Church – Yonge Corridor
The Church-Yonge corridor houses a number of bars, clubs, restaurants and businesses. The neighbourhood is bordered roughly by Bloor Street on the north, Jarvis Street on the east, Carlton Street on the south and Yonge Street on the west — Cawthra Park is a centre for people to socialize and walk their dogs.
In recent years, a new condo developments — and the imminent appearance of what will be some of the most spectacular hotel and condo buildings in the city on Yonge Street — have meant the neighbourhood has become a magnet for people of all stripes, everyone from young professionals to retirees, eager to join the already heady mix of people in the very heart of downtown.
The area had been home to a number of gay bars and bathhouses since the 1960s, but for much of the time, the gay scene had been underground. Today’s gay village — bordered roughly by Bloor Street on the north, Jarvis Street on the east, Carlton Street on the south and Yonge Street on the west — really began to acquire its character and reputation in the early 1980s, following the infamous bathhouse raids in 1981. Those police raids on primarily gay establishments marked the beginnings of Toronto’s modern gay village, as the community began to openly coalesce around the Church and Wellesley area, and especially around the programs run by the 519 Church Street Community Centre. A number of gay bars and gay-owned businesses opened, and gays and lesbians began to move into the apartments, co-ops and condos in the area.
Alexander Street, in the area, is also home to Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, the oldest gay and lesbian theatre company in Canada, having begun in 1978.
Cawthra Park, by The 519, was the home of Toronto’s Pride celebrations for a number of years in the 1980s, attracting thousands of people to the site to celebrate. Today, the park is a centre for people to socialize and walk their dogs. And, in 1993, when the AIDS Memorial was unveiled in the park, the spot became a living symbol of the community’s history.
And while the neighbourhood may be known primarily for spectacles like Pride and for internationally-renowned gay bars like The Black Eagle and Woody’s, the quiet streets between Yonge and Church feature a string of green parks and a number of Victorian era-houses and apartment buildings, as well as more recent townhouses and homes.
History and Social Profile
The area was originally part of the estate of Alexander Wood, a merchant and magistrate in Upper Canada. Wood was caught in a sex scandal in 1810, after which he acquired the derisive nickname of “Molly” Wood — Molly being a slang term for homosexual. The neighbourhood subsequently acquired the name of Molly Wood’s Bush. A statue of Wood was erected at Church and Maitland in 2005.
Starting in the 1960s, the area — particularly around Yonge and Wellesley — started to become the home to a number of gay businesses, though they remained mostly very low-profile. The most notable was the St. Charles Tavern, long since closed, on Yonge just south of Wellesley, which became the de facto meeting place for many gays and lesbians.
In 1981, Glad Day Bookshop — now the oldest gay and lesbian bookshop in the world — moved to its current location on Yonge just north of Wellesley. The store, which has recently been taken over by new management, continues to be the place to go for those looking for gay literature and academic works, as well as those interested in supporting alternative voices in the arts.
But it’s during Pride Week — the last week in June — that the neighbourhood truly comes into its own. The week’s events close down Church Street to celebrate the history, diversity, battles and future of the gay community in Toronto. On the Sunday, the parade — the largest in Canada and one of the largest in the world — attracts well over a million spectators and participants to Yonge Street, representing businesses, charities, social and political organizations, many of them dressed in spectacular and bizarre costumes.
- Church Street Diner
- Biryani House
- Bloor/Yonge Station
- Wellesley Station, on the Yonge-University-Spadina line
- College Station, on the Yonge-University-Spadina line
- 97B Yonge Bus, runs after the subway closes
- Church Street Junior Public School, 83 Alexander Street, 416-393-1250
- Jesse Ketchum Junior and Senior Public School, 61 Davenport Road, 416-393-1530
- Jarvis Collegiate Institute, 495 Jarvis Street, 416-393-0140