Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Photographer

I went for a walk to shoot some pics of the houses along Palmerston Blvd which have some of the laneway buildings behind them - the ones I showed you a few weeks ago. As I wandered along I spotted this photographer who was really into shooting the same houses. It turns out he is an artist working on a project of taking shots of classic porches and he is planning a show of them in the future. He already has over 700 images to choose from!
In the pic you can also see the single pole-top lamps which line Palmerston Blvd. Originally installed in the 1910s, they were refurbished and renewed in 2005 and this remains one of the few streets in Toronto with this type of lamp.

Friday, March 30, 2012

"Graffiti Alley"

This is a shot looking along the laneway off Queen St West known as "Graffiti Alley" where I took the shots of the graffiti & murals this week. Toronto has a large graffiti culture and this is probably the epicentre of it all with even tours being conducted along here. The lane backs a very old long commercial strip of small businesses and stores and has become the site of an ever-changing display of graffiti despite the efforts of many politicians. I am not a fan of mindless tagging but do enjoy the murals and have to admit that looking down a lane like this is usually a real treat and an adventure for me. Funny how I would go down such a lane here but sure wouldn't go down one in another city that looked like this! Familiarity I guess!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Laneway Chaos

I thought that I would show you a more typical shot from the laneway that I had wandered down on Sunday. Almost every building is covered in these stylized tags and only once in a while do you happen upon a good mural, although this particular shot is saved by the presence of 2 of UB5000's yellow birds. The Zip Car sign refers to a car-sharing program that lets you take a car to use a car for an hourly fee.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Tax Revolt?

No - it was simply a marketing scheme at Loblaws this past Saturday. Loblaws is the largest grocery store chain in Canada with over 1,000 stores and offered a break from our sales tax on Saturday only. In Ontario we pay 13% sales tax (VAT) on practically all non-food items and services so it could add up to real savings if you pick the right purchases, e.g. soaps, light bulbs, etc. It was the striking array of yellow signs that caught my attention however!
Taking part in Signs, Signs. For more signs click here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Walkin My Dog"

This is another mural that I discovered on my Sunday travels along the laneways/alleys of Queen St West and it is by the same artist as yesterday's - UB5000. This piece is really large - the bottom of it starts at the 2nd floor of the building and the top bird is sitting on a 4th floor window sill! Once again you can see all the neat details he put into his pieces - the top bird wearing a Blue Jays hat, the girl's headphones hooking into a pre-existing utility box on the wall, etc. Love it!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Jail Birds

This has to be one of my all-time favourite murals which I found yesterday in a laneway/alley behind Queen St West. Enlarge to see the funny details the artist has put on the birds behind bars - tattoos, shackles, bird detective, etc. I have come across a lot of these canary paintings but haven't found out the artist yet - will keep trying.
Update - the artist is UB5000 (aka Allan Ryan)
Taking part in Monday Murals. For more murals click here.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Man And Woman"

Another abstract bronze sculpture from the 60s, "Man And Woman" by Canadian artist Louis Archambault was done in 1968 as one of the commissions for new Ontario government buildings called the MacDonald Block. Located in a breezeway off Grosvenor St, the angular male figure stands over 12 ft tall and the more rounded female is a bit shorter. I really like this piece!
I have shown you some of the other pieces from the MacDonald Block before - click the link below.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


This abstract, cast bronze piece titled "Cedars" by Canadian artist Walter Yarwood was done in 1962 and sits outside the Anthropology building at U of Toronto. Yarwood said that it was inspired by a cedar grove he played in as a child with all its hidden areas between the branches. He was the same artist who did the Coca-Cola sculpture that I showed you a few weeks ago and was part of the "Painters Eleven" group of abstract painters in the 1950s before turning to sculpture in the 60s. I knew Walter in the 70s & 80s and he was a gentle artist and a nice man!
The reflected building is the Earth Sciences Centre of the university - a post modern building from the late 80s which still works.

