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Voting site now live for the 2018 Cabbagetown Holiday Lights contest

The day you’ve been waiting for has arrived! You can now cast your vote for your favourite Cabbagetown Holiday Lights, 2018 version.

Go the voting site between now and Dec. 26 to cast your ballot for your favourite neighbourhood decorations.

Want to add a new entry? If you use Twitter or Facebook, post your picture using the hashtag #CabbagetownLights or email it to Our volunteer contest elf will then get your image posted onto the voting site. 

Read all about the contest in our earlier announcement post!

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Throwback Thursday: Transit in Cabbagetown

Our historian Eric Morse has rifted on the news of the final Metropass featuring Cabbagetown artwork to explore transit and Cabbagetown. 
Last week we were greeted with the exciting news that the last TTC Metropass ever to be issued will be the December 2018 version, and will feature Cabbagetown!

In honour of this historic neighbourhood event, I was  inspired to pull together a  brief illustrated history of Transit in Cabbagetown, sourced mainly from the good bloggers at , and focusing on routes long departed.

Organized urban transit in Toronto began in 1849 with horse-drawn cars, and reached Cabbagetown in the early 1870s. The service, under a succession of private companies, was electrified in the course of the 1890s, and finally the TTC was formed in 1921.

The TTC routes that service modern Cabbagetown are the 65 Parliament bus, the 75 Sherbourne bus, the 94 Wellesley buses, and the 506 Carlton and 505 Dundas streetcars.

James Bow, a transit enthusiast and author, says that “by 1910, Winchester cars operated from downtown Toronto via Yonge, Carlton, Parliament and Winchester to Sumach Street. Parliament cars were looping downtown via Yonge, Front and Bay and running via Queen, Parliament and Gerrard Streets to Greenwood Avenue. Carlton cars bridged the gap between Gerrard and Carlton, as part of its service from Broadview and Gerrard to the Downtown via Gerrard, Parliament, Carlton and Yonge.”

Few images of the Winchester car actually on Winchester Street survive. Here’s one from 1923 of the tracks looking westward toward Sackville from where the double tracks became single, with a “wye” (Y) turn at Sumach. (The wye terminals allowed the use of single-ended cars (with a driver’s seat at one end only, as now. They must also have been dreadfully noisy neighbours.)

A second photo shows a Peter Witt car in service at Queen and Church in 1921. The Winchester end of the route saw a gradual decline in ridership (it’s not THAT far a walk from Parliament to Sumach!), was converted to bus service in 1924, and went out of service entirely in 1930.

The Sherbourne car came into service as far north as Carlton in 1874. For some years it then ran along Carlton to Parliament but trackage was extended up Sherbourne to Bloor in 1878, and in 1883 the route was split into the Sherbourne and Winchester routes. From 1891 to 1923, service on Sherbourne was run as a circular (“Belt Line”) loop (Sherbourne, Bloor, Spadina and King) and soon electrified. In 1923, the new TTC did away with the Belt Line and re-established the Sherbourne car. Here’s Peter Witt car 2102 at the Rosedale Loop at the top end of the run in April 1946.

Oddly, the remaining photos of Sherbourne cars are all of the Peter Witt design. We say oddly because James Bow notes in his description of the route that the Sherbourne trackage was a pre-First World War legacy, never extensively rebuilt.

“As a result, Sherbourne Street maintained a narrower “devilstrip” (the pavement between the tracks) that was not wide enough to allow two newer generation streetcars to pass.

As a result, Peter Witt cars were rare visitors to Sherbourne Street (although some did operate on the infrequently scheduled King-Sherbourne tripper service), and it’s likely that PCC cars never operated on Sherbourne Street in revenue servi

After the Second World War, with the tracks in desperate need of replacement, and the TTC favouring new buses over maintaining its streetcar fleet, Sherbourne Street became one of the first streetcar routes to be abandoned as part of the TTC’s post-war contraction of its streetcar network. Streetcars were replaced by buses on January 5, 1947, and the tracks were torn up or buried soon afterward.

