Posts tagged ‘Jane’s Walk’

June 12, 2010

Cynthia’s Walks

On Cynthia’s passing: It was peaceful. She was surrounded by family. And it was too soon. “Damn, damn, damn.” Her memorial has been set for September 11th, 1 p.m. at St. John Norway.

She had a long stride, so she moved fast. It’s the way I remember Cynthia, arms swinging, backpack on one shoulder.

Neighbours at the 2009 Terry Fox Walk

Cynthia’s wearing her Breast Cancer T-shirt on the Terry Fox Walk. We were walking for another dear neighbour.

We walked a lot, me less eagerly, hoping instead to sit on her couch, she striding ahead, explaining that she couldn’t walk slowly. There were the shopping trips, brisk evening walks with other neighbours, and longer fundraising walks. Always walking.

When Cynthia heard about the first Jane’s Walk, she said, “We should lead one in our neighbourhood.” She had already talked to the head of a local community agency. I was working, at the time, at United Way Toronto on issues around building strong communities. But, as a researcher, stepping out in front was not my first inclination, so I demurred, offering only to speak at one of the stops. That first walk became Ashbridges to Little India. The next year, Cynthia and I led a group of forty through a torrential rain, stopping at the Mahar Restaurant for chai and samosas that Cynthia had arranged through the local BIA.

Cynthia Brouse, award-winning magazine writer, editor and my friend and neighbour for nearly fifteen years, I was proudest of a Toronto Life piece for which she hadn’t won an award: Indian Summer, the story of living in our east-end neighbourhood. (She was kind enough to omit the story of our first meeting, when, toddlers in tow, I had brushed her off and, instead, she included a quixotic story about my son and I dancing with a sparkler. And about how “dense, multiplex networks” function.)

Last year, our Greenwood Coxwell walk gained some profile, being written up by a Globe columnist, but Cynthia wasn’t well enough to lead the walk again with me. Her breast cancer had returned. Another neighbour, a historian, stepped in graciously to help, and Cynthia came to listen this time, her mother pushing her wheelchair.

However this year, within days of the annual walk, Cynthia said good-bye to her home and, for the last time, has been admitted to hospital.

Still, we talked about this thing we had joined together, this celebration of neighbourhoods, and the convergent theme of neighbourliness. I told her how this year the walk had grown again. Crazily, I had decided to do two walks, a reprise of our earlier ones and a new one I had thought up. And, crazily, two new walks had sprung up in the neighbourhood, led by others!  (The media coverage also grew with a Spacing radio podcasts of my walk and of Jane Farrow’s east end tour and also a CBC interview on Fresh Air about Jane’s Walks across the province which profiled our neighbourhood.) Our conversations had taken a life of themselves.

These ideas of local community, social networks, neighbouring, how we manage, or how we come to rely on each other, these themes were what Cynthia and I considered, continuously, until the end.

Earlier this spring, when things looked pretty gloomy, I joked with Cynthia, “I’ve had enough of sick and dying neighbours.”

Looking at me steadily, she said, “You will be happy again.”

Now, I remember that, and I imagine her offering me a cupcake to enjoy — because we can always walk it off.

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May 9, 2010

East end history re-discovered

Three delightful pieces of history collected on the recent Jane’s Walks in the Greenwood Coxwell Corridor (Little India) worth posting:

1. Footage of a soccer game in 1930s at the Ulster stadium, formerly located east of Greenwood and south of Gerrard St. East:

The Toronto Ulster United versus the Rangers.

Apparently the stadium was behind the Ulster Arms (nicknamed the Empty Arms by locals), for about 20 years and torn down after the war to build housing. There had been a football field and dog racing track too.

This picture from the Toronto Archives of 1940s Leslieville shows a racetrack along the very eastern edge of the photography, which is Highfield. (Dundas Avenue has not yet been extended through the neighbourhood, and a dirt path crosses what is now Greenwood Park.)

2. Denny Manchee collected this story from local historian, Joanne Doucette. Jane Farrow passed it on:

In the 1880s, real estate developers started marketing tiny lots 10 ft. wide to very poor people. The Ashbridges family owned the west side of Craven Road, which was still farmland, but the east side became this string of shacks called Shacktown. The developer was the same company that created Parkdale. Shacktown had the reputation of Regent Park did – drinking, guns, drugs. The shacks had no running water, no toilets, no police or fire protection, no schools.

Inevitably, people got sick from lack of sanitation (some died), so in 1909 the City took over that area and insisted people install running water. Many couldn’t afford it so they were evicted. Houses were condemned by the health authority and about half the people were turfed out. The fence was part of the cost the City had to pay when it expropriated a good portion of the west side to the street. It was erected to keep the riffraff away from the wealthier folk on the west. The street was named (rebranded!) Craven Road in 1923.

Joanne is a font of local lore and does a lot of guided walks for both the Toronto Field Naturalists and Lost Rivers.

3. The flat-roofed homes on the corner of Walpole and Woodfield Avenue were some of the first ones built in the neighbourhood and now house the fourth generation of the same family. The current residents explained that when their ancestors settled in the neighbourhood, the two brothers dug a hole in the ground, put sod over the top and stayed there until their homes were ready. Farm fields lay to the east, and Natives who worked the fields, lived in teepees to the west. They built many other homes in the neighbourhood, as well.

Also, the City of Toronto Archives has posted historic photos of Leslieville on Flicker.

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May 6, 2009

Greenwood-Coxwell Jane’s Walk

Sunday, May 3, 2009.
Photographs by Jeff Stewart (many thanks!)

To see the profile of this walk in the Globe & Mail by the Architourist, see here.

Leading a Jane's Walk, 2009

Leading a Jane

Discussing importance of community hubs and social institutions

Roden School: Discussing importance of community hubs and social institutions

Discussing community resiliency and social networks

Top of Craven Road: Discussing community resiliency and social networks

Discussing Robert Putnam's <i>Bowling Alone</i>

Gerrard Street Theatre: Discussing Robert Putnam

Discussing the buffering function of neighbourhoods

Greenwood Park: Discussing the buffering function of neighbourhoods

More photos, see reflex6002
Another Blogger’s perspective on the walk: ripple.ca
Demographic profile: Greenwood Coxwell

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March 7, 2009

Jane's Walk, May 2 & 3, 2009

The first time I went on a Jane’s Walk I learned that there was a graveyard , filled in the 1800s with dozens of people, under the houses a few streets from my home. The homes were built right over it. On another walk, in Parkdale, I learned the architectural technique of spotting a building erected in the 1840s through its double chimneys. (“Of course!” said a historian who lives near me.)

The next year I went on a Jane’s Walk, I was trying to learn more about my new workplace, a local community agency, and issues in the area. I wasn’t disappointed; the woman who led the walk raved about the agency and highlighted key local issues. So I introduced myself and began a friendship.

Another neighbour and I have also lead walks through the “Gerrard Street Bazaar,” where I have lived for 17 years. A local restaurant, the Mahar, always supplies samosas and hot tea, a welcome treat to the thirty of us drenched by heavy rains last year.

Jane’s Walk, in honour of urban theorist Jane Jacobs, is scheduled again this year, led by the Centre for City Ecology with support from the Metcalf Foundation, the Toronto Community Foundation, Avana, and other progressive funders.

Sign up to host a walk, become a supporter, or join others for a neighbourhood stroll through the city, on the first week-end of May this year. See you on the streets!

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