Friday, March 23, 2012


It's not as hot today as yesterday but yesterday's heat has caused spring to bust out all over Toronto. This Forsythia is cascading over the lovely stone wall that surrounds Casa Loma and as I was walking along I could see that the daffodils are all out on the hill that runs up behind this wall. I love spring!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Out of The Classroom

This sure doesn't look like March in Toronto! An instructor from George Brown College took his class to the stairs by Casa Loma yesterday for an outdoor session. Most of the students were busy on their assignment but this one guy spent the whole time I was there (about 40 minutes) strumming his guitar. It made for a nice mood!
We may set an all-time record today in Toronto for a high temperature in March - the record is 25.6˚C (78˚F) set in 1945!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"He Can't Think Without His Hat"

I don't think this quote from Beckett applies to Che but Che never seemed to be without a hat although not a fedora like this one. I found this sign in the window of Lilliput Hats which is the studio/shop of craftperson Karen Gingras, a traditional milliner who makes all her hats on site. Hopefully not a dying art!
Taking part in Signs, Signs. For more signs click here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I was wandering down an Annex area laneway this morning and came across this guy lurking in a corner. I recognized him, but for the life of me I can't remember the location of the old Crooks restaurant where he lurked outside. I'm glad someone has given him a perfect home!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tobacco Mural

This is a scene that is disappearing from the Ontario landscape as many tobacco farms have switched to other crops as the demand for tobacco declines. This mural was found on the side of the House Of Horvath Cigar Manufacturers on Ossington Ave. With a family tradition of cigar-making since the 30s, the House Of Horvath was established in 1977 and continues strongly to today.
Taking part in Monday Murals. For more murals click here.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Earth Science Centre, U of Toronto

This part of the Earth Science Centre at U of Toronto has fascinated me ever since I first spotted it a few years ago. There are so many details to see and discover the more you look at it. Enlarge the pic to see it better and you will find 2 shovels hanging from the wall - these have lights behind them. The whole mechanism that is set up to look as if it opens the loading door must reference some type of mining/geology equipment. (any ideas?). I have been unable to find out any info on this structure but will keep digging!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St Patrick's Day Mystery

After walking up the very steep and long stairs to Casa Loma on this foggy and misty St Patrick's Day morning, I came across this wonderful gate but couldn't help but wonder how everything could be green behind it when the rest of the city is still grey and leafless. Could it have something to do with the neighbouring castle? And why do rainbows seem to start from this part of the hill? It's a mystery for sure!
No large stones were kissed during the making of this post! I'll be toasting St Pat tonight!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Funny Place For A Horse

The unidentified object from yesterday was this yellow horse! The house in front of yesterday's laneway house has one of these old children's horses mounted on each corner of their 3rd floor deck. It has to be one of my most unusual sightings in the city and I wonder first, where they got them and second, why put them there? Great fun anyway!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Little House On The Laneway

Another laneway house to show you - this one just off West Queen West St and probably the tiniest one we have seen. It is a prime area and probably more fun to live in than the 400 sq ft condos that developers are flogging in Toronto these days. The bricks are a mess but the door and windows are tidy and painted so someone is taking care of it - bet the inside is cute!
And there is a strange creature lurking up along the left of the pic - to be revealed tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Buckingham Cigarettes Ghost Sign

This ad for Buckingham cigarettes still survives on the side of a building on Davenport Rd despite the fact that advertising for cigarettes has disappeared here. Stores are not even allowed to display the cigarette packages and must keep them out of sight. It is always fun to find one of these 'ghost signs' however.
Taking part in Signs, Signs. For more signs click here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lazy Teddy Bear

I discovered this sculpture of a teddy bear on the lawn of a large house in Wychwood Park but the grounds were surrounded by security company signs so I used my zoom for this capture. You can see that Teddy has been constructed by welding hundreds of laser-cut stars and shapes together to form his body. I know that this lawn will be full of daffodils in a few weeks so I will go back then and ignore the signs and get a close-up with the flowers!
It's gorgeous out here today so I am heading out for an al fresco lunch and a lazy day too!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Happy Fish

I found this colourful mural down a laneway at the side of Guu Sakabar on Bloor St in the Annex. Guu is a Izakaya that serves Japanese style tapas and is supposed to be quite good but I haven't tried it. The mural was done in 2009 by long-time graffiti artist Skam who has done a lot of work around Toronto. The fish looks so happy jumping for joy in this traditional-looking Japanese scene!
Taking part in Monday Murals. For more murals click here.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Church Detail

I went for a walk today past yesterday's church and thought that I would show you some of the details of the brick work and carvings. This pic is taken looking up the left side of the steeple to the gorgeous blue sky we have today. Love that carving! Enlarge to see it better.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Grand Conversion

