Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Islington Village of Murals

August 2016 - Toronto ON

We set out to check out the murals on Islington. This isn't a long walk only about a mile, but there were many stops along the way.

Along the way we stopped at St. George's on the Hill church. More on that in a Sunday post.This church has been situated at the top of a hill at 4600 Dundas St West since 1847.

This tomb bearing the name Appleby will feature later.

First a brief history of Islington.

Islington was originally known as Mimico. When Mimico-on-the-Lake petitioned the government for a new post office to be called Mimico in 1858, Mimico was renamed Islington, a name suggested by a resident who was born in the English city of the same name (see Islington).

Montgomery’s Inn is also located in Islington, on the south-east corner of Islington Avenue and Dundas Street West. Dating to 1830, the inn is an example of late Georgian architecture. It currently houses the Etobicoke Community Museum and is open to the public. Click here to visit.

Known as "Toronto's Village of Murals" Islington Village is located in the heart of Etobicoke. This residential neighbourhood boasts 25 mural "masterpieces", enhancing the walls of over 15,000 square feet that span five blocks of the historic shopping district on Dundas West. Painted by artist extraordinaire, John Kuna, the murals depict a cohesive history of the neighbourhood.
Here is a link to the murals webpage. That page is the source for the descriptions below.

This mural painted on the bridge at Islington and Dundas W. welcomes people to the Village of Islington.

On the right side see a stucco-clad Montgomery's Inn and Mary Appleby's 3 cousins, the Pickerings. Photo taken in front of the Appleby house at 4872 Dundas. In the background right to left, Jubilee Hall, moved from a site across from Islington’s Burying Grounds, the Tiers house, and the roof line of Montgomery Inn in the distance.

I showed an Appleby tomb above.

I saw a Tiers headstone in St. George's.

On the left see the little red school house and bell tower, watchmen from the Guelph Radial Line construction, Thomas Waterworth, Henry Hill and Mary Appleby's mother's father who lived at Montgomery's Inn. Helen Tier (left) and Mary Appleby (right). In buggy (left) Alice Appleby (Mary's father's sister) (right) Mary nee Cavan, Mrs. John Appleby, Mary's grandmother.

This 7.3 by 7.0 metre mural depicts golf in the 1920s. The Islington Golf Club designed by Stanley Thompson, one of the foremost golf course architects in North America at the time, is located just minutes from this site. Look eastward to the club house as it appeared in the late 1920s. In the foreground golfers dressed in the late 1920s fashion enjoy their day on the green. The lead golfer is attempting to hit the ball away from the tree line at the western edge of the course where it landed after an overzealous tee off.

The impatience of the group is shared by the small boy who has found distraction in a stray frog.

The ball collector, wearing upper body protective gear, is waiting for the group to play through so that he may resume his duties.

Titled "Aftermath" depicts the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel.
Hurricane Hazel struck Toronto on October 15, 1954. In her wake most of Islington Golf Course and low-lying areas near Mimico Creek were flooded.

Above, an army supply helicopter prepares to use the 9th fairway, then high ground, as a landing strip. Islington United Church, which became a makeshift supply depot for the whole region, is visible on the horizon.

A  volunteer clean-up crew arrives at the scene as a member of the Islington Fire Brigade helps moor their boat. Behind them, members of the 48th Highlanders are clearing away the debris.

By artist Sara Collard 2008, this is titled Portraits From Our Past.

"Islington's First Car", a 1917 Chevrolet owned by the Appleby family.

"Sunday Afternoon", a scene showing famous Islington photographer, Walter Moorhouse's own family on their veranda.

"Apple Packers", Bigham family orchards ca. 1917

"Village Shoemaker", Mr. Nelson, as he appeared early in the 20th century

Nothing to do with the murals, there was a lot of chalk art around.

The Pub with No Beer
This mural depicts a scene from the prohibition era (ca. 1928) with a pop truck rounding up empty bottles outside of the old Islington Hotel, which was once a local watering hole.

The 3.3 m x 7.3 m mural depicts Gordon's Dairy, a local landmark once located in this building. The original structure had a yellow-tile front and a lunch counter and dairy bar inside. In the 1940s Gordon's Dairy was a popular hang-out for area youth, and the dairy's horse-drawn milk wagons were a familiar sight on Islington streets.

