Thursday, September 15, 2005

the backstreets of toronto: croft street (part one)

This post is the first of a series looking at some of Toronto's interesting sidestreets, roads waiting to be explored by bicycle or foot. If you have any suggestions for future installments, send them along. First up: Croft Street.

Croft runs through an "in-between" area. The northern stumps fit in with the Annex, while the southern stretch doesn't feel like any neighbourhood in particular - you are within a 5-10 minute walk of Kensington Market (SE), U of T (E) and Little Italy (W).

The sign greeting you at College.

At first glance, it looks like a glorified alley that may have earned a name due to its length. Even as a one-way street, Croft can be a hair-raising trip, with little room for cars and pedestrians to share.

Looking north from College.

Our walk starts at the south end, with new murals at College commemorating the great Toronto fire of 1904 (also check the Ontario government site here).

The murals illustrate the origins of the street's name, described by Leonard Wise and Allan Gould's in Toronto Street Names:

This street commemorates the life of John Croft (1866-1904), a part-time dynamiter who was killed in an accident after the great fire of April 19-20, 1904. The worst fire in the history of Toronto broke out downtown at 58 Wellington St., just west of Bay. By the time it was finally extinguished by the combined efforts of 250 firemen nine hours later, the fire had destroyed 123 buildings, obliterated 139 businesses, and put 5,000 people out of work. Croft volunteered to help blow up the ruins of a building on Front St. On May 4, after only two charges out of three detonated, he waited for a few minutes and then attempted to defuse it. The dynamite exploded in his face and he died the next morning of his injuries. (Wise and Gould, 65-66)
John Croft's story (click on pictures for full-size):

A tragic story, yet the style and bright colours of the murals are in a humourous touch...or I've watched too much Monty Python animation lately.

The artwork continues beyond the murals. Most of the structures facing onto Croft St are car barns. While much of the graffiti isn't noteworthy, some walls and garage doors are striking.

Just north of College.

Casper the Friendly Ghost? A generic person? An homage to Daniel Johnston album covers?

To be continued... - JB

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