Sherbourne streetcars are thus long departed, but (courtesy of my fun with photoshop), here’s what it would have undoubtedly looked like if it had still been around in this century (below).

The historic Parliament streetcar route, now succeeded by the 65 bus, is very old indeed, and its roots apparently tangled enough that in his Toronto Transit commentary, James Bow does not give a detailed chronology. Bow states that by 1910, “Parliament cars were looping downtown via Yonge, Front and Bay and running via Queen, Parliament and Gerrard Streets to a wye at Greenwood Avenue. Carlton cars bridged the gap between Gerrard and Carlton, as part of its service from Broadview and Gerrard to the Downtown via Gerrard, Parliament, Carlton and Yonge.”

There were no tracks north of Winchester until after the Second World War; they were built only in 1924, running up to an off-street loop  a stone’s throw from where Castle Frank station is now. It was the extension of the Parliament line to Bloor that killed the Winchester streetcar, and the construction of the Bloor-Danforth (Line 2) subway in 1968 that killed the Parliament car. The 65 bus succeeded it, and today there is only scheduled streetcar service on Parliament from Carlton to Gerrard.
TTC air-electric PCC (“Red Rocket”) #4196 waits at Viaduct Loop (now the Rekai Family Parkette just south of Bloor).

PCC 4377 heads southbound on Parliament while a Carlton PCC prepares to turn north from Gerrard in this 1965 shot. This is a lovely, atmospheric shot.

And finally, this dramatic winter scene of the 506 at Carlton and Ontario by your humble correspondent, which, coincidentally, can be found in The Tilted Dog Xmas Crafts Show coming up December 8!!.

All of the historic cars of the Toronto transit era from the 1890s onward can be viewed, lovingly restored, at the Halton Radial Railway Museum , just about an hour outside of Toronto. Two of them, the first electric-driven model from 1894

and Peter Witt #2894 (The Peter Witts were in TTC service 1921-1965), can be ridden!

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Cabbagetown Holiday Lights contest, 2018

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: time for the fourth annual Cabbagetown Holiday Lights contest!

In what has become a popular annual tradition, every December Cabbagetowners get to see our neighbourhood’s houses in all of their illuminated glory. Last year more than 800 people (a new record) voted for their favourite, with Paul and Thea Sywulych’s house on Spruce Street. taking the top prize. 

You can enter your own home or nominate one of your neighbours. There are three ways you can enter:

– Post a photo to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #cabbagetownlights;

– Post a photo to our Facebook page timeline with the hashtag #cabbagetownlights;

– or email us your photo at 

Please include the address of the home in the photo so we can include the street name on the voting website and know how to contact the residents if their house wins.

Check out our gallery of photos of last year’s submissions (opens a link to our facebook page).

Photos can be submitted anytime between Friday, November 30 and Wednesday, December 26. By submitting your photo, you consent to your photo being reproduced on a voting website that will contain all of the submissions. Photos will be identified by the house’s street but no names or other personal identifying details will be published. 

The voting website will go live on Friday, December 14 to not give too much of an advantage to those who submit early. However, don’t wait too long to enter! The link to the voting website will be shared on and social media when it is live.

UPDATE DECEMBER 14: Follow this link to the live voting site site!

Whichever three photo submissions have the most votes by the end of the day on December 26 wins a trophy, a one-year membership to the Cabbagetown Residents Association (CRA), and bragging rights! The top three vote-getting houses will get to display a lawn sign marking their achievement. For the purpose of determining resident winners, when the same house is photographed more than once, total votes will be counted. Only one vote will be allowed per IP address; however, you can switch your vote anytime up until the deadline.

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Keeping safe on dark and slippery roads

Des Ryan, a retired Toronto police officer, is a CRA board director and our volunteer safety and security lead.

As you have noticed, we are seeing a lot less the sun these days, which means that little ones are going to and returning home from school in varying degrees of darkness. As motorists and cyclists, that means that we have to be extra careful because we, too, are driving in the dark, and we’re not yet used to watching for kids when it isn’t daylight out.