As John said, I can't walk in a straight line I always have to make a detour as was the case with this fenced graveyard right in the middle of a block.
Etobicoke's first cemetery began with the burial of a traveller on Dundas who died on his way to Toronto just before reaching Montgomery's Inn. Despite the dying man's request to be buried in Toronto, he was buried beside the Methodist Church (later the Etobicoke Council Offices) in Islington. This cemetery remains a prominent historic site in the heart of Etobicoke where many of Etobicoke's early families are buried.

The most noteworthy of these is the former Etobicoke Municipal Offices, located on Dundas Street West, just west of Burnhamthorpe Road. The building started its life as a Methodist church in 1843, became the village’s municipal offices in 1887, was expanded in 1946, became a police station in 1958, then a restaurant, and finally, in 2000, a Fox and Fiddle, which now has the Pub with No Beer mural!

This piece of land donated by Amasa Wilcox was slated for the Islington Burying Grounds, located between the village’s first school and first Methodist church. Although the land was not officially transferred to a Board of Trustees until 1862, it had been used as a non-denominational cemetery since at least 1844. In the northwest corner are two tall monuments – one for Thomas Montgomery and his family, and one for his son William Montgomery and his family. Two rows of Austrian pines that still line the cemetery path were planted in 1910 by William’s daughter, Margaret. Many other old Islington families are also buried here, including the Johnston, Newloves, Dunns, Porritts, Shavers, Wards and more.

Ordinary Folk, Extraordinary Lives, was painted by John Kuna in 2016. This mural commemorates the original founding families of Islington who now rest in the Islington Burying Ground just east of this site, one of the oldest cemeteries in Toronto, dating from the 1840s. While the subject matter is somber, this mural has been infused with light reminiscent of both dusk and dawn to hint at life's cycle. Six windows remind us of our human vulnerability to the passage of time.

The few precious photos that exist of these original families have been incorporated into the mural design, including members of the Montgomery, Death, Shaver, East and Johnston families. Their faces are generally solemn because subjects were required to remain motionless during the early days of photography.

Each family's headstone is placed to strengthen the composition of the figures and add to their appearance of dignity and gravity. Details of the old tombstones showcase the beauty of their carved emblems and inscriptions. Today, most of the original tombstones have been consolidated into brick friezes to preserve them. See photos above from the Burying Grounds.

Looking east along Dundas Street from Cordova, the Way We Were Islington C. 1900 depicts Islington at the turn of the century. Collaged from images in the photo archives at Montgomery's Inn and posted on, both the buildings and the people were real. The family shown at left was inspired by figures in a photo by famous Islington photographer, Walter Moorhouse. 

This mural shows the old Islington Hotel and drive shed as well as neighbouring shops then located on the north side of Dundas Street at Burnhamthorpe Road. The Islington Burying Grounds are seen in the distance and in the foreground workers are depicted preparing the road to be paved in the ongoing development of Islington as a thriving community.

This mural honours the men of the Islington Volunteer Fire Brigade whose hall was located in this block. Fighting fires, often at great personal risk, was their main purpose; but in the 1940s these men also served their community in a more light hearted fashion. During the winter months they would dam Mimico Creek below T. Montgomery's Inn to create a much used and loved skating rink.

Mimico Creek was a key factor in attracting settlers to the Islington area, as was Dundas Street itself. Islington Avenue did not extend south of Dundas Street until around 1962. Before that time and before the Shell station was built on the north side of Dundas at Islington, artists gathered on the steps on T. Montgomery's Inn to paint the glorious fall colours. In this mural we see Mimico Creek winding through the valley, framed by sumac, spruce and pine, with Montgomery's Inn shown at right.

Ontario Gothic - Based on a photo of the Appleby family taken around 1900 in front of their farmhouse on the northwest corner of Dundas St. West and Islington Avenue, this mural is intended as a parody of Grant Wood's iconic 1930s painting entitled "American Gothic". A little known fact about that work is that the couple shown were not husband and wife. The same is true of the couple here; the man is William Appleby shown with his sister Mabel. The Appleby's farmhouse was built in an Ontario Gothic style with fine gingerbread trim.

