Memories of Toronto’s mellow autumn of 2016


Autumn hues on the Norway Maples at the corner of Camden and Brant Streets, November 17, 2016.

Many years ago, I watched a performance on stage at the Village Playhouse, at 2190 Bloor Street West. The play’s story centred on a man who had recently retired, and his wife was pestering him to move to Florida. Finally, exasperated with her demands, he shouted, “Good God woman! There’s no way I am moving to any place that has only one season, when here in Toronto we have four.” My quote is not exact, but you get the idea.

I must admit that I agree with the man. Living in a city with four seasons is glorious, particularly this year (2016). The past winter was less severe than most, the spring was brief as it was late arriving, and the summer was spectacularly hot. The warm fall days lingered for weeks, autumn’s canvases beyond the abilities of the most accomplished artists.

I admit that it’s difficult to recall summer’s heat and autumn’s golden glories when confronted by the darkness of a cold February morning. This is why on November 17 and 18, I decided to preserve the memories of 2016 by photographing the streets and buildings within walking distance of my home.

Some people express the opinion that living in a large urban centre is too stressful, and prefer the less hectic pace of the suburbs and small towns. Fortunately, I discovered early in life that most of my stress was self created and had little to do with where I lived. I admit that there was one major exception. For several years I had a maniacal boss who created great stress for everyone, including me. We collectively expressed the opinion that he would never have a heart attack, but would undoubtedly cause many in others. Bosses of this type are not exclusive to large cities, as they are also found in farm communities and small villages.

I digress.

In retirement, I continue to set my own pace and feel that most of my stress is self-created. The major exception, of course, is health issues, my own and those suffered by others. The pressures they create are real and difficult to manage. When they appear, I walk the neighbourhood and invariably feel better. If you are person of faith, prayer is very healing when strolling in God’s great open-air cathedral.

Whether Toronto is world class and has the attributes of greatness may be arguable, but for me, it is a fantastic city. I have no desire to live anywhere else. Forgive me my prejudices and pre-conceived notions. Toronto is my home! I find the buzz of activity and hum of daily life comfortingly exhilarating. A week in the quietness of the countryside or beside a beach on a secluded lake is okay for a week. But after that, I long to sit in a sidewalk cafe sipping a coffee, observing the passing scene. The diversity of people in Toronto is amazing — their ages, nationalities, attire, and life styles. A conversation with a stranger in a cafe has the possibility of opening me to new ideas and of broadening my understanding of human thought. I don’t have to agree with the ideas, but I want to hear them. For me, the wind in the trees, the lap of the waves on the shoreline, and the rain on the roof, though immensely pleasurable, do not add to my understanding of others. 

Anyone who has read my blog is well aware that I love Toronto. I have now written over 800 posts about the city’s heritage buildings and sites. The depth of history that surrounds me, although shallow by European or Asian standards, never ceases to overwhelm me. I can’t imagine how citizens researching local history cope in ancient cities such as London, Istanbul, Karachi, or Tokyo.

Each day as I explore the streets and avenues of my neighbourhood, I uncover interesting buildings and hidden places that I never knew existed. Researching and photographing them is a monumental task, but necessary if I am to create a record of how they appeared within my lifetime. The autumn scenes that follow are snapshots of late-November of 2016. Now that the bitter winds of the month have arrived, the photos may rekindle a few fond memories of the unusually warm season that has recently ended.  


Enjoying the warm autumn sunshine in St. Andrew’s playground on November 17, 2016.


St. Andrew’s Playground, increasingly surrounded by modern condominiums. Located on a portion of an open space designated as a market square in 1837, it became St. Andrew’s Playground in 1909, the city’s first designated children’s playground.


The golden canopy overhead in St. Andrew’s Playground, between Brant and Maude Streets, Adelaide Street West on its south side.


This photo was taken early in the morning in Rush Lane (Graffiti Alley), before daily visitors had arrived to view the art, graffiti and murals in the laneway. Adding colour to Rush Lane is like taking the proverbial “coals to Newcastle,”as this alley requires no further adornment. However, in the background, the ivy growing high on the brick wall displays its subtle autumn colours, ignoring the vibrant colours in the laneway below. The view gazes west toward Portland Street in the far distance. 


Autumn has also created changes to the Alex Wilson Community Garden, located on the north side of Richmond Street West, between Portland and Augusta Avenues. A new pathway of white oak is being installed, along with a handrail. This small gem of a garden, sandwiched between two buildings, connects Richmond Street with Rush Lane. Next spring, when the greenery is planted, it will become an even greater asset to the neighbourhood. The garden was the idea of Richard Brault, who presently is labouring and supervising the revitalization project, in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the space.  Well done Richard! 


The warmth of the autumn sun is never more enjoyable than when relaxing with a friend on a bench on Queen Street West, a short distance east of Spadina. 


The colourful shops on Kensington Avenue are enhanced by the autumn season.


Leaves swept by the wind into the curb and beside the sidewalk on Phoebe Street. View gazes west toward Spadina Avenue.


         Gazing north on Soho Street, north of Queen Street West.


Gazing east toward Grange Park from Beverley Street. The park is presently being reconstructed. In the distance is the OCAD Building on its enormous stilts.


Golden rod beside a fence on Kensington Avenue are transformed from summer’s bright yellow to autumn’s fluffy white.


The harvest colours glow in autumn’s diminishing sunlight. The display is in the Kensington Market, at the corner of St. Andrew’s and Kensington Avenue.


       A residence on Kensington Avenue is framed by autumn foliage.


The site of the old burlesque theatre, the Victory, on the northeast corner of Dundas and Spadina, a single tree offering a hint of the changing season.


The green space between the busy lanes of traffic on University Avenue, in the foreground a species of pampas grass that grows in northern climates.


Artwork named “The Pillars of Justice,” on University Avenue, in the McMurtry Garden of Justice on the east side of University Avenue. The missing juror invites viewers to imagine that they are the twelfth juror. 


Looking east from University Avenue into the gardens on the south side of historic Osgoode Hall, the clock tower of the Old City Hall in the background. 


A quiet moment in Osgoode Hall’s gardens, the view gazing southwest toward busy Queen Street.


                          Toronto’s New City Hall on November 17, 2016. 


Nathan Phillips Square, the Christmas tree already installed for the Yuletide season. The reflecting pool is not yet drained to create the skating rink.


Metropolitan United Church on McGill Square, on the northwest corner of Queen Street East and Church Street. When this photo was taken, it was late-afternoon and the sky had clouded over. Despite the unusual warmth, it was evident that the hours of daylight were diminishing quickly.

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Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  


   To place an order for this book, published by History Press: .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)


Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by |Toronto Life Magazine:…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book:

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21


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