No Cars Equals a Good Look at the Buildings : Toronto Open Streets

toronto open streets event sign openstreetsto

The idea for an event where city streets are closed to cars and trucks, thus opening them up to people walking, biking and skating, was first born in Medellin, Colombia. Since then, Open Streets has been adopted in many cities around the world, Toronto being one of them.

Every city does their own version, but the goal is the same everywhere : to give residents in busy crowded environments the rare opportunity to walk or ride in the middle of streets which are normally clogged with traffic. Rather than the usual array of vendors and food trucks found at most festivals, during OpenStreets, the route is filled with Activity Hubs, where participants can opt to do things like dance, exercise, play a game, or listen to music.

In Toronto, participation involved the closing of Yonge Street, from Queen Street up to Bloor, and Bloor Street from Sherbourne to Christie, to traffic for four hours on two Sunday -- this year they were August 20th and September 17th. Nick and I went both times, with our bikes. For the first one, I brought my camera and took these pictures, but for the second one, I left it at home, because, understandably, having to stop riding every block or so to take pictures, made the experience less fun for the person without the camera!

I fully intended to get this post up last week, but then got caught down a rabbit hole, poring over historic photographs at the City of Toronto Archives, finding old images of the places we'd passed on one of the city's first streets, Yonge Street. In hindsight, I wish I'd looked at the historic pictures first and then gone and tried to take shots from the exact same vantage points, however, even though I did it the other way around, I got some good comparisons, now versus then.

No question, many of the old buildings along Yonge have been torn down and replaced during the past hundred years, but a good number of beautiful original structures still stand, some refurbished to their former glory and some looking worn and a little worse for wear. Regardless of the peeling paint, they're still there though, which, in my opinion, is invaluable given a city that is changing dramatically by the second these days.

Beginning at the corner of Yonge and Queen ...

openstreetsto at queen and yonge toronto

historic photograph toronto queen and yonge seen from east 1954

↑ This great old picture of the intersection, taken in 1954, was shot from slightly south and further to the east than I was, however you can see what is The Bay today on the left (the southwest corner) and that rounded building north of that. The building on the right that the people are walking beside is also intact, but I didn't get a picture of it. ↑

looking north up yonge street from queen during open streets event

↑ Looking north up Yonge Street from Queen Street. ↑

ed mirvish theatre yonge street toronto

↑ Between Shuter and Dundas is the Ed Mirvish Theatre, which originally opened in 1920 as Pantages, later becoming The Imperial. ↑

riding bikes on yonge street toronto streets open event 2017

↑ I turned slightly to my left and took this picture of Nick, waiting patiently for me. Dundas Square is to the north, behind him. He is approximately where the photographer of the next two historic shots stood. ↑

historic photograph toronto yonge and dundas looking south with theatre 1924

↑ Looking southward in 1924 ... There's the same theatre on the left, when it was only 4 years old. ↑

historic photograph toronto yonge and dundas 1929

↑ Looking back to the north, towards Dundas, in 1929. ↑

looking north on yonge from gould street during open street toronto festival event

↑ At the corner of Gould. The new Ryerson University building is on the right. It's what replaced the block where the Sam the Record Man had been for nearly 50 years. There was quite a fuss when that store closed, with upset over the loss of the iconic neon sign. From what I understand the sign was saved and is on display somewhere within Ryerson, but I have to check on that. ↑

live music on yonge street toronto streets open festival

toronto yonge street during streets open event near college street

↑ Approaching College Street, with College Park mall on the left. ↑

historic photograph toronto carlton and yonge 1930 college park being built

↑ Taken from slightly north of my photo above, in 1930. College Park, which was Eaton's at the time, was in the process of being built. ↑

historic photograph toronto carleton and yonge 1930 installing streetcar track

↑ Seven months later, working on the streetcar tracks. ↑

historic photograph toronto college and yonge 1951 subway being built

↑ Two decades after that, the subway tunnel under Yonge Street was installed. ↑

toronto historic photograph yonge street south of college 195somthing

↑ This shot is dated "50-something" but it must have been a few years after the previous one, because the subway was finished and the streetcar tracks had been removed. ↑

