Nooks and Crannies in Corktown

Story and photos by Douglas Yardley

Cycling is a great way to get around our City. It’s easy to stop and talk to people, or take a closer look at something interesting. Passing through Rosedale recently, I met a woman walking a rare Swiss dog: an Entlebucher Mountain Dog. It’s a working farm dog that I only knew about because of my reading. The owner was delighted to meet someone who recognized the breed. On a bike you can stop to smell the flowers, or get sniffed at by the dogs.

Nooks and Crannies in Corktown

Bikeability: There are no bike lanes or trails on this route. There are streetcar tracks on King and it is busy during rush hour. Bright Street is one way southbound. The route I suggest here is the one I believe is the safest for cyclists given the circumstances.

Why is a bike better for this excursion? You don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot, and one-way streets are less of a problem by bike.

Corktown was settled largely by people from County Cork in Ireland.

Start at King and River and head west. Ashby Place (pictured above) will be on your right. It’s a cul-de-sac with French Second Empire style row houses built in 1890 for landowner Margaret Wilkins and rented out to working people.

Next, continue west along King, past Sumach Street, to Bright Street. It’s one-way southbound, so you’ll have to walk your bike to go north. That’s the best way to take in the 19th-century houses crowded together cheek-by-jowl. Ignore the cars and the one modern building and you can almost imagine that you’re back in the 19th century. (Perhaps cars shouldn’t be allowed on streets like this). Bright Street appears on maps published as early as 1850.

Bright Street

Return to King and continue west to Parliament, where you can cross to the south side of King. Backtrack east to the imposing Rectory (1853) designed by Frederick Cumberland. In 1927 it ceased to be used a manse and was rented out to a landlord who divided it into apartments, at a profit. After being renovated it was returned to church use and now houses church offices and Sunday school rooms.

The Rectory

Next east is Little Trinity Anglican Church (1843), built as an alternative for people who could not afford the pew fees in St. James Cathedral. It is Toronto’s oldest surviving church building, designed in Gothic revival style by Henry Bowyer Lane and built largely with donated labour and materials. An active congregation still calls this church home.

Little Trinity Anglican Church

Turn right onto Trinity Street, with its 19th-century row houses, and go south to the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse. Built in 1848, it was the first free school in Toronto. If the architectural detailing reminds you of Little Trinity Church, that’s because the older, east wing was also designed by Henry Bowyer Lane. The west wing (1869) was designed by Henry Langley, a leading architect in 19th-century Ontario, following Lane’s design. The schoolhouse served as a public school for a relatively short period of time. In 1859, classes moved elsewhere and the structure, built on church land, was turned over to church use. By the 1960’s it was run down and close to being demolished. The Enoch Turner Schoolhouse Foundation was established to preserve the building as a living museum. The Schoolhouse is available for weddings and gatherings. For information, see the Ontario Heritage Trust page for the building.

Enoch Turner Schoolhouse

Happy cycling!

Douglas Yardley (dandyhorse magazine’s two-wheeled historian) is a 61-year old factory worker, volunteer for various causes, and year-round cyclist. He graduated from U of T in 1975.

Related on the dandyBLOG:

Douglas Yardley’s Excellent Don Valley Adventure

A Cyclical History: Through the ages of Toronto's bike history - updated

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