In May of 1944 an eighteen-year-old Etobicoke High School student named Harold G. Shipp convinced a pilot, who ferried Lancaster bombers from Toronto to England during the war, to fly over the school's football field and drop cards which could be redeemed for prizes. The stunt was to raise money for bleachers, but it went awry when a wind came up scattering the cards across the Chinese market gardens near Montgomery's Inn.

The scene below shows a football game in heated progress while the massive Lancaster bomber makes its daring low pass over the field, trailing a stream of promotional cards behind it. The scene at left depicts the unsuspecting farmer looking up in disbelief at the shower of colourful paper descending upon his field.

Imagine the impending disaster as 600 excited football fans converge on the field to collect their prize cards, trampling the carefully tended cabbages in the process. Mr. Shipp later became a successful Toronto developer.

A satellite branch of the Royal Conservatory of Music was located in this building from the 1950s through the 1980s. This mural honours that history showing the RCM's most celebrated former student Glenn Gould, circa 1947, with his childhood teacher Antonio Alberto Garcia Guerrero. In the bottom left corner is a copy of a manuscript by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Together these elements allude to the passing on of musical tradition and how humble yet prodigious beginnings may be nurtured to great heights, as illustrated by a current audience in the conservatory's celebrated new concert venue, Koerner Hall.

We talked about Glenn Gould when we took a walk down Front St a couple of weeks ago.

 It depicts children in the 1920s fishing in Mimico Creek with a view of the riverbank and an underwater scene that shows animal and plant species once found in the Mimico watershed.

As this area is undergoing environmental restoration, this mural is intended to educate what the creek's former ecosystem may have looked like and what improved creek life could return to. It includes largemouth bass, rainbow trout, pumpkinseed sunfish, common shiner, white sucker and blacknose dace. Look for the common snapping turtle, the leopard frog tadpole, the diving beetle, the crayfish and the dragonfly nymph.

This one shows children tobogganing on the hill behind Montgomery's Inn in fresh snowfall. In the foreground a group of children are depicted on a "tandem" sleigh which was custom built for the Appleby family.

Probably my favourite.

This is an artist's conception of the old swimming hole once located on Willow Dale Farm and a fanciful look at the swimwear of earlier times. The 6.5 m x 8.5 m mural was inspired by Mary Appleby's note in Villages of Etobicoke, describing the remains of a mill pond which became a favourite swimming hole for generations of young Islington residents.

From 1917 to 1931 the old Guelph Radial Line, that ran behind this site, linked communities from Lambton Mills to Guelph. Forerunners of today's electric streetcars, radial trains were so named because they "radiated" from the city centre outwards to neighbouring towns and villages. Long before the construction of provincial highways, radial lines were part of a transportation network that facilitated the integration of communities such as Islington into what is now the Greater Toronto Region.

This mural depicts Dundas Street at three stages in Islington's history. The shops on the right are currently located in this block. The cars in the centre are from the 1950s. The buildings at left are from the early 1900s.

At that time, flowering catalpa trees graced the south side of Dundas Street stretching from Mimico Creek to Cordova Avenue. They had been planted by Mr. J.D. Evans and lent a quaint yet exotic feel to the village.

Briarly - Gone But Not Forgotten, Also known as the Gunn house, Briarly was built in the 1840s. Originally a frame Regency style cottage built just east of T. Montgomery's Inn, it was redesigned to have an Italianate appearance in the 1850s. From 1970 until 1985, the home was owned by the Montgomery family and their descendants.

Faces of Islington - This mural celebrates the ethnic and cultural character of Islington as it has changed over the last century. Through the faces and traditional design patterns of fabrics from all four continents, travel along the timeline which tells the story of settlement in the area.
Beyond depicting the passage of history as grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren share the same space, notice the change in Islington from a predominantly Eurocentric community during the 1950s into the ethnically diverse neighbourhood it is today.

