Sunday, August 7, 2016

Canary District

August 2016 - Toronto ON

Last Monday was a civic holiday in Ontario so we headed out to find some sculptures I had found online.

We were astounded at the development of this area. We were also puzzled as to why we were having trouble finding a parking spot on a holiday, we would soon find out.

As we arrived we saw this sculpture titled No Shoes by Mark di Suvero. Not sure why the name...

The new neighbourhood was named after the Canary Restaurant, a diner that operated from 1965 until 2007 on the corner of Front and Cherry Sts. in what was originally the Palace Street School, built in 1859. Palace St. has returned in the new Canary District, along with Cooperage St., Rolling Mills Rd. and Tannery Rd., all reference to the area’s industrial past.
The Canary District is a housing development in Toronto's West Don Lands mixed-use development. Six buildings initially served as the 2015 Pan American Games Athletes' Village for the 2015 Pan American Games. Those buildings were then finished and converted to private residences. Dozens of further buildings will be constructed for private residences, with Front Street lined with boutiques and restaurants.

West Don Lands was once a thriving commercial and industrial hub. This period of prosperity was followed by many decades of neglect. The new streets reflect the history.
 It once notably occupied by the pork processing plants of the William Davies Company. 

William Davies Company was a pork processing and packing company. At one time, it was the largest pork packer in the British Empire, and it operated Canada's first major chain of food stores. One of Toronto's longstanding nicknames, "Hogtown", is attributable to the millions of pigs processed annually by the William Davies Company.

William Davies, born in 1831 in Wallingford, England, emigrated to Canada in 1854, and soon thereafter set up a stall in Toronto's St. Lawrence Market, where he sold cured hams and bacon. Realizing that there was an opportunity to export Canadian pork products to England,

Another example of industry in the area was Lever Brothers of Britain who opened a factory in 1890 on the bank of the Don River in Toronto. For more than a century workers made soap here, including Sunlight and Dove products.

The company grew and operated until 1930, when it merged with a Dutch margarine company, Margarine Unie, to form Unilever, the first modern multinational company.

The Lever Brothers name was kept for a time as an imprint, as well as the name of the US subsidiary, Lever Brothers Company, and a Canadian subsidiary, Lever Brothers Limited. Lever Brothers was sold to a US capital firm Pensler Capital Corporation and renamed Korex in 2008. Korex Don Valley assumed operations of the Lever Brothers Toronto plant. It has since closed and gone bankrupt.

John captured the mural on the side of the Lever building looking a little faded.

The deindustrialization of the 1970s saw most of the land abandoned.The industrial history meant the soil was highly polluted and needed expensive cleanup before any residents could live there.

Finally a parking spot!

Two prominent art installations draw the eye on the north side of the promenade. Tadashi Kawabata's 'Lamppost,' a chaotic tower of diversely sourced lighting fixtures, uses lampposts—a common element of many geographies and eras—to create a playful tangle of infrastructure. 

Slightly to the east, 'The Water Guardians' stands as a somewhat friendlier presence on the streetscape, with a padded children's play area surrounding the bright blue sculpture. UPDATE October 2021 - listed as part of ArtworxTO

John is standing underneath.

A commemorative collage of trees with accompanying plaques lines the Canary District sidewalk. This installation known as 41 Trees pays homage to the 41 countries that participated in the Pan Am games, providing a lasting legacy and reminder of the games that helped to shape this 21st century neighbourhood. 

Waterfront Toronto awarded a commission to Berlin-based artists Hadley+Maxwell to create a new sculptural installation for the corner of Front Street East and Bayview Avenue in the West Don Lands community.
Canadian, but currently Berlin-based, these two artists have exhibited their work in cities all over the world, including Amsterdam, Taipei, Seattle, and Rotterdam.

Hadley+Maxwell’s work for Front Street brings the past to life by fragmenting and rearranging parts of monuments, sculptures and architecture from all over the City of Toronto. Based on the idea of follies – fanciful and purely decorative structures that were popular in 18th and 19th century landscape gardens– this project reimagines a ‘garden of follies’ using features from the built environment that are normally inaccessible. The artists will incorporate elements from monuments that are normally high above the street and physically out of reach, bringing them down to street level where they can be celebrated and enjoyed.

