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.  CSILLA FEL remembers TORONTO’s first patio: “The first patio was a rented house and was called “The Jack and Jill”. Catherina Barca, aged 97 was part of the Barca pioneers in sidewalk cafes.  She once said “this was my backyard as a child and the atmosphere of coffee and creativity has stayed with me my whole life.”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’.“You mention Albert Franck having a hop on Gerrard, but he and his wife Florence Vale, actually lived there too. Harold Town frequented their place (he wrote a couple of books on Franck, and Joyce Wieland and Kazuo Nakamura were, I think, mentioned by Franck. Also on that strip is where the collective General Idea (Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal, and AA Bronson, of whom Bronson is the sole surviving member) had their first salon.” – from STEVEN ERIC KETOLA <PHOTOS – City of Toronto Archives; Image above – David Mason Books>


  1. Hi Dave ~
    Great story. Too bad I never got to experience this bohemian village. It truly was charming and unique. Unfortunately, it is all becoming uprooted.

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