This mural depicts the history of Islington United Church from its early Wesleyan Methodist days on Dundas Street West to the building of the church now located at 25 Burnhamthorpe Road. As early as 1815 circuit riders, ministers on horseback, rode from hamlet to hamlet attending to the spiritual needs of perhaps 30 rural communities. The first Methodist Church in the village was located at 4946 Dundas. When the congregation outgrew the building, it was sold to the Etobicoke Township. The Township added a red brick façade (shown above) and the building became the Municipal Offices and Police Station. Much altered, it is now the Fox and Fiddle, Precinct.

The circuit rider in the mural has the face of Dr. Stewart East who, along with other ministers, as part of the dedication ceremony, rode up the steps of the new church at 25 Burnhampthorpe. This re-enactment created quite a spectacle.

The Manse Committee - This painting shows the interior of this Dundas Street West building as it might have appeared around 1888. At that time it was the manse, or minister's residence, for Islington's Wesleyan Methodist Church. The scene is a light-hearted portrayal of "The Manse Committee" which advised the minister's wife on décor and conducted periodic inspections to make sure the residence was kept acceptably clean. 
The mural depicts a typical late Victorian residence with furniture that would have been available in Toronto in the 1880s. The floor plan, construction methods and interior were designed according to building practices at the time.

Reverend Richard Bowles, who later became the Chancellor of Victoria University, is shown having tea with the Committee Chair while his wife prepares food in the kitchen and Committee members conduct a white gloved inspection of the premises.

Well, I think we're all muraled out by now!

Linking up with:

Photo Friday at Pierced Wanderings
Scenic Weekends
Weekend Snapshots
Monday Walks
Petite Pudding
Monday Morning Blog Club
Whatever the Weather
Through My Lens Monday
Life Through the Lens
Tuesday Travel
Our World Tuesday
Wanderful Wednesday
SNAP on Wednesday
Outdoor Wednesday
Wednesday Around the World at Communal Global
Worth Casing Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Weekend Travel Inspiration.
The Weekly Postcard
Weekend Wanderlust


  1. A lot of vivid beauty and life in those murals!

  2. Lots of beautiful murals and I enjoyed them all! The artists are so talented! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Wow, that's quite some post you have put together there! It's fascinating. Not long ago we drove through Scotland's Mural Town - Prestonpans - but it didn't have anything on this.

  4. What wonderful street art. I love the boy on the golf course distracted by a frog.

  5. I am sorry if I did not read the words but one thing I did is linger in every photo. The details in them, the expressions of the faces and the moments drawn is just superb! #photofriday

  6. Just fantastic! They are so clear and demonstrate the times and history and real lives of the area in a very engaging way!
    Truly wonderful to see!

  7. The murals are lovely - I know the 'real' Islington in north London very well so this also made me smile.

  8. So unlike the Islington in North London, Jackie, but these murals are absolutely superb! Many thanks for sharing. :)

  9. Must have taken some time to paint all of these. They are very intricate. Thank you for linking up with "Through My Lens"

    Mersad Donko Photography

  10. Wow there is so much history in Islington Village. Thanks for linking up to #EatSleepBlogRt

  11. Gosh, so many murals! My favourite is of the kids fishing and environmental message of Mimico Creek. What an eye-opening post.

  12. Incredible number of colourful and beautiful murals. Love how the murals capture the historical spirit of Islington Village. To rejuvenate a country town in Tasmania, artists created a series of historical murals throughout the town. They are now a tourist attraction. The story is told that the town was inspired by a place in Canada. I am sure that Islington could be the one. The town in Tasmania is named Sheffield, the Town of Murals.

  13. These murals are amazing! I can't believe that there are so many! I especially love the one of the swimming hole. Really brings you back in time! Thanks for sharing and linking up :D

  14. What an incredible place those murals are absolutely stunning. I am putting Islington Village on my places to visit list, thanks for a great post #EatSleepBlogRT

  15. Wow! Love the murals, especially the details in the one on golf in the 1920s. #WanderfulWednesday

  16. Great post, amazing murals!
    Thank you for linking up at the Travel Tuesday meme, I look forward to your next contribution.

  17. Wow! That's a lot of murals, amazing that there are so many in one town. So many great memories and moments in history immortalised though. :) x

  18. What a tremendous project for this village! Love them.

  19. Just doing research on the area and love the details you have on each of the pictures. The photography is really on point.


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