The following West Bend walking tour was designed in 2006 by Duncan Farnan a long time area resident. The tour outlines a short walk around the neighbourhood and provides a guide to a few of the notable sites, buildings and historical points of interest in The West Bend. The walking tour begins at Baird Park, located at the corner of Humberside Avenue and Keele Street.
- Keele Street & The Junction
- Indian Road Crescent to Bloor Street
- Indian Road, Wanda & Abbott Avenues
- Jerome Street, Dundas St. West & Humberside Avenue
|Start at Baird Park
|Lawn Bowling Clubhouse
Keele Street and Humberside Blvd., 1912
|William Baird House
261-263 Keele Street, 1896
|Just down from the Keele Street, Dundas Street West heart of the Junction, Baird Park is named after the last Mayor of West Toronto Junction, William Baird, whose home stands just south at 263 Keele Street. In its early days, a horse drawn band wagon (yes, the real thing) played in the park, but other than the grand pillared Lawn Bowling Club and its immaculate greens, there’s not much to see or listen to now. Its Edwardian and late Victorian high point is pretty faded from view. Immediately west across Keele is the site of the Carleton Race Course (1857-1876). It was between Annette, Glenlake, Keele and Aziel. The first running of the Queen’s Plate was held there on June 27, 1860. It was subdivided into building lots in 1883. Some of the houses on High Park Blvd were built so as to take advantage of a view of the racetrack.
Just south on Indian Grove, one of the last brick paved laneways existed. West Toronto was known for its brick factories due to the quality of the local clays. That lane disappeared with reconstruction in winter 2005/06.
|The Junction and Dundas Street West
|Places of interest as you go north on Keele Street include the
|The Disciples Church
97 Annette (1890 – 1997), built by architect James Ellis
319 Keele Street, 1923
|This was originally one of the few African-Canadian working mans Mechanics Institutes in the City. It is still in use today. Black Canadians were segregated in terms of large aspects of community life. Modeled somewhat along the line of an educational institute and a Masonic Temple, these institutes were common across English speaking countries providing opportunities for the working man to read and study. The CPR used to actively recruit in the West Indies for porters as did the Grand Truck in the United States for cooks and waiters.
343 Keele Street, 1953
|This is a 1950’s styled building but without the Army which held a presence on this site going back to 1912 or earlier. The Army closed its operation here in the Fall of 2006, but the building still continues as a place of worship.
|Bank of Toronto
2854 Dundas Street, built by architectural firm of Eustace Bird and Carrere and Hastings, 1911
|At the centre of the Junction and one of the anchors to this corner the building is amazing well maintained with a sweeping front interior stairwell that’s worth an inside look. This 1911 financial head quarters is designated as a heritage property. A great many of the large Dundas Street mercantile buildings on either side of Keele Street are either designated or listed in Heritage Toronto’s inventory.
|East and North onto Heintzman
28 Heintzman Avenue (Van Horne St), 1996
|Said to have been a show room for the Heintzman Piano Company in the 1890’s, it later became a Polish Veterans Hall after WWII. For the last ten years it has functioned as a Tibetan Buddhist Temple. Its interior is a full replica of the Riwoche sect’s original Temple in Lhasa (destroyed 1950s).
|Heintzman Piano Factory Site
1888 – c. 1960
|This quadrant north of Dundas was a manufacturing site of the famous Heintzman & Co. who produced upright and grand pianos. Production moved here from Queen Street in 1888 as the business grew. The company and its pianos have a really interesting history in North America that’s worth looking up. Just as a piece of social history it produced 3,000 pianos in 1920 at its peak and 200 in 1934. It’s still in business up in Hanover, Ontario.
|South on Heintzman and East onto Dundas
2760-2762 Dundas Street West, 1889
|In one form or another, a Peacock Hotel has existed on Dundas since 1837. Today’s version is an apartment hotel a bit down on its luck. Dundas Street is an old street in the province and carried right out into western Ontario. Before the railroads came, you left TO (or some mid 19th c. version) by horse or stagecoach or foot stopping at inns such as the Peacock, next Lambton Tavern (bottom of Scarlet Road), next Montgomery’s Inn (just before Islington).
|Cross Dundas Street at the Crosswalk and go South on Indian Road Crescent (remember the Crescent!)
