Scarborough, there was the 15 minute walk through a cemetery.  Morbid for some, but I always liked it.  It offered a purposeful green space with elements of long forgotten history, in addition to the fact that just by passing through, I was trespassing.

Prospect Cemetery, named for its curvilinear path that exposes continual vistas to its visitors, is Torottawalk’s first cemetery – and one of the oldest in Toronto. It’s entirely different from the closed-off cemetery of my youth, and hopefully gifted with better views and staff than those that chased me off the grounds for 4 years.

The cemetery, apart from offering some of the oldest graves in the city – the site was initially established in 1887 – also showcases some top notch modernist architecture, two ravines, a trout stream, and views of Lake Ontario and the Humber River Valley.

The property, in the heart of Earlscourt, has a rich neighborhood history too. The area was settled – less than ten years after the cemetery was put in place – by labourers from the British Isles. Apparently:

“In addition to their work at the local factories, Earlscourt families would toil day and night building meagre tar and paper shacks, as temporary homes until enough money was saved to build a proper brick house.

The spiritual leader of the Earlscourt community during these difficult times was the Reverend Peter Bryce. Each night, Bryce would trek through Earlscourt’s muddy streets, aided only by a lantern and a pair of high boots. His visits were said to have offered hope and inspiration to many families.

The quality of life in Earlscourt began to improve once it was annexed by the City of Toronto, in 1910.”

Toronto Neighbourhood Guide 

Torottawalk: Riverdale Farm (Today at 1:00)

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More a wander than a walk, we'll have a start point and explore.

More a wander than a walk, we’ll have a start point and explore.

Riverdale Farm (earlier named Riverdale Zoo) was established in 1856 when the City of Toronto bought 119 acres from the Scadding estate. On August 11, 1880, Riverdale Park was officially opened. After donations of animals, Riverdale Farm became Toronto’s First Zoo.

The list of initial animals reads like a Christmas carol. By 1902, the zoo had sixteen pheasants, two ocelots, a male camel, an elephant, a buffalo bull, six pens of monkeys, a Siberian bear, a young female crane, some lions, and a hippopotamus. That year, due to its proximity to  the old railway line, it was easy for the  Toronto Railway Company to carry 20,000 people to the zoo. After we bought a zoo in Scarborough in 1974 the animals were shipped to the new zoo and the Riverdale Zoo closed its gates for the last time. Over the next four years, many of the Riverdale Zoo buildings were torn down – all but The Residence, the Donnybrook, and the Island House buildings were demolished.

Today, we’re visiting the property, as well as the urban farm called Riverdale Farm. The Farm opened in 1978 and holds horses, cows, pigs, chickens and other animals in an late-19th-century-style farm. You may remember that Riverdale Farm narrowly escaped the chopping block last year after the infamous 2011 KPMG report identified it as a possible cost-cutting measure for the city.

You may also remember that just this year a $25,000 donation from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation (and a matching promise from Toronto’s councilors), brought new hope to the Farm – which is free to visit (but please donate).

For more information visit: the Parks and Forestry Page

Torottawalk: West Toronto Rail Path (1:00 Today)

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walking the West Toronto Rail Path

walking the West Toronto Rail Path

I’ve biked the West Toronto Railpath – or the WTR – a bunch of times. Discovering it on the way home from my volunteer bonanza over Christmas, it was like a dream. Above the traffic, away from lights, away from aggressive drivers, here was this linear park that pooped me out at little stops along the way.

Why can’t we have this everywhere, I thought.

I even tweeted about the concept:

Turns out, Friends of the West Toronto Railpath is a community-based working group with the goal of assisting the City of Toronto design, finance and build a 6.5 kilometre linear park from Toronto’s Junction Neighbourhood into the heart of the city. They’re currently lobbying to extend the Railpath south into the core, just by following along the rail lines.

West Toronto Rail Path

The first section of the Railpath took ten years of planning, lobbying, and prodding; Construction of Phase 1 of the path, running from Cariboo Avenue to Dundas Street West and Sterling Road, began in 2008 and was completed in 2009.[1]   Support for this project seems to have come from all sides – the City of Toronto Economic Development and Parks Committees, grassroots community support, the Evergreen Foundation and, Toronto’s Community Bicycle Network; however, the project necessitated the purchase of land and negotiations with rail operators and other stakeholders.

With plans for the bike path to head all the way to union station, and other rail trail paths in existence ( like the Toronto BeltlineLeaside Rail Trail, and the massive multi-use trail network ; hopefully I can look forward to a day where I’m riding the rails around this city.


Torottawalk: Laneways and Alleyways

stealing @spacing's laneway's route (

stealing @spacing’s laneway’s route (

Alleyways in Toronto are a favourite stroll point and with Jordyn Marcellus in tow, we’ve crafted this route to explore the phenomenon of laneways and alleyways in Toronto. The spaces in between main streets are filled with the garage art, types of graffiti – from “tags” to “throw-ups” to “pieces”, and converted coach houses.

After a year of change, we’re tracking down the same route – picking up Mr. Marcellus on Bloor and Christie – and trekking to explore the hidden spaces along the way.

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Supplemental Reading:

On Graffiti Alley:

On Development in Laneways: