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The Annex is a neighbourhood in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The traditional boundaries of the neighbourhood are north to Dupont Street, south to Bloor Street, west to Bathurst Street and east to Avenue Road. The City of Toronto recognizes a broader neighbourhood definition that includes the adjacent Seaton Village and Yorkville areas.
Bordering the University of Toronto, the Annex has long been a student quarter and is also home to many fraternity housing and members of the university’s faculty. Predominantly English-speaking, it is an affluent neighbourhood with well-educated residents. According to the 2006 Canadian census, the neighbourhood has a permanent population of 15,602 with an average income of $63,636, significantly above the average income in the Toronto census metropolitan area. The Annex is in the political riding of Trinity—Spadina, which is represented both provincially and federally by the New Democratic Party.
The Annex is mainly residential, with tree-lined one-way streets lined with Victorian and Edwardian homes and mansions, most of them built between 1880 and the early 1900s. The 1950s and 1960s saw the replacement of some homes and mansions with mid-rise and a handful of high-rise apartment buildings in the International style. These were surrounded with landscaped green spaces in an attempt to better fit into the neighbourhood. Some of architect Uno Prii’s most expressive, sculptural apartment buildings are located in the Annex. Because of its proximity to the university, the Annex has a high rate of seasonal tenant turnover, and its residents range from university students to older long-time residents.
The Annex is densely populated. If the rest of the geographical Toronto (the official City of Toronto, not including suburban municipalities) was built in a similar manner to the Annex, the entire population of the sprawling GTA (approximately 6 million people) would fit in an area less than one-tenth the size that it does now.
The stretch of Bloor Street between St. George and Bathurst is a vibrant social and mixed use area, offering to Toronto a wide range of services from upscale dining to discount retailers like Honest Ed’s, in buildings which often include residential space in upper floors. Between Bathurst and Christie, street signs on that stretch of Bloor call it the Koreatown. During the 1950s and 1960s, an influx of Hungarian immigrants moved into the neighbourhood after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution was suppressed, and many of the businesses and properties along Bloor are owned by Hungarian-Canadian families.
Annex Style House
The Annex is home to many examples of a uniquely Torontontonian style of house that was popular among the city’s elite in the late nineteenth century. Examples of this style survive in the former upper class areas along Jarvis and Sherbourne Street and also within the University of Toronto campus. Most of these buildings are found in the Annex, and the style is thus known as the ‘Annex style house.’
The original conception is attributed to E.J. Lennox, the most prominent architect in late nineteenth century Toronto. His 1887 design for the home of contractor Lewis Lukes at 37 Madison Avenue introduced a design that would be imitated and modified for the next two decades. The Annex style house borrows elements from both the American Richardson Romanesque and the British Queen Anne Style. Annex style houses typically feature large rounded Romanesque arches along with Queen Anne style decorative items such as turrets. Attics are emphasized in the exterior architecture. The houses are most often made of brick, though some also incorporate Credit Valley Sandstone. Built for many of the city’s wealthiest citizens the houses are also large. As the wealthy moved away from the neighbourhood, many of the houses were thus subdivided into apartments.
The neighbourhood has a thriving cultural scene, with the Tranzac (Toronto Australia-New Zealand) Club, the Bathurst Street Theatre, the Bloor Cinema (repertory cinema), the Jewish Community Centre, and, until recently, the now closed Poor Alex Theatre at Bloor and Brunswick. Stores are open late and some restaurants are open well past midnight.
Much of the area’s retail, restaurant and entertainment venues are aimed at the university student demographic – young, educated, telecommunications-connected, non-driving.
European settlement of this area began in the 1790s when surveyors laid out York Township. The area east of Brunswick Avenue became part of the village of Yorkville, while the region west of Brunswick was part of Seaton Village. In 1883, Yorkville agreed to annexation with the City of Toronto. In 1886, Simeon Janes, a developer, created a subdivision which he called the Toronto Annex. The Annex area became part of Toronto in 1887 and Seaton Village joined Toronto in 1888.
First residents of the area included Timothy Eaton, patriarch of the Eatons Department Store, and George Gooderham, president of Gooderham & Worts Distillery. The Annex’s first Golden Era lasted until the early 1900s, when the upper classes began to migrate northward above the Davenport escarpment to newer more fashionable suburbs in Forest Hill and Lawrence Park.
In the 1960s, the proposed Spadina Expressway would have divided the Annex in half. Annex area residents, along with other resident groups, successfully opposed its construction.
Admiral Road in the Annex is home to the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, as well as former Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson and her husband John Ralston Saul. David Suzuki lived on Bernard Avenue, two blocks away. Catherine O’Hara lived in the Annex for several years. Explorer Norman Elder owned ‘The Norman Elder Museum’ at 140 Bedford Road. The noted urban theorist and activist Jane Jacobs lived at 69 Albany Avenue for the 37 years up to her death in April 2006. Members of the rock band Sloan also reside in the neighbourhood.
Seaton Village is the former home of Canadian poet and children’s author Dennis Lee and Oscar-winning (for Chicago) sound engineer David Lee (no relation; now deceased). Canadian actress Rachel McAdams shares a house in the Annex with her brother. It is the current home of novelist and playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald and sociologist Barry Wellman.
The Annex is well served by public transit, including the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway stations: Bathurst, Bay, Bloor-Yonge, Christie, Dupont, St. George and Spadina. Streetcar services operate on Bathurst Street and Spadina Avenue. Bus service operates on Christie Street, Dupont Street, and Avenue Road.
- Chris Stevenson
Realty Inc., Brokerage
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