<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=294326554740919&ev=PageView&noscript=1" /> Liberty Village - Wilson Sisters

Epic battles, massive freight trains, the Industrial Revolution, bomb making, and convicted criminals: Liberty Village’s incredible history is reason enough to call this neighbourhood home. It’s no wonder why young, artistic, and business-savvy professionals are being drawn to this historically-hip and uber-cool community. A centre of entrepreneurship and creativity with interesting architectural character, Liberty Village is one of Toronto’s hottest new neighbourhoods. This well-planned, self-contained community — once a mess of factories — now boasts mixed residential, commercial, and retail space. With some of the best restaurants and cafes, furniture and design stores, and boutiques and art galleries, Liberty Village is located just west of downtown and is easily accessible by TTC and GO Transit.

Once upon a time . . .

The history of Liberty Village begins at the turn of the 19th century when it was part of York’s military fortification. Historically, Fort York was home base for the Canadian militia during the War of 1812 against those naughty Americans to the south. Canada gave them the smack down, lit up the Whitehouse, took the title, won the belt, and peace ensued. A few years later, the clamouring trains rolled in alongside an explosion of warehouse and factory development. The Russell Motorcar Company was one such factory that employed almost 4,000 women, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, manufacturing bombshell fuses used in World War I. Magic Baking Powder, gentlemen’s collars and cuffs, carpets, cardboard boxes, fishing gear, machine guns, and billiard accessories were just a few other of Liberty Village’s flourishing industries.

One of the earliest self-contained urban-living spaces was built in the 1880s on Strachan Avenue by the provincial government. A condominium of a “different” kind, the government hoped to cash in on the industrial boom by garnishing wages from residents. A woman’s-only version was later built, with the two developments connected somewhat ironically by Liberty Street, where it is said ex-residents first stepped on their road to finding a better life in a real estate development with far better amenities. Central Prison and the Mercer Reformatory closed their doors in 1911 and 1968 respectively, the condemning of the latter facility making room for Liberty Village’s Lamport Stadium. The demise of industry in the 1970s left a wake of empty warehouses and factories, some of which have found new life as authentic lofts, condominiums, trendy restaurants, and hip studio space — creating an authenticity making Liberty Village one of the city’s most popular neighbourhoods.

Bricks & Mortar

With Liberty Street running through the middle of this neighbourhood, it is easy to imagine the men and women once imprisoned stepping tentatively onto this street before rushing away with no desire to return. The same could be said for employees lining the factory halls more than ready to clock out and retreat from the ever turning cog of the industrial boom. Not surprisingly, this once heavily industrialised area was largely abandoned; however, the Victorian industrial architecture, red brick buildings, and tall smoke stacks stood their ground, catching the eye of savvy developers and city officials in the growing city of Toronto. Gentrification was inevitable, and with the help of local artists and architects, the revitalisation of the old has been seamlessly juxtaposed with the concrete and steel structures of the modern condominium. Side by side, residents of Liberty Village have the option of self-contained contemporary spaces with all the amenities, town houses, or authentic lofts in restored buildings featuring high ceilings, massive windows, and exposed brick.

One such development that offers the best of both worlds is Toy Factory Lofts, located at 43 Hanna Avenue. Originally the head office for Irwin Toys, a toy and sporting-goods manufacturer, the site has been redeveloped by Lanterra Development into an award-winning complex with over 215 loft-style suites. Constructed at the turn of the 20th century, the building features wood and steel beams, natural exposed brick, solid Douglas fir posts, and ceiling heights up to 16 feet, not to mention great amenities including an outdoor terrace and fantastic fitness centre.

A breath of fresh air

Looking for an outdoor swimming pool, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and soccer field? Head east on Wellington Street, and with only a few minutes’ walk, you’ll find the recreational retreat of Stanley Park. If that isn’t enough green for you, throw on your roller blades and head south to the green and blue of the lakeshore. Join runners, cyclists, and in-line skaters on the Martin Goodman Trail, where you will enjoy the many waterfront parks along Lake Ontario. If you are a soccer, field hockey, or ultimate Frisbee player, take advantage of your close proximity to the Allan Lamport Stadium Park. Formerly an outdoor stadium, this venue now has artificial turf and a dome providing year-round access ideal for recreational and competitive activities for every skill level and age group.

Taxi!