The roads are now getting a little slippery, too. If it’s not wet leaves, it’s that early-morning ice that we are starting to experience. We’ve already had a bit of a snowfall, which should be a reminder that we need to make sure that we have our winter tires on our cars and the windshield wiper fluid topped up before we head out.

Cyclists have likely figured out that dressing for the weather is a non-negotiable as the winds get colder.

And, as you know, we love our dogs in Cabbagetown. Mother Nature may be on a winter schedule, but Skipster likely has the same bio-break schedule, which means that you’re out before the sun comes up (although, from my own observations, a lot of you already are!) and out at least a couple of times after dark. I am confident that you are taking all precautions to keep your dog(s) safe when on the roads.

Be sure that you, too, are safe. Consider reflective gear such as a high-visibility vest (very popular in Ireland, btw!) and/or gloves or, at the very least, a reflective leash or collar for your pup(s).

As drivers, again, we need to remember that there will be people out walking their dogs in the dark before and after work and consider that even the best-trained pooch can be coerced into run across the street by a squirrel or other fun-looking moving object. Slow down!

Finally, there are those of us who just enjoy going out for a walk. No dog(s). No kid(s). Just a warm jacket and a good pair of boots. Consider that drivers of cars and bicycles may not be looking for you as you hop across the street between intersections or they may not be able to stop as quickly as you might think they should be able to. Take an extra look and another moment before you step out. When it is dark out, whether you are dropping off/picking up kids, walking dogs, or just out enjoying the scenery, be sure to See and Be Seen.

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Cabbagetowner according to … Arianne Schaffer

Arianne Shaffer is a Cabbagetowner who lives on Sackville Street with her family and is one of more than 100 residents who volunteers for the Forsythia Festival on the first Sunday of May.

Best place for bite to eat: Salt and Tobacco – unusual name for delicious pizza – and our son works there part-time! Too bad they are only open at night… amazing “funghi” and a vegan one, too!

Cabbagetown needs: a bookstore – and another bookstore – and a third bookstore!

Favourite block: walking up my street (Sackville) turning onto Spruce and then onto Sumach for my morning walks to Riverdale Farm!

Best public space: the Riverdale Farm and Regent Park’s playground.

Favourite store: Lennie’s, Labour of Love and Blooming Flower Bar (all things healthy, gifts for friends and flowers for me – please!)

Cabbagetown pet peeve: other pets off leash!

Cabbagetown’s best-kept secret: my choir – City Choir! We rehearse at Dixon Hall (Bleeker and Carlton) on Tuesday nights. But also, my youngest daughter wants me to add that we don’t grow cabbages in Cabbagetown – shhhhhhh!

Reason to join the CRA: involved, caring neighbours trying to make the ‘hood a better place – thank you!

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Throwback Thursdays: Nov. 18, 1978

Politics remained at the top of the news for the Nov. 18 issue of Seven News. The Toronto municipal election had occurred Nov. 13, and Ward Seven native son, reformer, and erstwhile Alderman for nine years John Sewell had defeated his conservative opponent Tony O’Donohue.

In those days, municipal government was more elaborately structured, with Metro Council holding considerable power, while City Council also had a more powerful Executive Committee. Outcomes, then as now, were complicated by a lack of standing alignments (ok, “parties”. It was clear that Sewell would not have majority support for his reformist platform, but what is especially interesting for us today is that – in Seven News’s estimation and in the smaller footprint of the old city – the balance of power stood roughly where it is estimated to stand in the newly elected City Council taking office in December: 10 progressives, three centrists (five today) and 10 conservatives, though Seven thought that three of these (Art Eggleton, Tony Ruprecht and Andrew Patton) might veer to the centre on some issues.

Seven News felt that Sewell was likely to face great challenges as mayor, and indeed it turned out to be so. He was portrayed in the major media as “radical” – he rode a bike to work and wore jeans, my God! – and at the end of his two-year term was defeated in a heartbreaker (87,919 to 86,152) by centre-right Art Eggleton, who went on to serve a remarkable 11 years (1980-1991) as mayor. Sewell has remained an outstanding public figure in Toronto life.

