Toronto’s ‘Brigadoon’ – the bohemian village that vanished

Pierre Berton wrote, “it was our ghetto, our Bowery, our Chinatown, our East Side, our Soho, our Montparnasse – an intriguing island in the heart of downtown Toronto, whose doom has been predicted (wrongly) for so many years.”

Gerrard Street Village, between Yonge and Elizabeth Street, was the city’s bohemia from the 1920’s until the late 60’s and early 70’s.  Ernest Hemingway called the Village home.  Margaret Atwood, Milton Acorn, Al Purdy, Michael Ondaatje, Joe Rosenblatt, Avrom Isaacs, David Mason, Ken Danby, Robert Bateman, Lawren Harris, Albert Franck and Marilyn Brooks all walked its streets.  Some lived above the candy-coloured stores, ate at the Limelight or Mary John’s Depression-era restaurant, and frequented the bookstores.  Today, you’d never know the Village had even existed.

All that’s left of this charming little enclave – now called the Discovery District – is a block-long row of Victorian houses.  It’s a lost village, living on in the memories of those who loved it once upon a time.

PHOTOS – Toronto City Archives and David Mason Books

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One thought on “Toronto’s ‘Brigadoon’ – the bohemian village that vanished

  1. I lived at 92 & 94 Gerrard St. W. as a teen in 1961-63. Enjoyed the artsy/quasi-bohemian atmosphere and was impressed; my life & work direction was affected very definately. Have a few b&w photos taken with my brownie on the streets from those days. Have had some other correspondence with folks also from the area at the time. Great memories. See also recent article in Sunday Tor. Star (July 19, 2015) Insight & Books, p.I1 on Mary Johns Restaurant/Albert Franck, artist who often painted in the back laneways.

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