blogTO

Syndicate content
Toronto blog
Updated: 4 weeks 9 hours ago

The top 10 stores to buy winter boots in Toronto

2014/11/24(Mon) 00:04

winter boots torontoWinter boots in Toronto are a must if you want to navigate our city's annual lakes of evil black slush. When we think about big-city winter style, our minds conjure up imagine sleek leather boots and perfect, minimal coats - not gigantic, clunky, fur-lined Sorels - but with five months out of the year spent in salt-encrusted snowy darkness, we can't help but be practical.

Luckily, winter boot manufacturers - and vendors have brought in trendier styles in recent years. When it comes to the cold, you don't need to suffer for fashion.

Here are my picks for where to buy winter boots in Toronto.

Sporting Life
Toronto's original sporting-goods store, located north of Yonge and Eglinton, naturally comes well-stocked with performance-oriented snow boots. Men and women can choose from a dozen brands, with styles generally focused on the chunky, plasticized and/or fur-topped (one notable exception: these fancy-pants apres-ski boots from ski brand Rossignol).

Get Outside
Sprawling over two storefronts, this Queen West favourite has plenty of space for seasonal footwear (they pack away the sneakers come winer). Their boot offerings focus on trendy yet practical brands for men and women, including a few relative rarities like Palladium, Native, and Bogs. The tradeoff for all that selection: You'll likely pay the full MSRP.

Heel Boy
Come wintertime, this pair of stores (one on West Queen West, the other in the Distillery) swaps out some of their sandals and heels from cool international brands for boots from the likes of Rudsak and Dubarry of Ireland.

Gravitypope
This Ossington store, a western-Canadian import, stocks every cool shoe brand under the sun (and deals equally in Converse and Comme Des Garcons). When it comes to winter, there's performancewear from UGG, Patagonia, Kodiak, Manitobah, and Woolrich. If it's not in store, it's most definitely on their website.

Australian Boot Company
Maybe you're the type to buy one pair of boots and kick the daylights out of them year-round. Your first and only stop should be the Australian Boot Company, where you can pick up a pair of wear-everywhere Blundstone boots. If you want something more specialized, they offer winterized models with fleece insoles, along with a selection of rugged UGGs (and the sheepskin ones, but don't buy those).

Mountain Equipment Co-Op
Outdoorsy types flock to MEC on King West for their Nalgene bottles and Gore-Tex everything; their boot offerings lean more toward hiking than snowy weather, but with pairs from Merrell, Keen and Pajar, you'll find something to keep the snow out (plus, while you're there, their helpful staff will be able to sell you all the self-heating socks and merino long johns you could need).

Atmosphere
Formerly known as Coast Mountain Sports, this outdoorsy chain (part of the Sport Chek family of stores) shares MEC and Sporting Life's focus on hitting backwoods and trails (as opposed to the city streets, which I would argue are equally treacherous). That big-chain status means the possibility of markdowns on that performance-oriented footwear, including pairs from Merrell and Patagonia.

SAIL
This Quebec-based outdoor-goods chain, with locations in Etobicoke and Vaughan, stocks a range of brands, from the entry-level to the high-tech, including some unusual ones like Baffin and Quebecois line Saute-Mouton.

Imelda
This adorable boutique on Roncy is a particular weakness of west-end accessory lovers - particularly those whose tastes run to the practical-yet-funky (think Miz Mooz and Clarks). If winter weather is a weakness in your shoe arsenal, their on-trend styles from Kodiak, Native, Sorel and Bogs will have you covered.

Hudson's Bay (Queen St.)
Yeah, it's a department store, but we'd be remiss to not mention the shoe floor at the Bay's Eaton Centre flagship, which bills itself as the largest shoe section in all of Canada. Naturally, their selection of both heavy-duty and fashion brands (including some upscale runoff from the Room upstairs) is unmatched - as are their shoe sales.

See also:

The Best Shoe Stores in Toronto
The top 8 stores to buy hiking boots in Toronto
The top 10 places to buy a cheap winter coat in Toronto

Did I miss any? Leave your favourite stores for winter boots in the comments.

Photo by Kyra Savolainen in the blogTO Flickr pool.

Today in Toronto: Caribou + Jessy Lanza, RuPaul Trivia, Heritage Minutes, Culture Club, Mixed Company

2014/11/24(Mon) 00:02

today in TorontoToday in Toronto a match of remarkable Ontario talents in electronic music will join forces at the Danforth, as Jessy Lanza opens up for Caribou. If your Monday needs something more glam, Culture Club are in town, while the Beaver wants to test your Drag Race trivia.

Canadian kitsch-wise, do you miss those Heritage Minute clips? Carlton Cinema is going to show them all, or at least a lot of them. If you can't wait until December to pull out your ugly cat sweater, there's also this. For more events, click on over to our events section.

Have an event you'd like to plug? Submit your own listing to the blogTO Toronto events calendar or contact us directly.

Photo of Jessy Lanza by Jesse Milns

Organic juice bar opens on King West

2014/11/23(Sun) 10:14

pulp and press torontoIn just under a year, this London-based juice company has brought its bottled wares to stores all around southern Ontario on the strength of its cold-pressed, organic blends. Now, they've opened up a storefront at King and Niagara devoted exclusively to doling out their juices, which are available one by one or as cleanses.

Read my profile of Pulp & Press in the restaurants section.

The five spookiest abandoned buildings in Toronto

2014/11/23(Sun) 01:50

toronto hearn generating stationToronto might be in the midst of a construction boom, but there are still abandoned buildings across the city stuck in limbo, awaiting restoration, demolition, or repurposing. In the cases of the massive Hearn Generating Station in the Port Lands and the Symes Transfer Station near St. Clair and Keele, the challenge of successfully rescuing the long-abandoned structures has so far proved too great for even the boldest developers.

However, the future appears brighter for the disused Canada Linseed Oil Mills Building on Sorauren and Kodak Building #9 on Eglinton, both of which have been recently targeted for adaptive reuse. The Kodak building, it seems, will be folded into a new transportation hub on the new Eglinton-Crosstown LRT.

Here are 5 abandoned Toronto buildings that could use some

Hearn Generating Station
Experts agree the Hearn power station on Unwin Ave. has potential, but no-one seems able to find a way to properly repurpose the massive building. The last electricity produced by the Port Lands plant entered the grid in 1983. Since then, the structure has been in a state of decay, attracting urban explorers like 26-year-old Ryan John Nyenhuis, who died after falling into a disused coal hopper in 2008. More recently, the Hearn has provided the backdrop to numerous stylish parties.

toronto kodakKodak Building #9
The once massive Kodak manufacturing plant at Eglinton and Black Creek Dr. is now a rubble-strewn wasteland, but at its peak 900 people worked there, producing camera film and other photographic equipment. Building 9, erected in 1940 and shown on the far right of the picture above, was the employee recreation area and the only building not demolished when Kodak fell on hard times in 2006. Now under the ownership of provincial transit agency Metrolinx, it looks likely the structure will see use once again in the near future.

toronto symes destructorSymes Transfer Station
The tall grass and detritus around the former trash incinerator near St. Clair and Keele hides what was once an impressive art deco structure, albeit one used for burning garbage. The heritage structure has potential to be renovated and repurposed, but at considerable expense. In the 20 years since it was last used, the building has been set on fire several times, used for illegal parties, and subjected to vandalism. "The derelict building had become a safety hazard and concern for the neighbourhood," writes Build Toronto, a city corporation responsible for selling off surplus buildings.

Canada Linseed Oil Mills Building
Before it joined the city's extensive list of abandoned industrial buildings, the Sorauren Ave. linseed oil mill, built in 1910, was a bustling factory. The company produced its last batch of pale yellow oil in 1969 and its former home has been dormant ever since. The City of Toronto currently owns the property and has spent considerable money decontaminating the soil, but so far no-one has come forward with a viable restoration plan. Meanwhile, water damage and vandalism continue to threaten the structure.

Kormann House Hotel/Canada House Tavern
The derelict and disheveled brick building on the southwest corner of Queen and Sherbourne almost became a condo, but market forces intervened. Now, the former hotel and Canada House Tavern sits empty, an empty shell awaiting a make over. Condo sales king Brad Lamb had a hand in the original Kormann House project (he claimed in 2012 to have sold 50 percent of the promised units) and has since tried to revive the development, but to no avail.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Images: City of Toronto Archives

The top 10 film directors from Toronto

2014/11/23(Sun) 00:12

toronto film directorsThe top film directors from Toronto prove this city is rich in cinematic excellence in more ways than just TIFF. From mainstream movies to indie classics, the cinematic contributions made by our city's most eminent filmmakers owe much to Toronto's thriving film community, a little bit to luck, and that rare flicker of greatness.

Here are my picks for the top 10 film directors from Toronto.

David Cronenberg
Forty years of consistently shocking, original and challenging films including A History of Violence, Dead Ringers and The Fly is what puts David Cronenberg at the top of this list. Cronenberg also founded the Toronto Film Co-op with Ivan Reitman, and is a staunch supporter of Telefilm Canada and government funded film projects. He has received the Cannes Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2014 was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. We're still waiting for his park.

Norman Jewison
Norman Jewison is perhaps the most highly acclaimed Canadian filmmaker of all time. He began his film career as an assistant director at the CBC and in the four decades since has directed 42 feature films including In The Heat of the Night, The Hurricane and Moonstruck. The director's legacy has been cemented with his films receiving 46 Oscar nominations including 12 wins.

Atom Egoyan
Stylistic and moody, the films of Atom Egoyan embody Canadian art-house cinema. Early films like The Adjuster and Speaking Parts gained him international attention, and his non-linear narrative style was refined with Exotica and won the International Critics Prize at Cannes. The Sweet Hereafter is Egoyan's most critically successful film earning a Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director nod at the Oscars.



Deepa Mehta
Over the course of her 25 year career, Mehta has proven herself to be a master storyteller presenting characters in lush, emotional landscapes punctuated with rich details and vibrant cinematography. Her debut feature Sam & Me was a runner up for the Camera d'Or at Cannes, and Water, the final installment in her Elements Trilogy garnered nine Genie nominations and an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

Bruce MacDonald
Born in Kingston, Bruce MacDonald attended North Albion Highschool. Feature films like Roadkill, Highway 61, and Hard Core Logo have established him as the King of the Canadian Road Movie. He directed the Broken Social Scene pseudo-concert doc This Movie is Broken, and 2008's Pontypool was nominated for three Genies including Best Director. More than anything MacDonald is, perhaps, the punk-rock of Canadian cinema.

Sarah Polley
Intelligent, poised, focused - these words can be used to describe Sarah Polley's acting as much as the films she's directed. Her debut film, Away From Her received eight Genie awards. She followed this with the charming, set-in-Toronto romance, Take This Waltz and her documentary Stories We Tell which won Best Feature Length Documentary at the Genies and gained international praise. Polley has proven herself to be a deft, accomplished storyteller. Her directing career has only just begun.

Ivan Reitman
Born in Czechoslovakia but raised in Toronto, Ivan Reitman and business partner Dan Goldberg were the first Canadians to be convicted under Canada's decency laws for producing a movie called Columbus of Sex. They were fined $300. This smut-pioneer went on to direct Stripes, Ghostbusters, Twins, and Kindergarten Cop - collectively known as the best movies ever made. He helped launch the careers of Eugene Levy and Bill Murray, and made Arnold Schwarzenegger (intentionally) funny.

Ruba Nadda
Born in Montreal, Ruba Nadda attended York University. After taking a six-week film production course at the Tisch School in New York, she began her career with a series of 13 short films produced between 1997 and 2004, which have been shown in over 500 festivals around the world. Among her four feature-length films, Cairo Time starring Patricia Clarkson took home the Best Canadian Feature Film award at TIFF and was the best-reviewed romance on Rotten Tomatoes in 2010.

Don McKellar
Born in Toronto and more or less a fixture in Parkdale, Don McKellar began his career writing, directing, and acting in plays as part of the Augusta Company - a theatre group he founded alongside Daniel Brooks and the late, great Tracy Wright. His directorial debut, Last Night collected many awards and accolades including the Toronto Film Critics Award for Best Canadian Film. He's directed two features since, Childstar, and The Grand Seduction.

Michael Snow
Michael Snow creates challenging works of avant-garde cinema - non-narrative pieces that toy with conceptions of time and space. His 1967 structural film, Wavelength is plainly referred to as one of the greatest underground art-house films ever made, and was designated as a masterwork by the (now defunct) Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada. He's made 23 films over his 50-plus year career.

BONUS

Allan Dwan
Toronto native Allan Dwan helped lay the foundation of modern cinema. His 50-year career (directing over 400 films) encompassed the silent-era, the advent of talkies, and extended well into the epic Technicolor-productions of post-war Hollywood. His directing career includes iconic classics - Robin Hood (1922) with Douglas Fairbanks, Heidi (1937) starring Shirley Temple, and perhaps his most famous, Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) starring John Wayne.

Who did I miss? Add other notable Toronto film directors to the comments.

Photo: Julian Carrington

5 early entrepreneurs who helped shape Toronto

2014/11/23(Sun) 00:09

toronto ed mirvishWhere would Toronto be without the contributions of Timothy Eaton, Robert Simpson, William Davies, Henry Pellatt, or Ed Mirvish? It's hard to say, but we would all be worse off were it not for the success of their businesses or the timing of their financial investments.

Some of the names on this will be familiar, others less so, but their legacies are still tangible. Toronto has streetcars, its downtown mall, and one of its defining foodstuffs thanks to the input of these early businessmen.

Here are 5 early entrepreneurs who helped shape Toronto.

Timothy Eaton: a national chain of stores and, eventually, the Eaton Centre.
Raised on a farm in present day Northern Ireland, Timothy Eaton set up shop on Yonge St. in 1869 after running a general store with his brother in St. Marys, Ont. Following a brief flirtation with the wholesale business, Eaton established what would become a national retail empire at 178 Yonge Street, just south of Queen. Eaton opened his flagship store at Queen and Yonge in 1883 where he grew his company into a Canadian social institution. Eaton died suddenly in 1907 at the age of 72, but his business lived on until 1999.

Henry Pellatt: electricity and streetcars.
Sir. Henry Pellatt's most conspicuous contribution to Toronto was his massive and ridiculous mansion, Casa Loma, which he was able to build thanks to numerous shrewd investments. He and a group of businessmen provided vital early funds to the Toronto Electric Light Company, the city's first electricity company, which in turn made it possible for the city to adopt electric streetcars. According to the Star, Pellatt lived "primarily for his own self-aggrandizement" and sometimes operated unethically or illegally. He died in 1939 with just $85 to his name.

Robert Simpson: another national chain and one of Toronto's great downtown buildings.
Eaton's arch rival Robert Simpson was, it appears, also his polar opposite. While Eaton was a religious teetotaller, Simpson, according to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, was a heavy drinker. The two businessmen followed similar trajectories: both were born outside Canada and were at the helm of failed businesses before finding success. Simpson's flagship store, which still stands, used for face Eaton's directly across Queen St. Its founder died in 1897 and, like Eaton's, the company name survived until the 1990s.

William Davies: peameal bacon and the Hogtown name.
Today, William Davies isn't a household name, but his Don Valley stockyards may have been responsible for Toronto acquiring becoming "Hogtown" (either that or it was an insult from the smaller towns of Ontario.) The William Davies Company was one of Canada's largest exporters of meat in the early 1900s, and their peameal bacon was particularly popular. Davies is also credited as being the first food producer in Canada to operate a retail store division, "Davies' Stores." He died in 1920, aged 90, weeks after being kicked by a goat.

Honest Ed: a discount department store and a revived theatre district.
"Honest" Ed Mirvish was best known for his eccentric discount department store at Bloor and Bathurst, but his contribution to the city's theatre industry was immeasurable. Born in Virginia to Lithuanian Jewish parents, larger-than-life Mirvish opened his famous store in 1948 and used the considerable proceeds to, among many other things, save the Royal Alexandra Theatre on from demolition. He built the Princess of Wales Theatre in 1993 and is widely credited with spurring the revitalization of the King West strip between Spadina and University. He died in 2007 aged 92.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Images: City of Toronto Archives, Toronto Public Library, X 66-25

Free events in Toronto: November 24-30, 2014

2014/11/23(Sun) 00:08

Free events TorontoFree events in Toronto this week will let you mix cult and culture in a way that only the truly strapped for cash can appreciate. Gallery TPW's Photorama 2014 photo exhibit will pay their bills for most of the year, but it's free for anyone to check out. Then, did you know Unlovable has a Twin Peaks mural? It doesn't anymore after this week, so go take a backwards selfie. Sunday offers cheesy movies galore, and fans of classical music and indie lit will have plenty to do.

Here's what you'll find yourself stuffing plastic bags in your boots for in Toronto this week.

MONDAY

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY

THURSDAY

FRIDAY

SATURDAY

SUNDAY

Also check out these regular free events

Do you want everyone to know about your kinda random free or pay-what-you-can event? Submit it to our event section. (You can also submit your for-money events here, greedy-pants.)

Photo: Robert Burley, Interior of Building W3, Polaroid, 2009 (via Photorama)

Cupcake food truck finds new home in uptown bakery

2014/11/22(Sat) 15:24

pursuit of frosting torontoAfter spending some time tooling around Toronto in the Pretty Sweet "mobile cupcakery", baker Savera Hashmi has settled into a new space at Bathurst and Eglinton. In addition to some delicious cupcakes and a selection of cookies and brownies, the bakery whips up cakes that range from classic to elaborate.

Read my profile of The Pursuit of Frosting in the bakeries section.

The top 10 dance party promoters in Toronto

2014/11/22(Sat) 00:12

dance party promoters torontoDance party promoters in Toronto are the unsung heroes of the electronic scene. The DJs and producers get the glory, but they need people to organize events, find venues, create that elusive vibe, book talent, and fill the dance floors with sweaty bodies. There may have been a time in the distant past when you could count on finding a great party any weekend at certain select clubs, but a better strategy is to familiarize yourself with the people throwing the events, and trust that the crooked alley they've directed you to will have a dark room full of bass.

Too often, promoters are seen by some dancers as greedy parasites leeching off the scene. In reality nothing would exist without crazy visionaries willing to gamble their savings on flying in a DJ, securing visas, renting warehouses, hiring security, investing in massive sound systems, decor, and lighting, and all the other unglamorous jobs that make a night on the dance floor memorable. In many cases these folks are balancing full time day jobs with their nightlife activities, so keep that in mind next time you're complaining about cover charge.

The mainstream EDM scene is so big now that even your grandmother probably knows about the giant corporate festivals thrown by promoters like Electronic Nation and Ink. If you're looking to go a bit deeper into the underground and want to check out the larger world of dance music, though, familiarize yourself with the people who help make Toronto's party scene so diverse and vibrant.

Mansion
Mansion have come a long way since their early days throwing the Happy Endings parties at dim sum restaurants. They've grown to become Toronto's top party promoters by continuing to search out unconventional event spaces, booking cutting edge talent, putting a lot of work into visuals, and bringing together multiple generations of partiers by collaborating with other promoters through their Foundry series. Their impressively consistent events prove that high end production values can coexist with a DIY attitude.

Promise
Their weekly Sunday afternoon parties on Cherry Beach each summer have become a Toronto institution, and while veterans who've been going since they started 13 years ago might feel conflicted about EDM superstars like Skrillex unexpectedly playing guest sets, the fact that their events continue to grow after all this time tells you they're doing something right. They've also continued to throw sporadic warehouse parties throughout the colder months, and have become integral partners in the legendary annual Harvest Festival.

Embrace
You could argue that Embrace are more concert bookers than party promoters, but no one else brings this sheer amount of quality electronic acts each week. They've also been smart to join forces with smaller promoters, as well as forge strong relationships with venues like Coda, the Danforth Music Hall, the Hoxton, Wrongbar, and other rooms, not to mention running events across North America. Embrace have also mastered the complicated art of throwing large scale outdoor events, and helped make the Electric Island series one of the highlights of the last two summers.

Breakandenter
Breakandenter started throwing intimate loft parties back in 2007, and continue to specialize in finding venues off the beaten path. They draw inspiration from the old school of Toronto's underground, but attract techno and house fans of all ages. Like many of the promoters on this list, they've also seen the value of collaboration, especially when it comes to throwing larger events, but also make sure to regularly host intimate jams for the heads.

Box of Kittens
Box of Kittens started out throwing small invite-only warehouse parties, but it's been a long time since their events were that exclusive and private. Not only do they organize club and loft events in Toronto, but they've also expanded to regularly hosting parties in Berlin, where founding member DJ Hali has since relocated. Their Sunday Afternoon Social parties prove that daytime dancing doesn't have to feel like a sketchy afterhours.

Turning Point
There was once a time in Toronto when it seemed like you could find somewhere to dance to rare soul, Latin, jazz, and funk every night of the week, but these days if you're looking for classic organic dance music your best bet is Turning Point. Host and resident DJ A Man Called Warwick has created a very tight knit community vibe, and the monthly party at the Garrison always attract a crowd looking to dance to his trademark "tropical funk" sounds.

Archi-textures
Every Thursday Archi-textures takes over Round, bringing together a colourful crowd of partiers reminiscent of the kinds of friendly hippy ravers you used to only see at Promise parties. They cater to an eclectic range of sounds, and also host the annual springtime festival Land-scapes at a remote site in Northern Ontario.

Platform
You'll see their name attached to many quality events at Coda these days, but Platform have long been involved in presenting house and techno events at clubs around town (not to mention events on boats and beaches), and are also partners in Electric Island. Like many on this list, much of their strength comes from their willingness to collaborate with others to put together bigger parties than they could on their own.

Hotnuts
When the Hotnuts crew first started throwing parties at the Beaver, there was barely enough room for the elaborate psychedelic drag queen outfits, let alone space to dance. Now that they've moved to the Garrison their events are still always busy, and still as delightfully weird and defiantly queer as ever. A healthy reminder that house music is meant to be a bit transgressive.

Galapagos
Originally a collaboration between Dmoney, the Faktory, and 92BPM, the Galapagos series has evolved into its own identity, focusing on modern electronic sounds that don't always fall neatly into any one particular genre. They now work closely with Embrace, and can always be counted on to bring forward-thinking contemporary sounds to the dance floor.

Photo of Foundry 2013 by Conrad McGee-Stocks (Mansion)

The top 5 things to do on the Toronto Islands in winter

2014/11/22(Sat) 00:06

toronto islands winterWinter on the Toronto Islands is a whole lot quieter than the summer months, when city dwellers looking for a temporary escape make the short trek across the harbour in droves. While the number of ferries servicing the Islands dwindle in mid-October, the trip to Ward's Island is still made consistently throughout the day. Once you arrive, you'll find that attractions like the Centreville Amusement Park have closed for the season, but if you're adventurous enough and do some advance planning, there's actually still lots to do when the crowds have left for the season.

Here are the top five things to on the Toronto Islands in the winter.

Cross country skiing
There are trails spread all across the Islands that dedicated cross country skiers make good use of throughout the winter. As beautiful as most of these are, the highlight of gliding across this winter wonderland is the looming skyline across the harbour. The juxtaposition is irresistible, and it's impossible not to think that you're in on a secret that the rest of the city just doesn't know about.

Far Enough Farm
While the Centreville Amusement Park closes for the season, Far Enough Farm is open 365 days of the year, allowing visitors to interact with its animals, which range from horses and donkeys to alpaca and black swans. It's obviously a hike to get to the farm, but it's well stocked if you make the trip.

Lagoon skating
There's no shortage of outdoor skating options in Toronto, but the vast majority are on artificial ice. That's not so bad when the temperature rises, but a natural skating experience still carries with it significant allure. Skating on the inner harbour is dangerous except during the coldest of winters, but the lagoons around the Islands are a better bet, and the locals have plenty of experience in determining when the ice is thick enough.

Artscape Gibraltar Point artist residences
The artist residence program at Gibraltar Point is year around, and if it's true seclusion you're after, there's no better time than winter to hunker down and work on that manuscript you've been plugging away at. There are both programmed and self-directed options available, but do bear in mind that you'll need to apply for acceptance to both.

Stay at a B&B
Almost all of the bed & breakfasts on the Islands are open year round. A few of them even feature separate studio/apartment spaces if you're looking for ultimate privacy. Prices typically range between hover between $100 and $150 per night, which is actually quite good given what you'll pay for a downtown hotel. The accommodations might not be as nice as on the mainland, but the experience is certainly unique.

Add your suggestions for things to do on the Islands during the winter in the comments.

Photo by Patrick Dell in the blogTO Flickr pool

The tourist's guide to 5 alternative Torontos

2014/11/22(Sat) 00:05

toronto australiaToronto, Ont. getting you down? Why not seek out a new Toronto, one on the shore of a saltwater lake in the near the Pacific Ocean, maybe. Or perhaps another amid gently rolling verdant countryside in the north of England. If not, there are plenty of small towns in the United States (emphasis on small) using the Toronto name.

It's safe to say every other Toronto in the world is named for our Toronto. This city derives its name from a Mohawk word used to describe an area where trees grow in shallow water, anglicized variously as: "Tkaronto," "Taronto," and "Taranteau" before the current spelling was decided in the 1830s.

Here are 5 other Torontos of varying quality for your next trip.

toronto australiaToronto, New South Wales, Australia
Australia's version of Toronto is by far the most exotic location on this list. Located on beautiful Lake Macquarie, the largest saltwater lake in the southern hemisphere, the town of about 5,000 people is roughly 150 kms north of Sydney. The town acquired was named in honour of champion rower Ned Hanlan (think Hanlan's Point,) who visited the area in 1884. The main attraction in Toronto, NSW is the annual Classic Boat Fest.

