As our city enters its third week of stay-at-home restrictions, how lovely to enjoy the spring air, free from the confines of my apartment in downtown Toronto. With no other way to get exercise or see daylight, I chose to take a quick stroll away from the main thoroughfares this Sunday afternoon. Although I’m surrounded by concrete and glass high-rise office buildings and condos, there are a few secret pockets of turn-of-last-century townhouses with their beautiful little garden patches as well as a parkette or two.I first dropped by my neighbours across the street – the spectacular office building that’s headquarters to the Manufacturers’ Life Insurance Co. Carefully reaching through the wrought iron fence, I snapped a few pictures of their flower beds, most of which are still slumbering…but there were a couple of early risers!Around the corner, there’s a delightful little parkette that never disappoints at springtime. Usually full of red tulips and bright yellow daffodils, this year there’s a blanket of tiny blue flowers…not bluebells but something just as pretty…wow!Behind the parkette, there’s a modest little cul-de-sac lined with row houses from the 1900’s, all beautifully maintained and reno’d. The houses on the north side of the street back onto the Rosedale ravine and at the end they’ve created a lovely area with wooden railway ties as benches and the wild gardens are filled with birds singing. I frequently go there just to sit and relax and…breathe!Looking down onto Rosedale Valley Road from my perch above…..
Walking back along the little street, I enjoyed several of the perfectly-kept flower beds and pots….Time to head home as the skies grew a little overcast but not before I snapped a few shots of the planters along my home-stretch of Bloor St East, featuring my favourite little flowers, pansies. Aren’t they lovely?So get outside and enjoy the sun, the fresh air, the flowers and birds…forget about Covid for half-an-hour and be grateful for all these beautiful things we’re given for free. But please keep your mask on when passing by your neighbours.
Yesterday was such a lovely sunny day that I decided to down tools and step away from the ‘puter to enjoy a leisurely stroll thru one of Toronto’s historic old neighbourhoods – Cabbagetown. This was where I lived in the late 70’s when, as a starving actor/waitress, I shared a 3 storey semi at the end of Wellesley Street with 3 other actors & musicians, and next door to the fabulous Carole Pope & Kevin Staples of Rough Trade fame (Canada’s edgiest new wave/punk bands of the era).Above left is #445, my old house – I had the large master bedroom on the 2nd floor front – the dormer that jutted out over the front porch was the cosy alcove where I had my bed. Next door at #443 (above at right), I would watch an amazing procession of fabulous celebrity house guests knock on my neighbour’s front door …all manner of music stars would hang out with Carole when they came to town. I remember watching legendary Dusty Springfield wander up the garden path one afternoon – how exciting! Cabbagetown was a haven for artists, actors, musicians and hippies back then…it was affordable to share the houses, most of which were run-down shadows of their former grand selves. But at the royal sum of $500 a month all inclusive, we still never quite made rent on time…LOL! But walking east on Wellesley yesterday, heading into this charming little enclave (below) brought back so many memories of innocent (but fun) times….come take a walk with me now.The residents association has been busy over the years, creating walking tours of the streets and gardens and they’ve posted all sorts of plaques designating certain homes as historical landmarks. I never knew a member of this famous Hollywood family once lived on Wellesley Street…did you?A couple of blocks south is a street full of picturesque workers’ cottages, now sympathetically renovated to suit their 21st century owners – this is Amelia Street. I always loved walking along here back in the 70’s as although most of these homes were rundown and scruffy, you could see the great “bones” and 19th or early 20th century design elements. Look at these gorgeous little chocolate box homes….I remember wanting to move into this charming 1920’s/30’s apartment building (above) as it looked so cool, even 40yrs ago when it was rather shabby and unpainted. Rent was about $275 to $350 a month back then…now, probably closer to $1500/mo.
This was once a cute handcrafted furniture store (below) when I lived in the ‘hood but it’s now been made into a private residence. Wouldn’t it make a lovely little antique shop or even a cosy tea room?This (below) has got to be one of the cutest cottages on the street, now the home offices for a design firm……and opposite that is this modern make-over. I love the back-split balconies and the paint colour.Of course, being a vibrant community there are always notices posted about upcoming events as well as pleas for help finding lost loved ones. On one lamp-post I saw this rather sad flyer…I hope Lefty comes home soon!On a happier note, I took a quick side trip to the Riverdale Farm (below) – back when I lived there it was still called a “zoo” as they had all manner of exotic beasties living there including highland cattle and some bighorn sheep…50 or 60 yrs ago they kept a sad assortment of wild animals including bears and big cats in tiny cruel metal cages -I think the old deserted bear house may still be there down the back near the ravine. But yesterday it was all about the cute baby farmyard critters…Opposite the park and farm used to stand Jeremiah’s Ice Cream Store which served up frozen treats to generations of families. Now the shop has been made into a private home (below) but at least they still operate an ice cream and snack food bar out of the side window. In the park stands a noticeboard pointing out all the houses that once were home to various leading lights in Toronto and Canadian history (below). These correspond with the plaques posted on each property (like the Walter Huston one). Sadly, I couldn’t find a plaque for one of Canada’s greatest Olympic ice skaters and fine artists, Toller Cranston, who had a home and studio on Winchester near Parliament Street. I remember walking past, looking up into his studio window and seeing Toller busy painting – he would often wave back at me. I think it’s time to make amends and get the 70’s groundbreaking ice skater and avant garde painter properly acknowledged.As I walked out of this timeless village and back into reality on Parliament Street, I walked past Nettleship’s Hardware – this store has been there for decades and I remember when I worked part-time at Tom Foolery (one of the first vintage clothing stores in the city back in the 70’s), the owners and I used to hang out with Donny, the son who ran the shop. I betcha he’s still there. Must make an effort to go in and say hi next time I’m in the neighbourhood.So I hope you enjoyed this little pictorial stroll thru my Cabbagetown. I definitely recommend visiting, esp the first weekend of May when they host a neighbourhood-wide Forsythia Festival. The trees are just now starting to bud and there are a few early spring flowers popping up…so much to see but make sure you look up as well, then you’ll notice antique weather veins such as this one (below) or you may even spot a couple of pink flamingos still dressed in their winter scarves & toques (bottom).