Post #600: One Fine Sunday Walk in Rosedale, Pandemic Style

IMG_2211a

View of MacLennan Avenue and Summerhill Avenue taken from the pedestrian bridge, May 3, 2020. All photos in this post copyright Jamie Bradburn, 2020. 

Hi, how’s everyone doing?

Hopefully you’re riding out the pandemic as best as you can. My coping mechanism has been plenty of walking through residential neighbourhoods, both close to home and in other parts of the city. Besides aiding my mental health, it’s been a way to discover/rediscover the local landscape. Low traffic on residential streets helps with the ballet pedestrians perform to achieve good social distancing – with enough practice, you develop a good rhythm in dodging others for the greater good.

For the first summery day we’ve had, I tested my skills in Rosedale.

IMG_2198a

There were two boxes of books by the curb close to where I parked. My porcupine assistants Qwilly and Qwillamina chose these two to take home.

IMG_2201a

I started the walk by wandering up and down dead end and limited-access streets, going back and forth between Glen Road/Summerhill Avenue and the train tracks. This limited the number of other pedestrians, giving plenty of space to take in the blossoms. Locals were taking advantage of the sunny weather to spruce up their landscaping.

IMG_2202a

A home with an artistic touch.

Walking west along Summerhill Avenue, foot traffic rose as I approached Summerhill Market. Outside, a guitarist played “Puff the Magic Dragon” and an ancient former ambulance clumsily tried to park. Inside, shoppers could treat themselves to single rolls of toilet paper for $1 each. On my way out, the ancient former ambulance clumsily exited the parking lot, turning on its siren as it headed east.

You can’t make this stuff up.

IMG_2205a

Nor can you imagine signs like this one, posted on the pedestrian bridge at MacLennan and Summerhill.

Issue #1: while intended to promote social distancing, the placement of the giant “STOP” sign suggests the opposite.

Issue #2: if the graphics are taken literally, the sign suggests that optimal social distancing is achieved by one person hovering above another. Gravity has other ideas.

IMG_2207a

The porcupines decided to provide a lesson in proper social distancing.

IMG_2214a

IMG_2217a

IMG_2218a

One safety measure nobody was using at MacLennan and Summerhill were the cups of flags spread around the intersection. Found across neighbourhoods in north Toronto, I’ve rarely seen them used. They fall into a long tradition of solutions to road safety issues whose value is more symbolic than practical (or push most responsibility onto pedestrians).

IMG_2221a

Next, Rosedale Park, home of the first Grey Cup game.

IMG_2223a

The most common sign in Toronto’s parks during the pandemic.

IMG_2222a

I’m not sure how much sense this sign makes at the moment, given that plenty of playground equipment, including some pieces in Rosedale Park, is covered in police tape to prevent usage.

IMG_2225a

While the amenities were left alone, people in the park were mostly observing current distancing conventions, whether they were sunbathing or doing other contemplative activities. I also noticed people who, rather than use the benches, brought fold-up chairs to rest in.

IMG_2228a

The park’s Little Free Library was full of material, including a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.

IMG_2233a

Moving on, I zigzagged down to the architectural gems along Beaumont Road. More time to appreciate the blossoms.

IMG_2236a

There were CDs hanging in the windows of Oakhaven, once home to Emmett Cardinal Carter.

IMG_2238a

The Proctor Residence, at 3 Beaumont Road.

IMG_2240a

A friendly reminder as you head north along Glen Road.

IMG_2245a

In the Little Free Library outside Rosedale United Church, a selection of parenting guides, books om Christmas and opera, a Penguin Classic of early Christian writing…and another book in the Fifty Shades series.

As Fifty Shades books have appeared in nearly every LFL I’ve seen across the city lately, I think the good people of Toronto have quietly decided that dumping their copies of this series is a good civic project during the pandemic.

IMG_2249a

Next, Chorley Park, where the switchback path leading into the Don Valley has not, as some residents feared, led to the end of Western civilization.

IMG_2250a

At one of the gateways to the path, a Heritage Toronto plaque outlining the odd history of Chorley Park.

IMG_2257a

I then drove over to the Summerhill end of David Balfour Park, which is closed due to the rehabilitation of the Rosehill Reservoir. The construction hoarding along Summerhill Gardens is filled with hopeful messages.

