Last weekend in the city of Toronto the doors of many buildings were open for public viewing. You can bet that Peter and I were interested in going to that event! It was hard to choose from almost 150 places when we had only one brief afternoon for exploring. So we pared down our list to one area – Liberty Village. It was accessible by public transit and had several sites open.
We headed to the village on the GO train – only one stop, with no Blue Jays fans to steal all the seats. As we walked up Atlantic Ave, the first open door we saw was Quest Chocolate Lab. That seemed like a perfect place to start. We followed the crowd around the space, passing up a chance to paint on a chocolate slab – what a waste of good chocolate that was! We carried on, thinking there must be free samples somewhere. But, after standing through a lengthy lecture on the culinary art of chocolate, we gave up and moved on in search of something better to sample.
Next we walked west on King St, thinking this must lead to the core of Liberty Village. We passed a huge soccer/rugby/football stadium named after Allan Lamport, one of Toronto’s early mayors, who fought against laws prohibiting activities like Doors Open from happening on a Sunday. Thanks Allan! Then we ran out of village so we turned around in search of the CARP/Zoomer Media building. Would there be free samples here?
CARP/Zoomer is the epitome of all things senior: travel, movies, finance, sports, wellness, entertainment. A joyful old-person lifestyle is promoted through a radio station, tv programming, and a popular magazine. Outside the building we passed some classic cars, a glitzy sign, and a booth handing out mysterious tickets. Once inside, we were led on a quick tour along halls filled with posters of entertainers that everybody our age would recognize.
Then we were led into a studio where we became the audience for a live recording of an interview with one of Toronto’s mayoral candidates. We would be on TV! But who was the candidate? Not Allan Lamport for sure. We looked around and saw…Mark Saunders. As readers know, this is not a political blog, so I will just say that I was hoping for somebody else. As Mark gave his rehearsed political message, our eyes drifted to the little girl standing beside him, eating an ice cream cone. Where had she gotten that?
When we left the building, we discovered the secret of the mysterious tickets – free ice cream! Those cones were even better than free chocolate. And there were benches where we could sit to eat them.
Fed and rested, we were ready for more exploration on Liberty St. This small plot of land, cut off from the rest of the city by the lake on one side and a railroad on the other, was the home, in the 1850’s, to inmates of 2 prisons – one for women and the other for men. In between the buildings was a street where the prisoners could walk at liberty. Ahaa! When the prisons were demolished in the 1880’s, the area was designated as industrial, and factories producing machinery, electrical appliances, farm equipment, and weaponry during 2 world wars, sprang up. The name, Liberty Village, hung around.
In the 1990’s the factories began to close and the area slowly became gentrified. Factories were repurposed as condos, in good shape with new windows and fresh paint. Restaurants, boutiques and hair salons began to appear. Trees showed up in planters and narrow annual gardens ran along curbsides. A small but inviting park, with a unique sculpture representing the industrial past, found a spot for itself at the village centre.
Liberty Park: Note the repurposed factories in the background.
Then it was time to ride the GO train home. Even though we had only travelled one stop, Liberty Village felt like we had visited another era. And the ice cream cones were out of this world.