The 2013 edition of Jane's Walk, the annual urban-exploration festival, is happening this weekend. Here are some highlights.
Jane’s Walk 2013 is this weekend, meaning there will be plenty of opportunities—in fact, entirely too many opportunities—to take free guided tours of different parts of Toronto, led by volunteer guides in honour of Jane Jacobs.
There are so many walks that no one person could possibly join them all (especially considering the fact that a lot of them happen simultaneously), so we’ve taken the liberty of making you a kind of web-based Frankenwalk, with highlights from all the tours we think will be particularly interesting.
Read on for brief descriptions of some of the best parts of eight different Jane’s Walks, any of which you can attend on May 4 or 5.
(Note that these by and large are not the walks’ starting locations. Click a walk’s name to learn where it sets out.)
Walk Name: Jack’s Walk
When It’s Happening: May 4, 3 p.m.
What It’s About: The life of Jack Layton, from his early years as a professor and activist to his eventual rise to the top of the federal NDP.
Who’s Leading the Walk: Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), Jack’s son.
The Highlight: The walk will include a stop at Lake Devo, the artificial pond on the Ryerson campus. “It’s a place where Jack worked and started off his life,” says Mike Layton. “It’s a place of activist academics, as well as a place we went as kids and went skating around the rocks.” The councillor says the spot is an emblem both of his father’s fun-loving nature and of his dead-serious political ambition.
Walk Name: Murder!
When It’s Happening: May 4, 1 p.m.
What It’s About: Historic murders that happened in the Annex area.
Who’s Leading the Walk: Students in grades 7 through 12 who attend University of Toronto Schools.
The Highlight: There will be a visit to 169 Walmer Road, where Charles “Bert” Massey‘s maid, Carrie Davies, shot and killed the wealthy playboy in 1915. Clement Cheng, a grade 10 student who will lead this part of the walk, says the murder interests him because it polarized the city. “The Toronto Star, back when it wasn’t as professional as it is right now, was adamant in saying that Massey was innocent and that the maid was trying to exploit him because he was rich,” Cheng explains. Feminist groups, meanwhile, sided with Davies, who said she’d killed her employer because he’d tried to rape her.
Walk Name: Yesterday’s Papers
When It’s Happening: May 5, 2 p.m.
What It’s About: The history of Toronto’s newspaper industry.
Who’s Leading the Walk: Jamie Bradburn, local historian and Torontoist contributor.
The Highlight: Bradburn is particularly interested in corner of Bay and King streets, which, unbeknownst to many, is a significant site for newspapers in Toronto. “Back until 1963 or so, the three major dailies were all based either at that corner or within a block or two of it,” he says. First Canadian Place stands on the former site of the Toronto Star‘s office building, the Toronto Evening Telegram was located on a plot of land that later became part of Commerce Court, and the Globe and Mail‘s old offices were about a block to the west.
Walk Name: Summerhill Summerdale
When It’s Happening: May 4, 2 p.m.
What It’s About: Toronto’s historic Summerhill neighbourhood.
Who’s Leading the Walk: John van Nostrand, an architect who lives in the area, and Michael Vaughan, a lawyer who is a direct descendent of one of the neighbourhood’s original developers.
The Highlight: One of the major stops will be Woodlawn, a nineteenth-century house that van Nostrand says is the oldest continuously occupied home in all of Toronto. (It was completed in 1841.) “There’s a neighbourhood designed around it,” says van Nostrand. “It sits in a block. Nobody sees it ever.” It’s true: the house is so well hidden that the average pedestrian might not even notice it from the sidewalk. Jane’s Walk is your chance to check it out.
When It’s Happening: May 4, 1 p.m.
What It’s About: The Ward, Toronto’s “original priority neighbourhood.” It was a notorious so-called slum that, a century ago, was located in the vicinity of present-day Nathan Phillips Square.
Who’s Leading the Walk: John Lorinc, a freelance municipal-affairs and business reporter.
The Highlight: There’s not much left of The Ward, but the walk will cruise by Elizabeth Street, which is the last remnant of what used to be the neighbourhood’s main drag. “Elizabeth Street is kind of this forgotten part of the city,” says Lorinc. “It used to be the centre of this kind of immigrant, poor community.” He’s hoping to use his walk to make an argument for the importance of The Ward as the site of some of Toronto’s earliest attempts at social reform.
Walk Name: Underground Toronto
When It’s Happening: May 4, 12 p.m.
What It’s About: The PATH.
Who’s Leading the Walk: Lisa Dietrich, an intern architect at PLANT.
The Highlight: Dietrich thinks walkers will be particularly intrigued with a walkway near Roy Thomson Hall that connects Metro Hall with St. Andrew Station. It’s one of the few parts of downtown Toronto’s network of subterranean passageways that actually has windows, because it abuts a sunken courtyard. “It has blank windows on one side, so you can actually open that part of the PATH the exterior if you wanted to,” says Dietrich. “I’ve personally never seen them open, though.”
Walk Name: Not a Boring Walk
When It’s Happening: May 4, 1 p.m.
What It’s About: Development and public-transit expansion in the Mount Dennis area.
Who’s Leading the Walk: Members of the Mount Dennis Community Association, along with some representatives from Metrolinx and Toronto Public Library.
The Highlight: According to Mike Mattos, one of the walk’s organizers, people who join this tour will be able to visit the launch site for the massive boring machines that will dig the underground section of the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT, scheduled for completion in 2020.
Walk Name: Historical Walking Tour of Yorkville
When It’s Happening: May 4, 10:30 a.m.
What It’s About: This is probably evident from the name of the walk, but it’s about the history of Yorkville, and how the neighbourhood is changing as a result of development.
Who’s Leading the Walk: Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale). Also Ken Greenberg and Michael McClelland, both architects and urban designers.
The Highlight: The walk will begin at Toronto Public Library’s Yorkville branch, located in a building that dates to 1907. Structures with so much history are increasingly rare in the neighbourhood. “The next phase and wave of development that’s coming is going to be the one that will completely and radically change Yorkville, for better or worse,” says Wong-Tam.
This post originally misspelled Clement Cheng’s last name.
This post originally said, incorrectly, that the Globe and Mail‘s former offices were located east of King and Bay streets. In fact, they were located to the west.