Sunday, November 10, 2013

YORKVILLE, sets the scene in HOT-WALKER known as Toronto's counter-cultural mecca.

In the novel ... HOT-WALKER recalls the life and times of a young innocent woman, Frannie Harrison, who sets out to find her own life in the turbulent 1960s where anything goes. Ultimately, she ends up in an area of young people living in one of Toronto's oldest adjoining villages, YORKVILLE, founded in 1830 by entrepreneur Joseph Bloore. It began as a residential suburb. The village grew enough to be connected by an omnibus service in 1849 to Toronto.
 By 1853, the population of the village had reached 1,000. Development increased and by the 1870s more land was needed and Potter's Field, a cemetery stretching east of Yonge Street along the north side of Concession Road (today's Bloor Street) was closed, and the remains moved to the Necropolis and Mount Pleasant cemetery.
By the 1880s, the cost of delivering services to the large population of Yorkville was beyond the Village's ability. It petitioned the City of Toronto to be annexed. Annexation came on February 1, 1883, and Yorkville's name changed officially from "Village of Yorkville" to "St. Paul's Ward". The character of the suburb did not change and its Victorian-style homes, quiet residential streets, and picturesque gardens survived into the 20th century.
In 1923, the Toronto Hebrew Maternity and Convalescent Hospital was opened at 100 Yorkville Avenue and a year later the name was changed to Mount Sinai Hospital. The facade of this building still stands today.




Cheap rent in the Village.
And then ... some forty years later, Yorkville became known as  "a festering sore in the middle of the city" with a new generation of alternative lifestyles who changed the scene and the area became dominated with hippies and young people from all walks of life. 
HOT-WALKER takes place in the 1960s when Yorkville flourished as Toronto's counter-cultural mecca. The hip Village's development from its early coffee house days, when folksingers such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell flocked to the scene, to its tumultuous, drug-fueled final months. Yorkville was also a battleground over identity, territory, and power. This neighbourhood soon came to be regarded as an alternative space both as a geographic area and as a symbol of hip Toronto in the cultural imagination, as then underground literary figures, such as Margaret Atwood, Gwendolyn MacEwen and Dennis Lee appeared regularly in the area. 
Yorkville was also known as the Canadian capital of the hippie movement and by the late 1960s folk music had given way to folk-rock and then psychedelic rock and Yorkville was bustling with electric as well as acoustic performances. In total, there were as many as 40 clubs and coffeehouses offering live entertainment every night of the week, and music lovers could hop from venue to venue to catch a seemingly endless number of acts. In 1968, nearby Rochdale College at the University of Toronto was opened on Bloor Street as an experiment in counter-culture education. Those influenced by their time in 1960s-70s Yorkville, include cyberpunk writer William Gibson. The Victorian homes became seedy, contaminated, uncared for and turned into a dangerous location.
Transition into high-end shopping district
It was after the construction of the Bloor-Danforth subway when the value of land nearby increased as higher densities were allowed by the City's official plan. Along Bloor Street, office towers, the Bay department store and the Holt Renfrew department store displaced the local retail. As real estate values increased, the residential homes north of Bloor along Yorkville were converted into high-end retail, including many art galleries, fashion boutiques and antique stores, and popular bars, cafes and eateries along Cumberland Street and Yorkville Avenue. Many smaller buildings were demolished and office and hotels built in the 1970s, with high priced condominium developments being built. Today, the remains of the Victorian homes that line the side streets are owned by the wealthy and most have been renovated beyond recognition as it is now classified as one of the 'most expensive' retail districts in North America.