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Church & Wellesley: Photos
Some random shots / Appx 750 words / 6 images / 125 K total

Time & Place: Toronto, 1971 / More on Church & Wellesley

Church & Wellesley Photos: List / Previous page: Churwell Centre

38, 40-42, 48, and 66 Isabella. File name: cw4gen.jpg


Four generations on Isabella
38, 40 - 42, 48, and 66 Isabella Street

Some random shots

The Church & Wellesley area is full of great justapositions of old and new -- as is obvious in Toronto Modern (amid Victorian). This one was too good pass up: four buildings in a row covering nearly a century of development. (With an earlier house at 34 Isabella, out of the picture at the left, it may be more than a century.)

I don't have a date for the house at 38 Isabella, but its style is late 19th- century. It's now offices. Beside it, shaded by trees, is The Brownley of 1932. Rising just beyond: 48 Isabella, built as Avena Towers and there by 1963. Finally, The Town Square Apartments, its 25 storeys rising at 66 Isabella in the early 1970s.

471 to 457 Church. File name: cwwoody.jpg


Old buildings, new uses
Church Street, south from 471 to 457

Left: three of five row houses, built under one big roof at 467 to 475 Church in 1893 -- all now housing gay businesses. Woody's (with the flags -- carrying a rhino, the bar's mascot, not a maple leaf) opened in 1989. Upstairs is Icon magazine. Next door Priape, Toronto branch of a Montreal sex- toy emporium, sits over Sailor, connected inside to Woody's.
457 Church. File name: cw457.jpg

The long purple awning in the shot above marks Bigliardi's Steak House, one of the few non- gay holdouts on the street. Farther along (shown in detail at the left) is the Black Eagle -- serious bear den: a sign outside on Pride Day said "Girth is good!" -- with an Italian eatery downstairs.

The Bulldog is the latest occupant of a historic site: 457 Church, home to the mid-'60s Melody Room, and Gayboy (later Kamp) Publishing, producer of Two magazine from 1964 to 1966. For more, see Our Silver Anniversary, a 1989 article available here online.

(Days after this shot was taken, these facades were suddenly transformed. The Bulldog's bright yellow is now gone to deep charcoal, the Black Eagle having moved downstairs and taken over the space at 457.)

519 Church. File name: cw519.jpg


519 Church Street Community Centre
Cawthra Park

Built in 1906 as an annex to the elite Granite Club (its 1880 original now long gone but for a fragment of wall backing Cawtrha Park), 519 Church has housed two athletic clubs, the German Club Harmonie, and the 48th Highlanders legion hall.

It became a city-run community centre in 1975. Many gay and lesbian groups meet here, and sometimes dance here, too, in the big 2nd- floor auditorium.

Leading up to Pride Day (or as it is now, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgendered Pride Week), the 519 is draped in a huge rainbow flag covering its entire top two floors. Cawthra Park, surrounding the 519, had been the site of Pride festivities since 1984.

That year the park, not very big, could hold the entire event. Now it spreads through all the surrounding streets, Church and Wellesley closed to traffic nearly to the borders of the tract. Organizers estimate that the 1997 event -- including two parades over two days, one of them a Dyke March -- attracted nearly a million people.

AIDS Memorial. File name: cwaids1.jpg AIDS Memorial, detail. File name: cwaids2.jpg


The AIDS Memorial, Cawthra Park

This memorial was born in the mind of activist, teacher, and poet Michael Lynch. Temporary versions were set up in the park for Pride Day, beginning in 1988. The permanent AIDS Memorial was the result of a design competition begun in 1990; it opened in June 1993.

Designed by Patrick Fahn, with landscaping by Alex Wilson, its series of concrete pillars carry stainless steel plaques with names and dates of the deceased -- now more than 2,300 of them.

Among them are Alex Wilson, who lived just long enough to see the Memorial built, and Michael Lynch, who did not. Michael did get to see a model of it, on his last Pride Day in 1991. A poem of his, "Cry," appears on the pillar marking the entrance to the Memorial's rising, curved walkway.

In time the shrubbery will grow, making that path more private. It wraps around a triangular podium with steps at the front, meant to be more public. And it is -- not only for events like the annual AIDS vigil, but more casually. It is rare to find this spot unoccupied: people relax here, stroll, read names (the pillars are lit at night) -- and cruise.

Some are appalled by that last act, given the context. Michael Lynch, I'm sure, would find it wondrously fitting.


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Time & Place: Toronto, 1971 / More on Church & Wellesley