Grange Park is one of Toronto’s most exuberantly eclectic neighbourhoods. Containing both a large part of the city’s Chinatown and the world-renowned Art Gallery of Ontario and OCAD University (formerly the Ontario College of Art and Design), Grange Park ranges from the unique businesses of Chinatown to high-end mansions to what has become known as Baldwin Village with its popular restaurants and second-hand and clothing stores to the music and clubs of Queen Street West.
The neighbourhood also abuts the University of Toronto, Kensington Market, the Discovery District, the Fashion District and the Financial District, meaning that Grange Park has become a meeting point for everybody from students to bankers to artists to designers to scientists. Bordered by College Street to the north, Spadina Avenue to the west, Queen Street West to the south and University Avenue to the east, the neighbourhood epitomizes the multicultural nature of Toronto.
History and Social Profile
The Grange Park neighbourhood was originally home to some of early Toronto’s richest families. Named after Grange House (or The Grange), built in 1817 by D’Arcy Boulton Jr. and now part of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the neighbourhood was populated by some of the city’s most spectacular mansions. Today, those mansion survive only mainly along Beverly Street, as most of the city’s gentry left the area in the late 1800s for the environs of Rosedale or the Annex.
At the start of the 19th century, the area became home to a growing number of immigrant workers, who moved into cottages built on the sites of the former mansions. By 1914, the area had become largely Jewish, as immigrants from Eastern Europe arrived in the area and the city’s Jewish community moved west from its original home closer to Bay Street to work in the numerous textile and fabric factories and warehouses occupying the nearby garment district.
After World War II, as many of the factories began to close, much of that Jewish community moved further north in the city. Meanwhile, Toronto’s Chinese community, which had made its home between Dundas and Queen Streets, especially around Bay Street, bound themselves being forced out of their homes in the 1950s and 60s by plans to construct the new city hall. That building and the surrounding Nathan Phillips Square now occupies much of what was originally Chinatown. While parts of the original Chinatown survive along Dundas Street, many of the residents moved to the northwest along Spadina Avenue.
Chinatown originally established itself around its food stores and markets — where Torontonians from all walks of life buy fresh and cheap fruits and vegetables — and its clothing stores, as well as, of course, its restaurants. The area quickly established itself not only as home to the Chinese community but as a popular destination for dining and shopping for all of Toronto, and as a major tourist attraction.
Chinatown today sits cheek by jowl with the Art Gallery of Ontario, originally established in 1910 in the historic Grange House and with OCAD University, which was originally established in 1876, and whose bold architecture has made the area a must-see for fans of startling design. And, not surprisingly, the area has also become home to a large number of the city’s leading art galleries.
The presence of OCAD, as well as the nearby University of Toronto, has also made the Grange Park neighbourhood home to a large number of students eager to take advantage of the comparatively cheap rents in houses in Chinatown.
In recent years, as well as maintaining many of the single-family houses in the neighbourhood — many of them Victorian row houses built between 1870 and 1900 — the area has seen a number of low-rise luxury condo and loft developments, and luxury high-rises being constructed closer to University Avenue.
But the neighbourhood continues to maintain its unique flavour. As well as the numerous restaurants, food and clothing stores along Spadina Avenue and in Chinatown, the stretch of Baldwin Avenue west of University has become home to a number of trendy and well-regarded restaurants, as well as stores specializing in curios, antiques and used clothing.
And of course, Queen Street West continues to be the heart of Toronto’s alternative arts scene, with clubs, bookstores, galleries, fashion boutiques and trendy restaurants filling the stretch between University and Spadina. In the 1960s, a number of music clubs established themselves along Queen, and when punk hit in the late ’70s, the area around Queen and Spadina was ground zero, helped by the nearby presence of the Ontario College and Art and Design. Clubs like the Horseshoe and the infamous Crash ‘n’ Burn helped put bands like the Diodes, Teenage Head and the Viletones on the map. Through the ’80s and ’90s, clubs like the Horseshoe, the Rivoli and the Cameron — all still thriving today — helped launch bands like the Cowboy Junkies and Blue Rodeo. Today, bands like Broken Social Scene and Metric continue to get their start in those clubs, as well as in more underground clubs like the Bovine Sex Club.
The area also features green spaces like, of course, Grange Park itself, originally the backyard of The Grange. Officially owned by the Art Gallery of Ontario, the park, just south of the Gallery, features a wading pool, a children’s playground and numerous trees and walkways.
- Queen Mother
- Lee Garden
- King Noodle House
- Kom Jug Yuen
- Café La Gaffe
- John’s Italian Caffe
- Orde Street Junior Public School, 18 Orde Street, 416-393-1900
- Lord Lansdowne Junior and Senior Public School, 33 Robert Street, 416-393-1350
- Ogden Junior Public School, 33 Phoebe Street, 416-393-9110
- Ryerson Community School, 96 Denison Avenue, 416-393-1340
- Queen’s Park subway station
- Osgoode subway station
- St. Patrick subway station
- Streetcars run along Spadina, College, Dundas and Queen