Toronto, County Durham, England
Just down the A689 from Bishop Aukland lies England's version of Ontario's capital city. It's almost entirely residential, save for a couple of small churches, and it appears most of the town's appeal is in its picturesque location close to the River Wear. An anecdote on the town's Wikipedia page claims the town got its name when a landowner, visiting our Toronto, was sent word coal had been found beneath the town. Toronto, Kansas makes the same claim. Other towns nearby: Quebec, Philadelphia, Deaf Hill, No Place, and Pity Me.

Toronto, Kansas, USA
One might call Toronto, Kansas cute if it wasn't so run down. Main St. is populated by a seniors centre, post office, liquor store, cafe, library, and restaurant, but there are many more vacant lots and shuttered stores. Artificial Toronto Lake and the exotic sounding "Toronto Point Public Use Area" lie just to the south. The bright lights of Wichita are only an hour and a half away.

toronto ohioToronto, Ohio, USA
The Gem City is about an hour outside Pittsburgh on the west bank of the Ohio River. It's a small community of about 5,000 people (challenging Toronto, Australia for second city status) with its own police force, fire department, high school, and, until it closed, its own National Bank of Toronto. As Sean Marshall reports at Spacing, the town was given its name by a local businessman born in Toronto, Ont. He said our city "a place worth emulating."

Toronto, South Dakota, USA
If Toronto, Kansas sounds too exotic, there's always Toronto, South Dakota, which is truly in the middle of nowhere. The skyline is populated by a water tower and several impressive grain silos, and not much else. There are lots and lots of fields. At last count, the population was 213, up from 202 in 2000. Toronto, South Dakota is also 93 percent white.

Bonus: The Toronto space
"In mathematics, in the realm of point-set topology, a Toronto space is a topological space that is homeomorphic to every proper subspace of the same cardinality." Bonus points for understanding any part of that sentence.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Chris Bateman/blogTO; Jon Dawson/Flickr; Wikimedia Commons.

Explore the complex history of Toronto with this map

2014/11/22(Sat) 00:05

toronto park lotsIn 2012, Wendy Smith became curious about the owner of the laneway behind her Harbord Village home. After digging through the provincial property records, Smith came up with a name: "F. W. Jarvis." One of her neighbours, she assumed, because the same person also owned the narrow alleys in the Victorian terrace.

Not quite.

What Smith found out about the mysterious F. W. Jarvis and the history of early Toronto became the inspiration for a Heritage Toronto Award-winning interactive map of the city, The Toronto Park Lot Project.

"It turns out that F. W. Jarvis was sheriff Frederick William Jarvis, who died in the 1870s," Smith says. "He was a cousin of [assistant secretary of Upper Canada] Jarvis and the well-known Jarvis clan [of Jarvis St.] That got me curious ... everything I read game me more questions."

Launched in 2012, Smith's map overlays modern Toronto with insightful historical morsels discovered in the course her research, like the location of lost creeks, the ancient shoreline of Lake Iroqouis, the original 10-block street grid between Adelaide, Front, Jarvis, and Berkeley, and First Nations portage trails.

"It's historical geography," Smith says. "This project was always for me a study guide. I have a couple of books I'm working on ... and as I learned stuff I put it on the map to help me remember it and to put some visual aids to what I was learning ... as I get interested in something, it goes up on the map."

The Park Lot Project gets its name from the 32 narrow fingers of land that were granted to important members of Upper Canada society in the late 1790s. The rural 100-acre plots were only about 200 metres wide, but each one stretched between modern day Queen and Bloor streets, a distance of about 2.1 kms.

The park lots were granted by York founder John Graves Simcoe and his successor, Peter Russell, in an attempt to lure worthies to set up home in the town. For a time, Queen was called Lot Street after the pieces of land, which were eventually subdivided and sold off.

Smith's map allows users to add and remove overlays, making it possible to compare the park lots with the current street grid and important historical landmarks. Those interested in the various lost waterways of Toronto will find a rich source of information, so too will those curious about the origins of street names. It's a great tool to just play with.

If you like it, Smith says, consider donating. Web hosting and other fees tend to add up. Information is welcome, too.

"Sometimes people click the contact button and send me information about their family, their neighbourhood, a little bit of history that they grew up with. I really love those days."

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.