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5 more "hidden" features of Toronto's urban landscape

Posted by Derek Flack / September 12, 2013

Hidden TorontoOur previous post on 10 quirky things you might not know about Toronto has proven a popular one, so I thought I might include a few other tidbits that didn't make the first list. All of this really just scratches the surface of the many intriguing and under-noticed aspects of our city's urban landscape, but it's fun to share. And pooling our knowledge about these "hidden" features of Toronto is a great way to enrich our collective experience of the city.

Toronto's street sign archive
What happens to street signs when they're decommissioned? The city keeps them. There are over 1000 old signs in this archive, and you might just be able to buy one if you're interested. Failing that, you could also get a custom street sign poster made for you by Toronto artist, Dave Murray.

Yonge Street Pedestrian MallDowntown Yonge Street used to be a pedestrian mall
Back in the early '70s Toronto was a pretty forward-thinking place, at least when it came to public space. Yonge Street, between Gerrard and Wellington was converted to a pedestrian mall throughout the summer. It was a mostly successful experiment, but to become a permanent fixture, it need approval from all levels of government. The province declined.

Hidden TorontoThe leaning houses of Shaw Street
In my last post I mentioned the buried Crawford Street Bridge in Trinity Bellwoods Park, but Garrison creek shows other signs of its former above-ground existence. These houses on Shaw Street, for instance, have never sat quite right. One of them is currently being renovated, but it's unlikely that the current structures will ever get straightened out.

Parliament Street is aptly named
It might not seem to make sense now, given the presence of Ontario's parliament at Queen's Park, but the first iteration of the provincial legislature was located at Front and Parliament in two humble wood structures. John Graves Simcoe would travel north along the current path of the street to Castle Frank.

Smallest House TorontoToronto is home to one very small house
This might not be the smallest house in the world (far from it, one suspects), but it is the tiniest in Toronto. Located on Day Avenue near Dufferin Street and Rogers Road, it's a remarkable structure for its efficient layout minor footprint.

Share your knowledge of "hidden" Toronto in the comments section.



Phil / September 12, 2013 at 01:37 pm
Damn, that Yonge St. pedestrian mall looks amazing. We need to bring that back right now.
Robert / September 12, 2013 at 01:42 pm
There are the row of leaning town houses on Bright Street in Corktown. Adding to quirkiness of them the row curves around a corner. Curious how they became to lean.
Laura / September 12, 2013 at 01:46 pm
What a shame we couldn't keep that pedestrian mall! Let's get that back!!
McRib / September 12, 2013 at 02:01 pm
1. can't believe i havent noticed the leaning house on Shaw St before.

2. i want one of the old Bathurst St signs. Forest Hill is great for having a large number of older street signs.
mimc03 / September 12, 2013 at 04:30 pm
You cannot buy purchase the street signs... i tried. Council didn't accept the proposal to sell them in June. Sadly.
Cate M / September 12, 2013 at 04:44 pm
I would love to see a floorplan for the tiny house.
Carthy / September 12, 2013 at 04:45 pm
I'm old enough to remember the Yonge Street mall and it WAS awesome. We need a permanent pedestrian street in Toronto, methinks. I also lived in an apartment building on Shaw Street that was slanted (but didn't realize until now it was because of Garrison Creek). We used to have to prop our turntable up on one side with poker chips so it would play properly. That's how long ago it was. Thanks for the memories.
Fiona Williams / September 12, 2013 at 05:06 pm
I used to pass those houses on Shaw Street when on my way up to the grocery store on Dupont. We always wondered if they were crooked inside too, or if the floors had been leveled out. We used to joke that if they weren't, then any lost cat toys would always be found on one side of the room.
stopitman replying to a comment from Robert / September 12, 2013 at 07:14 pm
"There are the row of leaning town houses on Bright Street in Corktown. Adding to quirkiness of them the row curves around a corner. Curious how they became to lean."

Considering they're in Corktown, they were most likely built by very poor Irish, so their construction probably isn't the greatest. It could also be because of the underlying structure if it was built with stone.
Keith / September 12, 2013 at 09:21 pm
We need more pedestrian malls like that. For starters how about Yonge from Dundas to Bloor, Bloor between Spadina to Bathurst, Front st. between Church and Jarvis, and Danforth between Broadview and Pape?
Keith 2 replying to a comment from Keith / September 12, 2013 at 11:02 pm
My name is also Keith and I approve this message.
Phil replying to a comment from Keith / September 13, 2013 at 07:34 am
Or what about Queen or King between Jarvis and Bathurst. A pedestrian mall would double as a transit corridor.
ErinNoyes / September 13, 2013 at 10:02 am
I've always called it the Shaw Street Indention (with apologies to Frank Darabont & his fine movie).
Eve replying to a comment from Cate M / September 13, 2013 at 02:11 pm
The house has it's own website! There are a couple snaps of the interiors :)
Chris / September 13, 2013 at 04:13 pm
There are lots of leaning houses in the Beach. There are to on Glen Manor Dr, where the eaves of one house rest on the roof of its neighbour (they both lean towards each other).
seanm replying to a comment from stopitman / September 15, 2013 at 10:28 pm
It's likely related to different soil, or underground waters that led to the foundations settling. I lived on a nearby street (Wilkins), and the entire row sloped gently towards the back of the house due to the marshy land they were built on.

Regarding the construction quality though, despite being built by poorer workers, they were quite over-engineered back in the day. Solid 6" by 6" beams supported the house, sitting on a double brick wall foundation. Far stronger than today's framing methods.
bills8091 / September 17, 2013 at 10:36 pm
This is a really good post. I think that landscaping in Toronto is awesome. I would love to bring some ideas home with me.
John / September 3, 2014 at 11:35 pm
This is some amazing landscaping. I have seen similar in Toronto with a fiberglass pool in it. Oasis!
Manie / October 24, 2014 at 11:31 pm
This article is great and true. Landscaping in Toronto needs to change.
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