Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Heritage: Deer Park Walking Tour

Volunteer guide Ed Freeman showed a picture of what St. Clair Avenue in Toronto, Ontario looked like before the first streetcar line was built during a Heritage Toronto walk through Deer Park on 16-August-2009

TORONTO, ONTARIO - On non-holiday weekends "during the thaw" between April and October, Heritage Toronto offers free walks to learn about different areas of this city of 2.5 million. On Sunday, I took the opportunity to explore another neighbourhood I had never heard of before--Deer Park, the area around the modern intersection of Yonge and St. Clair.

The name Deer Park, like many in the city, derives from the name of farm once located on the northwest corner of Yonge and St. Clair. It's not hard to imagine that a 40-acre estate in this location would have attracted deer in the nineteenth century, considering how many deer traverse Toronto's park lands to this day.

Glenn Gould once lived in the streamline moderne Park Lane apartments, which had been constructed on St. Clair West in Toronto, Ontario in 1938, observed on 16-August-2009

There are always interesting details to learn from these tours. While many know that musician Glenn Gould lived in Toronto, I had not been aware of his most significant residence. He didn't live in Cabbagetown (as it seems like everyone who didn't live in the Annex lived), but along St. Clair Avenue West not far from Yonge Street in the Park Lane Apartments, a building that would be part of the Deer Park tour anyway just for its 1938-era streamline moderne architecture.

These steps near Avoca Avenue in Toronto, Ontario were constructed as part of an amusement park in the 1860's, as seen during a Heritage Toronto walk on 16-August-2009

Sometimes the details are about surprisingly commonplace things. I had walked by the steps shown above while taking strolls through the Vale of Avoca along Yellow Creek, not knowing that they dated all the way back to the 1860's. As explained by volunteer tour leader Ed Freeman, Charles Thomson built the amusement park to try to make up for lost revenue after the building of the Ontario, Simcoe, and Huron railroad devastated his stagecoach business.

A mural on the outside of the Post Office on St. Clair East depicted the entirety of Canada; this panel photographed on 16-August-2009 featured the prairies and the Canadian shield

Similarly, I had gone to the Federal office building just east of Yonge Street on St. Clair several times without noticing that the exterior of the building includes a mural intended to depict Canada. It moves from Victoria on the left, right through the Rockies, prairies, Canadian shield and CN Tower before finishing with Halifax on the right. It's a nice touch to an otherwise unremarkable building.

More photographs from the Deer Park Heritage Toronto walk will be included in a future update to my photo site.

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