TORONTO’S ANTIDOTE TO “SQUARESVILLE” FROM 1975-1989 WAS QUEEN ST. W. – THE REBEL ZONE

In the early seventies Queen Street West streetcars rattled by some of TORONTO’s oldest and funkiest low-rise buildingsThe apartments above the stores were run-down, inhabited by derelicts, and dirt cheap. Surrounding low-rise office & sewing factory buildings were often used for no more than storage.

Artists and students at the nearby Ontario College of Art (now OCADU) moved into these rundown apartments and illegal loft spaces in which they could perform and work.  They set in motion funky theatres, grungy warehouse lofts, and an odd assortment of legal and illegal after-hours bars (booze cans) and salons, as well as venues for art bands, reggae groups and performance events.

<THE CLICHETTES, a famous Queen Street performance troop>

Human rights, racism, censorship, cultural diversity, feminism, homophobia, and nuclear disarmament were rising as the political issues of the day.

<THE BODY POLITIC and FIREWEED, two long-lasting publications from the era>

An electric feeling was in the air. The Rebel Zone was a perfect breeding ground for Do It Yourself culture. Living in the pre-internet era meant events were communicated by posters, handouts and in person. This led to an intersection of ideas, art, politics and music, creating an atmosphere of fearless creativity.

<The popular BAMBOO Club.  It kept on going for decades.>

<MOSES ZNAIMER introduced music videos to Canadian television at Citytv on Queen West>

This era of sexual and political rebellion (resulted in) countless benefit events that dotted the nighttime landscape throughout the city.  The Horseshoe Tavern was known for its punk rock concerts.

<THE CLICHETTES seemed to be everywhere.>

<GENERAL IDEA, a gift to the world of art and sculpture – to this day.>

QUOTES from an essay by LORRAINE SEGATO – singer, songwriter, filmmaker, social justice activist & then-resident of The Rebel Zone. IMAGES are from a 2016 exhibition by YTB (pop-up) Gallery.

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YOU HAVEN’T SEEN TORONTO IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN TO CABBAGETOWN

This walkable neighbourhood contains one of North America’s largest collections of Victorian-era housing, two of our city’s oldest cemeteries, an animal farm, parks and gardens.

CABBAGETOWN is reachable by the eastbound #506 BUS (streetcars are temporarily off-line) from COLLEGE subway station to Parliament Street. Then walk east.

CABBAGETOWN WALKS – tours with knowledgeable Cabbagetown Preservation Association guides through the summer of 2018 – one Sunday per month, beginning at 10:30 am.

DATES (all Sundays) – June 24, July 22, August 19 and September 16th
MEETING POINT – south-east corner of Sumach and Winchester Street, by the gates to Riverdale Park West

CABBAGETOWN (Tales of Winchester Street) – a special tour in partnership with Heritage TORONTO. Sunday, June 10 & Sunday, August 26 (both at 10:30 am).

This tour will also be offered in French, in partnership with la Societe d’histoire de Toronto, Sunday, August 26 beginning at 2:00 pm (14:00) from 200 Winchester Street.

TORONTO ROADS ARE SELDOM ENNOBLED BY POETRY – THE WEST END’S STERLING RD. IS AN EXCEPTION

‘A Love Letter to Sterling Road’, a fast-becoming go-to destination in the West End. The poem was written by ERIC MUTRIE and the photo above is by NAOMI FINLAY.

A new home is exciting –
Especially when it’s ours.
We packed up all our iMacs
We loaded several cars.

From factory to funhouse,
Our new building’s got some history.
A century’s worth of stories –
Some remain a complex mystery.

<PHOTO – the Brothers Dressler, blogTO>

We admire next doors’ designers
As though they’re famous wrestlers.
Our concierge desk is custom-made
By the one and only Dresslers.

To the south is MOCA’s reno
Of a 1919 tower.
Among the art it’s soon to welcome:
Abstract depictions of a flower?

The smell of Kit Kats is in the air
The smell of change is, too.

We’re joined in line for veal parms
By The Drake’s construction crew.

A ‘nabe of new arrivals,
but also gems quite old.
Sterling may be the colour of silver,
But to us it’s solid gold.

So raise a pint of Henderson’s
To all that’s brewing on the street.

To neighbours here and coming soon,
Whom we just can’t wait to meet!”

