Sunday, May 17, 2015

Toronto Walking Tour #3
Casa Loma and Wychwood Village
May 16, 2015

Today we're in Wychwood Village, northwest of Dupont and Davenport. We find a parking spot equidistance between our starting and ending points on a quiet street off Roycroft Park on Boulton Drive. To no avail, as we will see.

Before we even get into our trip we get lost in the circular, diagonal street patters in this area and come out a little distance away from our target.

That's OK, we get to see the company my son decided to leave a couple years ago and pursue his own way.

Good choice.

Walking west along Dupont towards Spadina we come across this cozy nook filled with thinkers and drinkers. This small slice of bohemia is called Dupont by the Castle.

 No sign of T.S. Eliot. We're on Dupont, not Desolation.

This might be the Captain's Tower. (ed note: google T.S. Eliot and captain's tower)

We'll climb that hill no matter how steep. When we get up to it.

But first stop is at 255 Spadina Rd where we find the closed building of the Toronto Archives.

This often-overlooked repository is the closest thing Toronto has to a museum of the city. Ongoing exhibits, largely photography-based, reflect events and themes in the city's past. The collection has more than 1 million images, dating from 1856.

Continue north on Spadina Rd until it ends and meet the inaccessible Baldwin Steps. 
This part of Spadina Road ends at the base of a zigzagging flight of stairs that ascends the pre-Ice Age shoreline of the ancient Lake Iroquois. A public right-of-way that dates from the 1800s, The Baldwin Steps are a rare example in the city of a thigh-burning incline. The panoramic views of downtown and Lake Ontario are worth the effort. The steps are named after Robert Baldwin, a former premier of Ontario who owned land in this well-to-do neighborhood.

Undeterred we continue west along Davenport and north along Walmer Rd. This is a steep climb that follows the outer wall of the castle. Took a couple rest stops along the way.

Sir Henry Pellatt, who built this faux chateau between 1911 and 1914, studied medieval palaces and then gathered materials and furnishings from around the world, bringing marble, glass, and paneling from Europe; teak from Asia; and oak and walnut from North America. He then imported Scottish stonemasons to build the massive walls that surround the 2.5-hectare (6 1/4-acre) site. The architect was a local talent E. J. Lennox.

The castle encompasses battlements and a tower, and a 244m (801-ft.) tunnel runs to the stables, where Spanish tile and mahogany surrounded the horses.

  We are back at the top of the Baldwin Steps looking over a hazy shot of the CN Tower.

Just outside the castle you'll find the historic home of financier James Austin. It was occupied by the family for more than 100 years, from 1866 until 1980, when it became a city-run museum. In 2010, the interior was completely renovated and updated from a 19th-century setting to one focused on the inter-war years, with an emphasis on decorations from the 1920s. The grounds are as sumptuous as the interiors.

It's really best to take a day off work and do this walk during the week. The Archives and Museum will be open, Castle Loma won't be so busy with busloads of people.

From here you could make your way out to St Clair Ave and do the remainder of the walk in the opposite order. This would save you one trip up the shoreline. But we don't. We head back down the steep incline of Walmer Ave, turn right at Davenport to Bathurst where you come across The Tollkeeper's Cottage.

This little home, built in 1835, is where hapless toll keepers tried to extract pennies from passing horse-drawn traffic along Davenport Road until tolls were abolished in 1890. It's also a rare example of vertical (rather than horizontal) wood planking. The simple living conditions in the two-bedroom home attest to the terms of the office: Any uncollected tariffs were deducted from their pay. A small interpretive center, where costumed docents regale visitors with stories of life in Muddy York, is connected to the house.
In this slightly better shot you can see the vertical planking on the actual cottage to the left.
 I was remiss in not getting a clearer shot of the actual cottage. Oh well, that's for another day.

We then miss the entrance to Wychwood Park which would have been a highlight, or so the guide says.

"Don't let the "private" sign deter you: Step through the stone gate to enter another world tucked into the heart of the city. The fortunate residents of this secret enclave like to keep the wooded setting to themselves; another sign just inside the gate -- "Danger Deep Water Quicksand" -- is merely a ruse to deter visitors. Immediately ahead is a pond (often featuring the resident swan) and a fork in the road. The route to the left is a little shorter, but both are pleasant, taking you past many English-style Arts-and-Crafts homes designed by Toronto architect Eden Smith. Marmaduke Matthews envisioned an artist colony when he built the first home here in 1874, naming it after Wychwood Forest in Oxfordshire, England. This early example of a planned community retains its natural landscaping and bucolic setting. "

I wasn't reading carefully enough and I did let the PRIVATE sign deter me. Oh well, that's for another day.

Our detour along Davenport and north on Christie did allow us to come across this wall mural with a Jane Jacob quote.

 Since we're on a summer long expedition to visit all the unique neighbourhoods in our city we found this apropos. Or serendipitous. Or cool at least.

 Here's more instruction from the under-read tour guide for this walk.

"It's hard to imagine, as you come out at the top of these winding, tree-lined roads, that a TTC streetcar repair barn operated here until the 1990s. Now, it's one of the city's most successful transformations of industry into arts space. Artscape Wychwood Barns opened in 2009; attractions include studios for the 2 dozen artists-in-residence, ongoing exhibits of new work, and archival images of the old Barns. The Stop Food Community Centre, a leading activist organization that fights poverty and pushes political agendas on the food front, runs the food side of the space with a bake oven, greenhouse, community kitchen, and classroom on-site. There are lots of events to check out, from movies to fab dinners/fundraisers. ( A bustling Saturday farmers market is complete with picnic-like prepared foods, such as butternut squash empanadas and some of the best fish tacos anywhere. If the weather cooperates, sit outside with a bite to eat and watch the parade of dogs, kids, farmers, and shoppers. Kick back: You've earned it."
 Following Christie St north to St Clair Ave West you light into the center of Hillcrest Village where you can find anything you need to soothe your soul.

 Pick your poison.

A little side trip up Bathurst to visit my Grade 9 high school. St Michael's.
 That's not really the student entrance. Only first day 'Niner's go in that way. 
 The entrance I used every other day of the 1 year I stayed was at the back, under the stained glass.
 But this is the real shrine. The hockey arena. Why I went to the school. But circumstances alter cases and it just wasn't to be. Mostly I transferred because there were no girls there.

Back towards our car. We miss the entrance to Sir Winston Churchill Park and find ourselves at a dead end, back at the castle. Reverse our steps and make our way into the park.

 Only to find it leads to a steep set of stairs into the valley that we can't negotiate...but you should.

End of another interesting walk.

Next up...Leslieville.

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