Walking the Jane's Walk

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Walking the Jane’s Walk

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On the grounds of CAMH. Photo by Miles Storey/Torontoist.


Suprising fact of the day: Jane’s Walk is only five years old. Held the first weekend of May, the event celebrates cities—their nooks and crannies and hidden-in-plain-sight secrets—as well as the memory of urban theorist Jane Jacobs. Over the course of the weekend various local residents conduct walking tours of their respective neighbourhoods, or inspired by a theme (everything from foraging for edible plants to the history of graffiti), sharing their street smarts with anyone who shows up. And even though Jane’s Walk was only founded in 2007, it already feels like an integral part of the city.


Last year Jane’s Walks were held in 68 cities across nine different countries; this year it’s growing again, with walks taking place everywhere from Canberra to Berlin. With over 170 walks scheduled for the GTA, we’re spoiled for choice. To help, we’ve put together a few potential itineraries—plans for a weekend of Jane’s Walking based on different interests or parts of the city.
Happy walking!

If you like local history…

Take a stroll into the city’s past, and you’ll learn just as much about its present, whether it’s a look at the people who shaped the city‘s infrastructure, the struggles of its workers, or possible last glances at buildings before they are replaced or rebuilt into modern structures. (JB)

Title: R.C. Harris, the Politics of Infrastructure & the Birth of St. Clair West
Starts at: Saturday, 10:30 a.m.
Meeting Place: Playground at the east end of the Wychwood Barns
You may recognize the name R.C. Harris from the filtration plant at the end of Queen Street that bears his name, but this tour, led by writer John Lorinc, explores the early 20th century Toronto works commissioner’s other achievements.

Title: Toronto Heritage: Igniting Appreciation, not Fires
Starts at: Saturday, 12 p.m.
Meeting Place: Corner of Yonge Street and Gould Street
Starting at the site of the ill-fated Empress Hotel, this walk features 10 sites that demonstrate the issues surrounding heritage preservation in Toronto. As Joni Mitchell said, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”

Title: Mapping Our Work: Labour History Walking Tour
Starts at: Sunday, 3 p.m.
Meeting Place: 25 Cecil Street (In front of the Steelworkers Hall)
This walk spotlights Toronto’s rich labour history, with stops at sites such as where anarchist Emma Goldman lay in state and where printers held a strike against George Brown. Watch for public art celebrating labourers.

If you like suburban history…

History isn’t limited to downtown. Further afield, historical treasures lurk amid suburban office towers, plazas, and fast food joints. And sometimes, those buildings are the heritage. (JB)

Title: Historical Scarborough
Starts at: Saturday, 10:30 a.m.
Meeting Place: Southeast corner of Kingston Road and Victoria Park Avenue
Check out traces of Scarborough’s past, including classic store fronts, remnants of past streetcar lines, and surprising locations for art deco.

Title: Rexdale—The 70’s Tour
Starts at: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Meeting Place: northwest corner of Rexdale Boulevard and Islington Avenue
Learn about Rexdale of the 1970s, with its fast food joints and shopping plazas, as well as road configurations that never got off the drawing board and early settlements.

Title: Willowdale – Rural Heritage to Urban Core
Starts at: Sunday, 11:30 a.m.
Meeting Place: northwest corner of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue West, in front of the Xerox Tower.
This walk looks at Willowdale’s development from farmland to urban core. Along the way, discover the neighbourhood’s heritage sites and discuss the planning issues that have shaped its evolution.

If you like food…

Walking all day builds an appetite, so rather than wait until the stroll ends, why not make munching part of your itinerary? Besides wandering into purveyors of tasty treats, this year’s food-centric walks cover issues ranging from affordability to the bureaucratic battles vendors face. (JB)

Title: Lotherton Village: Food Desert
Starts at: Saturday, 10 a.m.
Meeting Place: Lotherton Parkway ANC office, off Caledonia Road north of Glencairn Avenue.
While some parts of the city are rich in gourmet food shops, in neighbourhoods like Lotherton Village residents face lengthy walks to the closest affordable grocery store. Experience how residents of Lotherton Village work around the challenges of buying food.

Title: Not a Cakewalk: West End Bakery Architecture
Starts at: Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
Meeting Place: southwest corner of College Street and Augusta Avenue.
A tour of west-end bakeries and patisseries focusing on their edible offerings and architecture that promises “delicious surprises.” Leave your diet at home for this walk.
Title: Dissecting Toronto’s Street Food Vending Policy- Street Meat
Starts at: Sunday, 3:30 p.m.
Meeting Place: In front of the food trucks at Nathan Phillips Square.
An exploration of Toronto street food and the diversity issues surrounding it, from hot dog vendors to the failure of A La Carte. Don’t trip over the red tape!

If you like exploring an unfamiliar neighbourhood…

One of the beauties of Jane’s Walk is going on a guided tour of neighbourhoods that you rarely/never set foot in. Parts of the city you might write off at first glance for having nothing to offer reveal their treasures upon further inspection. Stories from residents who pop up along the route add to the local colour. (JB)

Title: Bright Street Area: The Heart of Corktown
Starts at: Saturday, 10 a.m.
Meeting Place: Bright Street Playground (Bright Street south of Queen Street East).
Described as “a microcosm of Corktown,” Bright Street is one of the short, tightly-packed roads in this neighbourhood. See how once-marginalized spaces like alleyways and underpasses are being utilized by residents.

