Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ashbridge Estate

This lovely old home, built in 1854, is found in the east end of Toronto on Queen St East (I do sometimes venture to the east end of the city) and is now owned by the city and occupied by various non-profit organizations. The property was home to one family for more than 2 centuries, from 1792 until 1997. Originally it consisted of 600 acres running from Lake Ontario (at Ashbridges Bay) north to Danforth Avenue but the city grew around the farm and all but this last 2 acres was sold off by the 1920s. The estate was donated to the City of Toronto in 1972 with the last remaining family member living there until 1997!  The grounds surrounding it are quite beautiful.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Chocolate Days Of Summer

School ended here yesterday for the summer and this is a long weekend as we celebrate Canada Day on July 1 which falls on Sunday this year so some people have Friday off, some have Monday off, and others are taking them both. As I was walking by a local chocolate shop last night I saw their summer display all made from chocolate and thought it was perfect for this weekend when there will be lots of sitting around a fire, drinking ale, listening to music, and just relaxing!  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Laneway Splendour

I have to admit that this view down a laneway gives me a lift and gets me running along to see what can be down there. It's a scene from the industrial past  for this area behind Queen St West which has seen much gentrification. The building on the left now houses a mainstream furnishings store after having been a very grotty live music venue for many years while the building on the right remains an artist studio building for the time being. Probably to become trendy lofts in the future! 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Of All The Gin Joints...."

This mid 1960s low-rise apartment is a good example of what a good sign and name can do for you. Without the prominent Casa Blanca sign I'm not sure if you would look twice at it although it has a rather cool 60s vibe to it. I have been in one of the back apartments which face out (really closely) onto a hillside densely covered in trees and you feel like you are in a deep forest rather than downtown Toronto! 
Taking part in Signs,Signs. Click here for more signs.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hare Krishna Temple

Although you never see the Hare Krishna followers on the streets in their saffron robes anymore they have a very high profile presence on Avenue Rd in downtown Toronto. Their temple is located in a church that was designed by architects Gordon & Helliwell and constructed in 1899  as the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant. Several different congregations occupied the building through the years until it was sold to the Hare Krishna in the mid 1970s. The Norman Gothic building is designated and so must be maintained in its original exterior appearance but many changes have taken place inside including the addition of a restaurant that serves vegetarian meals 6 days/week. I had veggie Thanksgiving dinner there many years ago and it was quite good!

Monday, June 25, 2012

"The Old Swimming Hole"

This is yet another of the murals from the Islington area of the city and this one was also done by John Kuna. The scene depicts the remains of a mill pond which became a favourite swimming hole for generations of the area's residents as it would have been in the 1920s.The swimwear featured comes from actual swimwear designs of the time - surprisingly risque don't you think?
Taking part in Monday Murals. For more murals click here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Arch at St Michael's

This lovely arch is found on the grounds of St Michael's College School on Bathurst St. Founded in 1852, the school is run by the Basilian Fathers and is a private, all-boy, Catholic, day school with around 1,100 students. The school is famous for its sports programs and even has its own arena which has helped it to produce a huge number of NHL hockey players with many of them in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The arch has lettering running along the top saying "Student Entrance" but it is nice that they have left the ivy to grow where it likes!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

St Felix Centre

This wonderful Italianate house was built in 1876 and since the 1930s has served as the convent of the Felician nuns who have served the surrounding community in many ways through the years mainly through the establishment of the St Felix Centre which is located behind the convent. They have run a daycare for immigrant families and provided food and other assistance to people in need and have now renovated the inside of the convent to provide small apartments for women in transition. The building itself is historically designated and so the exterior must be maintained in its original configuration - something that has been lovingly done as you can see.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Small Castle?

Although many of you know that my tastes run towards modern architecture such as the house I posted earlier this week, I love this place which is just around the corner from it. Built in 1926 and designed by architect Douglas E Kertland (who designed the very Art Deco Automotive Building at Exhibition Place), the design and landscaping really works - good design wins no matter what style. It has a large lot (with pool) that backs onto 2 leafy ravine parks and can be yours for $4.4M. And I love that turret!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Little Nicky's Coffee

After you see the huge sign on the wall you look along the wall to see Little Nicky's window which is much smaller than his sign! I like the cool window surround of checker plate metal. It's the kind of place I would check out if I drank coffee.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Little Nicky's

Nicky may be small but he sure isn't shy - this has to be one of the larger direction signs that I've seen. It seemed to suddenly appear along one of my usual routes and I have to admit that I never noticed Little Nicky's before the sign! I'll show you the place tomorrow.
Taking part in Signs, Signs. Click here for more signs.

