Ossington Avenue, a street that my friend Nyla and I checked out on a recent Sunday afternoon, is somewhere I’ve only ever spent time at night. This makes sense considering that the stretch we were on, between Queen Street West and Dundas, has transformed over the past decade into an area geared towards offering a fun night out. It’s lined with all kinds of restaurants, bars and clubs, most of which aren’t open during the day, but come alive and are filled with people after dark.
I found it interesting to know that the lower part of Ossington is one of the oldest streets in the whole city. Well, actually, it was more of a path carved through the trees that people on horses would travel when it first began. Back in the early 1800s, when Toronto (then called York) was little more than Fort York and a small trading area near the foot of Yonge Street, this section of Ossington was part of the only established path leading from that trading area all the way to London, Ontario. So Ossington, between Dundas and Queen, is much older than the northern part and the other streets around there, by a good hundred years or so.
So, at first it was only a means by which someone could get to and from Toronto from the east. Then, in the 1840s the area was developed into Toronto’s meatpacking district, with slaughterhouses and stockyards calling it home — back then the majority of beings that traveled along Ossington Avenue were pigs and cows.
Eventually, in the late 1890s early 1900s, the animals moved out and the streets turned to commercial and residential use. This is when the historical buildings, many of which still stand, were built.
There was a period between then and now, that you wouldn’t want to be on that street after dark, or even during the day. I remember when I first lived in the area in the late-90s, it wasn’t a safe place to go at all. The buildings had become completely rundown and gangs had taken over. There wasn’t much to see on the street anyway, so there was little motivation to be there.
That changed in the mid-2000s when the inexpensive rents in the area, relative to the increasing costs of being on Queen Street West, attracted new independent businesses.
Nyla and I started our afternoon with a coffee at Jimmy’s located at the foot of Ossington, just north of Queen. Their coffee is very good and we had a nice time sitting at their open front window.
After coffee we walked north …
↑ LeVack Block at 88 Ossington Ave was built in 1891. ↑
Nyla wanted a picture outside La Cubana, a restaurant that she has suggested we have dinner with our mutual friend Julie.
We took a peek into this boutique, Fitzroy at 98 Ossington, with really nice clothing and accessories …
Bellwoods Brewery at 124 Ossington was as crowded as it always seems to be. I’ve never been but want to go …
By chance, I happened to take a picture of this stretch of buildings at Ossington and Argyle, which are the same ones in this cool historic picture I later found online …
So, now I can say with confidence to anyone like myself, who only thought Ossington was a place to go at night, that the street is also a great place for a walk during the day.
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