Title: Mimico-by-the-Lake
Starts at: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Meeting Place: Polish Association of Toronto (2282 Lake Shore Boulevard West)
This stroll through the former lakeside suburb includes views of the city skyline and Lake Ontario, a historic estate, local eateries, and the Mimico 20/20 revitalization plan.

Title: Peanuts Walk
Starts at: Sunday, 10 a.m.
Meeting Place: Oriole Community Centre (2975 Don Mills Road West)
Charlie Brown and Snoopy won’t be on this walk, which explores the neighbourhoods that surround “the peanut” in the middle of Don Mills Road near Fairview Mall. Besides learning about the area’s past, you can sample an Iranian-style breakfast.

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The Gooderham (a.k.a. Flatiron) Building, decoded. Photo by Hamutal Dotan/Torontoist.

If you like things that typically piss off Rob Ford

While Mayor Rob Ford loves football monorails, we couldn’t find any Jane’s Walks specifically dedicated to these, so we decided to profile some walks that deal with a few of Rob Ford’s least favourite things: the G20, graffiti, and Transit City. While these issues are all important independently of Ford, his reactions and policies concerning each topic have renewed their primacy in Toronto—each of these Jane’s Walks addresses both the historical context and present-day relevance. (KK)

Title: Don’t Wear Black: a G20 Walk
Starts at: Saturday, 11 a.m.
Meeting Place: southwest corner of King Street West and Bay Street
This Jane’s Walk tours around the security perimeters of the G20 conference, exploring the areas around the perimeter fence and police surveillance camera locations.
The two-hour walk will visit the site of mass arrests outside the Novotel and the areas where hundreds of Torontonians were held for hours at Queen and Spadina. The tour guides will address several lingering questions, such as to why Toronto was chosen to host the G20 summit and what the ongoing implications of those two days in June are. Aiming for a participatory walk, tour guides David Demchuk and Justin Stayshyn are encouraging walkers to share “thoughts with us on ‘the day our rights went out.’”

Title: Graffiti in Toronto
Starts at: Sunday, 1 p.m.
Meeting Place: northwest corner of Queen Street West and Soho Street
The consistent back and forth between Ford and graffiti artists has kept graffiti/vandalism/street art/whatever the kids are calling it these days a hot topic. Led by Jason Kucherawy, this Jane’s Walk promises to be a beginner’s guide to graffiti, as it is found in various forms at key spots in Toronto. In addition to visiting infamous graffiti hotspots, this two-hour guided tour “will be a walking discussion on the past, present and future of graffiti in Toronto.”

Title: Tr_ns_tC_ty – Toronto Missing Urban Strategy
Starts at: Sunday, 3 p.m.
Meeting Place: Finch Bus Terminal, northeast corner of Bishop Avenue and Yonge Street
Rob Ford’s first action as mayor was to tell someone that he planned on killing Transit City in favour of building subways. While Ford’s position has caused considerable furor, the debate over transit in Toronto has been raging for decades, encompassing issues like the role of bike lanes and choosing between subways and streetcars. This hour-and-a-half-long walk promises to analyze the current political questions regarding Toronto’s transit system, and will also provide contextual background about public transit in Toronto dating back to the 19th century.

If you’re interested in social justice issues…

Recognizing Toronto’s long history of activism and social justice, the following are a few Jane’s walks that highlight some important struggles in Toronto history. A celebration of Toronto successes, the walks also highlight some of areas in which social justice in Toronto is lacking. (KK)

Title: 100 Years of Social Inclusion
Starts at: Saturday, 10 a.m.
Meeting Place: the green space on the east side of Toronto General Hospital (Elizabeth Street between College and Gerrard)
Celebrating 100 years of Toronto’s Central Neighbourhood House, this walk will tour The Ward, once the “most ethnically diverse and congested part of the city.” CNH was founded by University of Toronto students who “were interested in improving conditions in Toronto for recent arrivals to the city, any of whom were living in poor conditions in the downtown area.”

Title: Jane Finch: Youth Life and Justice
Starts at: Saturday, 3 p.m.
Meeting Place: corner of Murray Ross and Steeles Avenue
Community youth and residents guiding this Jane’s Walk are hoping to paint a comprehensive and positive view of the Jane-Finch community—a neighbourhood they describe as “incredibly resourceful, passionate and proud.” The walk is dedicated to the memory of Junior Alexander Manon, a Jane-Finch teenager who was killed in 2010 following a police chasing. The tour guides will discuss some of the struggles and successes of the Jane-Finch community throughout the years, and the walk will end at 2999 Jane Street, the future site for Centre for Green Change, where there will be a community barbecue.

Title: A Jane’s Walk About Choice
Starts at: Sunday, 11 a.m.
Meeting Place: 85 Harbord Street
The walk begins at Henry Morgentaler’s now famous former Harbord Street abortion clinic. Morgentaler is championed for subverting the country’s laws by performing abortions in Canada prior to legalization, ultimately causing the law prohibiting abortion to be overturned. Guided by Peggy Cooke, Jordan Hale, and Emma Woolley, the two-hour walk will end at Gerrard and Parliament, where, side-by-side, are an abortion clinic and a crisis pregnancy centre. Throughout the walk, the tour guides will be discussing Toronto’s reproductive rights history, issues of access, and freedom of speech. The walk will be an interactive tour: discussions and personal stories from walk participants are encouraged.

A complete list of all Jane’s Walk events is available here.
Itineraries compiled by Jamie Bradburn (JB) and Keren Katz (KK).

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