Has anyone else had the fonts on their blog suddenly change?  Update -- they have now changed back!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Space-Age Bench

I love this woebegone bench that is in a small park near Casa Loma right beside a playground and so it is always having sand sprinkled about it since the kids seem to like it too! Unlike any other bench I've seen in the city, one can only wonder how it came to be here. I can find no info on it at all but its space-age look suggests that it has been here since the 60s or 70s. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Working At The Printshop

As many of you may know, probably my favourite aerosol/street artist is Uber5000 (aka Alan Ryan), especially his pieces with the little yellow birds so I was thrilled to spot this installation outside the front door of a printshop just off Queen St W. Obviously this was a paid commission - good to see! For more of his pieces hit the label below.
Taking part in Monday Murals. Click here to see more murals.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bride & Groom

I was walking on Queen St past Toronto City Hall yesterday when I spotted these two people obviously waiting for the rest of their party to arrive. The square in front of City hall has been undergoing renovations for a few years now and I loved the contrast of the construction trailer with the beautifully  dressed couple! The City Hall has a lovely wedding chamber  which can handle up to 30 guests but there are no changing facilities so it is not unusual to see a bride in full regalia strolling along Queen St.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Modern Infill House

This has to be one of my favourite new houses that I have found lately. Located in the south Forest Hill neighbourhood, I have been unable to find any info on it other than the real estate listing for the house that had previously occupied the lot - it sold for just under $2 million 2 years ago and was then torn down!  I like the proportions of this one and when the grasses are taller later in the summer it will certainly be stunning. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Chinatown Shopping

This is one of the many well-organized grocery stores to be found in Chinatown where you can find all types of exotic produce spread out along the sidewalks. The variety available and the reasonable prices certainly put the main-stream grocery stores to shame. I was there during the week but on weekends the area is packed to capacity with people doing Dim Sum and then their shopping!

Thursday, June 14, 2012


This sculpture is part of the Pole Colonnade that is along the right-of-way of the Spadina Ave streetcars. It was selected in 1997 by the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) to mark the main intersection in Chinatown at Spadina & Dundas St. The artist Millie Chen has configured fiberglass casts of mythical creatures (phoenix, dragon, monkey king & unicorn) along with the 20' poles to spell out the Chinese characters for 'gateway'.  And the nice flash of red is a welcome sight even in this very colourful area!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Poutine - A Canadian Original

Poutine is a French Canadian dish of French fries and fresh cheese curds covered with gravy or sauce and was first made in the province of Quebec in the 1950s. It can now be found across Canada and even some large franchises such as MacDonalds have it on their menu in some locations. Some specialty shops like this one on Bloor St also serve it with various meat toppings. I have to admit to never having tried it!
Taking part in Signs,Signs. Click here for more signs.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Doggy Door?

While wandering about on Sunday morning amongst some of the old estates in central Toronto, I spotted this quirky little door in the wall surrounding one of them. What I really liked about it was the fact that there was an upper peep-hole for humans but more importantly a nice big lower peep-hole for a dog to look out and watch the world go by!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Gordon's Dairy ca 1940

This 11' x 24'  mural is found on the site of what had been Gordon's Dairy in the Islington area of the city. In the 40s the dairy had a lunch counter and dairy bar inside (which were popular with the teenagers) as well as a fleet of horse-drawn milk wagons which were a familiar sight in the west end. This is yet another of the murals in this area painted by John Kuna, this one done in 2008.
Taking part in Monday Murals. Click here for more murals.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Morning Walk

It is hot and sticky here today so it seemed like a good time to go for a walk in the Forest Hill neighourhood of central Toronto. It is one of the most affluent areas of the city and also one of the prettiest with wonderful tree-lined streets and gorgeous gardens. When passing by the entrance of this grand estate I couldn't help thinking how lovely it would be to drop in for a splash of lemonade but I settled for a pic instead. Beautiful isn't it?

