Crime, Art and Magic found on a bike ride to Wychwood Park

Possibly the best thing about having a bicycle is the adventures it can take you on, where discovery abounds beyond your expectations. Last weekend I rode my Old Dutch through a secret enclave in Toronto – Wychwood Park. North of Davenport, between Christie and Bathurst, there is a magical gully full of million dollar Arts and Craft mansions that sit sporadically on grassy knolls looking down at a murky pond and well kept tennis courts. This private gated neighbourhood was conceived in the late nineteenth century with the intentions of being an artist community. Certainly now, only la crème de la crème of artists would hope to afford one of these majestic homes. Toiling around on my classic Old Dutch, I began to drift back in time imagining horses playing with goats and fresh baked pies in windows with naughty children sticking their chimney smoked paws through the pane for a tart swirl of rhubarb jelly, only to be batted on the head by a nasty Mother Hubbard. Drifting deeper into this imaginary old fashioned world, I was caught off guard when a modern masterpiece crossed my path. Seemingly ripped from the front page of Dwell, this architectural wonder, set against the back drop of a William Morris-esque 19th century home, was absolutely breathtaking. I was very close to ringing the doorbell and requesting a tour, instead I had to quench my curiousity with mad internet scavenging upon return. The house was built in 2002 by famed Canadian architect Ian McDonald. Ahhh, to be overwhelmingly rich! I’d buy this house and host contemporary Great Gatsby parties. (If the owners are reading this – please invite me over).

Anyhow – not all in the land of Wychwood Park is high class, there was a time when tires were repeatedly getting slashed…over and over again. The neighbours complained to the police but the case remained unsolved for quite sometime. Finally, a man was caught on tape wearing a balaclava late in the night, taking a knife to the tires – and it was discovered that it was a seventy year old neighbour who lived in one of the prized sixty homes within this city escape. Once charged the elderly gentleman became depressed and was found later that month (last summer) floating in the Queen’s Quay Peer after killing himself; a devastating, mysterious, and sad story. In light of rogue tire-slashings, we’ll stick to our bikes when touring around this majestic hidden gem.

Leaving the hollow I wound back through the quiet sun soaked streets to the Wychwood Park Artscape Barns. For those who think Trinity Bellwoods is a superb picnic ground for a lazy Sunday – may I suggest you make a point of biking north to this TTC transit station built in 1913 that became an abandoned derelict space in 1979 and is now a 60, 000 square foot hub of multifaceted arts and culture. What makes for an excellent event space is also the home to 36 artists, their families – 17 individual artists and 11 non-profit organizations. For those unaware, Artscape is an organization in Toronto dedicated to finding affordable living spaces for artists. How cool would it be to live in an industrial space with so much history amidst like-minded creative neighbours on the cheap? Dog owners – take note – in front of the impressive entrance there is a giant fenced in dog park. I stretched out my blanket, lay in the sun and munched on Quebec goat cheese and strawberries while watching disputes rise from dogs in heat humping one another. Children frolicked around my heels and a choir resounded from inside the barn. Peeking through a sliver of glass, I spied on the singers as they swayed back and forth, linking arms; hitting high notes of gospel hymns. Walking around the building an open door invited me to peruse a Contact opening. Eating some delicious chocolate chip cookies on offer and gazing at the provocative photography I decided that my day of exploring on the Old Dutch was an experience that could not have been mapped out or predicted if I tried.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous
    May 26, 2009

    great post! wychwood is a hidden gem, and the barns are a fantastic addition to the city. great coverage.

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