Monday, August 11, 2008

Inexpensive Things to Do in Toronto. I

Playing Tourist
I just had to take the day off. Although a glance at the calendar left no doubt as to the pile of work needing to be done, it also made it depressingly clear that July and the beginning of August had slipped by without almost no time given to recreation. In order to get a day off I have to go out; if I stay home, eventually I succumb to the temptation and work. But what is there to do on a Monday which is free, or at least not too expensive, and which one can do alone, without much planning?
One idea is to go and play tourist in some part of town one has read about but never visited. With a few errands that have been nagging and a spot of lunch thrown in it's a nice little outing. The area I wanted to see is certainly not unknown, but it is one I seldom hear mentioned. Perhaps others who have not heard of it, might be interested in seeing it. The amble takes less than an hour. Some time ago I read in an architectural guide to Toronto about the stretch of Wellington Street between Clarence Square at Spadina and the Victoria Square (Victoria Memorial Park since 1905) at Portland. The best way to go is by TTC: get off the King Street Car at Portland and walk south on the west side.

Victoria Memorial Park was the military cemetery, established in the time of Lieutenant Governor Simcoe. The first known internment was of the Simcoe’s infant daughter Katherine; the last was Private James McQuarrick in 1863. It was replaced by subsequent millitary cemeteries. The park contains a memorial to those who fought in the War of 1812 and in particular in the defence of York in 1813. On the top is “Old Soldier, a statue by Walter Allward.

Looking east from Victoria Square one sees Clarence Square, which was conceived in the early 1800s as an urban park surrounded by houses. Wellington Street between the two squares was meant to be a stylish residential area in the then “New Town”. The only remaining residential buildings are Clarence Terrace, which faces the park from the north.

There is a special treat in store when you walk along Wellington Street between the squares. Running south for a block is Draper Street, a residential street that managed to escape the industrialization that spoiled the rest of the area and is now a heritage conservation district. It is lined with cottages in the empire style from 1881 and 1882, as well as some larger houses built between 1886 and 1889. Most of the dwellings have signs designating their heritage status the date of building, the first resident and the architects. Many of the residents’ occupations are also given. It was on this street that the Hon. Lincoln Alexander, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario was born in 1922. Draper Street is completely charming, and a pleasant spot for a little of touring in one’s own city.

Draper Street has personal associations for me. It was named for Sir William Henry Draper (1801-1877), a lawyer and politician, who headed the administration of Canada for a time before Confederation and after leaving politics was a judge and eventually Chief Justice. In 1862 he presided over the trial of Mr and Mrs Aylward for the murder in Hastings County of William Munro (my great-great-grandfather), and on their conviction sentenced them to death, the first husband and wife to be executed together in Canada. There is a bust of Draper in the Narthex of St James Cathedral.
I admit that little jaunt requires some homework, either before or after, but it is a cheap and pleasant way of spending a morning. When I was finished I ran errands, had lunch and bought a few books. That's where the money goes.

[Toronto has lots of information about its history on line.

For Victoria Memorial Park, see:

For Clarence Square & Wellington St., see

For Draper Street see

There is a life of Sir William Henry Draper at :]

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