If you live in Liberty Village, you could probably go days without leaving. With shopping and restaurants, bars and billiards at your doorstep, you will also enjoy the benefits of city-wide access made easy. Walk 15 minutes east and you’ll find yourself in the heart of King West, or cycle south and make use of the beautiful waterfront trails to get you where you need to go. Be sure to take advantage of the bike racks and secure bike lockers located throughout Liberty Village. The TTC is also at your doorstep: streetcar lines run 24-hours across Queen and King Streets, connecting you to bus or subway lines. The GO Transit’s Exhibition Station is also in walking distance, with train service available in or out of the city. And if you prefer to drive, the Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Boulevard will take you to all the major highways connecting you to greater Toronto and beyond.

Coffee . . . where art thou?

Named after the 19th century French playwright, Balzac’s Coffee Roastery embodies the spirit of the man who wrote a dissertation called “The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee.” While it is rumoured that his works were fuelled by one cup too many, many die-hard coffee lovers would struggle to live without daily injections of the precious black gold. Open since 2006 and located in the Toy Factory Loft Complex, Balzac’s aim is to serve an exceptional product in an exceptional environment. And it is true that the café’s exposed brick, charming antique tiles, and large windows create a beautiful atmosphere that complements the perfectly roasted Balzac’s blend. Another amazing Liberty Village option is the Barista Espresso Bar located at 171 East Liberty Street. While relatively new to Liberty Village, the original café was located on College Street and opened in the 1950s. It was here the owner’s grandfather trained him to adhere to incredible standards, a commitment clearly evident in every aspect of the café. This warm, welcoming, and elegant café offers friendly service, traditional European-style coffee, and panini that will have you coming back for more.

Date Night!

Minutes away from the Entertainment District and world-class sporting venues such as BMO Field and Rogers Centre, Liberty Village offers a wealth of opportunity for a night out on the town or a night in on the village. From casual pub-style to fine dining, Liberty Village’s exceptional restaurants feature a range of international foods and exquisite end-of-the-week beverages. For great beer and some of the best chicken wings in the city, the Brazen Head Pub is two-storeys of goodness with hearty, traditional pub fare and a brilliant patio and rooftop for the summer months. For a more upscale fine-dining (and billiards) experience, the Academy of Spherical Arts is a great place for a date. The exposed beams, high ceilings, giant old billiard tables, and funky yet elegant furniture, in a less-is-more venue, highlight the finer things in life such as Cajun-seared alligator and, of course, pool. This establishment is no seventies pool hall, though: built in the 1890s, billiard tables and accessories were manufactured here until 1959, a building that truly has stayed authentic in form and functionality. Open since 1991, the Academy of Spherical Arts is a hidden Liberty Village gem honouring local history, and one of the amazing benefits of living locally.

Does that come in a size 7?

From furniture and home décor, to art and design stores, salons, and fashion boutiques, Liberty Village shops and services are expanding rapidly with the rejuvenated Liberty Market Building now home to a growing mix of unique shopping opportunities. If you are looking for a Hollywood-inspired wedding dress, Liberty Village designers Lana Lowon and Jim Pope will have you looking like you’ve descended from Hollywood Hills. Keeping with the west coast trends, Vocado’s chic boutique is a must-stop shop for anyone with a passion for fashion. On a more practical level, the Running Room has an extensive selection of running gear and will also hook you up with the perfect running crew. Join a clinic; improve your “personal best,” and who knows whom you might meet while you’re at it! Be sure to pop into the Noir Nail Bar after training: your hands and feet deserve the pampering that awaits you. And for your day-to-day needs, this neighbourhood boasts a 24-hour Metro grocery story, Shoppers Drug Mart, bank, drycleaner, pet store, and LCBO. What more could you ask for?

Where to take the kids . . .

Wherever and however you spend your days — unless you’re homeschooling, of course — your children need to go somewhere! Located at 254 Niagara Street, Liberty Village Kids provides a variety of programs and summer camps for your children. For more information, check out their website at (www.libertyvillagekids.com). During the summer months, be sure to visit the many events held at the Canadian National Exhibition, as well as check out the fantastic programming available at your local community centres. Stanley Park’s outdoor pool on Wellington Street will allow your children to dive into the world of aquatics with free swims and lessons focusing on safety and skill. To learn more about fun-filled program information, check out (www.toronto.ca/parks/prd/facilities/recreationcentres/index.html).

Synonymous with finding the right home for your family is finding the right school for your children. From kindergarten to high school, Catholic or public, Liberty Village has some great options. Most Toronto schools have definite enrollment boundaries, so it’s always a good idea to contact the school you have in mind to ensure your new home falls within their boundaries. For more information, visit the Toronto District and Toronto Catholic School Boards websites.