In the 1920’s, artists, writers, shopkeepers and bohemians began settling into 19th-century row houses along Gerrard West and neighbouring streets. They painted the stuccoed houses in rainbow colours, opened art galleries, bookshops, restaurants and – a first for TORONTO – an outdoor patio. The neighbourhood was christened GERRARD STREET VILLAGE. It became our city’s Greenwich Village, Soho, the Left Bank – an enclave of bohemia in the middle of a very conservative town.
Ernest Hemingway called the Village home for a while; the Group of Seven’s Lawren Harris sketched here; painter Albert Franck rented a shop in the 1940’s. Some other villagers – poets Al Purdy and bp Nichol, Margaret Atwood, Milton Acorn, Michael Ondaatje, Joe Rosenblatt, Gwendolyn MacEwen – a slew of intellectuals, designers, booksellers and writers.
Only a few of the Victorian-era houses remain – “totally emasculated” as one old-timer put it. A hotel, parking lot, hospital buildings, a condo and a steam plant occupy – what was once – TORONTO’s ‘Brigadoon’. Fortunately, some photographer took the time to shoot these coloured images. GERRARD STREET VILLAGE is gone forever.