High Contrast on Bloor

20 March 2014 — Bloor St. West is like that. It’s Up-, Down-, & All Around the Market. Makes for some great juxtapositions, and really interesting neighbourhoods and walks.

Take this bright-eyed, song-wreathed, totally winsome little charmer, for example.

doorway detail, Network Child Care Services, Ossington

Would you expect her to be linked with an 1890 police station? (Built to be fierce and still plenty fierce today, looming over Ossington Av. just north of Bloor.)

1890 police stn now child care

But there she is, because the old station is now one of 10 locations for Network Child Care Services, and Song Child is just one tiny part of the artwork covering the cheerful auxiliary building tucked away down the alley.

Network Child Care Services, Ossington

The Tuesday Walking Society pays delighted homage, and then heads west in the alley between that one and Bloor Street itself. Lots of alley art, you bet!

I’m charmed to see this bird image again, over at Concord. He pops up here & there, usually with a comment bubble next to his beak. No comment here, but I always think of this guy as Law Bird, because the first time I saw him he did have something to say: “I fought the law & won.”

"Law Bird," Bloor St alley at Concord

Speaking of birds… We meet this wonderful parrot farther west in that same alley, near Dovercourt….

Bloor alley nr Dovercourt

… painted by this artist…

the parrot's artist, Bloor alley nr Dovercourt

Just opposite, right on Dovercourt, a high-contrast sequence of shops: a bouncy churrasquería; a very stylish, very trending apothecary (which not only identifies itself as such, not as a drug store, but also offers workshops); & a distinctly old-style tattoo parlour.

By now we’re getting used to the Bloor West mix. A hand-lettered sign in one doorway advertising a theatre, a classy vegan restaurant, a coin laundry, Bike Pirates (run by volunteers, who’ll teach you how to fix your own bike), a run of Ethiopian cafés & convenience stores… Yes, we get it.

But it doesn’t mean we can’t be taken by surprise. We see this on Brock St. just north of Bloor, & practically fall over.

Brock St. just north of Bloor

No, no, not the alley art! The club to the right.

The Giant Runt Club. What?? We can’t see in the windows and the door is firmly signposted for members only. We’re good little Canadians, and we obey. But we do wonder. (I later learn online, where else, that Giant Runt is a breed of large show pigeons, and this is a club for urban pigeon fanciers.)

We pass a few pawn shops as we go, particularly like the name of this one…

Bloor West nr Lansdowne

Isn’t that optimistic? Don’t you feel this is where you’ll get the best price in town? Enough to buy a swell tattoo right next door.

We’re hovering around Landsdowne by now. More classy shops to admire. The Make Den, for example, offering sewing machines, irons, space and if desired advice and classes so you can whip up the project of your dreams. They advertise vintage patterns & pattern books, and yes, there is a retro sensibility apparent in the lengths of cloth hanging in the window:  one covered in bikini’ed pin-up girls and the other, the one I notice first, full of those icon guys from the 1978 hit single, YMCA.

But the grabbiest storefront name & presentation is just a little farther along the street.

1302 Bloor W nr Lansdowne

It’s great. It pops. We love it. We read all that neat explanatory lettering, & admire the concept even if we don’t exactly understand the role of temporarily unpopular ideas in the work done by these “ideas architects & designers.”

We do understand the final paragraph on the front door, though! “Dear potential thieves,” it begins. “You will find nothing of any re-saleable value on these premises. If you are looking for expensive things to steal we recommend looking elsewhere…”

Crossing Lansdowne brings us into the Junction triangle — Bloor St. on the north, Lansdowne on the east, & Dundas St. crossing Lansdowne farther south and then swooping north-west up to Bloor to form the third arm. It’s an old industrial and railway area, being — somewhat — transformed.

Some brave public art here, but disrespected. The murals lining this railway underpass, for example.

Bloor W, west of Lansdowne

Really handsome work, crumbling away.

Soon after we come to the West Toronto Railpath, an ambitious walking/biking trail created next to another rail line. We climb up the steps for its overpass, and head briefly south. Some mesh sculptures & signage here are also in pretty sorry shape.

Perhaps the artwork is just a little ahead of its time? Public attitude not yet right? I’m just musing, I don’t know, I realize that sometimes artwork is the catalyst needed to change attitude, but I suspect sometimes it can be — mysteriously — premature and not spark the hoped-for changes after all.

Well, it may yet. You’ll never catch me making an argument against public art.

Still, this bit of the Railpath is pretty scruffy. We wiggle through a break in the chain link fencing and emerge onto Perth St., then Sterling Rd. We’re surrounded by cleared lots, rubble, signs announcing planned demolition and/or construction, surviving buildings being put to assorted uses. For all the scruffiness (I’m repeating myself, but it seems exactly the right word), the area is also full of vitality.

on Sterling Rd s. of Bloor

We never do track down the theatre, but make other discoveries. One is this mural by Jarus on the north wall of a tall, abandoned hulk of a building heavily tagged on all sides.

Jarus mural, 158 Sterling Rd

Another post-walk discovery online: this 1920 structure at 158 Sterling Rd., the work of architect J.W. Schreiber, was by turns the Northern Aluminum Company Building and later the Tower Automotive Building. It may or may not survive the demolition and planned redevelopment all around it.

I hope its neighbour at 128 survives. I’m drawn first by signs of the building’s earlier life…

128 Sterlin Av,

No pickles now. The sign over the front door says it is the world headquarters of Scythes Inc. Later I learn this description is factual rather than pompous. Flying Colours International (rebranding of Scythes) is a Toronto-based manufacturer of flags, banners & other graphic elements for events all around the world. Lots of provincial & national flags here at home, you bet, but the client list includes the United Nations and the Olympics.

Phyllis & I double back to Bloor. Enroute, a Sterling Rd. building with a big welcoming logo: Just 4 Fun Sporting Club.

Next to the bright red door, a long list of the league & drop-in sports you can enjoy, everything from volleyball & basketball to futsal, dodgeball, ball hockey. Lots of choice but, hey, it doesn’t mean you can do whatever you like.

Just 4 Fun 213 Sterling Av

“Spoilsports!” cries Phyllis. We visualize a whole bunch of disappointed guys reading this & trudging away, heads & axes drooping sadly.

Coming soon…

But wait! There’s more! (My favourite TV infomercial slogan.) Or, there will be more. This walk began at Bloor & Christie, and finally ended at Bloor & the Old Mill. Between Dundas West and Keele, we walked the alley between Bloor & the subway line to the north — a stretch known for its graffiti art. That’s what I’ll show you in my next post.

Leave a comment


  1. Always interested in your walks – did 6 miles Wednesday – no camera!

  2. Gorgeous and fun filled as always Penny

  3. I realized that when I see stuff that thrills me in this city I just have to wait and you will photograph it beautifully and put it here for me to revisit!

    • well, when the weather improves (sigh, if ever…) I expect you to lace up your shoes and take a walk! meanwhile, thanks for the comment — I’m always happy to have you with me on a virtual walk


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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