One day, while stuck in a car in traffic, I became curious about a lone old building standing on the corner of Toronto’s St. Clair West Avenue and Old Weston Road. So I started digging. Turns out Heydon House, built in 1890’s, once used to be the largest of six hotels servicing patrons brought in by the four railroad lines crisscrossing what once was the town of West Toronto Junction. But the glory days lasted only a few short years. The hotel with its tavern and a ballroom quickly gained a reputation for drunkenness, illegal cock fighting, and generally as a “cesspool of harlotry, vice, and iniquity.” The hotel changed hands several times until it was finally closed, turned into a boarding house and what is left now survives as a grimy apartment block. Historically, the concentration of railroads in the area attracted industry including the famous stockyards, once the largest in Canada, and with it working-class and bustling immigrant communities. This unique neighborhood did not escape multiple cycles of boom and bust and finally, in recent years, has entered a fast-paced period of revitalization and gentrification.
This is an ongoing project, a photo essay reflecting on the forces of change, things old and things new. I take photos as I walk in concentric circles around The Junction and adjacent areas, and focus on details that are likely to escape our attention while we are preoccupied by hurrying from point A to point B, just as I was when passing the Heydon House, has it not been for the perpetual traffic gridlock at St. Clair and Old Weston.