The steeple just visible in yesterday's pic belongs to this church on College St which was built in 1888 as The College Street Baptist Church and remained so until the 70s when it changed hands before being purchased by a developer in the 2000s. Most church conversions in the city have resulted in the buildings being divided up into many small suites which display little of the former grandeur of the churches. This one is different - 4 units only! The front one is 10,000 sq ft with a home office in the tower featuring a 48 ft ceiling, the next one is 8,000 sq ft with the top floor a wine cellar for 3,000 bottles, and 2 smaller units at the back of 5,500 sq ft each! I took this pic in the fall and am using it today because many of the windows have protective coverings on them now as the wonderful restoration of the historically designated exterior continues. I'll keep following the progress and hope for an open house but I doubt it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ripe For Conversion

One more shot from the same laneway/alley to show you. This one has so much character that I am sure it will be wonderful when it is converted. These laneway buildings are basically in the backyards of some of the homes on the neighbouring streets, adjacent to the garages and parking spaces of the other houses as you can see in the pic. Although the lanes themselves appear a bit rough, the homes in this area sell for over $2 million so I don't think this building will stay empty for long. The church steeple that is just visible towards the right will be in my post for tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Another Laneway House

Down the same laneway as the coach house from a couple of days ago is this much larger building which also seems to have been converted into a dwelling. Most of these laneway buildings in the older, downtown parts of Toronto were originally built in the early 1900s as commercial structures such as dairies, bakeries, mechanic's garages, etc to serve their neighbourhoods. Trying to get permission to construct new spaces in the lanes/alleys is almost impossible so these buildings demand top dollar when they become available. People often leave them looking a bit rough so as not to attract the attention of vandals, etc since they are rather isolated!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"The Dog's Bollocks"

How's that for an eye-catching name and sign? Occupying the large space of a former legendary Queen West hang-out, this pub has been here since 2008 and claims to serve cheap beer and good food. I haven't tried it but the name is intriguing for sure! Not sure what's going on on the 2nd floor.
Taking part in Signs, Signs. For more signs click here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Palmerston Blvd Coach House

I was wandering down a laneway in Little Italy just off College St this morning and discovered this old coach house & stable that actually had a sign with its history. It was built behind houses on Palmerston Blvd in 1908 by Crozier & Cloutier and was totally restored in 1996-1998. This type of building is treasured and much sought after here - if only we could see inside!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mural House Niagara St

This large mural is on the side of a house located just off Queen St West. The house backs onto a famous (infamous?) laneway that runs below Queen St where every single garage and building is covered in tags and graffiti and I assume this house was also a target and so the mural was commissioned. It seems to be the work of various artists since there are many names on it but I couldn't really find any info at all. The guy in the pink pants was a happy occurrence!
Taking part in Monday Murals. For more murals click here.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

High Five - Blog 2nd Birthday!

For the 2nd birthday of Occasional Toronto I thought this installation that was outside the entrance to The Artist Project was quite suitable. The Artist Project is a show of 200 artists in all mediums - painting, sculpture, mixed media, installations, and video art - that takes place every year on this weekend at Exhibition Place on the lakeshore downtown. So - high five to everyone - I love blogging, love commenting and especially love all your comments and my blogging friends!

I have misplaced the name of the artist for this piece - will try to find it later. - the artist is Esmeralda Kosmatopolous and the piece is titled "The Palm Authority Project"

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Coca-Cola Wall

I couldn't leave the Coca-Cola building without showing this fabulous wall that you could see out front in yesterday's pic. The black granite has been sculpted into a wonderful abstract pattern that would go perfectly in my place if I had the space. Oh well!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Coca-Cola Building

This is the office building of the Toronto headquarters of Coca-Cola where we find the sculpture and sign from the last few days. Designed by architects Mathers & Halenby (who designed the Eaton Centre mall) and opened in 1965, it is a wonderful example of classic modernist design used for a suburban corporate headquarters. Top of the line materials were used in its construction and Coca-Cola has maintained it in immaculate original condition but they are moving their headquarters to a new space downtown with in the next year so there is much concern that the building may be lost as has happened to many other fine buildings from the post-war era.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Coca-Cola" Sculpture

The sculpture visible behind yesterday's sign is appropriately titled "Coca-Cola" and was done by Canadian artist Walter Yarwood in 1964. The sculpture stands 5 M high and consists of intersecting bronze silhouettes mounted on a dome which has the words 'Coca-Cola', 'ice-cold', and 'drink' spelled out in various languages and alphabets on the band around its circumference. Coke is moving from this building and there is an ongoing debate as to whether the sculpture belongs to Coca-Cola or to the community since it has become quite a landmark in the area.
More on the building tomorrow. That is the bottling plant in the background today.