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A meeting for Toronto's missing 2LGBTQA*, 1 August 2017

I saw this placard advertising a meeting, to be held tomorrow the 1st of August at 5:30 pm at the 519 Community Centre, on Toronto's missing queer men on a building at Church and Wellesley. The community is paying attention to this alarming mystery.
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Looking north towards Rosedale from the Toronto Reference Library

The Toronto Reference Library is a wonderfully designed building, its architecture full of sensuous curves, but almost as good as the building are the views it offers of the neighbourhoods adjoining it. Looking north, the trees and towers of Rosedale stretch out far beyond Church Street.
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After seven years of vacancy, the Maple Leaf Gardens building on Church and Carlton that had once housed the home area of the Toronto Maple Leafs became a Loblaws grocery store in 2011. Because of its size and its storied location, Loblaws 60 Carlton is arguably one of the chain's flagship stores. Because of its location on Church Street, Carlton Street in fact being one of several possible southern termini of Church and Wellesley, the store's merchandise is also regularly tricked out in the rainbow colours of Pride when this season comes about.

Loblaws rainbow (1)

Loblaws rainbow (2)

Loblaws rainbow (3)

Loblaws rainbow (4)
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Looking northeast, Church and Wellesley

Pride Toronto was still going strong at Church and Wellesley when I was there just a quarter-hour before midnight. I do not doubt it is going strong even now.
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I spent yesterday evening down with a friend taking in Pride Toronto down at Church and Wellesley, wandering up and down the streets dense with people and vendors and venturing over into
Barbara Hall Park and the AIDS Memorial. It was a lovely evening, made all the more so by a late evening sky coloured in rainbow pastels.

Walking down Church

Toward the Wellesley stage

The new Glad Day Bookshop sign

Towards Maple Leaf Gardens

By the roses

Behind the DJ

Roses in pink and red


Rainbow lights and sky

Pastels above

Seven flags over the 519

As evening falls

South on Church

West on Wellesley
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Looking northwest, Church and Wellesley

In the afternoon light, the condo towers of the Yonge and Bloor area loom over Church and Wellesley. The northwest corner of this intersection is likewise set for a massive transformation, a condoization. This scene will not be here for much longer.
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Urban Toronto's Greg Lipinski reports that, on the northwest corner of Church and Wellesley, a tall tower will rise. How tall? The developers do not know. Right now, they are concentrated on the question of how to design the streetfront podium, the very base of the tower.

When One Properties purchased buildings at the northwest corner of Church and Wellesley, the very heart of Toronto's gay community, Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong Tam was ready to hear about another overly tall, dense, boxy development with very little regard to how it will be a benefit to the established community. When she asked One Properties to host a consultation meeting prior to them making a re-zoning application, she was shocked to learn that the developers did not want to proceed with only one meeting, but host three different "pre-app" meetings. This would allow members of the Church & Wellesley community to voice their thoughts and suggestions on how a project here could reach its full potential.

The ultimate vision of the development is to have a 4-storey, 18-metre-high podium, animated with fine grain retail at grade, and reflective of existing retailers in the Village. The podium would also be set-back from the street, allowing more room for pedestrians on the sidewalk, in addition to allowing for more sunlight. A boutique hotel would be on the third and fourth levels of the podium, while the second level would be dedicated to the community. A rental apartment tower would rise from the western side of the site; height scale and massing still to be determined.

A handful of notable firms are involved in this project. Renowned planner Ken Greenberg of Greenberg Consultants is acting as the facilitator for these meetings, while SvN Architects + Planners have been leading roundtable discussions. Claude Cormier & Associés have been chosen as the landscape design firm, with projects in Toronto including the new Berczy Park restoration, the parkette at the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville, and several more. Bousfields is tackling planning work, while Copenhagen's 3XN Architects has been chosen to lead the overall design.
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NOW Toronto's Natalia Manzocco describes another good reason to go to Glad Day Bookshop: Roncesvalles diner Cardinal Rule is setting up shop in the location's kitchen. I really like this addition to Glad Day's business model, not least because the idea of indie businesses collaborating for greater profit for everyone has a lot of appeal for me.

