Skyward. Mostly

17 July 2014 — My gaze isn’t skyward at the start — more over-the-shoulder, double-take, when did that arrive?

mural, Queen E & Seaton St.

Because I could swear  these murals were not here 7 minutes ago.

Well, I exaggerate, but you know what I mean. I last passed this bit of Seaton St. at Queen St. East less than a week ago, and far as I remember, this was just another grubby wall at the time.

A cheerful old geezer comes up while I’m trying to find an unobstructed angle for the next shot. “Real bright, eh?” I agree, and ask when the murals were done. “Saturday. I think…”

I cannot find an unobstructed angle for the next mural along, a thumping great parked car blocks my every attempt. I take a few shots anyway because — as perhaps you noticed, at the far right of the image above — the companion mural is by Birdo. Two new hits of Birdo (see previous post), one walk right after the other!

Birdo mural, Queen E & Seaton St

The weather is iffy, it caused the official Tuesday Walking Society outing to be Called On Account of Probable Rain, but I decided to go out anyway. My only goal is a latte at Balzac’s café down in the Distillery District so, after this unexpected burst of street art, I’m headed south-east with nothing more on my mind than coffee and Victorian industrial architecture.

This site was, for 153 years, home to the Gooderham & Worts Distillery — from 1837, when the first still set up, through Victorian-era growth that made it the world’s largest distillery, to its closure in 1990. It then lived a brief but wildly successful second life as a movie location  (+1700 films used the site, making it the 2nd largest location in North America outside Hollywood) before the complex of buildings was restored & reopened to a third life, this time as an entertainment/retail destination.

I’m walking south on Trinity St., still north of Mill St., the site’s northern boundary, but close enough to see a first silhouette in the sky.

from Trinity St., just north of Mill St.

It’s not the most photographed cupola on-site, in fact I’ve never really paid it any attention before, but I like the way it stands out against the sullen sky.

In through the Mill St. gates, on down Trinity St., another cupola, the one in the heart of the complex that everybody notices.

on Trinity St. inside Distillery District

I duck into Balzac’s, housed in the 1895 Pump House, many of the old features retained, and to great effect. You have to know what to do with these huge old industrial spaces, or their sheer scale can overwhelm you. These guys know. Anything they’ve added is equally bravura, totally up to the challenge.

Like the enormous chandelier, whose first life was in a vaudeville house somewhere.

chandelier in Balzac's coffee shop, Distillery District

But then, you’d expect artistic flair from a coffee micro-roaster named for author Honoré de Balzac (“Coffee is a great power in my life…”), whose first location was in the theatrical city of Stratford, Ontario, and whose other 7 locations include the equally theatrical city of Niagara on the Lake, as well as Toronto’s Distillery District, Reference Library, and Ryerson Image Arts.

Well-caffeinated, I wander on. Back north just a bit, still very east-end-downtown, and take Gilead Place as a shortcut on up to King St. I admire again, and photograph again, the big red “A” halfway up the block.

in Gilead Place s. of King East

And notice there is another letter, equally large but grey, facing it. So grey I’ve never seen it before. So grey I cannot now remember which letter it is.

Almost at King St., the tempting aromas from the Morning Glory café on King already tickling my nose, and I stop again. More red. This time, the proven charms of red geraniums, dancing away in their window boxes, bright against the black balconies — which in turn are oddly bright against the dull sky.

Gilead Place just south of King St. East

I’m on a roll. Looking skyward is paying off quite nicely.

It does so yet again at King East & Sackville, where huge eyes peek out over the top of a small (but bright, very bright) autobody shop.

peek-a-boo at King E & Sackville

And then… and then I forget the exact sequence. A few more streets, then eastward down an alley just south of Queen St. It doesn’t yield much until I’m almost at Sumach St.

Where I stop, and laugh, and pick my way around a mucky patch (blessing my waterproof walking boots) so I can catch these ELICSER faces in the sky.

The Magic Building, from the alley, artist ELICSER

I know where I am. This is the north-west corner of The Magic Building, 60 Sumach St. Yes, that really is the name, and it’s well-deserved — for all the artwork on the building, along with the assorted arts-related activities that go on inside.

Out of the alley, onto Sumach. The sun suddenly escapes the cloud cover, and gives my street-side shot a backdrop of blue.

The Magic Building, from Sumach St.

It’s enough to make you believe in magic.





Leave a comment


  1. I always enjoy your walks and this didn’t disappoint – great photos and your narrative drew me in! The grasses and other hardy plants around the red A soften the scene perfectly.

    • I aree, I thought the grasses around the A really added to the scene. On site I didn’t even notice; in the photo they are a strong element. Thanks for the comment

  2. Lola

     /  24 July 2014

    Great photos! I love Toronto’s Distillery District. It’s a charming side of city that you don’t get to see so often among all those skyscrapers. I remember my first visit to Balzac’s. I didn’t want to leave that beautiful space!

    • Hi — thanks. Yes, Balzac’s really knows what to do with that space. I particularly like the little “poop deck” on the second level, jutting out over the ground level with all its activity.


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

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