mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Old and new Toronto

Less ambitious this year than last, and with much worse weather, I intended to keep my Doors Open viewing to a church and a synagogue only. There's also a Buddhist temple very close to my house, but I read a bit on the background of the sect that runs it, and um no I think not. Doctrinal splits are not what I'm in this for.

So yesterday I'm tooling along the tree-lined Annex streets near where I grew up, and there by the Women's Art Association is a book sale. Good books, three for $5. The woman tempted me and I did buy, and then went to look at the house because that too was part of the tour, and of course normally I'd never go into a place like that. In all the years I've walked past it, starting with high school, I've never known if it's a club or a gallery, and my innate 'they don't want me here' mental reflex works to keep me from going in and asking.

There are paintings everywhere-- many Group of Sevens in the first room I walked into, three current artists exhibiting in the large common space, that was either once two living rooms or was built as one large room, suitable for dancing, with two separate enclosed fireplaces in the middle of each room. The house dates from the 1880s, I believe, when fireplaces were necessary. At that time north of Bloor was countryside, on the way to the little town of Yorkville; the building's huge garden went all the way down to Bloor where now the godless condos are being built. The little bijou garden in the back was an unexpected delight, but only a fraction of its former self. (True, former self disappeared a good 50 years ago when they put the e-w subway through.)

The ladies of the association were everywhere too, politely but doggedly instructing and lecturing the unwary in accents you never hear on Bloor St now. Some are regional-- the librarian is from PEI-- but many are Old Toronto Rosedale. It gave me mild fantods: the air of genteel upper class (and by that definition, Anglo or at most Scots) '50s Toronto discoursing on the doings of genteel upper-class Toronto women in the century before last, to people who weren't likely to be interested. A bit of time-warp, a suggestion of faded glories, a large hit of mono no aware. Usually things that recall the old Annex-- the 60s and late 50s when I was a kid-- are nostalgic, like finding my old quirky tribe whose language I speak. But these women predate that shifting era, though I don't know how-- they'd have to be fifteen or twenty years older than I, and, well, maybe they are. They belong to a world I barely glimpsed and I don't speak that language. Can't explain where my unease came from, but it was there.

So eventually made my way a block and a half over to the Church of the Redeemer, which has stood on the n-e corner of Bloor and Avenue Rd since the days when Avenue Rd was unpaved and gates stood on the southern corners as an introduction to the Museum. (They look cool. I wonder why they took them down. But I notice the surrounding streets have been lowered a good ten feet since that time, because now there's a sizable flight of stairs up to the entrance.)

It's a nice church, one I've never been in, of course, but it too was something I passed every day on my walk home from high school. A photo from 1960 shows some of the buildings up Avenue that I just remember from seven years later-- brown apartment buildings around courts just north of Cumberland. Memory hadn't recalled the imposing Church hall on Bloor next to the church, which is odd, but maybe I was in a hurry to get to the Pater Noster Bookstore or the Gift and Toy Shop farther along the block. All those little stores are gone now, replaced by office buildings.

The third picture here shows that 60s corner; the first shows what happened after. (Edit: that link is gone. this has some more info.) Church ran out of money in the late 70s; sold the parsonage and rectory lands to a development company; the company built its massive project around the church building. I want to say 'how abhorr'd is it in my imagination' but I can't really. In spite of the Lee-Chin Collapsing Parachute, Bloor and Avenue Rd still retains its character. It's not all towering concrete and glass as Bay and Bloor now is, and as Yonge and Bloor is becoming. So much is gain.
Tags: art, place, rl_11

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