Welcome to Church and Wellesley (The Village):
There are rainbows on the street signs here in The Village, the historic home of Toronto’s lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer (LGBTQ) community and the epicenter of the city’s electrifying Pride festivities each year. This cozy urban enclave offers stunning Victorian architecture dating as far back as the late 1800s and plenty of modern condominiums, all in a close-knit community with a small-town feel. This colourful community offers great access to the excitement and energy of the downtown core, but the residential pockets still feel like a peaceful retreat at the end of a long day. It’s the perfect area for couples of all ages who want to live in a diverse, lively community.
What you'll fall in love with:
Pride in Toronto is fierce, and this little neighbourhood hosts the largest Pride Festival in all of North America. It has become an extraordinary month-long arts and cultural event, which culminates in the epic mid-summer Pride Parade. Canadians from all walks of life pour into the streets to sing, dance and wave rainbow flags; there are floats and drums and astonishing displays of courage and creativity. This unbridled celebration of diversity and unity is watched around the world, and you’ll fall in love with the incredible energy it brings to this unique community.
A little bit of history:
On the corner of Church and Alexander Streets in the center of the village, there is a statue of a man named Alexander Woods, whose stormy life in early Toronto curiously prefigured the neighbourhood’s rise as the centre of LGBTQ life here.
Woods came to Toronto 1793, when it was still known as the town of York. He was a brewer and later a merchant, who became good friends with some of the city’s most powerful men. He was appointed magistrate in 1800, and, five years later, became a commissioner for the Court of Requests; he sat on many community boards and was active in many organizations. He never married.
In 1810, he found himself at the centre of a bizarre scandal. He was investigating an alleged violent rape in which the victim claimed she did not know her assailant but had scratched his genitals. Woods allegedly then inspected the genitals of several young men, looking for said scratches. The perpetrator was never caught, and indeed some speculated that the victim never existed. Wood was harangued in the streets, called a Molly – a gay slur – and nicknamed the “Inspector General of Private Accounts.” Nobody would shop at his store.
He was forced to return to Scotland, but returned to York a few years later and resumed his life here. At some point he purchased 20 hectares of forest along Yonge Street, north of Carlton Street – at the time it was nothing but forest, and locals called it Molly Woods’s Bush. Woods himself never lived there and he died without a will; it was eventually inherited by a distant relative. It is a quirk of history that this very land eventually became home to Canada’s most vibrant LGBTQ community, and though it’s not clear whether he was in fact gay, Woods is now widely celebrated as Canada’s first gay icon.
Church and Wellesley is a neighbourhood unlike any other in the city of Toronto. The area’s long history as a centre of LGBTQ activism has created a one-of-a-kind community with tight bonds and creative spirit.
Many area businesses cater to Toronto’s LGBTQ community, with landmark gay bars like Woody’s and Pegasus on Church succeeding alongside the Glad Day Books, art galleries, bathhouses and the Buddies In Bad Times, a queer troupe. Shoppers will love Out On The Street (“Canada’s gay department store”) and The Men’s Room (beard butter to fetish gear). The area is also home to The 519, an active non-profit group that serves the local area and the broader LGBTQ community in Toronto.
The community has lots of green space, including George Hislop Park in the north-west corner, the tiny Wellesley-Magill Park on the eastern edge and Barbara Hall Park in the center, which offers an off-leash dog park and a splash pad for the kids. Barbara Hall Park is also home to Toronto’s AIDS memorial, which features bronze plaques listing the names of locals who have died, and is the site of an annual candlelight vigil in their memory.
The Village also offers great dining options for every palate. Local favourites include Fabarnak for Canadian and vegetarian fare, Sabai Sabai for Laotian and vegan options, Como En Casa for epic Mexican and Hair of the Dog for brunch and lunch. Kinka Izakaya Original, a Japanese spot, is just over the southern border of this ‘hood, but deserves mention because locals love it.
The neighbourhood is bordered by Bloor Street on the north, Carleton Street on the south and Yonge Street on the west. The eastern border is jagged, heading from Bloor Street down Mount Pleasant Road, south on Jarvis Street, east across Wellesley Street and then south again down Sherbourne Street. The community is a magnet for young Torontonians, with lots of locals under 35, but there are plenty of people in their late 30s and 40s as well. Most here live in condominiums, and there are very few children: Couples who don’t have kids outnumber those who do, three-to-one. Average after-tax family income hovers just over $53,000. The average price of a single-family detached home is nearly $1.2 million, and condominium prices vary widely, from $235,000 for a bachelor suite to $1.4 million for the most prestigious addresses. On average, expect to pay around $529,000 for a condominium in this neighbourhood.
There are three schools in The Village. Church Street Junior Public is in the centre of the community and received a 6.9/10 in the Fraser Institute’s 2015-16 ranking of Canadian Schools. The local high school is Jarvis Collegiate Institute, which received a 4.9/10 in the Fraser’s rankings. The French schools, College Francaise Elementaire and Secondaire, are operated by Viamonde and offer a complete French-language education.
The trip to Union Station and Toronto’s business district is quick: Just 15 minutes by car, transit or bike, and you can walk there in about half an hour. Yonge and Bloor is right on the north-west corner of the community, an easy walk from anywhere in the area. Transit options are excellent, with lots of bus and street cars routes nearby, and the subway right on your doorstep.
The average price of a single-family detached home is nearly $1.2 million. Condominiums range from $235,000 to $1.4 million, averaging around $529,000.
Church and Wellesley (The Village) on a map
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