Even with all the cultural clout that comes from 47 years in business, Glad Day Bookshop had to face up to a tough truth last year: It's tough for a business to survive on book sales alone.

With a move to spacious new digs in the heart of the Church-Wellesley Village (499 Church, at Wellesley, 416-961-4161, gladdaybookshop.com) at the end of 2016, the world's oldest surviving gay bookstore gained a few new titles – bar, cafe, and multi-use event space.

Its latest sobriquet: restaurant. Before the shelves of books (several of which are on wheels – all the better to make room for dance parties!) were brought in, the ground-floor unit was home to Byzantium, a martini bar and Continental kitchen that served the community for 23 years.

"Byzantium was mostly known as an eating spot. It was a bit of a martini bar in the 90s, but in the last 10 years, most of the people came for the food," CEO Michael Erickson says. The space was already fully outfitted for cooking and backing, and though meal service was always in the cards for the new space, they weren't sure if they were up to the task themselves.

"When we talked about what we wanted to do for food, we were like, ‘We want it to be like Cardinal Rule'," Erickson says. "And then we thought, 'Why don’t we just ask them?'" Looks like it all worked out. Last week, the beloved queer-owned Roncy diner (co-owners Katie James and chef Marta Kusel are a married couple) debuted its first slate of menu items out of Glad Day.
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James Goldie's Daily Xtra article caught my eye on the trip out, not least because of Cannibis Culture owner Marc Emery's comparison of the plights of LGBT people and marijuana smokers.

The smoke is beginning to clear following an online firestorm that appears to have spilled into the street — over a marijuana shop in the Church-Wellesley Village, with allegations it’s been attracting a clientele unfriendly to LGBT people.

On Jan 3, 2017, the Cannabis Culture shop on Church Street received a one-star public review on its Facebook page, alleging that some of its customers have routinely been making homophobic and transphobic comments, both in the store and outside, causing some LGBT community members to feel unsafe in the village. Three days later, someone splashed blue paint on the shop’s storefront.

Joey Viola, who organizes FML Mondays each week next door at Flash, wrote the review, kicking off the controversy.

“When I had my patrons coming up to me and confiding in me that when they go outside for cigarettes or whatever they’re being harassed by certain loiterers that are outside next door, that prompted me to take a closer look,” Viola says. “Now I don’t see it to be [Cannabis Culture’s] fault, however, they are bringing in some clientele that are not necessarily down with the LGBT lifestyle.”

[. . . Marc] Emery, who is featured prominently in Albert Nerenberg’s 2005 documentary Escape to Canada, which examines the battles to legalize both gay marriage and marijuana, says he was hurt that LGBT opponents to his store’s presence in the neighbourhood don't stand in solidarity with the cannabis community, given the persecution both have experienced historically.

“We’re still being arrested every day in Canada. We still haven’t had any equal rights for 50 years, the cannabis community.”
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At 24 Hours, Shaun Proulx reports on fear of a new crime wave in Church and Wellesley, perhaps linked to a new marijuana dispensary on Church Street. People who live in the area, what's your take?

This week, in my backyard, which happens to be in the heart of Toronto’s LGBT community, many are understandably outraged following the physical assault of a young gay man on Church Street, sacred ground and assumed safe space for LGBT people for decades.

On social media, where dialogue about the matter is lively, to say the least, blame is being heavily laid on the “sketch” element a recently opened business is said to be attracting, and, therefore, on the business itself.

Cannabis Culture, a recreational marijuana dispensary owned by Marc “Prince of Pot” Emery, opened its doors September 1st, 2016.

It is attracting, according to anecdotes, a shady customer base, some of whom are alleged to have harassed and bullied LGBT people within Cannabis Culture, while others are alleged to have attacked them verbally and physically out on Church Street itself.
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"Books! Booze! Come in and get lit"

This sandwich board on Church Street outside the door of Glad Day Bookshop cheered me up last week. Since its move to the heart of Church and Wellesley, I've been trying to go to Glad Day as often as I can. It's a good bookshop and a great space. Plus, who doesn't like a bookshop where you can get pints?
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In the Toronto Star, Sean Micallef looks at the history of the southeast corner of Church Street and Dundas Street West, set to be the site of a new condo development.