On the local scene, Gord Cressy (father of sitting Councillor Joe Cressy) topped the Ward Seven polls, to the mortification of incumbent Janet Howard, who had hoped to place first. (In those days, two aldermen per ward were elected, but the winner got a spot on Metro Council.) The feeling was that she had made a mistake in not running a joint campaign with Cressy, and had been out-resourced by the NDP’s support of Cressy’s campaign.

A look at the three winners’ platforms is interesting; the issues (e.g.”neighbourhoods first”, “affordable housing”) remain similar, though community safety seems not to have been the ballot issue in 1978 that it was in 2018. The mix of who is supporting what back then is intriguing.

There was an interesting ad for a new publication aimed at the city’s communities of colour, The Black Pages.

Duke of York School was enmeshed in controversy. This is not the Regent Park/Duke of York school building on 20 Regent St. which was finally closed in 2012 and demolished in 2016, but its predecessor on Pembroke Street (like warships, school names seem to have recurring incarnations down the decades) which is now known as Gabrielle Roy French School. At the time, Gabrielle Roy was sharing accommodation at Duke of York, and both parties, as Seven News reported, were manifestly unhappy at the arrangement.

(Richard Haskell’s blog on downtown living has a fascinating review of the Pembroke St. building, which in his 2012 entry he still calls Duke of York).

And Park School on Shuter Street, not yet renamed (until 2001) Nelson Mandela Park School, was celebrating its 125th anniversary; the piece is accompanied by a delightful drawing of the original 1853 school building (replaced 1914-1916 by the present school building which, in its turn, was massively renovated in 2013).

The full stories introduced above are available at . The PDF archive is a remarkable achievement by Connexions, a collective dedicated to preserving social activism, of which 7 News is surely a shining example.

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Throwback Thursday: November 1978

Volunteer Eric Morse goes back to November 1978 courtesy of community paper Seven News.

The November 4, 1978 issue of Seven News hit the street in between the federal by-elections that saw David Crombie and Bob Rae elected to Parliament for the first time, and the November 13, 1978 civic elections (no spoilers but here’s the ad for one mayoral candidate, the former Alderman for Ward Seven).

There was a full-page centrespread on local candidates, For Mayor, John Sewell and the much-reviled (see below) Tony O’Donohue, who seems to have been a somewhat earlier example of Stop The Gravy Train politics and David Smith, a reputed right-winger who nonetheless was running on a platform of safe neighbourhoods and affordable housing (Sewell’s base as well). For Alderman, Janet Howard (an incumbent), novice Gordon Cressey, George Patton, Steve Necheff, and Charlie Rolfe (‘always runs, always gets clobbered’). All male candidates sported considerably shaggier heads than their successors this year, but fewer beards.

In the meantime there was plenty of local news. The headliner was the latest threat to the residents of the Toronto Islands.

Those of us with long memories and/or Wikipedia access will recall that private homes on the Islands were the bone of a 40-year-long battle with Metro Toronto that had its beginnings in 1956, when the newly created Metro Parks Department decided that ‘The construction of the Gardiner Expressway had removed many acres of recreational land along the Toronto waterfront, and the Islands lands were to replace the acreage.” (So there.) A battle began that saw the number of homes on the Islands reduced from 630 (with commercial amenities) to about 250 (without commercial amenities and mainly concentrated on Ward’s and Algonquin Islands). As Elaine Farragher reports:

“The Island residents have been fighting this battle for ten long years, when they grew tired of witnessing hundreds of their neighbours being evicted and their communities razed to the ground. Since then, at tremendous financial cost to the 254 households on the Island, they have lost every court attempt to keep from being evicted in favour of new parkland.”

The nub of the matter was that Metro (as landowner) proposed to evict the residents (as homeowners) without compensation, and the battle – which ran for another 15 years – came to be viewed (in these parts at least) as a war between an old-fashioned, ham-fisted, pigheaded planning bureaucracy and a bunch of spoiled people who led privileged pseudo-bucolic existences on ground that was far too good for them (after all, if they had the money to pay for litigation, they could, presumably, afford to pack up and leave, surely, in the name of the Greater Good.)

