Toronto Walk: TIFF


TIFF began in 1976 as the “Festival of Festivals,” where 35,000 Toronto Film enthusiasts watched 127 films from 30 countries. Since then, the festival has grown, last year to 372 films from 72 countries, enjoyed by over 400,000 people. Today, we’re talking a walk in the area, visiting Roy Thomson Hall and checking out St. Andrew’s Church, Canada’s Walk of Fame, The Royal Alex, the CEEB building and Simcoe Park.

I’m sure there are buildings we’ll investigate more of,  especially in this area of the city. If you didn’t know already, this area is part of the original ten blocks of the city and as a part of the oldest area of Toronto, I’m expecting to see quite a number of blue placards talkin’bout history.

Some history I found out today: Roy Thomson Hall opened in 1982,  with a circular architectural design and sloping and curvilinear glass exterior that was designed to resemble a container which people were to fill up with their own decorations.  Though the original design was supposed to have some pretty awful acoustics it was also designed with absolute accessibility in mind, and after a 22-week long remodeling of the interior, the acoustics have become worthy of the Orchestra Roy Thomson supports.

Sunshine glare off Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, ...

Sunshine glare off Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This area was once known as part of the Four Nations, in fact, this was the “Legislation” piece of the pie in the 19th century, as Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, was located in the block where Roy Thomson Hall and Metro Hall now stand. One of my favourite research sources, the Lost Rivers state that “The four corners were known as “The Four Nations: Legislation, Education, Damnation and Salvation.” (The other pieces were Upper Canada College (to the Northwest),  the Parliament Buildings (to the South), A popular tavern (in the Northeast),  and St. Andrews Church, opened in 1876 (Southeast).  For more information on these buildings, check out Lost Rivers Points Post which contains my favourite piece of historical information,

Then it was decided that the seat of government would alternate every four years between Toronto and Quebec. While parliament was in Quebec, the Toronto buildings were used as law courts, a barracks and an asylum for the insane. It was also an early site of the University of Toronto. In 1859, the alternating-capital system was dropped and the government remained at Quebec until in 1865 when Ottawa became the capital of Canada.

Another historical point of note: what do Carly Rae Jepsen, Alan Thicke, and Terry Fox have in common? They’re all being honored by the Canada’s Walk of Fame people. No joke,

Follow along on Instagram 

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: 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.