Jane’s Walk is a series of free neighbourhood walking tours that helps put people in touch with their environment and with each other, by bridging social and geographic gaps and creating a space for cities to discover themselves. Those who attended last year’s walk with Joe Cooper gave it rave reviews. If you make it out this weekend, drop me a note and let me know what you learned. If you attend one in another part of the city and learn something worth sharing, send that along too!
Other Danforth: Death and Life of Upper Midway
- Joe Cooper
- Saturday, May 2, 2009 – 10 am and 2 pm
- Sunday, May 3, 2009 – 10 am and 2 pm
- Walk: 2 hours
This year (2009) marks the centennial of the Midway Annex. Midway was largely a default name for the area between the City of Toronto (whose eastern boundary was just east of Greenwood) and the Town of East Toronto (whose western boundary crossed Danforth about a half kilometre east of Woodbine). In its entirety, Midway ran down almost to Queen. Upper Midway was north of the Grand Trunk Railway tracks.
Last year’s walk, which exceeded all expectations by drawing more than 130 people, aimed to help us start rediscovering the lost history of Upper Midway’s Danforth strip while exploring the potential of a great urban main street waiting to be reborn. It was a dusty rural road with small wooden bridges over swamps and creeks until pavement and streetcar tracks arrived in 1913. Its surrounding market gardens supplied fresh produce and dairy products to the nearby city, but gave way to a 1920s building boom that followed the close of World War One and the opening of the Bloor viaduct. The name Midway was largely forgotten as this hybrid streetcar/automobile suburb developed. Also largely forgotten is that for more than 40 years, people from four or five blocks north and south of Danforth walked daily to the Upper Midway strip — for streetcars into the city core and for nearly every kind of shop and service imaginable. We had movie theatres, bowling alleys, several supermarkets, scores of independent food stores, lots of bank branches and a wide range of clothing and shoe stores. The sidewalks were often packed.
Things changed rapidly after the subway replaced streetcars in 1966. With transit stops suddenly much farther apart, with traffic speeding up in the absence of streetcars and with major retailers shifting to larger-scale car-dependent business models, Danforth as a pedestrian-friendly destination went into decline. But we still have some great restaurants and shops (some new since last year’s walk) and we still have the bones of an urban strip that could rival Queen in the Beach(es), Roncesvalles in High Park or Greektown in north Riverdale. We can all benefit if we get back to investing in our community. Let’s put our eyes on the street and our feet on the sidewalks. Last year, people brought along old pictures and tales of the past. We should encourage the same thing this year. It’s also good to get people to talk about businesses really worthy of recommendation (I can’t remember who suggested last year that I try Djerba, but thanks. What an excellent restaurant).
Stephen Wickens is an editor at the Toronto Star and has spent about 35 years in the newspaper business (not counting his boyhood Star, Tely and Globe routes). He’s also a locally raised lifelong amateur urbanist.
Joe Cooper is a columnist with the East York-Riverdale Mirror. As a boy he worked in a butcher shop that his grandfather founded in 1927 near Woodbine and Danforth.
Meeting Place: Register here to find the starting location for each time
Tour guide(s): Joe Cooper
End Location: TBA
Neighbourhood Danforth – Greenwood to Woodbine
Public Transit Directions: Danforth Subway Line
Curb cuts and crowded streets likely
Green P parking and side streets