Where Harriet the Spy Was Filmed in Toronto
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Where Harriet the Spy Was Filmed in Toronto

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

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Twenty years ago today Harriet the Spy came to Toronto to play. Yes, the classic kid lit heroine got the big screen treatment in 1996, thanks to the fine folks at Nickelodeon. Precocious, pre-Buffy Michelle Trachtenberg took on the role and was joined by a cast filled with interesting folks like Rosie O’Donnell and Eartha Kitt, because why not?

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The film opens with Harriet spying on this Chinese restaurant.

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When we pull out a bit wider…
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…we find ourselves on Howard Street, which doesn’t need much help to look like a retro New York kinda place.

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Here we have Harriet running to her house, and she’s definitely on Belmont Street.

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But her house doesn’t seem to be on Belmont. The Worker’s Cottage-style architecture suggests something relatively in the neighbourhood, perhaps in Cabbagetown, but we couldn’t find it for certain.

(That said, these houses farther down Belmont Street look similar enough—complete with chimney—that 20 years and some renovations might account for the differences, like the removal of the brick retaining wall and the gables. As for the green paint job and stucco, nothing can adequately account for that.)

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There’s a not-very-helpful view down the street here.

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This Second Empire-style building plays her friend Jamie’s house and it’s located not foo far away, on St. Joseph Street.

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Back to places we actually can identify. Her friend Sport lives in this building, on Maitland Street (which is also in that just-east-of-Yonge area).

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Eartha Kitt’s character lives in this beautiful house…

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…over on Walmer Road, in the Annex.

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The interiors, however were shot at the historic George Brown House.

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The kids go to school and hang out on the steps of…

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Nelson Mandela Park Public School.

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The interiors, however, were shot at Lord Dufferin Public School.

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We think this auditorium, seen in the finale, was shot there too.

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Harriet and her friends have a lot of fun at this park…

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…which we quickly spot as High Park…

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…including bits at Grenadier Pond…

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…and the Sunken Gardens.

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Zipping back towards the beginning of the movie, if you don’t mind, we find Harriet spying on this Mr. Withers guy…

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…who lives at this distinctive apartment building on College Street.

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She’s actually looking down on him from the roof but when we see her climbing up there…

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…boom! She’s over in the Distillery District.

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When she goes out to the movies, we see we’re at the old Eglinton Theatre…

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…but the interiors seem to be the also-defunct Capitol Theatre.

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After Harriet goes to the shrink with her parents, we get to see the old-school yellow (east/west) and blue (north/south) Toronto street signs…

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…at Victoria and Richmond.

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Based on the views of Commerce Court and One Richmond across the street, it looks like interiors were also shot in the historic Confederation Life Building.

The film doesn’t quite have the cachet of its page-based source material, but it’s good for a little bit of family-friendly history and a little local history along the way.


CORRECTION: May 19
Thanks to a reader for pointing out a location that has now been updated: Jamie’s house is actually on St. Joseph Street.

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