Saturday, May 7, 2016

Honest Ed's: The past and future of Bloor and Bathurst in Toronto

Now, before I get started with this week’s column I freely admit that unlike my previous contributions it is a very personal story.

As such some of my readers may not find it historical enough in nature something that I consistently incorporate into each week’s “The Way We Were” column and have done so for many, many years. On the other hand, some readers will find the story as fascinating as I did when I first saw the preliminary drawings that had been prepared for the proposed Mirvish Village project that will transform the block bounded by Bathurst, Lennox, Markham and Bloor streets. Plus, after some research I was able to discover some interesting history related to two of the old buildings on the site thereby fulfilling my mandate.

It all began when I came across a story in the media that described a fascinating project that would transform and revitalize the block bounded by Bathurst, Lennox, Markham and Bloor streets. What really caught my eye was the fact that this was my “neighborhood” when I was just a kid way back in the 1940s when I’d roam the back alley playing cops and robbers with the Di Cresce kids, who lived next door. Or those far off days when my parents told me stay away from the old frames, busted handlebars, wheels without spokes and other bits and pieces and greasy parts that crusty old Mr. Ingles, our landlord and owner of the Bathurst Bicycle Shop on the ground floor, would store in “our” backyard.

Just up the street was Paul’s Lunch, where dad was a frequent visitor or across Bloor, the good, old Alhambra Theatre, one of four easily accessible on a Saturday afternoon if, that is, you had enough pop bottles to trade in for few pennies to a ticket. By the way, the other nearby movie houses were the Bloor, Midtown and Metro. On the southwest corner of Bloor and Bathurst was one of those horse troughs very much in use with all the equine-powered ice, bread and milk wagons clattering through town as they made their daily (but never on Sunday) deliveries.

Down Bathurst, in the basement of the United Church at the corner of Lennox, was the K-Club. It was run by the Kiwanians and headed up by a Mr. Harris (don’t know if he had a first name). And at the north end of that alleyway was a fellow named Honest Ed who had just opened some kind of store that quickly became familiar to my mother. Suffice it to say my brother and I always had lots of socks and underwear.

Actually what really drew my attention to the sketch was the discovery that while most of the old Bathurst St. buildings were gone, two were still there. Under a magnifying glass one appeared to be, yes it was, good old number 758 the place where on the top floor I spent my first eight years on this planet. While I never really gave much thought to the history of the building a little sleuthing by friend Victor Russell, who spent many years in the Archives department at City Hall, came up with a map (specifically from the remarkably detailed Goad’s atlas and fire plans for 1903) that helped us determine that old building, and it’s neighbors on either side, were probably erected sometime around the year 1900.

Seems that while Markham St. will retain many of the historic features of this part of our city when the new Mirvish Village (see takes shape a few years from now, numbers 756 and 758 Bathurst St. will still be there. At least that’s what present plans call for.

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