Italics taken from an interview with the sculptors in The Artful City.
We have chosen over 80 different monuments and architectural features from around the City of Toronto to build this sculpture garden. It is a folly composed of seven sculptures. All the sculptures are collaged fragments.

I grew up in Toronto and as a kid I fantasized about being able to get on top of the big horse in Queen’s park. To me, this statue paid homage to an enormous horse; I paid no attention to King Edward VII who rides it. Part of this project is that we are taking things like this that are out of reach and bringing them down to the ground, where a child really can get on top of the horse, but also where the King disappears. We are exercising their accessibility as objects, as bronze things, that can be touched and played with.

Each sculpture contains ideas from various sculptures around Toronto. If I have a photo of that piece I will include it here to give you an idea.

This appears to be the horse he is referring to above.

Here's the original statue.

A suitcase from the Memorial to Italian Immigrants acts as a plinth for a collection of hats from various bronze heads.
I pass the suitcase sculpture often but don't have a photo of it.

Not sure what this is from.

A bell from St. James Cathedral’s famous collection is perched on a cannon from Fort York

St. James Cathedral

Fort York cannon

“Sir John A. Macdonald’s nose is assembled along with the eyes of artists Frances Loring and Florence Wyle, the chin of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, and Northrop Frye’s hair

 Jack Layton’s smile is one of seven that grace a figure lounging atop a reconstituted mantel from the library at Osgoode Hall

We decide to explore the park across the street.

Corktown Common borders the Don River to the east. 

The centrepiece of Canary District, Corktown Common park, is an 18-acre active and inviting green space that provides residents and visitors with a breath of fresh air in the city.

This beautiful park extends to the banks of the Don River and offers inspiring experiences along the river’s edge as well as spectacular views of downtown and Lake Ontario. A wide variety of activity areas, including a multi-functional pavilion, offers exciting activities like community events, BBQ’s and block parties. Focused on the principles of healthy living, Corktown Common park offers areas for dog runs, soccer, lacrosse and bird watching.

There were five street projects, collage boxes around the park.

There were great views of the CN Tower.

Some historic buildings have been retained.

1890: Cherry Street Hotel

By the 1890’s, the building had become a turreted and gabled Victorian hotel: the Irvine House and then the Cherry Street Hotel. It had 40 neatly furnished sleeping rooms, a well equipped dining room and a well-stocked bar serving choice imported wines, liquors, ales, beer, porter, stout and cigars.

On Cherry St. the Cooper Koo YMCA welcomes new visitors to the neighbourhood astride the Cherry St. streetcar line that began operation in June.


  1. Sculpture has become all kinds of everything these days, hasn't it? Some things really speak to me and others leave me totally indifferent. I love the reclining gent, but not the horse. :) And the blue guys are fun. Thanks for sharing, Jackie.

  2. Well the district looks great, but afraid that modern art left me cold. I need the artist to show me the real thing and not leave it up to my imagination to figure it out. Old journalist in me I guess, "Just the facts, ma'am!" I really am enjoying Toronto through your tales, Jackie.

  3. I love seeing all these very interesting sculpturess

  4. Wow - very cool!
    I hope you'll come share your pix at this week's photo linky party at image-in-ing:

  5. Some fascinating art installations in this area, Jackie!

  6. Those are such unusual sculptures! And it looks like you had fine weather to explore that day.

  7. How lovely! It's so interesting to find more unusual types of art, I love sculpture. Thanks also, as you have reminded me that there is a sculpture park near me that I haven't been to yet!

  8. Very interesting look sculptures! Looks like a fun area to wander around. Thanks for sharing and linking up for #wanderfulwednesday! :D

  9. I do like suburbs that include old industrial buildings (after clean-up of course). Cherry Street hotel looks interesting - love the old red brick.

  10. I love the statue spotting walk! I think that is a great idea. Here in Los Angeles, the thing is mural or wall spotting. My favorite statue is The Water Guardians.

  11. Oh, what a fun little adventure. Art is so fun. I think I like the little collage boxes best.

    Lisa @ LTTL

  12. The collection of lampposts is my favorite. It's a new take on a common item. I also like that they incorporated a soft play area around the Water Guardians. It certainly makes it more approachable.


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