Historical Notes

Former College Street Baptist church

506 COLLEGE ST
(FORMER COLLEGE STREET BAPTIST CHURCH)

Located on the northwest corner of College Street and Palmerston Boulevard, the former College Street Baptist Church (1889) is a well-crafted example of the Romanesque Revival style designed by the important Toronto architects Langley and Burke. It is a neighbourhood landmark on College Street, west of Bathurst Street. The property is currently being renovated into condominium units. With the approval of the owner, it was designated in June 2009 under the Ontario Heritage Act for its cultural heritage value. The building displays the robust materials, round-arched openings, and dominant towers identified with the Romanesque style. The main entrance on College Street is found beneath the gable end of the roof and between two square towers. This entry reflects the Romanesque Revival style with a trio of oversized round-arched openings that contain paired wood doors under exaggerated transoms with quatrefoils.

For more details of the designation see http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2009/te/bgrd/backgroundfile-21950.pdf .

LITERARY HISTORY OF THE PALMERSTON AREA

The Palmerston area has been home to many writers over the years.  Greg Gatenby’s exhaustive Toronto: A Literary Guide (McArthur & Co, 1999) is a rich source of information about where authors lived, worked and went to school in Toronto.  No doubt in the decade since its publication, many up-and-coming and established writers have found this neighbourhood. Here are a few highlights from Gatenby’s book.

Poet and Publisher Nelson Ball and his wife the artist Barbara Caruso lived at 756A Bathurst Street from September 1968 till June 1973. Mr. Ball was the publisher of Weed/Flower Press.  Among the books  he published was bp Nichol’s The True Eventual Story of Billy the Kid (1970), which won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry. This was the first time a book published by a tiny literary press had ever won the prize. Mr. Ball was a frequent host to authors from out of town, including Allen Ginsberg.

Playwright Charles Tilder lived for six months from October 1983 to April 1984 at 520 Markham Street while he oversaw the production of The Farewall Heart at the Tarragon Theatre. While staying at this address, he wrote a radio play for the CBC and a stage play called Startle the World, Release the Rose.

The best known and most notorious drama critic in the history of Toronto was Nathan Cohen (1923-1971), because he held Canadian stage productions to the same standard as foreign dramas, often with ascerbic wit. One of the places he lived in 1945 was 507 Markham Street.

From January 1971 to the autumn of 1975  poet Ludwig Zeller also rented a studio at 507 Markham Street where he wrote his surrealist poems and collages, including one called When the Animal Rises from the Deep the Head Explodes (1976).

Poet and journalist Jean Blewett lived from 1906 to 1911 at 492 Markham Street, where she  edited the “Homemaker’s Page” for the Globe and wrote a novel Out of the Depths (1890).

Poet Susan Glickman lived at 436 Markham Street from 1977 to 1984.  In that time she read poetry at the Markham street festival, the precursor to PARA. While working as an editor at NC Press, she wrote the poetry collection Complicity. She wrote, “That book really represents my Markham Street life to me, and the section called ‘from the Balcony’ commemorates all the time I spent observing neighbourhood activity.”

Sir Arthur Beverley Baxter

Sir Beverley Baxter (1891-1964) was born in Toronto and lived and wrote short stories at 397 Markham Street from 1909 to 1914.  Baxter went to England to fight in WWI, stayed on in London to become a reporter at the Daily Express, a newspaper owned by another Canadian, Lord Beaverbrook.  Baxter rose through the ranks at the Express and ultimately became editor-in-chief.  Later he was elected as an MP in the British House of Commons. He kept in touch with Canada, visited regularly, and wrote the column “London Letter” in Maclean’smagazine.

Playwright Joan MacLeod lived at 378 Markham Street from August 1986 till 1992. While there, she became playwright-in-residence at the Tarragon Theatre. Plays written while on Markham Street include  Jewel, Toronto, Mississippi, and  Amigo’s Blue Guitar, which won the Governor-General’s Award in 1992.

While novelist Ian Adams lived at 367 Markham Street from August 1974 to July 1978,  he wrote End Game in Paris (1979) and Bad Faith (1983).

Novelist Philip Kreiner lived at 335 Markham Street from 1983 to 1987 and before that at 330 Clinton St. His book  People Like Us in a Place Like This was nominated for the Governor’s General Award in 1983.

James Hogg Hunter lived at 332 Palmerston Blvd for 1935 to 1940. He worked for the Globe after coming to Canada from Scotland,  then joined the editorial team of the Evangelical Christian. His serialized novels were popular throughout North America with readers with a taste for detective mysteries crossed with fundamentalist Christianity.

Poet Karen Connelly

Poet and novelist Karen Connelly lives on Palmerston Blvd. She is the author of Touch the Dragon: A Thai Journal, the winner of the Governor-General’s Non-Fiction Award in 1993. Her novel The Lizard Cage, winner of Britain’s Broadband Prize for New Writers in 2007, recreates life in a Burmese prison.

 

Playwright and Globe columnist Rick Salutin lived at 469 Palmerston Blvd (the old Garfield Weston house) from October 1972 to the summer of 1979. Among the plays he wrote while at this address were 1837, Les Canadiens, The False Messiah, and Nathan Cohen: A Review, as well as The Organizer: A Canadian Union Life, a biography of labour leader Kent Rowley.

The poet, nonfiction writer, essayist, teacher and editor Betsy Warland lived at 480 Palmerston Blvd from 1976-77 and at 512 Palmerston from 1978-79.  She has written many books, the most recent of which is Only This Blue: A Long Poem with an Essay (2005).

Playwright John Gray lived at 627 Bloor Street West in 1976 after moving to Toronto to become the director of Theatre Passe Muraille. Most of his best known play, Billy Bishop Goes to War, was written at this address.  He also wrote the music score for two of Rick Salutin’s plays (1837 and The False Messiah), and the musical 18 Wheels.

Poet and social critic Brian Fawcett lived at 638 Euclid Avenue from June 1992 to April 1997. Fawcett’s works from this period include Gender Wars, The Disbeliever’s Dictionary, and Guide to the Intellectual Low Road.

Franco-Manitoban writer and translator Paul Savoie lived at 543 Euclid Avenue from 1986 to November 1987 where he wrote The Meaning of Gardens, and Cosmic Picnic. His most recent work, Crac, won the 2007 Trillium Award for Poetry.

Novelist and journalist Franklin Davey McDowell (1888-1965) lived at 512 Euclid Avenue in 1917-18 while working as a reporter for the Mail and Empire. Later, his first novel The Champlain Road won the Governor-General’s Award in 1939.

Novelist and poet Marjorie Pickthall (1883-1922), once considered one of Canada’s foremost writers, lived at 537 Euclid Avenue from 1907-1910.  While there, she wrote one of her books for young adults, Billy’s Hero, or The Valley of Gold (1908).

While artist and poet Robert Fones lived at 352 Euclid Avenue from 1977 to 1980, he wrote House Viruses and Butter Models.

Poet Evan MacColl (1808-1898) lived at 453 Manning Avenue from 1892 until his death in 1898.  MacColl wrote and published in Gaelic and at the time of his death was regarded as one of the best-known poets and the most important Gaelic poet in Canada.

18 Page Street was home to Ed Mirvish’s younger brother, Robert Mirvish (1921-2007)) from 1939 to 1959.  Robert’s first novel, later titled Because of Women, was written at the age of 15.  Other books written at this address include The Eternal Voyagers, The Long Watch, Red Sky at Midnight, Texana and Woman in a Room.