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

“Creekside estates with canoe access, impressive forests, roaming deer, and picturesque farmland in a prestigious neighbourhood close to the city” was perhaps the picture painted by Lieutenant Simcoe as he set out to create a strong, aristocratic Upper Canada. In reality, the rich history of Trinity Bellwoods was shaped by war and founded on bogged, stump-laden roads; native villages; loonie bins, breweries, and buried bridges. With such a cool history, why wouldn’t you want to make Trinity Bellwoods home? Bordered by Bathurst Street, Ossington Avenue, and Queen and Dundas Street West, this trendy yet picturesque inner-city neighbourhood is known for its beautiful Victorian homes, eclectic-yet-hip shopping options, award-winning restaurants and cafés, and, of course, the incredible park after which this community is named. Positioned in the heart of Trinity Bellwoods, the park runs the length of the neighbourhood from Queen Street West through to Dundas Street West, a memorial to the area’s rich history, featuring acres of green for your everyday enjoyment.

Once upon a time . . .

. . . the Garrison Creek rippled quietly through the forest and down to Lake Ontario with only random deer and perhaps a stealthy hunter darting through the original Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood. The desire to create a sustainable British aristocracy changed all that, and with the village of Fort York and garrison lands to the south, Lieutenant Simcoe created 100-acre lots running from Queen Street to Bloor Street that became the underlying grid for Toronto’s development while making room for Trinity Bellwoods’ first residents: Aenaes Shaw, James Given, and Samuel Smith.

Close colleagues of Lieutenant Simcoe, these men first reached their homes by canoe or by foot foraging their way through the woods. Shaw, who served with Simcoe during the American Revolutionary War, built the first farm on present day Crawford Street. Just west, Givens, the superintendent for Indian affairs, built his estate, Pine Grove. Givens led first nations troops in the War of 1812; his home, used as a field hospital, was repeatedly looted by invading Americans because of his strong native ties. To the east of Shaw’s farm, Commander Samuel Smith — responsible for building Dundas Street — sold his land to Duncan Cameron, the Civil and Private Secretary to Lieutenant Governor Sir Francis Gore. Cameron built a Georgian brick home with grand verandas and lake views, naming the estate Gore Vale after his patron.

After Cameron’s death in 1838, his sister sold much of the current park to Bishop Strachan, an influential Anglican deacon, who wanted to create a private school with strong Anglican ties. Students began attending Trinity College in 1852. Surrounding military lands were gradually sold or leased; an Indian settlement (Givens Street), Provincial Asylum (south of Queen Street), and several long-standing breweries (west of Garrison Creek across from the present day park) were just a few of the neighbourhood’s early landowners and tenants.

Bricks & Mortar

Trinity College and its picturesque surroundings attracted residential development and many of the Victorian homes were built on or adjacent to Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Built mostly between 1880 and 1905 and marked by tall, narrow architecture, the homes ranged in size from modest to majestic, with larger homes located on the wider, pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined Shaw Street, while the size and grace of the homes on Crawford Street were also greatly admired. By 1925, Trinity College joined the University of Toronto and moved downtown; the 100-year old original buildings were demolished — this destruction marking the beginning of several decades of extensive heritage genocide in Toronto. Of the college, only the stone and iron gates remain, although the original women’s residence — now a senior’s home — still resides on the western side of the park. The original Gore Vale Estate was also neglected, operating as a rooming house before its final demise, with all that remains a grass-covered field to the south of the park’s hockey rink.


A breath of fresh air

While Trinity-Bellwoods Park takes the first half of its name from the Anglican college, and Bellwood comes from several alderman influential in its development. In 1880, a group of investors formed a trust company, purchasing much of the Trinity Bellwood land, making loans and reselling it to the general public. North of the creek, there was no way to reach some of this property without a bridge. In July 1882, the Company offered to give the City just over five acres of land if the City would pay for the construction of a bridge. Aldermen Bell and Woods gave the strongest support for this proposal, with the land eventually forming the park’s core, while additional parcels of land were purchased as the City began to develop Bellwood’s Park for public recreation.

Ironically, by the 1950s, the fully intact, triple-span bridge that initiated the park’s origins was buried, with the creek ravine completely backfilled. While work on the Garrison Creek sewer and the excavation of the King Street railway saw much of the ravine filled by 1889, additional earth dug from building the Bloor subway raised the surface of the northern end of the park to almost the height of Dundas Street, burying the bridge and creating a steep drop perfect for Trinity-Bellwoods Park tobogganners. Today, Trinity-Bellwoods Park remains at the heart of this community, with its 37 acres of ball diamonds, tennis courts, sports fields, leash-free dog area, wading pool, and playgrounds featuring fantastic walkways with beautiful cast-iron lamp posts, regular community events, an artificial ice rink, and community centre. Moreover, the neighbourhood’s Farmer’s Market — open 3pm to 7pm on Tuesdays from May to October — is quite simply another great reason to make this neighbourhood home.


Taxi

If you love to walk, a stroll through the park is always lovely; otherwise, a steady pace will get you to the downtown core in 20-25 minutes, while Little Italy and King West Village are only minutes away. The TTC is also at your doorstep: streetcar lines run across Queen (24-hour) and King Streets, connecting you to the Yonge-Spadina-University subway line, and on Dundas Street to the Bloor-Danforth line. Streetcar/bus service on Bathurst Street and Ossington Avenue will also carry you north to the Bloor-Danforth subway line or south to the Exhibition or Liberty Village. If you don’t mind Toronto traffic, the Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Boulevard are approximately five minutes away and will take you to all the major highways connecting to the greater Toronto area.


