By Kimberley Ezeard. When people ask me where I live in Toronto, I describe it as a village in the heart of downtown. I live in Cabbagetown.
I moved into this neighbourhood in 1979 fresh out of high school to start post-secondary school. My Dad was mortified that I had moved into what he considered such an unsafe slum. He asked me to move and offered to assist financially but I refused, I loved it.
My tiny apartment didn’t have air conditioning. I lived on the third floor of one of the old Victorians on the north side of Wellesley St just west of the park. The upside was the rent was ridiculously low and the house was clean and quiet.
In the evenings when my apartment was sweltering, I would wander the neighbourhood and look at all the beautiful old houses which were just in the beginning stages of renovation and restoration. The new owners spent a lot of time talking over the garden gate about their plans and how their projects were coming along. I spent many hours picking out my favourite houses and renovating them in my mind. If only I were a little older and much wealthier!
I also spent many hours sitting in the park reading and waiting for my apartment to cool down, that allowed me to meet some of my neighbours and establish good long-term friendships in the area. I’ve lived here for 39 years and the time has flown by. There have been many changes in this neighbourhood but the beauty of the homes, the mature green space and the nature of the people that are attracted to this area are the same.
Over the years, my partner and I have had the privilege to own and work on a few of the beautiful homes and now we have permanently settled into a Workers Cottage on Amelia St. where we are in the process of our final renovation and hope to live forever among our wonderful neighbours. We love our little cottage with the garden we’ve grown from scratch and our handsome hounds.
Cabbagetown has a village flavour with Parliament St. as its main street lined with shops, services and restaurants. Residents know and recognize one another and don’t hesitate to smile, nod and stop on the street to chat, or catch up over the garden gate. We are engaged and grateful for our warm-hearted community.
Cabbagetown is best known for its architecture and the large group of restored and preserved Victorian homes that are anything but cookie cutter. They represent several styles, from Workers Cottage, Romanesque, Queen Anne, Georgian, Gothic and Second Empire, the majority of which have now been through a number of restorations and renovation.
The Cabbagetown Preservation Association organizes a ‘Tour of Homes’ every second year, which is open to the public and draws attendees who are fascinated by these homes. I am a member of this board and look forward to the tour and the opportunity to showcase our neighbourhood. These beautiful properties, when combined with their lavish landscaping, provide a gorgeous enclave for pedestrians and cyclists to wander. As mentioned above, wander we do, regardless of the weather, you will find dedicated parents in the parks with young children and of course devoted dog owners as well.
We noticed the demographic of the neighbourhood starting to shift about 10 years ago from mature urban professionals, artists and entrepreneurs, to families with young children. When I first moved into the neighbourhood, it was very unusual to see young children playing on the streets, parks and laneways. The shift started with the mature residents selling large properties to young couples who were starting their families and now we have the pleasure of children playing everywhere! It is so wonderful to see.
The schools, public transit, shopping, parks and recreational facilities all within walking distance, have created a recipe for our great neighbourhood. We are blessed with an abundance of green space created by our mature trees, gardens, and the park system that runs through our neighbourhood, and includes our working farm with all its animals and heritage buildings. Riverdale farm is the heart and soul of our community and the park outside the farm hosts our farmers market on Tuesday afternoons. The farmers market is one of the best places each week to pick up fresh produce, cheese, and baked goods. It’s wonderful place to meet up and visit while selecting fresh veggies!
Cabbagetown hosts a large festival each fall, the weekend after Labour Day, which involves an art show and sale, a parade, a marathon for fundraising, a film festival and a fantastic assortment of food and drink. We welcome people from all over the city for the yard sales that weekend and to partake of the art show and patio dining on Parliament street, which is closed for the entire weekend. This festival is one of the best in the city and not to be missed.
Our final festivity of the year is less organized but no less fun, we are unofficially well recognized as one of the best neighbourhoods in the city for Trick-or-Treating!! I suspect it may be because the houses are so closely placed together allowing the kids (and parents) to cover a lot of ground quickly, but it also helps that the residents take Halloween very seriously with great decorations and shelling out treats to the kids. It’s wonderful fun and there are often lineups to get in to any given ‘haunted house’, with pleasant Cabbagetown home owners at their spooky thresholds.
up the walkways to the houses. Our busiest year ever, involved over 600 children coming to our house… what a blast that was! The neighbours sampled and shared quite a bit of wine while shelling out that night!
Finally, our crowning achievement may be our pride in diversity and our inclusiveness over exclusiveness. We are a very mixed community where the tenants next door are as valued as the homeowner across the street. We take fierce pride in our care of one another and don’t discriminate against those less fortunate, or those with different ideas or approaches to life.
We recognize it take a Village to create quality of life and that’s exactly what we are working towards. There is a lot to love about this great community which has embraced me and made me feel so at home. You would be welcome too.