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Jane's Walk: The Other Danforth - Musings of Unayok

2009 May 02

18:48Jane's Walk: The Other Danforth 

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Today I took an excursion around the part of town I live in (or near enough). Today was the first day of the two days of Jane's Walk, an annual event to get people in the modern lifestyle to reconnect with their locality (or discover new ones).

I went on the "Other Danforth" which describes the section of one of the major streets near my place. The Danforth that most people know is the section to the west, centred on what is/was Greektown and so on. But, midway between Toronto (which ended in the day somewhat to the west of me) and the towns of the beaches and East York (somewhat to east), the Danforth struck out, eventually bringing streetcars (and development) over the many ravines of the area. Ravines that got filled in to level the path of the street, or got used as informal garbage dumps by the area residents in the days that the area was unincorporated and not part of any municipality.

Midway (as it was known) gained somewhat of a reputation for being a fair bit looser on the moral scale than highly socially conservative and very un-fun Toronto. Movie houses and massage parlours sprang up in the area. As the area developed, and eventually became annexed by either Toronto or East York, other industries and businesses moved in as well. There are some odd gaps in the buildings that line the street. Where they aren't rubbish tips cum parks, they were sites of former car dealer ships. Not monstrous ones like they have now up at Eglinton, but still car dealerships for those newfangled automobiles.

Well, okay, not so new-fangled. But they were much less common before World War 2 than after. As cars proliferated after the War, the Danforth was filled in out past East York. Shopping malls developed and started to pull shoppers away from the street whose treble-wide sidewalks had always been thronged with punters at Saturday. The replacement of the streetcars with subways helped power this relocation to the malls by separating the stops; the shops right near the subway stations did the best, others further between... less so.

As awareness of the importance of localization and the various stressors making driving less attractive becoming more prevalent, the Other Danforth is slowly seeing some signs of rejuvenation. Hopefully not gentrification and hypertrendiness as has happened to other locations. But locally-owned, locally-populated shops, restaurants and services.

The walk was a good one with about 20 people in attendance at this one; just about the right size, I think. It was good to share conversation with others, pointing things out, or sharing a bit of information here or there. Watching the architecture change from the late teens (1919) through the 20's and 30's to the 50's was quite something.

Among the stories were such interesting tales as that of the quarry that became a garbage dump (with constant fires), then a WW2 POW camp, and finally the TTC subway yard. The body found under the car dealership that was cleared to make way for a little park. The explosion that lifted manhole covers for blocks after a fuel truck cut off a streetcar. The rendering plant whose working conditions were so atrocious that they would offer to cut the sentences of convicts at a local jail in half if they worked there. Lots more as well.

I took a few pictures. Tomorrow I'm going to go on another walk. Highly recommended.

You've got to get out and walk.

(and yes, there is a picture of McDonald's. Showing just how much room it actually takes up, most of it centred on the automobile, in an area that really shouldn't be.)


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Date:2009 May 03 - 04:54 (UTC)