STRACHAN AVE. BORDERS A FORMER NEIGHBOURHOOD OF STEAM ENGINES & HEAVY INDUSTRY

       You’d never know it these days with multiple condo buildings sprouting up. But the area west of STRACHAN AVENUE was once home to the CN Rail Yards, Central Prison, and acres of heavy industry.

The railway yards brought with them companies manufacturing boilers, heavy machinery, farm equipment, billiard tables, electrical appliances, carpets, lamps, toys, bedding and pumps.

During World Wars I and II many of the factories produced armaments, bombs and weapons. It was a beehive of industrial this and that and remained so until the 1970’s.

<PHOTO ABOVE – Central Prison, 1884>

<Wartime armaments piled up in what’s now Liberty Village>

<Strachan Avenue as it was in 1913>

<Strachan Avenue railroad crossing, 1913>

When the railways yard and manufacturing companies moved to suburbia in the 1970’s & 80’s, the area was left with heavily polluted soil accumulated over several decades. That had to be cleaned up before repurposing.

The City of TORONTO, property owners and developers saw great potential in a neighbourhood so close to downtown, the entertainment/gallery/fashion districts and the Lakeshore. With the gentrification of the west end, this area became what it is today – a perfect place to build condo housing, renovate warehouses, and create a whole new community.

Making a very long story short – that’s when today’s Liberty Village came into being.

<The remaining railway lines are now under cover>

<Black and white photos above – City of Toronto Archives, Rail Road Historical Association, Toronto Reference Library>

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TINY DRAPER ST. – VINTAGE 1880‘S, A BLOCK LONG, 28 HOUSES, HERITAGE CONSERVATION DISTRICT

Holding tight, with condo construction all around, DRAPER STREET seems undisturbed – east of Portland, north of Front, south of Wellington. The semi-detached cottages and row houses once housed many of the labourers working for the nearby railroads.

West of Draper is a pedestrian bridge linking the neighbourhood to a fairly distant waterfront.

OLD AND YOUNG SEEM TO AGREE – KENSINGTON MARKET IS ONE “COOL” NEIGHBOURHOOD

It’s a National Historic Site and the locals fight hard to keep it that way. There are no big box stores here. The multicultural neighbourhood occupies a large tract of land from College Street to the north, Spadina on the east, Dundas on the south and Bathurst Street to the west.

The area is filled with food stores of every kind, a variety of upscale & downscale restaurants, nightclubs, coffee bars, vintage clothing shops, two synagogues, and re-jigged architecture of every description. Bellevue Park (now undergoing a complete renovation) is, without a doubt, TORONTO’s finest place to people watch.

Kensington’s long history as an immigrant working-class neighbourhood is changing into a more expensive place to live and do business. Don’t let the facades fool you. The Market’s shops and houses aren’t cheap to come by.

“CITY OF 140+ LANGUAGES” – BBC TRAVEL GIVES A BOOST TO TORONTO TOURISM, JULY 31/2017

BBC Travel (with over 3,000,000 fans on Facebook) gives TORONTO a glowing writeup in an article by Lindsey Galloway. “Growing at a clip of more than 100,000 new residents a year, Canada’s largest city keeps getting larger. But the continued population boom hasn’t changed TORONTO’s character,” writes Ms. Galloway.

“A big part of TORONTO’s character comes through its many cultural neighbourhoods, which include Little India (6km east of the city centre), Little Italy (3km west), Portugal Village (3km south-west), Greektown (8km north-east), and Chinatown (2km east), the largest outside San Francisco.

“While residents agree that the city is expensive compared to the rest of Canada, they also say it’s still much more affordable than other big global cities. The 2017 Cost of Living Index by the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked TORONTO at 86 of 133 cities, well behind New York, London and even Mexico City.”

Read the whole story at http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20170728-canadas-city-of-140-languages

FROM FARMLAND TO “NEW TOWN” – DON MILLS WAS A TORONTO & CANADIAN FIRST

In the midst of a housing shortage after World War II, E.P. Taylor <PHOTO ABOVE>, a powerful businessman, bought two thousand acres of farmland.

From 1995 to 1965 Taylor’s companies changed that farmland into one of the world’s most innovative “New Towns”.

Within the community – 28,000 residents, over 70 industries, one of Canada’s earliest shopping centres, schools and recreation facilities.

DON MILLS was the first land development of its kind to be planned and funded by the private sector. Neighbourhoods were isolated from heavy traffic by looping roads and culs-de-sac. Light industry was allowed on the edges. Attention was paid to everything from the buildings, their exteriors and colours. Generous green space was provided.

Much of residential DON MILLS remains as it was built. The trees have grown taller, but the houses still have that 1950-60’s Modernist look.

“THE TROUBLE WITH OAKLAND IS WHEN YOU GET THERE, THERE’S NO THERE THERE” – GERTRUDE STEIN

<Gertrude Stein by Picabia, 1933>

I wonder if Ms. Stein (1874-1946, novelist, poet, playwright) would say the same thing about the Shops at DON MILLS situated in the suburban vastness of TORONTO’s North York. Developer Cadillac-Fairview replaced a standard shopping mall here with a town centre laid out around a central square with art by Douglas Coupland. Not your typical shopping centre in these parts.

Don Mills town centre is home to 72 top-of-the-line shops, restaurants, pubs, a cinema, chocolate shop, coffee bars – and amazingly FREE parking. The streets are spotlessly clean, but the Parisian funkiness Gertrude Stein loved so much is nowhere in sight.

Year ‘round Aggie Hogg Gardens – named after a former resident, storekeeper, postmaster and the daughter of early settler John Hogg – is the centre of the Centre.

To reach Don Mills by public transit take the #54 Lawrence A or B bus eastbound from Eglinton station to The Donway. It takes about an hour.