IMG_2260a

IMG_2263a

IMG_2266a

At journey’s end…the entire Fifty Shades series!

Commemorating the Battle of York

Originally published on Torontoist on April 29, 2013. Not all photos from the original post have been used.

20130428fife

In a documentary about the Battle of York that aired on CBC Radio’s Ideas last week, Sandra Shaul, project manager of the City’s War of 1812 bicentennial commemorations, noted she was “intrigued as to why the City of Toronto would want to commemorate a battle that we so badly lost.” She reflected that it might be our city’s nature to celebrate losers (“look at our sports teams”).

But even if the American invaders won on April 27, 1813, thousands of Torontonians turned out exactly 200 years later to show their respect for the British military units and First Nations warriors who took to the battlefield to defend what is now our home.

20130428fnplaque

Many of Saturday’s commemorations honoured the role the First Nations played in the battle. From the symbolic fruit samples distributed during a sunrise ceremony to a round dance at Fort York that closed the ceremonies, the native warriors who served as York’s first line of defence were saluted by their descendants. “We’ve waited for a long time for this moment,” observed Mississaugas of the New Credit Chief Bryan LaForme. “We will no longer be a footnote in Canadian history.” LaForme reflected that if it hadn’t been for the overall efforts of natives during the war, we would be “another star on the Red, White, and Blue.”

The military salutes began with the receipt of new colours by the Royal Canadian Regiment from its colonel-in-chief, Prince Philip. One of the largest military parades in Toronto history followed, with an estimated 1,700 members of the Canadian Forces marching from Queen’s Park to Fort York. (Military demonstrations and processions were once a staple of Toronto life—they figured in holiday celebrations during the Victorian era, and were used to send off deployments of troops during World War I.)

20130428paradebathurstbridge

While the parade wound through the core, over 500 people followed the path of the Battle of York during a two-hour walk from the Palais Royale to the fort. Heritage Toronto unveiled a new commemorative plaque at the American landing site, one of five stops where historians described the main stages of the battle.

Holding up a “Brown Bess” standard-issue British musket, Richard Feltoe used the backdrop of the Fort Rouillé monument to describe military equipment and techniques used during the battle. He explained how troops on both sides lined up in rows to fire volleys at each other, creating dense clouds of smoke. Bright uniforms and high hats allowed opponents to see each other amidst the fog of musket fire, ensuring continued carnage.

20130428kids

At the site of the Western Battery near the Princes’ Gates, Ken Purvis talked about the antique equipment used by the British during the battle. The oldest artillery gun, which is displayed at Fort York, dated back to Oliver Cromwell and the English republic of the 1650s. (For perspective, imagine American Civil War equipment deployed in modern conflict.) Purvis also performed, on fife, the tune the advancing American forces played as they approached Fort York: “Yankee Doodle,” a song the British later used to taunt them while parading prisoners in Montreal.

20130428trio

Also mentioned on the walk was the last letter American Brigadier General Zebulon Pike wrote to his wife Clarissa. Written the night before the invasion, Pike hinted that the battle might cause his demise: “I shall dedicate these last moments to you, my love, and tomorrow throw all other ideas but my country to the wind.” When Fort York’s grand ammunition magazine exploded, a boulder crushed Pike’s spine. It was reported that the dying Pike was presented with a captured British flag, which he used as a pillow. One source reported that upon receiving the flag, Pike whispered, “I die contented.”

20130428landingplaque

At Fort York, the public mingled with period re-enactors and modern military. Visitors perused displays of objects ranging from wampum belts to pre-painless-dentistry surgical instruments. The ceremonies included the unveiling of three plaques to be placed in a new visitor centre, scheduled to open next year: two were refurbishments of fading bronze plaques installed shortly after the fort converted to a museum in 1934, and the third was a new marker honouring the First Nations.

Additional material from Capital in Flames by Robert Malcolmson (Montreal: Robin Brass Studio, 2008).

Goin’ Down the Davenport Road

Originally published on Torontoist on July 8, 2011.

 

20110707plaques2

Unveiling the Davenport Road plaques are (left to right) executive director of Heritage Toronto Karen Carter; heritage advocate Jane Beecroft; Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam; Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation Chief representative Carolyn King; Greater Yorkville Residents’ Association president Gee Chung; and heritage advocate Shirley Morriss. Photo by Jamie Bradburn, July 2011.