|West Toronto Railway Station
CPR property, (1911 – 1982)
|Looking east on Dundas past the CoffeeTime was West Toronto’s pride and joy – both in the 19th and 20th centuries. People came and went here (out west, to war, to school, to across the continent). There’s not much to see but weeds and asphalt. It was all demolished illegally by Canadian Pacific despite protests and assurances. The station was the grand hub for rail travelers going by either steam or diesel. Steam was gone by 1960 along with all the supporting coal, water and manpower requirements of this technology.
|South to Annette and looking East across the Street
24, 27, 29, 31 Annette Street
|As a reminder to us, not all buildings were (or are) built for middle class families, West Toronto street names have pretty interesting histories. I particularly like the way that girls names, were given to streets, though in fact we think the streets were named after the spouses of the various real estate developers: Elizabeth (Runnymede), Jane, Annette, Louisa (St. John’s Road), Edna, Wanda. [Just a note, that with amalgamation in 1909, a fair number of West Toronto street names changed to remove duplication].
|South on Indian Road Crescent
|The Willoughby Estate
|Once you cross Annette you are fully in what was first called (in 1883) the Willoughby Estate. It comes named after an early owner of the concession property of the area. The housing subdivision with its proposed building lots ran from the north side of Annette to Bloor’s north side and from Keele to a concession lot boundary just to the east of Indian Road. At the time of being parceled out as building lots, the area included a few older houses spread about. You can usually pick these out by their style and location, often on a hill crest or corner.
|Indian Road Crescent (Western Avenue)
|Those who live here know the stories of lost drivers, misplaced mail and wrong pizza deliveries. The various Indians had earlier West Toronto names but seem to be extensions of the Indian namingsouth of Bloor Street. The numbering plus our three Indiansreally gets people lost. There is not much of a record of aboriginal peoples in the West Bend other than these names. Native settlement and trails were closer to the main river ways such as the Humber. The Crescent is characterized, as is much of the West Bend, by its proliferation of front-porches, its graceful flowing roadway and its string of changing building forms. It starts with tall semi-detached late Victorian houses to Edwardian two story semis, changes into bungalows, picks up a smattering of duplexes and apartment buildings as it curves around the south end with splendid mansions and a series of four lych or lynch gates rounding of the parade.
|Indian Road Crescent Public School
285 Indian Road Crescent, 1901 & 1965
111, 117, 121, 123, 125 Indian Rd Crescent
|Looking West from Glenlake
|St. Martins in the Field
Glenlake Avenue (Conduit Street), 1915-1922
|Originally at grade with Keele Street, St. Martins dominates the hollow below Glenlake. The view down gives you a sense of how the Bend’s landscape and ravines have changed: Indian Grove (Ontario Street, Woodville Ave) was once a ravine and was filled in by municipal garbage dumping and landfill. You can see house settling at the Annette end. Keele Street gained height to both straighten out and flatten the roadway’s dips, particularly as it nears the TTC subway. Keele is wide at this end and was destined in the 60’s (1960’s!) to be an extension of the Black Creek roadway. The subway track crossover was designed to span a Spadina- Allen Expressway style roadway.
|1950’s apartment building
48 Indian Road Crescent
|Just a small piece of Italian mosaic work peeks out from under an awning to remind us of the blue Italian lakes and the 1950’s infatuation with European culture, the beginning of international mass tourism, as well as Toronto’s immigration history.
31, 33, 39, 43 Indian Rd Crescent
(1904 Shingle Style)
|We’re not sure which was first but all four gates echo the St. Martin’s Church gate and are a reminder of how strong an influence the English Country Style of architectural heritage became in the neighbourhood.
|1905 Edwardian/Victorian house
47 Indian Road Crescent
|Frederick Tuckett house
53 Indian Road Crescent
55 Indian Road Crescent
|Three stunning houses built by the same local builder Frederick Tuckett. He owned number 55.
|Indian Road/Indian Rd Crescent
#3 and #540
|Like a giant tuning fork, the Road ends and the Crescent begins along with that strange numbering system.
|The TTC Subway
The Bloor Line
|The Crossways 1972
|This great Toronto subway line and an extreme example of 1970’s large scale Apartment Building construction virtually close off the West Bend’s connection with other neighbourhoods. Bloor by the Park is the southern end’s local business strip. Like the Junction some of the businesses have been family run for a couple of generations.
|Head North up Indian Road
|Indian Road and Wanda Road Laneways
|Widow’s peak house
570 Indian Road (Willoughby Avenue)
|Housing infill dots the road leading north as it curves to the east side of the hill rise between the two forks. A laneway leads off beside the house with the widow’s peak and one off Wanda Road. Both lanes are worth taking a look down. At one point in time, you probably could have seen Lake Ontario from the rise.
