14 November 2018


Ghosts of Toronto's Past | Rebecca Barrett

Toronto is a weird and wonderful place. All over the city, there are unsuspecting nooks and crevices hiding unusual cultural landmarks. Taken together, these everyday instances of random weirdness create a lesser-known portrait of the city’s cultural heritage. Here are 6 of my favourites – some are weird because of their history, others are weird because of their appearance. Either way, they’re worth checking out.

1. “Hooker Harvey’s”: Gerrard/Jarvis

"Hooker Harvey's" in all its glory. Source.
This fast-food joint at Jarvis and Gerrard has long had the reputation of being a popular hub for sex workers. Although the neighbourhood has largely lost its grittiness since then, “Hooker Harvey’s” is still hailed as a cultural institution. In winter of 2017, plans for a new condo development that would demolish the restaurant were released, and there was a public outcry on social media in its defense. For now, “Hooker Harvey’s” appears to be safe.

2. Leslieville doll house: 37 Bertmount Ave

I wonder what the neighbours think? Source.
For over twenty years, Shirley Sumaiser has been collecting children’s toys and decorating her Leslieville house with them. There are dolls – old and new – stuffed animals, plaques, signs, mermaids, and M&M men. It’s undeniably kitschy and possibly terrifying, but it’s also earned her house landmark status among many Torontonians. (If you wait until it’s a little closer to the holidays, the dolls will all be decorated for Christmas!)

3. Club Paradise: 1313 Bloor St W

A difficult choice being made. Photo courtesy of Serruh Sparkles.
Just west of Bloor and Lansdowne, this strip club’s main claim to fame is its namesake song, “Club Paradise”, by Drake. That’s right – this is the club where Drake apparently “knows them strippers by their real names”. But its second weirdest claim to fame is that it's located right beside (indeed physically attached to) the Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. It’s one building with two tickets to paradise – a veritable one stop shop for all your sin and redemption needs.

4. Greek House: 1016 Shaw St

The Parashos house making a statement. Source.
There are tons of eccentric houses in Toronto’s west end, but this one is my favourite. The owners constructed it in homage to their Greek heritage and took inspiration for the design from Hellenistic Greece. The cherubs on the roof are the best part.

5. Rotary Phone: 1200 Bloor St W

"No Outgoing Calls...If I'm Ringing, Answer Me!" Photo courtesy of Hunter Molnar.
Earlier this year, Rob Kittredge, owner of the storefront at 1200 Bloor St W, installed a rotary phone that he found in a friend’s basement outside his establishment. The phone can only receive calls and can’t actually place them – meaning that the only time it gets used is when someone calls it, and a random passerby answers. Ever since, the phone has become a tiny cultural institution for connecting strangers, and the stories about these weird and random phone calls have become the stuff of legend. So if you’re interested in a chat with a stranger, call the number on the side (647-483-6060).

6. Half house: 54 ½ St. Patrick St

The half house looks like it's still under construction. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Barrett.
This house looks like an optical illusion, but it’s not – it’s just one half of a house. Back in the 1970’s, the company Windlass Holdings Ltd. was strategically trying to buy out the blocks bound by Queen, McCaul, St. Patrick, and Dundas. The homeowners at 54 ½ St. Patrick St refused to leave and eventually, they were the sole survivors of the buy-out. The company demolished their northern neighbour with surgical precision, keeping the internal supporting wall in between the two units intact – this support wall is now the blank exterior on the side of the house.

Cheers, Toronto. Stay weird.


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