Then Versus Now : Queen Street West

tee shirts on queen st west

It is safe to say that my favourite neighbourhood in Toronto is the one in which I live now, known as Queen Street West. In fact, this is the 4th time I've lived here. Well actually, the 5th if you count the short-term (1 month) boarding house type of rental Nick and I lived in before our first apartment together was ready for us to move in.

My first time here was the three month summer-break between 3rd and 4th years of university, when my friend Kathy and I rented the basement apartment in the house my brother and his fiance were living in then. I returned to the neighbourhood for a couple of years after graduation, renting an apartment in the only highrise building in the area at the time. I remember how out of place it looked in comparison to the rest of the buildings around it, but at the time it was perfect for me, as the area was considered to be rather sketchy back then and this building was secured with front lobby guards and was an easy walk to where I had found a job.

Then I moved away to another part of the city. I see the years away from the neighbourhood as my "less happy" years and was quite pleased when Nick and I found our first apartment together, right down the street from my old place. (In fact, when I met him he was living less than a two minute walk from that highrise apartment I had once lived in, so he knows the area well too.)

During our year and a half of living in our apartment together we got married and then found our own home, again, just down the street. This is where we remain, very happy, to this day! We both love it here, with its artistic bohemian live-and-let-live vibe, and we have no plans to move out soon. This is home.

And now to the photos! Longer term readers will know that I love an opportunity for a 'Then Versus Now' look at buildings. And I have two for you in this post!

First there is this block of buildings (located at Queen West and Portland) that by chance includes one of our favourite restaurant in the area, The Epicure. These buildings would have been built around 1900. I love that by 1958, when the historic shot was taken, the landlords thought the old girls needed some sprucing up, with a fake front on part of the block, and a neat art deco awning on another.

These two added features are no longer there, so clearly sometime in the last 50 years someone realized the old buildings were very pretty as they were and the fake fronts were removed.

queen west epicure 1958

queen street west epicure 2

velvet underground

502 queen street west

The second 'Then Versus Now' series is a bit further to the east, just east of Spadina. The historic photo, taken in 1916 shows a time when the buildings would have been quite new. To give you a feel of what you're looking at ... the large black building in my recent photo (below), is #318. See the same number on the awning at the right hand side of the historic picture? The white vehicle in my recent picture is parked right in front of where these people were.

322 queen street w 1916

320 queen street west

318 queen street west

detail queen st w historica

It's freaky to think that the little toddler in the picture would be about 94 years old right now. It is interesting to see that while people age, the buildings they inhabit can live a very long time after they are gone.

Here are some more shots of the buildings along Queen Street West, between University Avenue and Bathurst Street.

This next one is of the building right across the street from the ones in the first set.

577 queen street west

Here is a shot of the Cameron House. It is now a bar and performance space with two stages. The rooms upstairs are apparently rented to artists and musicians. Having been opened as a rooming house way back in the early 1900s, it is a Queen West institution. As the story goes, it was owned and run for many years by a group of artists and musicians who, as is bound to happen, eventually had to retire from the business. So it is now managed by the son (nephew?) of one of the former owners, who basically grew up there.

cameron house

The rest of the shots are more taken along Queen Street West.

queen spadina area

280 queen street west

se corner queen st w spadin

shanti baba sign

antique store queen st west

Oh yes, and since this post includes a photograph with a heart in it, and discusses something a love a lot, it qualifies for distinction as a "Loving Lately" post. Though, in truth I guess this is more of a situation of loving forever, rather than simply loving lately!

Thank you kindly for taking a look. I hope Wednesday it treating you well. What are you loving lately? I'd really like to know!
xo loulou

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12 Responses to Then Versus Now : Queen Street West

  1. lola says:

    i remember going down to queen street as tween with my friends, checking out the various stores selling incense and essential oils; heading to the black market and stocking up on plaid; then of course marching into speakers corner and making fools of ourselves. the mood and atmosphere sure has changed in the last twenty years; so commercial now. still great for people watching though!
    i always lived up by the annex!
    love the pics, as usual!!!

    • Loulou says:

      Hiya Lola. Yes, the street has really changed in recent years, but not so much west of Spadina yet. You lived in the Annex. Nick and I almost got an apartment there but opted for the Queen Street one because it was a nicer place. But we were open to the Annex for sure. It’s beautiful there too. I lived on Lowther, just west of St. George one summer and got to know that area.

  2. Sounds like an incredible place! I would love to live in a town with that kind of vibe. Right now where I live (though it’s beautiful and I love it very much) there is definitely a contingency of people who have been there forever who are intolerant and judgmental – a far cry from the bohemian vibe you speak of :)

    The then and now photos are so interesting. I love places like The Cameron House. I wish they had more of those little performance houses near where I live.

    xo Marisa

  3. love every image, the last one is my fave! xO!

  4. It IS a great area. That last photo makes me want to go shopping for home stuff! :) I enjoyed your photos comparing Toronto now and then. Very cool.

  5. Your city looks beautiful! I lived in Denver for awhile, but now live in Boulder. I always go in between if I miss living in a city or like being in a more outdoorsy area, there are such good parts to both! Thanks for sharing, hope you’re having a beautiful day!
    xo Hannah

  6. Laura says:

    I love Queen West too! Actually, when I think about it, I never ever, ever really go east of Young except on Queen to get to the Beaches every once in a while, but all in all, most of Toronto-ness is spent in the west side of the city. Apparently there is an East-side West-side shoe thing going on…Have you heard about it? On one side women wear pointy shoes and on the other the women wear round shoes…they talked about this in France but I have never heard about it before!

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