Coffee . . . Where art thou?

What goes better with window shopping, meandering through streets, loitering on park benches, or perusing anything and everything under the blue skies of a market day? Why coffee, of course, or perhaps ice cream on a warm summer’s day . . . These were the sentiments of the owners of White Squirrel Café, who set out to resolve this need by offering just such fare in a perfect location directly across from Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Custom roasted by Mountainview Estates, White Squirrel coffee is fair trade and organic — their “flat white” warm and creamy with just the right caffeine kick. The homemade sandwiches, muffins, and empanadas complement the coffee nicely, while the ice cream will have you melting and directing others to its source as you wander Trinity-Bellwoods Park.

Also adjacent to the park and another great delicious option is the French-style bakery/café Clafouti. With a fine selection of Balzac’s coffee, this café is a pastry heaven with homemade tarts, croissants, and brioche perfect complements to your morning coffee. While you’re there, pick up some imported treats — coffee, jam, and candy included — and add a little European flair to your day. Trinity Bellwoods is becoming synonymous with Toronto’s blossoming coffee culture. From Tan Coffee’s onsite-roasted blends, funky interior with crushed velvet seats, and art gallery, to the Raging Spoon (housed in a former church on Queen Street), to the well-known Dark Horse or newer Rsquared Café (owned by Reza and Reza), there are so many inviting local cafes awaiting your move to the equally inviting neighbourhood of Trinity Bellwoods.


Date Night!

On the south side of Queen Street just west of Garrison Creek, Farr’s Brewery was built. Farr’s residence at 905 Queen Street still stands as a rare example of a 19th-century middle-class home, and while the brewery is long gone, its foundation remains under the block of stores at 875-895 Queen Street West. To the south of Trinity-Bellwoods Park sits the grass-covered field once home to the majestic Gore Vale Estate. Although the unmarked field is all that remains, the estate’s foundations were excavated by the Archaeological Resource Centre of the Toronto Board of Education in the early 1990s, discovering a wealth of broken china and Chateau Laffite wine bottles.

Simply stated, Trinity-Bellwoods is founded on fun: fine china, beer, and wine — perfect items for the perfect date night. Where the brewery once stood, 875 Queen Street West is the present-day address of Noce, one of the city’s finest Italian restaurants; the elegant atmosphere, award-winning wine list, and excellent service may just rival that of Gore Vale. If you prefer a ‘quiet’ night in, be sure to wander into the Spice Trader next door. Why not spice up your life and cook a fine meal for your loved one? Or for a casual date night, 893 Queen Street West is home to Chippy’s, where you will encounter some of the best fish-and-chips in the city’s west end. Alternatively, Ossington Avenue can’t be beat, with one of the highest concentrations of bars and restaurants in Toronto. Head over to Reposado and kick-start your night with one of their incredible tequila cocktails, then pop into Delux for dinner. The mussels, Haricot-Vert salad (green beans with spiced almonds, cherry tomatoes, and whipped herbed goat’s cheese) and steak-frites come highly recommended, while the leather booths, cool lighting fixtures, and Cuban coffee set the standard for a perfect night out in Trinity-Bellwoods.


Does that come in a size 7?

Nestled between Kensington Markets, Chinatown, Little Italy, and Queen Street West, Trinity-Bellwoods shopping opportunities abound in every direction. Whether window shopping, bargain hunting, or doing some serious retail therapy, the neighbourhood’s many eclectic boutiques, specialty stores, antique and furniture shops, designers, galleries, bookstores, and food markets will serve you well. To the north, Dundas Street West caters to your Portuguese cravings, while to the west, Ossington Avenue boasts its own unique presence with even more coffee shops, art galleries, and hip clothing stores. As for that Size 7, if you’re looking for upscale vintage, “I Miss You” — at Ossington Avenue just north of Queen Street — will have you sized up perfectly. Carpe diem! Don’t wait for a special occasion, as that vintage Christian Dior frock is perfect for roaming through Trinity-Bellwoods Park ice cream in hand.


Where to take the kids. . .

For year-round programs, activities, and events for you and your children, the City of Toronto has several community recreation centres in the Trinity-Bellwoods neighbourhood. Just west of Bathurst Street, Trinity Community Recreation Centre offers a range of pre-school, school age, youth, and adult programs. Year-round swimming, summer camps, and a wide range of sports programs will keep your children happy and on the go. The centre also hosts a range of community events for the whole family. Stanley Park’s outdoor pool on Wellington Street — open seasonally — will allow your children to dive into the world of aquatics with free swims and lessons focusing on safety and skill.

Unlock your child’s imagination by visiting one of the local libraries near you. In addition to fantastic resources for the whole family, these libraries offer services such as family-friendly film nights, outreach services, and fun-filled events including special musical guests. Foster your child’s love of reading through their many literacy-building programs and encourage their creativity by joining staff for craft and story times. The Sanderson Branch of the Toronto Public Library is located at 327 Bathurst Street, the College/Shaw Branch at 766 College Street, and the Parkdale Branch at 1303 Queen Street West.

From public library to classroom, the right school for your budding Margaret Atwood or Robertson Davies is synonymous with finding the right home for your family — and Trinity-Bellwoods 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 its boundaries.

For more information, visit the Toronto District and Toronto Catholic School Boards websites.