Published in 2017 by Designlines, TORONTO’s ultimate guide to design – https://designlinesmagazine.com/sterling-road/

MART CROWLEY, AUTHOR OF ‘BOYS IN THE BAND’, BELIEVES GAY SANCTUARIES ARE VANISHING

Referring to his apartment building in Midtown Manhattan, Mr. CROWLEY, who is now 82, says: “It’s all yuppies and kids in strollers and all of that – and a few old codgers. Gay culture is so diffuse now, where it was once so cloistered and clandestine. It was like our own world – the world was inside out.”

Is that world disappearing – and with it, ‘Gay Identity’? Read an excellent column by FRANK BRUNI in the Sunday New York Times, ‘The Extinction of Gay Identity’, at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/28/opinion/the-extinction-of-gay-identity.html

<In the midst of condo towers & construction – TORONTO’s Church/Wellesley (gay) Village; photo by Steveve/urbantoronto.ca>

TORONTO’s gay sanctuary, the Church/Wellesley Village, appears to be flourishing.

The codgers, kids, strollers, yuppies and millennials are all present, but so are gay bars, gay-friendly restaurants, Glad Day Books, the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives, a couple of art galleries, a flower shop, barber shops, the 519 Community Centre, the National Ballet School, Barbara Hall Park, the AIDS Memorial, a subway station and a plethora of high-rise apartment towers – all within a few blocks.

<Glad Day – oldest LGBTQ bookshop/bar/cafe in the world>

<Barbara Hall Park>

<CLGA – Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives, 2nd largest in the world>

<The 519 Community Centre>

LGBTQ people now live, work and play in many parts of TORONTO, but The Village remains home-from-home for many.  The sanctuary is still there.

<Church Street during Pride Weekend, 2015>

THE DISTILLERY DISTRICT – 40 HERITAGE BLDGS., 3 THEATRES, GALLERIES, SHOPS & BISTROS, 13 ACRES

Once this was the largest distillery in the world, but now it’s a major TORONTO tourist attraction and a National Historic Site. The Gooderham and Worts Distillery was founded in 1832 and provided 7,600,000 litres of whisky to a thirsty world. Most of it was exported onto the world market, and a good deal of it went south to the US.

In 2003 the District opened to the public, with a variety of small boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, coffee houses, a micro brewery – but no chain stores.

Several condominium buildings have been built in the area – making the District financially viable.  About 900 movies and television shows have been filmed here – including ‘Chicago’ and ‘A Christmas Story’.

<The Corkin painting and photography gallery is on Tank House Lane>

<One of three theatres inside the Young Centre for Performing Arts, home to the Soulpepper Theatre Company & George Brown College’s theatre school>

<The Stone Distillery, built in 1859, is the oldest and largest structure in the Distillery District.  It’s made from limestone imported from KINGSTON, Ontario – and is an outstanding representation of Victorian industrial architecture.

<The #514 Cherry streetcar, which travels along King Street, terminates its eastern run near the Distillery District.>

MANSIONS, NIGHTCLUBS, ANTIQUES, ART, TAVERNS, WIRES, BILLBOARDS, ROOMERS – MUST BE PARKDALE

PARKDALE is a neighbourhood that’s seen plenty of ups-and-downs, but these days things are looking up. Young professionals, new immigrants, hipsters and artists have been moving in – joining those who’ve seen much better days.

PARKDALE is one of the few places in old TORONTO where there’s any hope of finding a reasonably priced Victorian townhouse or mansion, or renting an affordable artist’s studio or loft.

PARKDALE is roughly 1 square kilometre, bounded by Roncesvalles Avenue, Dufferin Street, Queen West and King West. It began life as an independent settlement in 1850 and amalgamated with TORONTO in 1889. For the first half of the 20th century the neighbourhood was upper income residential. The construction of the nearby Gardiner Expressway ended that, when apartment buildings sprouted and the mansions were turned into boarding houses.

PARKDALE is a neighbourhood worth exploring. Queen Street West, the main drag, is lined with Victorian-era commercial buildings housing restaurants, bars, Tibetan restaurants, a couple of art galleries and antique shops.  A multitude of Victorian-era homes still survive, and you’ll find many of them on the leafy side streets.

All-in-all PARKDALE is a walk on the wild side – TORONTO-style.