One of Toronto’s oldest neighbourhoods, located just north of the downtown core. Though steeped in rich historical tradition, this relatively small neighbourhood is known for its fantastic degree of cultural diversity. The Annex is one of Toronto’s most heterogenous communities. The residents include successful business people, prominent artists, University of Toronto students along with faculty, and people from all walks of life who have chosen this area because of the many attractions it offers. Some of the best bars in town, cultural events all year round, theatres, galleries, and a number of summer street festivals are all found in the Annex.
Much of the lively community consists of students studying at the University of Toronto, St. George Campus. Students and faculty mingle within the large university campus and spill into the surrounding streets, which gives the neighbourhood a true collegiate feel.
The Annex has always been home to many Canadian celebrities and even today you’ll be able to spot many acclaimed and notable residents in some of the many trendy restaurants and cafes along Bloor Street. The neighbourhood is a true food and shopping destination that is always vibrant.
European settlement of this area began in the 1790s when surveyors laid out York Township. The area east of Brunswick Avenue became part of the village of Yorkville, while the region west of Brunswick was part of Seaton Village. In 1883, Yorkville agreed to annexation with the City of Toronto. In 1886, Simeon Janes, a developer, created a subdivision which he called the Toronto Annex. The Annex area became part of Toronto in 1887 and Seaton Village joined Toronto in 1888.
When the Annex was subdivided it soon became one of Toronto’s elite neighbourhoods whose first residents included Timothy Eaton, patriarch of the Eatons Department Store, and George Gooderham, president of Gooderham & Worts Distillery. The Annex’s first Golden Era lasted until the early 1900s, when the upper classes began to migrate northward above the Davenport escarpment to newer more fashionable suburbs in Forest Hill and Lawrence Park.
The Annex houses, built between 1880 and 1910 are fine examples of Victorian, Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque architectural styles. Plum and pink colored Credit River sandstone, rich red brick, and terra cotta clay tiles make up the exterior facades of many of these homes.
The architectural detail is among the finest in the city, ranging from pyramidal roofs and turrets to recessed grand archways and wooden spindled porches.
A second wave of Annex homes dates from 1910 to 1930. These homes are less elaborate than their predecessors, but are nonetheless fine examples of English Cottage, Georgian and Tudor style architecture.
Many of the rooming houses and multi-unit homes in the Annex have recently been converted back to single family houses reflecting the return to prominence of this historic Toronto neighbourhood.
Lifestyle and Shopping
The Annex’s main shopping district is on Bloor Street. This stretch of stores from Bathurst to Avenue Road includes a mix of clothing boutiques, fine bookstores, food markets, home furnishings, restaurants and outdoor cafes. The health-conscious will love the great variety of stores and restaurants featuring organic and health foods and supplements. There is an abundance of acclaimed ethnic restaurants and plenty of delightful shops and boutiques where everything from the latest fashions to whimsical gifts are available.
To the north, Dupont St. offers large chain stores such as the LCBO and a Shopper’s Drug Mart as well as professional services. The Mirvish Village shopping district on Markham Street, south of Bloor Street is a interesting collection of great restaurants, bookstores, art galleries, antique stores, and one-of-a-kind specialty stores. The Annex really comes alive at night when people from all over the city converge upon its restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
The Annex offers local attractions too numerous to list, however, among the most notable are the Bata Shoe Museum across from St. George subway station, the Royal Ontario Museum at Bloor and Avenue Road, the Annex Theatre and the adjacent Bathurst Street Theatre which is a landmark roadhouse for the original Canadian theatre. Nearby, Casa Loma and the Spadina House Museum are big tourist attractions. Held in and around the Annex for twenty years, the summer Fringe Theatre Festival is one of the city’s cultural highlights, featuring comedy, drama, dance, and a range of other independent productions.
The Bloor Street Cinema is a community movie theatre over a century old, and alongside Hollywood blockbusters, it often features classic favourites and independent productions. Under the new management of Hot Docs, the cinema supports Canadian and international documentaries. Hosting many of the city’s independent film festivals and offering special screenings, it maintains a number of regular visitors. Some of the independent film festivals are the Banff Mountain Film Festival and the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, a showcase of horror, sci-fi, action, and cult cinema. If you’re in town for Halloween, the midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is recommended. Every year, this theatre is part of the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
Parks and Recreation
State of the art sport facilities are found in the University of Toronto’s Athletic Centre
operated by the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Physical Education and Health located at 55 Harbord Street. Many people from the area regularly use its gyms, 50-metre Olympic pool, ten squash courts, and 200-metre indoor track. The best care for sports enthusiasts is also provided with a sports medicine clinic located within the grounds. The centre offers a long list of recreational activities from yoga to cardio or boxing.
The Varsity Centre, a multi-purpose, 5,000-seat stadium with a dome used for winter events, located at 299 Bloor Street, is home to the Varsity Blues Football Team.
The Royal Canadian Yacht Club established in 1852 and first known as the Toronto Boat Club is Toronto’s most popular social sailing club. The Yacht Club owns two facilities, the beautiful summer Island Clubhouse on the Toronto Island provides a perfect getaway for members and their guests, and the City Club facility in The Annex at 141 St. George Street.
If you are interested in exploring Native traditions, visit the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto located at 16 Spadina Road. This non-profit organization provides a gathering place for Native people and their friends. They offer a variety of programs for the local community.
The Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, located at 750 Spadina Avenue once found itself near the heart of Toronto’s thriving Jewish community. Today, since much of the community has moved to neighbourhoods farther north, it still remains an important venue that caters to the needs of the local community. The large building has a great gym, a saltwater pool, and even a theatre.
Schools and Libraries
|Huron Jr.||541 Huron Street||(416) 393-1570|
|Jesse Ketchum Jr. & Sr.||61 Davenport Road||(416) 393-1530|
|Palmerston Jr.||734 Palmerston Avenue||(416) 393-9305|
|Central Technical School||725 Bathurst Street||(416) 393-0060|
|Loretto College||391 Brunswick Avenue||(416)-393-5511|
|University of Toronto School||371 Bloor Street West||(416) 978-3212|
|Royal St. Georges College||120 Howland Avenue||(416) 533-9481|
|University of Toronto||St. George Campus||(416) 978-2011|
- E.J. Pratt Library (University of Toronto), 71 Queen’s Park Crescent, (416) 585-4470
- Spadina Road Public Library, 10 Spadina Road, (416) 393-7666
The Annex is just five minutes by car from the downtown main financial and commercial districts, and it takes approximately 20 minutes to commute to the main highways. There are bike lanes running along Harbord and College streets.
The Annex is very well served by the public transit. The 510 Spadina streetcar runs from Spadina Station along Spadina to Queen’s Quay in the Harbourfront neighbourhood and to Union Station. The 511 streetcar runs from Exhibition Place in the Harbourfront neighbourhood to Bathurst Station. There are several subway stations in the neighbourhood. The Spadina Station, Bathurst Stations, and St. George Station on the Bloor-Danforth line and Dupont Station, St. George Station, and Museum Station on the Yonge-University-Spadina line. There are also several bus routes that serve The Annex.