Chelsea Avenue (Soho Avenue?)
|A great small neighbourhood park once used as a movie set for a film set in New York that came complete with bocce courts.
|Wanda Road (Central Avenue)
|The host for its own documentary, “A Street called Wanda”, the street also holds an equally renowned street party every June that works its way into the late summer evening with dancing under the street lights. Romero House, one of four area properties run by this Christian based organization for refugees, anchors the street’s centre. It’s a neighbourhood treasure. Wanda and other streets and laneways have natural treasures as well. The West Bend’s ecology is what is known as Carolinian Forest and boasts trees and native plants that are at the extreme northern end of a Southern climate. So we boast local black walnut, hackberry, mulberry and sycamore down some of the back yards and lanes.
612 Indian Road (1910)
|Jon Marr House
610 Indian Road (1891)
|A decade apart these two homes nicely illustrate the change from Victorian to Edwardian domestic architecture.
628 & 630 Indian Road
|Now a duplex, buildings and businesses like the Modern were a feature of city living for neighbourhood enclaves like the West Bend. They provided service before the advent of the supermarket and where walking or bicycling were the primary means of transportation. Modern closed about 1992.
|Turn West onto Abbott Avenue
|Really an extension of the ecology of High Park with its majestic Black Oak Savannah these are some of the last original oaks in the West Bend. Hopefully someone is keeping them reproducing.
|Barrel roof house
72 Abbott Avenue, c. 1970
|An oddity amongst the oaks and Edwardians, this is a wonderful example of 1970’s infill tucked in beside a laneway with a side-built carriage house. West Bend lanes (and roads) and backyards host a range of native wildlife and birds. Skunks, raccoons, even opossums live alongside us with spring and fall having annual bird migrations. If you’re a birder there is a lot to hear and see locally: northern mocking bird, mourning dove, night hawks to name a few.
|John Turner house
20 Jerome Street, c. 1890
|Faced with left over terracotta tiles from boom-bust of the 1890’s building boom, this house is the standout on Jerome Street. Turner owned a construction yard around the corner on Dundas and built this house to live in. A great example of Domestic Vernacular architecture.
|Head East to Dundas West and look South
|Dundas Street West, The Rails, Keele Street, Bloor Street
|The West Bend is defined by its edges as well as its interior. Down Dundas Street West factories clung to its boundaries and defined it also in terms of workplace.
|Dundas West Arts Building
|Wallace Street Foot Bridge
|This terrific foot bridge spans the railroad tracks which so define the eastern edge of the West Bend. Workers right through the 1950’s crossed the tracks to work in the Junction and factories that lined both sides of the corridor. The bridge is a wonderful example of Toronto’s industrial and engineering history. It used newly advanced rivets to create the huge span.
|A project of the Dundas West Residents Association, precursor to the West Bend Community Association, the Gardens project has reintroduced native species back into the eastern strip of roadway along the rail tracks on Dundas. It’s on-going and volunteer run and always looking for help! Give the Association a call.
|Head North on Dundas and turn West onto Humberside Avenue
|From the very beginning one of the major streets in The West Bend, it was envisioned as a grand thoroughfare with Humberside Collegiate Institute at its head. The first Toronto Transit Commission bus service began on the corner of Dundas and Humberside in 1921 (Route #1 Humberside/Annette) with double-decker buses . Even before that, in 1894, the avenue was serviced by street cars and was a junction for some of the first street car and rail companies (Toronto Railway Co & Toronto Suburban).
|The Dry boundary
April 30, 1904 – 1998
|Even for people who know about the Junction and West Toronto’s history with the Dry, also known as Prohibition, few know that the West Bend was actually both Wet and Dry. The municipality of West Toronto’s eastern boundary actually ran from just east of Indian Road to Bloor Street so that legally parts of the West Bend were Wet.
|Willoughby United Church
754 Indian Road (1907-2004)
|Much like the West Toronto Railway Station demolition, this Edwardian era church was demolished after its sale in 2003, amidst protests. The current building styles and development were the result of major input by residents.