parkdale signs toronto

Someone is documenting all the old signs of this Toronto neighbourhood

It was a sad day when Parkdale lost its Lady of Loretto sign.

The blue signage in a gothic font, which had hung for decades above the red door between 1340 and 1342 Queen St. West, was taken down from its perch a few weeks ago. 

According to some residents, the sign was originally put up for a soup kitchen run by a Catholic organization. Others say the building owner erected it years ago as a way to bless anyone that walked under it.

It's not the first iconic sign that Parkdale has lost, and it won't be the last. In a neighbourhood undergoing major intensification and a record number of mass evictions, there's a sense that the fabric of Parkdale is being upended at full speed. 

A resident is trying to document the history of Parkdale through an Instagram account dedicated to the area's signage called Parkdale Signs

The resident, who asked to remain anonymous, started the account at the beginning of March. 

"Parkdale is kind of like a mini time capsule," they said. "If you took out the cars, I reckon you could totally convince yourself that you're walking in the 1960s." 

Originally from Australia, the creator of Parkdale Signs arrived in the neighbourhood five years ago "accidentally." 

"I misjudged the size of the city blocks," they said, "and I thought [Parkdale] was much closer to the city centre."

It ended up being a great decision, one that resulted in getting to know the community and led to frequent visits to the beloved neighbourhood bar and music venue Not My Dog.

When Not My Dog closed in 2016 after more than a decade, its sign—the little black-and-white dog—went with it. 

"I remember it was really sad," they said. "I guess I just saw more and more of them coming down and I wanted to start taking photos of them before they did." 

Since then, the IG feed has been populated with some real gems: The Restaurant Tavern sign tucked away in an alley by Queen and Lansdowne, or the old Parkdale Milliner, the historic sign uncovered by MetroCycleTO that was hidden for years.

The Coke billboard next to the Dollarama is easily missed, despite being  almost five metres long. 

Not all of them are store signs. Shoutout to the third-floor residence of a home by Queen and Brock with its "Jesus, I Trust In You!" sign. 

There's definitely a lot of money to be made from vintage signs. People will pay good coin for old tobacco shop signage, for instance. There's even a market for signs that have been shot up, bullet holes and all. 

But the charm of signs, especially in a neighbourhood like Parkdale, goes beyond collectibility, representing a physical stake in a neighbourhood that is changing faster than most.

The ones that remain are worth documenting, they said. "They're like public antiques."

Lead photo by

Parkdale Signs

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