Toronto Neighbourhood Exploration : Parkdale

Hello and welcome!

As I often say when posting a “Neighbourhood Exploration” story like this, since first reading this list of “25 Daily Habits That Will Make You Smarter” three years ago, I’ve made more of an effort to get out and see parts of Toronto that I don’t get to normally. In point #20, the article recommends that “If you can’t travel every day, at least try to find something new within your hometown. You’ll meet different people, learn new facts, and understand something new about the world.”.

So, Nick and I had a good walk and presumably made ourselves smarter recently by visiting Parkdale.

Parkdale borders Queen Street West, between Roncesvalles Avenue on the west and Dufferin Street on the east. When first established in the 1850s, it was a village separate from Toronto. Back then, the City of Toronto (called “York”) ended just west of Bathurst Street (at Niagara Street), about 4 kilometres to the east of Parkdale. Between the two were large rural properties, with homes here and there.

It was an independent settlement for 40 years, until being amalgamated with Toronto in 1889. Following that, it became a sort of resort/holiday area, where the affluent built large homes, and people went for fun. Much like The Beaches Neighbourhood to the east of the downtown core (which I wrote about here) people visited Parkdale to go to the beach which existed on the shore of Lake Ontario. In 1922, an elaborate bathing pavilion, where people could change into their swimsuits, was built. It included a whopping 7,700 lockers, so clearly, people were flocking to the beach! There was also a boardwalk and a large amusement park called “Sunnyside” located there, near the foot of Roncesvalles.

All that changed and much was destroyed after someone made the (bad!) decision to build the expressway along the southern border of the city in the 1950.

(Parts of the old resort area still exist, including the Pavilion, a huge swimming pool, the largest one in Canada when it was built in 1925, a canoe club, and a dance hall — I plan to get down there this summer and will report back.)

After the highway was built the character of Parkdale Village changed dramatically. The rich moved out, leaving their mansions and lush low-rise apartment blocks to be split up into rooming houses. There was also a building boom in the area, with apartment towers replacing what were previously single family homes.

The abundant and relatively inexpensive housing attracted a community of artists and immigrants from many different countries. Also, in the 1970s the Government of Ontario decided to release many long-term care mental illness patients from its Queen Street and Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital facilities, and integrate them into the community. Since there was plenty of low-cost housing in Parkdale, this is where they settled.

Like so much around Toronto right now, things are in flux in Parkdale. Recent articles I’ve read indicate a neighbourhood in a state of gentrification, with exponentially increasing rents.

While change is inevitable, as our city is growing rapidly these days, here’s hoping that the unique look of Parkdale is appreciated and maintained, and that progress does not render the village unrecognizable.

Here’s a little look …

↑ We took the streetcar over to Roncesvalles, getting off at the corner depicted in this historic photograph. Then we walked eastward along that street. ↑

↑ Speaking of streetcars, this is what they looked liked in 1912. They would have made for a very cold ride in the winter! ↑

↑ Looking back towards the corner of Queen and Roncesvalles. Note the daycare building, which is also in the very top photo. ↑

↑ The daycare above is located in the middle unit of this row. ↑

↑ Looking back to the west, again. ↑

↑ There are lots of great vintage shops along this part of Queen West. Years ago, I got some of my favourite drinking glasses at that store. I still have them because I couldn’t bring myself to ever use them. (You can see them in this picture. Looks like there are three of them but there are actually six – two of each colour.) ↑

↑ This is looking southward and was taken from where the guy in the preceding photo was standing. ↑

↑ Looking south toward Lake Ontario. ↑

↑ You might remember this post about our visit to The Parkdale Flea Market last summer. There, we bought a couple of handmade coasters, one depicting raccoons eating a pizza from independent pizzeria Cici’s! ↑

↑ A pit-stop for our favourite snack, Falafel, which we got at The Grill Cottage. ↑

↑ The Parkdale Branch of the Public Library lends out a variety of musical instruments. Thanks to financing by Sunlife they were the first to do so in Canada and remain the only branch with the program in Toronto. Anyone in the city with a valid library card are able to borrow them there, though. ↑

↑ I previously wrote about the bar “Rhino” in this post. ↑

↑ This window installation is outside a building full of artists’ studios and was created by the same artist who made our coasters (mentioned above, below the shot of Cici’s Pizza). ↑

↑ This bridge (for trains) marks the eastern border of Parkdale. ↑

↑ While not technically within Parkdale, I wanted to include this photo of The Gladstone Hotel, which is just on the other side of the bridge. It was built in 1889 and restored in 2004. (We went there for New Years’ Eve this year, so there are recent pictures of the inside in this post. ↑

Thank you very much for taking this little tour with us! Your online company is always appreciated.
xo loulou