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Lawrence Manor

July 29, 2011

Finally, North York’s time has come, and now there is at least one walk in each of the regions I have set out.

Lawrence Manor doesn’t have too much history behind it. Its pretty much one of your standard – farmland turned into post war housing in the 50s- type setups. The only other notable thing, is that there is a large population of Orthodox Jewish people in the area. But we’ll see more about that as we go along.

Lawrence Manor is located south of the 401, east of Allen Rd, west of Bathurst St, and north of Lawrence Ave, except where it curves away, straddling the border with Lawrence Heights.

I started on Ranee Dr under the Allen, heading north into Baycrest Park, and ended at the same place, coming from the south.

Lawrence Manor was walked on June 18, 2011

As I got off at Yorkdale station, and headed northeast, I walked through Baycrest Park. As you can see, its not a particularly appealing park, a mostly barren landscape save for one small playground. Surrounded by by highways, all you can see is cars and tucks rushing by, with the tip of Yorkdale mall poking out. The fact that the grass wasn’t well maintained at the time only contributed to the effect that the park seems like a neglected afterthought, whose main purpose is to ferry people from the subway to the nearby residential streets.

Through a walkway, and onto Baycrest Ave, we find the much cheerier Baycrest Ave. Public School.

Over onto Neptune Dr, the feeling changes significantly from the single family homes of Baycrest Ave. There are lots of high rise and medium rise structures, some of which are affiliated with the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. Others which may draw in an elderly population because of the nearby centre. Due to the higher population of more aged individuals, the bus stops appear to be closer together, and you can feel their increased significance to the local population.

Over on Bathurst, the entrance to the main hospital is located. This mural commemorates 75 years of operation as of 1993. So the organization is  into its 90s now. The facility started in 1918 as the Toronto Jewish Old Folks Home, located downtown. But has been at its present location since 1968.

As I mentioned, the area has a large Jewish population, particularly orthodox Jews. Around the Baycrest complex, we find the Shaarei Tefillah Congregation Synagogue.

As a result, this part of Bathurst street is just brimming with strip plazas of businesses catering to this population. The street was also full of the many pedestrians wearing Jewish orthodox clothing. There were plenty of other people about as well, but it does provide a certain atmosphere to the neighbourhood.

Back onto the residential streets, the housing is pretty typical of a post-war residential development. Most post-war housing done immediately after WWII is actually fairly modest, not too large, with many bungalows. Here we see some housing, with the Bathurst/Prince Charles Integrated Housing Project. An initiative of the community action group, the National Council of Jewish Women Toronto. It is an accessible housing project with affordable units for seniors and the disabled.

It is most of the later housing, that started to expand sizes, and lots, considerably, and has continued to grow over the decades.

I liked the brick work on this house.

Here, at the small Prince Charles Park, we find quite a bit of activity on a Saturday afternoon. Many children are running around playing, likely after synagogue, in their cute clothing. Probably annoying their parents with the risk of dirtying said clothing. Parks can be great places, and they can be barren places, they can even be unsafe places. And its not the size of the park that matters, its how they’re used. Although obviously size has an impact, too large a park in a low density area ca be a recipe for under use.

This vintage truck fits in perfectly with the post-war housing.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I have a soft spot for antiquated signage, particularly pre-amalgamation stuff. So here is an old City of North York street sign.

Further along Bathurst, we find Ashbury West United Church. Its not just synagogues, and kosher delis.

West onto Lawrence, we find Lawrence Gardens housing co-op. I don’t know the story behind this one, but it does have more of that insular quality. Maybe turning them into co-ops was one of the only ways to deal with these often ill-designed garden city inspired developments.

Once you hit Varna Dr, you’re on the edge of the adjacent neighbourhood, Lawrence Heights. Which is full of social housing projects. But as you follow the decorated utility poles towards Felmington Park, you get a sense of an active community, struggling to do the best with what is has.

Even though the development is often far away from the street, and surrounded by unused parkland, this park feels like it is doing well, with a carefully tended community garden, and an actively used splash pad.

But as I struggle to navigate my way around the complicated network of grassland surrounding these monotonous social housing developments, I get an in depth sense of why this type of development fails. These empty spaces provide ample opportunity to any possible criminal activity. They also add to the insularity and “removed from life” feeling a development like this provides. It is a psychogeographically burdensome space.

You can tell this place is trying to have an active community life though, with its multiple community gardens, and decorative public infrastructure. But when I do Lawrence Heights later, I can talk about it more.

The small Varna Park is a nice little place, located just past the tunnel under the Allen, on Ranee.

Its a great place to watch the subways roll into Yorkdale Station. I must not have ridden the Spadina Line north of Eglinton West before, because I was surprised to find the subway ran in the middle of Allen Road here. The stations being a mixture of brutalism style raw concrete, and glass domes. Now I have to go catch that train, Until next time…

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  1. Toronto Walks: Lawrence Manor | Kim Bethke

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