Since the lineup of support for the Islanders was deeply concentrated in Downtown Toronto, and most support for demolition was from suburban Metro councillors, the dispute appears to presage the 905/416 split that has existed since amalgamation and has taken on new life since the War on the Car was unofficially declared in 2010. As the paper went to press, the Islanders (who after all had the strategic advantage of living on an island) were preparing to resist harbour-borne invasion by all available (preferably) non-violent means, and tactical exercises were being conducted at potential beachheads.

An op-ed from Ulli Diemer sums it up: ‘The 650 Island residents don’t want to leave, the local ward alderman doesn’t want them to leave, their MPP doesn’t want them to leave, their MP doesn’t want them to leave, Toronto City Council doesn’t want them to leave, and the people of Toronto don’t want them to leave.” Diemer advises Torontonians not to vote for Tony O’Donohue, the only Mayoral candidate who wants the residents out (spoiler: they didn’t).

The Board of Education was locked in battle with local Regent Park parents over its decision to close Duke of York School.

And Canadian boxer John Raftery makes his first international appearance (at least in the pages of Seven News) representing CYC in Europe (he didn’t win, but it was East Germany), while Pat Fennel had better luck in Tampere, winning a gold in a 13-nation tournament.

Finally, the Page One shot: a lovely photo of the polychromatic brickwork spire of All Saints Church at Sherbourne and Dundas, then not as desolate a corner as it has become in the 40 years since. Among other things, as the caption notes, All Saints was the new headquarters of Seven News, which led something of a wandering existence in the fifteen years of its publishing life. The shot is the lead-in to George Rust D’Eye’s current piece on landmarks of Ward 7.

Here are his remarks on Sherbourne Street – we invite readers to compare his account of 40 years ago with the current streetscape, which in the Dundas – Sherbourne block has not changed a great deal. Two of the houses he draws attention to are from the mid-1850s, the third from 1881. It was a grand avenue, now sadly gone to seed.

The full stories introduced above are available at . The PDF archive is a remarkable achievement by Connexions, a collective dedicated to preserving social activism, of which 7 News is surely a shining example.

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Halloween safety tips for revelers of all ages

Des Ryan, a retired police officer, is the volunteer safety and security lead and board director for the Cabbagetown Residents Association.

By the time you read this, you have probably been inundated with Halloween safety tips for the little ones.

You can probably recite them off by heart by now:

– Wear a highly visible costume
– Use make-up instead of wearing a mask
– Be really careful crossing roads
– Travel in groups with at least one adult (maybe you, maybe someone else’s parent)
– Wait until a responsible adult checks the candy before devouring it
– Don’t go into anyone’s house or car

And so it goes. We know all of this.

But what about you? What if you’re the one who is going to be hosting or going to a party?

Here are some quick tips that might come in handy.

If you are hosting, consider host liability. While I am sure there are enough lawyers among you who know what this means, let’s be really clear: if a guest drinks (or smokes—welcome to the new world of legalized cannabis use) to excess and that guest is involved in a car crash or stumbles and injures themselves on their way home or is involved in any nasty situation that can be directly linked to their excessive consumption of alcohol or cannabis while at your party, you may be civilly liable.

If you are going to a party, don’t drive. Seriously. Chances are you’re going somewhere local and can walk home. Or take public transit or a taxi or Uber. Even if you are a responsible drinker, consider that the roads are filled with people who are not. Do you need the hassle?

But, if you do have to drive, be ultra-vigilant, particularly during the early evening on Halloween. Expect little ones to come popping out from between parked cars. Anticipate sudden stops and drive accordingly. Consider, after you see a group cross right in front of you, that there might be one or two more who will come darting across to join their friends.  

If you’re going to a party that has a lot of people you don’t know, consider that not everyone is like you. If you’re going with friends, check in on each other now and again. Don’t put your drink down. Seriously. And remember that wearing a costume doesn’t give you a licence to be a jerk. People really don’t like uninvited touching and it could lead to criminal charges, even if you are dressed as Eros.