There’s a quintessential jumble of Toronto shacks on the southeast corner of Church and Dundas Sts. Cheaply built, like so much of Toronto, the jumble is ugly to unsympathetic eyes. Though awaiting a hearing at the Ontario Municipal Board over design details, the buildings will eventually make way for a proposed residential development. Yet, this quotidian corner has housed more Toronto life than seems possible in one place.

A visit to the deep wells of civic memory stored in the old city directories on the second floor of the Toronto Reference Library, randomly selecting volumes about a decade apart from 1915 until 1993, revealed that life. Here’s just a sliver of it.

Part of the redevelopment parcel includes an unpaved parking lot along Church, and buildings on both the north and south side of it bear ghost traces of the structures that once abutted them, addresses numbered 215 to 221. In 1915, Ebenezer Chesney’s cigar shop, the Porter Plumbing Supply Company and various apartment dwellers were here.

In 1925, Porter was still a going concern but the cigar shop was vacant, Hawley Auto Supply had moved in next door, and Samuel Barrett had started selling date products. By 1936, Seto Kwan had set up his tailoring business in Ebenezer’s old place, and Tire Chains & Accessories had opened next door along with the Collins Printing Company next to it. Porter was still in the plumbing business.

In 1947, Kwan had become a “Designing Tailor” and Church Cleaners and the Lewis Fur Company had moved into the block, while Porter Plumbing had evolved into Good Specialties Plumbing and Heating. By 1958, Master Brothers Business Machines was in operation here alongside M & R Enterprises Clothing and Novelties. In 1968, the Club Coffee Company was operating where Kwan once sewed, and next to it Athens Photo Studio had opened and Art Electric Construction had slipped in here too.
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On the weekend, I took a photo of the statue of Alexander Wood that lies on the northwest corner of Church and Maitland.

Alexander Wood at twilight #toronto #churchandwellesley #churchstreet #maitlandstreet #alexanderwood #statue
is one of several orphan pictures of mine taken during Pride.

I remembered that I had taken a photo of the statue in 2014.

Statue of Alexander Wood in the Village, from below

In October 2012, during Nuit Blanche, I took some night-time photos of the statue. Below is one of the photos, and what I wrote at the time.

Alexander Wood at Nuit Blanche (1)

On the night of Nuit Blanche, I went to the northwestern corner of Church and Alexander--just two blocks south of the fabled intersection of Church and Wellesley--to take photos of sculptor Del Newbigging's statue of Scottish-born merchant Alexander Wood, unveiled in 2005. Located next to the compass painted on the sidewalk at the same corner, Newbigging's statue of Wood has become something of a community landmark, quite literally a touchstone--apparently some locals rub the statue for good luck before dates.
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Amy Grief's blogTo post about the history of Halloween in Church and Wellesley made mention of Jamie Bradburn's Torontoist essay from last year, "The Egging of Yonge Street". This essay noting how the egging of drag queens outside gay bars on Yonge Street was actually a popular custom lasting into the 1980s, provides some real Halloween horror.

[D]uring the 1960s and 1970s, when onlookers congregated on a nearby stretch of Yonge Street at Halloween[,] people lined Yonge between College and Wellesley to jeer drag costume ball attendees. The mob came ready with eggs, ink, and threats.

Several bars along Yonge between College and Wellesley, such as the Parkside Tavern and the St. Charles Tavern began catering to homosexuals by the 1960s, even if their heterosexual owners allowed police to nab clientele. Halloween offered a loophole where, for one night a year, it was fine to flout laws prohibiting men from dressing as women. At other times of the year, it wasn’t unusual for men in drag to be hauled by police down to Cherry Beach and beaten up. This gave rise to costume balls on October 31 which allowed participants to publicly display their sexuality. The parties could be lavish affairs—during Halloween 1969, the August Club at 530 Yonge offered a ball with prizes, buffet, and champagne for $12.50 a head. As the decade ended, the balls drew plenty of onlookers along Yonge Street who, according to the Globe and Mail, “trooped downtown to watch the procession of fabulous female-creatures-who-aren’t.” The paper also observed that the crowd “seemed to regard it as a sort of sophisticated Santa Claus parade.”

