Tuesday, May 09, 2006

the backstreets of toronto: boswell avenue

This installment takes us to the residential streets of the East Annex, where 19th century homes run smack into modern shopping in Yorkville.

Most of the historical information in this entry comes from an October 1993 Toronto Historical Board Report, East Annex Heritage Conservation Study.

The street was named after Arthur Radcliffe Boswell (1838-1925), lawyer, 14-time commodore of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club and mayor of Toronto 1883-84. Boswell's main accomplishment in the latter role was taking care of the city's 50th anniversary celebrations in 1884, as described in Victor Loring Russell's Mayors of Toronto:

Involved in the preparations from the beginning, Boswell received a great deal of praise for his handling of the official duties, and during the public events was the epitome of the congenial host, attending all the events from early morning until late at night. Immaculate, yet robust and extremely enthusiastic, Mayor Boswell was the hit of the fair. (110)

When laid out in 1874, the street was called Victoria, retaining that name until its annexation to Toronto in the 1880s. Early residents were mostly builders, as the street developed into a working-class area. As of 1993, over thirty 19th century buildings remained.

Before starting down Boswell, I found this scrap of paper along Bedford Rd. Is it a new dance craze? Arcane instructions? Secret code?

Here's the starting point - we'll get to the "No Exit" later on, since the map suggests Boswell goes through. Also note the old blue street sign on the house. Many of these still survive around the city - does anyone know how old they are?

The view looking east from Bedford.

A sampling of homes. Many carry THB plaques, from a mid-80s sweep of the neighbourhood. When the street was blocked off at Avenue, street parking was eliminated, causing many homeowners to build pads in their front yards. The THB felt this twas detrimental to Boswell, as it became the street with the fewest trees in the Annex.

The home on top screams of a building that would found at a "pioneer village" in areas where similar residences met the wrecking ball.

This building is the odd man out, sticking out among the homes shown above. I wonder if the builder caught wind of the THB's proposed guidelines for the district.

New buildings or additions should recognize the small scale of neighbouring buildings and not over-power them in height, scale and other design feature.

The small scale of the buildings on Boswell is what gives character to this street. The original details of the buildings are simple, yet based on a sense of proportion and a ratio of window size to building face which should not be altered. On even the smallest lot there is room for a front garden. (120)

As for why Boswell was blocked off, the THB report notes this happened after "a car accident and a personal injury which raised community concern about safety on the street with the rise in traffic on Avenue Road." No date or extent of the injuries was given. Use your imagination for the best/unhappiest scenario.

A parkette now marks the end of Boswell, a place to sit at the end of the walk. If you're too pooped to carry on, head to the bus shelter.

Photos taken April 2006.

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