Waves from a glacial lake once lapped along it. When the water receded, the winding path at the bottom of the escarpment left behind proved an ideal path for local aboriginal peoples to travel between the Toronto Carrying Place along the Humber River and the Don River to the east. After Europeans arrived, the trail became a route for farmers to bring their goods to the city and a vital link for growing villages like Yorkville and Carlton. While the rest of downtown adopted a straight grid pattern, the old route kept its curves, though numerous widening and paving projects allowed for vehicles, from streetcars to bicycles.

The long history of Davenport Road is now commemorated in Frank Stollery Parkette at the road’s eastern terminus, through a trio of pillars prepared by Heritage Toronto.

20110707davenport

Davenport, the house of Colonel Joseph Wells, east of Bathurst Street and north of Davenport Road, Toronto, circa 1900. Archives of Ontario, Item F 4436.

The road derived its name from Davenport, a home built in 1797 by military officer John McGill, who reputedly named it after a major stationed at Fort York. Located in the vicinity of the northeast corner of Bathurst and Davenport, the home was said to possess an amazing view of the town of York. When the property was bought by Joseph Wells in 1821, the original house was demolished and replaced with the structure shown above. Wells, a former military officer, also served as a legislator, a bank director, and, until forced to resign due to financial improprieties, the treasurer of Upper Canada College. His eldest son, George Dupont Wells, inspired the names of several nearby roads, including Dupont Street and Wells Hill Avenue.

20110707dav1895

Canadian Pacific Railway crossing Davenport Road from north, 25 yards distant, circa 1895. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 376, File 1A, Item 3.

During the 19th century, the old trail slowly took on the characteristics of a modern road. To finance improvements, a series of toll booths were set up along Davenport, one of which survives as a museum at the northwest corner of Bathurst and Davenport. By the end of the century, railways and streetcar tracks crossed the road.

20110707ardwold

Gate to Ardwold, Davenport Road, circa 1909. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 3138.

Mansions that sat along or above Davenport, such as Casa Loma, had their own access points to the road. This picture shows a gate for Ardwold, the home of Eaton’s department store president Sir John Craig Eaton. Built in 1909, Ardwold remained in the family until it was demolished in 1936. The name lingers on through the residential street built on the property, Ardwold Gate.

20110707muddydav

Car on muddy Davenport Road east of Bathurst Street, 1910. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 42B.

As automobiles took over city streets in the early 20th century, the muddy nature of roads like Davenport posed problems, especially when snow thawed. Given the deep ruts, we wonder if the vehicle’s occupants eventually required a tow.

20110717hillcrestpark

Hillcrest Park, Bathurst Street and Davenport Road, circa 1911-1912. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 8213.

For a short time around the First World War, horse racing fans congregated at the southwest corner of Bathurst and Davenport to place their bets at Hillcrest Park. The notes for this photo from the City of Toronto Archives debate whether the crowd has gathered for the opening of the track in 1912 or the ribbon-cutting for the newly graded section of Bathurst Street to the north.

20110707davgarage

Davenport Garage under construction, looking northwest, July 6, 1925. Photo by Alfred Pearson. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 3888.

The horses were soon replaced with transit mechanics. Soon after its formation in 1921, the TTC (then known as the Toronto Transportation Commission) purchased the site and transformed it into the main repair complex for its streetcar fleet. A garage for buses was built along the Davenport side of the property in 1925.

20110707davdov

Dominion Bank branch at the corner of Dovercourt and Davenport Road, circa 1947. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 3, Item 1430.

Though its use has changed over time, the front of this former branch of the Dominion Bank still bears the name of the intersection.

20110707davdupont

Traffic jam at intersection of Davenport Road and Dupont Street, June 20, 1957. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1653, Series 975, File 2434, Item 34560x-4.

By the 1950s, traffic volume caused rush-hour backups at the intersection of Davenport and Dupont that required the assistance of Toronto’s finest. On the left is the Sign of the Steer restaurant, a European-style steakhouse that hosted banquets and receptions for Toronto’s well-to-do.

20110707sots

Sign of the Steer restaurant, 1955. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 504.

