This year marked the 20th anniversary of Doors Open Toronto. The theme for 2019 was “20 Something,” focusing on the event’s past and the future, with an emphasis on Toronto’s youth and Indigenous communities. I chose to begin my Doors Open experience with a guided walking tour of the Riverside community in Toronto, on what turned out to be the better weather day of the May 25-26 weekend.
Riverside is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Toronto’s East End (formerly East York). It’s backbone is Queen Street East, starting at the Queen Street Viaduct where it crosses the Don River. The Riverside Mural greets eastbound visitors after they cross the bridge. The construction crane looming over the mural is a sign of change that is coming to the neighbourhood.
Our walking tour started across the street from the Riverside Mural at another mural. This mural is titled Tkaranto Past / Tkaranto Future, and it explores Toronto as a meeting place. It represents Indigenous people, who first met, traveled and hunted here; and later, a place where people from around the world have come to live. An appropos starting point in keeping with this year’s theme.
Our next stops were at the Broadview Hotel and the Royal Canadian Curling Club, neither of which I photographed. The Broadview Hotel is likely the most well-known landmark in the area, having been transformed from Jilly’s Strip Club into a boutique hotel with a restaurant, bar and cafe, which reopened in 2017. The Royal Canadian Curling Club started out as the Royal Canadian Cycling Club, but ice sports became more popular. The Royals continues to host major curling championships to this day.
The next stop along Queen St. East was outside Maison Caras, the headquarters and couture fashion house of the internationally renowned CARAS brand. The Stephan Caras building was repurposed from its original use as a branch of the Canadian Bank of Commerce. I was intriqued by the classical facade and the wonderful front door, which is part of my contribution to this week’s Thursday Doors blog, hosted by Norm Frampton.
Further east was my most favourite old building of the day – The Poulton Block. There is an inscription above the second floor that states “Poulton Block, 1885,” which dates back to the original naming and establishment of the Riverside community. The red brick facade includes some rounded, square and pointed arches, and the overall proportions are just lovely.
Near the eastern end of Riverside, before the railway overpass which separates Riverside from Leslieville, I found the Riverside Building. It looks vacant at the moment, but I hope that a new occupant will find a good use for the shop. And please keep the storefront intact!
Our final stop was at another mural. The Pollenator mural was created in 2016, and it also represents some of the area’s past. Beekeeping and wildflower gardens have been a part of the Riverside culture, while clockmaking was the profession of one of the founding members of the Riverside Business Improvement Area. The Riverside BIA was one of the sponsors of this walking tour, as well as the mural.
More information on self-guided tours in East End Toronto can be found in a publication titled the Cultural Loops Guide, produced by the City of Toronto Arts & Culture Services, Economic Development and Culture Division. Check them out at toronto.ca/culture.