Saturday, June 9, 2012


This is my last pic from the Native Child and Family Services of Toronto building but I couldn't leave without showing you the wonderful graphic bunny/hare. This is one of the larger graphic animals found in the hallway with the bunny spreading across 3 of the glass panels and I love his paw prints but don't you think that they are backward?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Graphic Whimsy

Since the purpose of the Native Child and Family Services of Toronto is to provide support for children and their families it seems only suitable that every effort has been made to make an environment that is child-friendly. One way this has been accomplished is with the super graphics that have been applied to all the glass office partitions that line the hallways. They all feature native animals (and often their footprints) in a style suitable to a space serving many different First Nations.  I loved the little creatures (caribou?) on this door and the little paw prints heading towards it from the right!  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Longhouse

Probably the most impressive feature of the Native Child and Family Services of Toronto building is the Longhouse which is located on the main floor. It is a contemporary interpretation of a canvas and bent willow teaching lodge that exists at Curve Lake with its size and shape being the same but the canvas has been replaced by cedar  and the framing is done like a geodesic dome. The floor is patterned after the traditional mats found in a longhouse and the lights were designed to cast a fireside ambience.  (The lights are actually made from recycled florescent tubes.)  The Longhouse can be set up for seating in circles or a long table can be erected down the centre. It is a gorgeous, special place. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I showed you the new outside sign for the Bloor Cinema a couple of weeks ago and part of the renewal of the theatre involved restoring the Art Deco features of the interior. All the new signage is done as wonderful side-lit panels with a very Art Deco font like this one. Love it!
Taking part in Signs, Signs. Click here for more signs.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Thunderbird Divider

When visiting the Native Child and Family Services of Toronto building you are constantly encountering wonderful graphic images such as on this Thunderbird room divider. These dividers are made of felt from beaver fur and carved in the traditional way to show this bird which is considered to be one of the strongest symbols in Aboriginal life.  Unfortunately these lights hang down throughout the room so couldn't be avoided.

In answer to your questions, I don't think the building is open to wandering by the public but possibly a tour could be arranged. That is the great thing about Doors Open - we get behind closed doors!

Monday, June 4, 2012

"Briarly - Gone But Not Forgotten"

This is another of the murals from the Islington area of the city. Briarly was a beautiful home that stood on Dundas St just east of Montgomery's Inn until being demolished in 1989 and replaced by townhouses. Built in the 1840s as a frame Regency style cottage, it was redesigned to have an Italianate style in the 1850s and was owned by the Montgomery family until 1985 when sold to developers. This mural is yet another painted by John Kuna (in 2007).
Taking part in Monday Murals. Click here for more murals.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Outside the Healing Lodge

This is part of the view when standing with your back to the healing lodge and looking south across College St. Even though it was still May and early in our growing season the plantings on the roof of the Native Child and Family Services of Toronto building are doing very well. One whole area of the roof is planted with  traditional Anishnaabe medicines such as cedar, sweet grass and sage while other plantings include the three sisters of the Haudenosaunee culture, corn, beans and squash.  It must be fabulous up there by mid summer. While our little tour group of 4 people was up on the roof we got locked out there for a bit by the Sunday setting on the security - it was so peaceful that no one cared!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Inside the Healing Lodge

This is the wonderful interior of the healing lodge from the last 2 days.  In this urban healing lodge the rocks are heated by gas flames from underneath and after they are at the correct temperature the flame is turned off and the ceremony participants enter, sit in a circle around the rocks, and then the door is closed and the sweating and healing begins. In a traditional ceremony the rocks are heated on an outside fire and then brought into the lodge.  Even with the door open and no heat it felt like a peaceful quiet place even though it is right in the centre of a busy part of the city!  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Healing Lodge Entrance

Another shot of yesterday's Healing Lodge from the roof top of the Native Child andFamily Services of Toronto building, this one to give you an idea of the entrance into the lodge itself and of the surrounding neighbours.  Once the lodge has been heated up, you enter and then close this door behind you for your healing (I'll show the interior tomorrow).  In the background you can see some of the neighbouring condos and the pink granite building with its many terraces which is the Toronto Police Headquarters. I like how its blue dome references the lodge dome (or vice versa)!