The spectacle provoked mixed feelings among some in attendance, as Tony Metie’s account in the debut issue of the gay journal The Body Politic indicates. Metie had gone down to Yonge Street incognito, bringing along a female friend to watch what ensued:

Coming as I did from a town where the very thought of a bar catering exclusively to homosexuals would have driven the local populace to prepare nooses and stakes, the sight of thousands of people gathered to watch men walk the streets openly in female costumes blew my mind. A mixture of emotions was stirred within me. I felt a sense of elation at this blatant display of homosexual culture; it was the first time I had ever seen gay people revealing themselves publicly as gays. When the crowd gasped at some particularly stunning drag queens, I felt a strange sense of pride in being a gay person. But then I would become aware of the jeers and contemptuous laughter, and another part of me would feel ashamed. I realized that the straights were laughing at me, the part of me the drag queens represented. Then I would hate the drag queens. They seemed to be satisfying the straight belief that all faggots were limp-wristed and effeminate. And I knew this wasn’t true; after all, I wasn’t effeminate, was I?

Another early Body Politic piece by Hugh Brewster highlighted the tensions at play:

As soon as the parade is over in front of the St. Charles and the drag queens have gone inside, the mood of the crowd quickly becomes surly and vicious. Gangs of tough adolescents egged on by their girlfriends go looking for “queers” to beat up. The police have an increasingly difficult time controlling the crowds. Ink is thrown and faces get smashed. Last year one sixteen year old in semi-drag was tied to a post and left there until morning. Each year the situation becomes more ugly and potentially explosive. Halloween is on its way to becoming a confrontation between a large gay subculture and a city that pretends it doesn’t exist.

By 1971, police control was required to hold back a hostile crowd estimated up to 8,000 people. While traffic crawled along Yonge between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., side streets, which offered too many opportunities for bashing, were closed off. The sidewalk for the block around the St. Charles Tavern was guarded by police who, according to the Star, allowed in “only admitted and obvious homosexuals.” Members of the University of Toronto Homophile Association passed out leaflets pleading for understanding.
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Amy Grief's history of Halloween on Church Street at blogTO does a great job of explaining how Church and Wellesley became a nexus of Halloween revelry.

Church Street has become Toronto's unofficial Halloween destination. Every year, it transforms into a pedestrian-only boulevard packed with people in outrageous and inventive costumes. It's a party, regardless of the weather and what day Halloween lands on. Work night? Who cares!

But how did this party get started? "It's one of the events in the City of Toronto that needs very little advertising, but gets numbers of people regardless of it's cold, or wet, or anything like that," says Christopher Hudspeth from the Church Wellesley Village BIA.

He says the tradition dates back to the 1960s and 70s. Back then, Halloween gave men a chance to dress in drag - it wasn't really legal any other day of the year.

Bars on Yonge, like the Parkside Tavern and the St. Charles Tavern, held Halloween balls, and many would come gawk at those attending, writes Jamie Bradburn for Torontoist. In the late 1970s, the crowds turned vicious, mocking, jeering and even throwing eggs at those dressed up.

By the early 1980s, things quieted down on Halloween night, and as bars moved to Church Street, so did the party.

Dean Odorico, who owns the popular bar Woody's, has watched the annual Halloween festivities grow over the past 27 years. He says Halloween is an important day for the LGBTQ community and that there have been big parties on Church Street for as long as he's been in the neighbourhood.
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Towards Yonge and Bloor #toronto #skyline #tower #condos #yongeandbloor

Almost all of the towers you see in this photo, taken looking northwest from Church Street towards Yonge and Bloor, were built in the last few years.


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