toronto streets open festival yonge and college

↑ The historic building on the northwestern corner of College and Yonge was built in 1891-1892 for the "Independent Order of the Oddfellows". ↑

historic photograph toronto building carlton and yonge 1933 seen from east

↑ There it is in 1933, seen from the east. ↑

comparison then and now firehall on yonge street built 1872

↑ Did you notice this tower up there to the north, in the preceding pictures? This was "Fire Station Number 3", built in 1872. It was decommissioned as a fire hall sometime in the late 40s. The old building has been demolished since, but thankfully the tower remains. ↑

toronto yonge street with no cars for open streets event north of college

historic photograph toronto yonge and grenville 1916 with view of firehall

↑ Taken from north of College in 1916. ↑

The fancy building seen there on the corner (of Grenville and Yonge), was built around 1914. It was the "Dominion School of Telegraphy and Railroading", where one could "train for good positions as telegraphers, station agents, freight and ticket clerks through day, evening or home study courses, Toronto, Canada." [From Toronto Library Archives]

historic photograph toronto yonge and grenville 1941 fire

↑ Wondering what happened to it and why a McDonalds and Wine Rack occupy its former spot? Well, according to the archives, it burned in 1941. (It had been converted from a school to a furniture store by then.) You can see the fire hall building there on the right. ↑

historic photograph toronto yonge and grenville 1912

↑ Backing up, here's the oldest photo I have to show you, taken in 1912. It's the same corner, Grenville and Yonge, just before the school was built. The fire hall would have already been there for forty years, however, sadly it was just beyond the border of the picture. It would have been neat to see it included. ↑

Carrying on, up the street ...

open streets festival toronto yonge street

historic row buildings yonge street toronto during streets open festival

historic buildings on yonge street toronto during open streets event

↑ Turning and looking to the southwest (at St. Joseph). ↑

open streets toronto event festival yonge street near two glouchester street

↑ Approaching Gloucester Street, where a historic building erected in 1888 for the Freemasons, has been recently retrofitted to create modern living spaces. In other words, it's now a condo building -- a really nice looking one called "Masonic Hall Lofts". ↑

historic photograph toronto masonic hall yonge and gloucester

↑ As it looked in 1955. ↑

That's the last of the historic shots I'll include here, for if I continue my search, this post won't be up until the snow flies!

From there we rode up to Yonge and Bloor, one of the city's busiest intersections. It was fun to stand right in the middle of the street and watch the dancing in the street.

sky scrapers yonge and bloor toronto

↑ The building on the right is the newly completed One Bloor East Condo. It's the 6th tallest structure currently in the city and the second tallest residential building, beat out by the unmissable tall one seen on the left of some of my previous pictures (Aura, located at Gerrard and Yonge). ↑

dancing in street yonge and bloor toronto streets open event

bike wheels make the oos

↑ A guy had set up the photo-op asking cyclists to make it look like our wheels were the OOs in "Bloor". ↑

We turned westward, passing what's been nicknamed The Mink Mile, Toronto's most luxurious shopping area.

walking and bike riding on bloor with no cars during open streets event toronto

toronto bloor street with no cars during open streets event

toronto bloor street during open streets event at avenue road with rom in background

toronto bloor and avenue road queens park rom during open street event

↑ Some of the major through streets were still open to let car traffic through. Here we are at Avenue Road. ↑

me 2

toronto bloor street during open streets event

↑ The was a piano set out in front of The Royal Conservatory of Music Building. ↑

Continuing westward ...

bloor street toronto during streets open event dancing

bloor street with no traffic during open streets event toronto

bloor street near bathurst honest eds during streets open festival

↑ Looking back from just west of Bathurst - this is probably the last picture I ever take of Honest Ed's, as it's now closed, with the whole block destined to be rebuilt. ↑

We continued westward into Koreatown from there, however I'll finish here since I posted about that part of the Open Streets Event last year, when I went with my friend Meghan. (You can here see that here, if you'd like.)

We both loved the chance to cycle freely on the street like that and agree, Open Streets should happen every Sunday!

Thanks very much for taking a look,
xo loulou

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One Response to No Cars Equals a Good Look at the Buildings : Toronto Open Streets

  1. Oh my gosh! I want to be there like, right now!!!

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