Friday, June 16, 2006

That Bloor/Lansdowne mystique

Railway lights
On Thursday, a few psychogeographers gathered at offthemap gallery and took in the currently-running sound installation about the Bloor/Lansdowne neighbourhood, and then we walked the neighbourhood itself.

Having examined the installation's map (hand-drawn from memory by an older resident), which shows a remarkable array of factories in the area 50 years ago, we kept an eye out for those old buildings, curious to see what had become of them. Some, like the old American Standard factory, had been converted into condos. "Toronto has the Candy Factory condos, and the Chocolate Factory condos," mused Sean, "and yet they didn't call these the Toilet Factory condos." The sock factory was still a sock factory, but part of the building has been converted into offices currently rented by a quirky array of tenants -- artists, landscape architects, a private eye. (A Google search suggests, rather disappointingly, that "Complaints Department Ephemera" is a graphic design business.)

Bloor/Lansdowne on a summer evening is a place of beauty and mystery. What's with all those vast, completely empty vacant lots? Are they still laced with too much toxic industrial waste to be of any use? And what was the story behind that enormous scrap heap, with bedposts and broken golf carts sticking out of it?

The saddest thing we saw was a dead orange cat. Probably it had died trying to cross Dupont St. Someone had placed it neatly on a flattened cardboard box at the edge of the sidewalk.

The place I'm most likely to return to is Yasi's Place, a nifty lunch/brunch diner on Wallace Avenue. They have an all-day breakfast! They have a community garden out front! They have a dish of dog biscuits on the counter!

The most surreal moment of the evening happened when we explored a warehouse that had been converted into studios. The building was open and well-lit, but deserted. We roamed a maze of corridors lined with locked doors, then suddenly we found ourselves in an enormous, inexplicable room, like a dance hall. Just off the banquet hall was, even more inexplicably, a hardware shop. Weirdest of all, the shop was open.

Mystery hall

More photos.


Blogger JuliaMazal said...

There's a cool diner on Wallace? Wow. I used to work down there, and the only eatery (besides the Portugeuse chicken place) was a "bakery" that we all considered a mob front.

The main thing that keeps me from exploring the area is the sewagey smell pervasive at Lansdowne Station - which is why I never get off the subway there unless I have to! Cool post as always...

7:33 a.m., June 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have lived near the corner of Lansdowne and Wallace for 20 years. It's smelly, and dirty, but I love it. I think it is beautifull in it's own way.
The view from my veranda is awesome. You can see the sock factory and water tower, and lots of peoples back yards and clothes lines.
The only downside to living here is the indusrial contaminants, and the never ending noise pollution.
If you ever get the chance, visit the Toronto city archives. They have tonnes of old photos of the area, most dating back 1916.

4:23 a.m., July 12, 2006  

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