Walk Leader: Adrian Lightstone
Text by: Rob Saunders
Photographs by: Rob Saunders
Leave it to Heraclitus (535-475) BC to unwittingly twin Toronto’s authentic urban neighbourhood Riverdale, with his community, the Greek city of Ephesus. Renowned for his riddles the philosopher embraced the unity of opposites in the nature of the cosmos. His insistence on ubiquitous change is reflected in the saying “No man ever steps in the same river twice”.
The Jilly’s Strip Club* sign on the ground floor in Riverdale’s iconic landmark building says it’s “The Best Party in Town”. It’s not a masquerade ball for the upper floor residents, many of whom rely on social assistance at the New Broadview Hotel; such is the wisdom of Heraclitus’ notion of opposite entities coming into accordance with reason.
It is here, at Queen Street East and Broadview Avenue, where this Romanesque Revival building has stood for 120 years, erected in 1893 designed in the same vein as Toronto’s Old City Hall. Today it is the most dominant structure in the area far less the corner, at the gateway to the East End. Repurposed as a hotel in 1907, it provided a base for masses of industrial workers setting up home in the burgeoning suburbs on the way to making Toronto one of most cosmopolitan and migrant magnet cities. To out the Jones’, Riverdale hosted the first baseball park in the City and is a treasure chest for architectural buffs with the finest examples of ‘the workman’s cottage’ and symbolic period pieces sitting across from new concepts as the East End becomes gentrified at breakneck speed.
Mere days after local resident Adrian Lightstone presented Jane’s Walk “This River I Step in is Not The River I Stand In” a condo developer acquired the Victorian building. In a Heraclitian minute the music died and 40 residents face eviction. Time to repurpose Riverdale’s jewel: bring new life to the strip. A mural was once earmarked for this strategic building, but the silhouette of an exotic dancer alongside it was the deal breaker. This corner has lost its notoriety, no one misses the Best Party in Town and the Lower Don River just keeps rolling on.
*NB: Today in 2017 this building is the Broadview Hotel.