Owner Hans Fread hosted the CBC’s first cooking show, Hans in the Kitchen, from 1953 to 1954. The former lawyer was a bitter man when he closed the 600-seat restaurant in June 1960, placing the blame on Ontario’s “stupid liquor laws.” He especially blamed Premier Leslie Frost’s wife for persuading her husband not to relax regulations that prevented Fread from serving drinks after 11:30 p.m. on Saturday and all day Sunday. (Mrs. Frost claimed to have no influence on the premier in such matters, and noted that Fread’s claims were “one for my scrapbook.”) Fread soon moved to Winnipeg, where he found far better eats than were served in the Toronto restaurants that catered to “Lady Plushbottoms.” As Fread told the Star: “Torontonians like cubbyhole restaurants. They think a candle on the table makes good atmosphere…Instead of service, we offer our guests a short course in sobriety.”

20110707davcycling

Davenport Road, looking west from Howland Avenue, July 1958. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 100, Item 284.

Long before a bike lane was first installed on Davenport in the mid-1990s, cyclists enjoyed its non-grid meanderings. Modern cyclists can take a rest in front of the new plaques and contemplate the past, the lives lived on the route they just followed.

Sources: Spadina: A Story of Old Toronto by Austin Seton Thompson (Toronto: Pagurian Press, 1975), Toronto Street Names by Leonard Wise and Allan Gould (Willowdale: Firefly Books, 2000), and the June 29, 1960, and October 17, 1960 editions of the Toronto Star.

Heritage Toronto Leads a Historical Bike Tour of the Huron-Wendat Trail

Originally published on Torontoist on June 18, 2013.

20130617cyclingsmall

Riding a bicycle along the Finch Corridor path near Jane Street and Finch Avenue takes you past plenty of grassy fields and hydro towers. The serene surroundings make it hard to imagine that over 500 years ago the area already had its present-day population density.

20130617trailsignssmall

The path runs through the Parsons Site, a former Huron-Wendat village that is now considered one of the city’s major pre-European archaeological discoveries. On June 15, Heritage Toronto staged a historical bike tour through the area.

The ride, Heritage Toronto’s second bike tour this year, was run in collaboration with Community Bicycle Network (CBN). Those who couldn’t drag their bikes out to North York were accommodated with Bixi bicycles.

20130617hwplaquesmall

The ride followed an unveiling ceremony for some new trail plaques. City Councillor Anthony Perruzza (Ward 8, York West) read a proclamation from Mayor Rob Ford declaring June 15 Huron-Wendat Day. Speakers included descendants of the Parsons Site community, who currently reside on the Huron-Wendat reserve in Wendake, Quebec. Starting in 2010, the band consulted with the City on the trail’s creation.

20130617transformplaquesmall

Riders pedalled back and forth along the trail from Jane Street to Sentinel Road. At each stop, archaeologist Ron Williamson discussed different aspects of the significance of the site, which was the largest of four major Huron villages between the Humber and Rouge Rivers. He addressed why the trail honours the Huron-Wendat, when most people associate Toronto’s aboriginal past with other tribes. The answer: the Huron-Wendat (also known as Wyandot) remained in the area until they were displaced in the mid-17th century because of a combination of epidemics of European diseases and war with Iroquois tribes, who were subsequently pushed out by the Ojibwa. Williamson discussed the importance of maize to the Huron diet—it made up half their daily food intake—and how trading maize and other items changed their language from an Algonquian tongue to Iroquoian long before they were physically displaced.

Williamson also discussed how the Parsons Site has been excavated and protected over the years since the University of Toronto first dug there in 1952. Just under the grassy surface sit palisades and the remains of at least 10 longhouses. The last major dig in 1989 was prompted by a watermain project.

20130617bixismall

Members of the CBN marshalled the ride. Among them was Thomas Hasan, whose Heritage Rides organization seeks to bring together historians and cycling advocates to provide guided tours. While there aren’t any other rides scheduled at present, Hasan has had interest from groups stretching from Mimico to The Beaches. He notes that he would “like to work more closely with the BIAs, local businesses, and other sources of funding, including crowdsourcing, to support the development of new heritage rides.”

Heritage Toronto’s Chief Historian and Associate Director Gary Miedema hinted that there might be a remount of the first heritage bike tour, which had taken place a week earlier on the Toronto Islands. He imagines future tours drawing on longer stretches of off-road trails, like those along the Don and Humber Rivers, as well as rides exploring the histories of communities like Don Mills. He finds the participation of cycling groups like CBN critical to making tours work smoothly. Expansion of the program will depend on finding volunteer tour leaders.