Finally, consider your sugar intake. Pound back a few drinks and a half-dozen or so chocolatey-ooey-good candy bars and you’re likely looking at a nasty hangover in the morning. Just putting it out there.

After all of that, have a good night, and don’t forget to bring your pumpkin to Riverdale Park West on Thursday, November 1 for the Cabbagetown Pumpkin Walk. All the rules above still apply!

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Cabbagetown according to … Sherry Peters

Sherry Peters lives on Alpha Avenue and in 2018 organized Cabbagetowner’s efforts for the annual Clean Toronto Together day.

Best place to eat:  F’Amelia Restaurant.

Cabbagetown needs:  a livelier retail strip on Parliament Street.

Favourite block: Alpha Avenue where I live.  It’s only one block long, tucked just below St. James Cemetery. It is so quiet and private even though it’s in the heart of the city.

Best public space:  Riverdale Park West and its access to the Don Valley path.

Favourite store:  Kendall & Co.

Cabbagetown pet peeve: the amount of garbage left on the streets on recycling pick-up day.  It seems to be a result of some of the garbage falling out of over-filled bins and some of it escaping as the garbage men empty the bins into the trucks.

Cabbagetown’s best kept secret: Wellesley Community Centre at 495 Sherbourne Street.  I’ve recently discovered its free drop-in badminton program for seniors (60+) on Thursdays at 1 p.m.   would highly recommend checking out the Centre for all the programs and facilities available there.

Best reason to join CRA: for easy access to good information about our amazing area.


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Flashback Friday: politics, raccoons and development threats, circa 1978

Volunteer Eric Morse peruses the first half of October, 1978, through the archives of 7 News, a community paper in the Cabbagetown area in the 1970s and early 1980s.

In October 1978, the voters of Ward 7 faced two elections; the municipal election, with John Sewell running for mayor. But first came the federal by-election in Rosedale riding, with Toronto’s former Tiny Perfect Mayor David Crombie as the PC standard-bearer against Liberal establishment candidate John Evans, who – as recounted a couple of columns ago – had emerged victorious from an epic nomination battle against Anne Cools. Crombie took out a tiny perfect ad in 7 News, as did NDP challenger Ron Thomson. Evans, who expected to win, didn’t.

The issue carried a centrespread discussing the federal races in both Rosedale (Crombie, Evans, Thomson) and Broadview (Bob Rae NDP, Philip Varelis LIB, Tom Clifford PC). There was an all-candidates’ debate at Dixon Hall, the high point of which (according to 7 News) was Crombie forgetting the name of his own leader (it was Joe Clark).

Not everyone thought Crombie was both tiny and perfect. The issue carried a lengthy Open Letter (advertisement, political, paid) from Helen Valli, apparently on behalf of the residents of Winchester Square (Bleecker/Wellesley/Ontario/Carlton), denouncing him for betraying them to Meridian Corp, the developers of St James Town and the by-then-approved St James Town South:

The editors filched one of the better known strips from The Wizard of Id by way of counterpoint:


Politics aside, plenty was happening in the neighbourhood. Consultations were under way for the use of expropriated city land between Oak and Cornwall streets. The land had originally been expropriated by the Toronto Board of Education, but the plan for school construction was dropped. As of October 1978, the community-based Oak Street Committee set up in 1977 was recommending a mixed retail and affordable housing development, with the following guidelines:

These, apparently, were the seeds of the Oak Street Co-op, which opened in 1985.

Local historian George Rust d’Eye had a piece called “Walking to Work in Historic 7”, with lists of landmarks along various routes. Challenge: pick a route and follow it, comparing George’s account of 40 years ago and see what’s changed. Here’s one from the piece:

The accompanying photo furnished an example of developer blockbusting on Rose Avenue.

Cabbagetown Boxing and Youth Centre was having another fine season.

And, finally, a charming photo of Reefer the Raccoon by Cherry Hassard.

 The full stories introduced above are available at . The PDF archive is a remarkable achievement by Connexions, a collective dedicated to preserving social activism, of which 7 News is surely a shining example.


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