My newest obsession is the list of Toronto heritage buildings I found online earlier this summer. I’ve been poking away at it for a while, trying to make it user friendly so I can plan outings.
One of the interesting things I discovered on the list was an area of the city called the Garden District. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was the very same area I lived in when I first moved to Toronto back in the “olden days” when I was fresh out of university.
Trust me, there was nothing garden-y about this area when I lived there.
My curiosity prevailed and a quick trip downtown was in order. I wasn’t surprised to discover that in spite of the new signs, it’s still pretty gritty in the old stomping grounds.
I had a tiny one bedroom, basement apartment in an old building on a tree-lined street. The street is still beautifully lined with trees, but I did a double-take on the sign outside my former 2-storey apartment building.
There was nothing *luxury* about the building when I lived there, and it’s even less luxurious today.
The small building now looks underwhelming with its scruffy cedars, metal mesh on the basement windows, and tall no-nonsense fence wrapped around the property.
Whatever charm it once had is now gone.
It was a pretty rough neighbourhood when I lived there. A short distance away from my apartment was a low-brow hotel and stripper club. Quelle surprise! It was still there, although it’s received a bit of a face-lift since the early 80s.
The sign that once simply proclaimed GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! now seems to have found a new *enticing* angle. I haven’t decided whether they intended it to be ironic or not.
Back then, I was young and blessedly naive. I didn’t worry about being robbed on my way home from the subway, or having my basement apartment being broken into. I didn’t feel threatened by the people who obviously lived on the streets, or the occasional guy, liquored up from the Filmore, who would follow me home.
It’s different now. I think aging makes us feel more vulnerable. We’ve seen, heard, and been exposed to so much more – and a lot of it unpleasant. That’s just a long way of saying I was acutely uncomfortable walking alone on the streets.
The groups of men clustered near the Seaton House, a shelter for men, didn’t help. Was that shelter always there?!! How could I not have noticed before?
But like many other areas of the city, the Garden District is slowly going through gentrification. Beautifully restored homes are more common than not.
So why is it called the Garden District?
The name was officially designated by City Council in 2001 in recognition of Allan Gardens, a indoor Conservatory sitting on the northeast border of the District.
There is a lot of history in this area. I think I will be back for many more visits … which makes me think how funny it is that we sometimes end up exactly where we started.