Cabbagetown Walking Tour, Toronto

Cabbagetown Walking Tour (Self Guided), Toronto

Once a small community of Irish immigrants east of downtown and one of the poorest neighborhoods in Toronto, Cabbagetown is also one of the city's oldest districts, established in 1840. In 2004, it was declared a historic district and presently claims to be "the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in North America". Attesting to this claim are the picturesque Amelia Street and a set of quaint, well-preserved signature rowhouses – Wellesley Cottages – located nearby.

Another local landmark of note is the Saint James-the-less Chapel, a beautiful Gothic Revival church that adds to the neighborhood's character.

The Winchester Hotel, a historic building that once served as a tavern and inn, is also an iconic spot. Not far away from it, you can find the Winchester Street Theatre, which hosts various cultural events and performances, contributing to the area's vibrant arts scene.

For those interested in history and serene surroundings, the Necropolis Chapel and cemetery provide a peaceful escape. The latter is a historic burial ground serving as a final resting place for some of the most renowned people of Canada.

Nature enthusiasts will certainly enjoy visiting Riverdale Farm and Riverdale Park, both offering green spaces for relaxation and recreation. The farm is a working entity, where you can observe farm animals and experience a rural atmosphere in an urban setting.

If you haven't had the chance to visit Cabbagetown yet, we encourage you to fill this gap and explore this delightful part of Toronto on our self-guided walking tour that will leave you with lasting memories.
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Cabbagetown Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Cabbagetown Walking Tour
Guide Location: Canada » Toronto (See other walking tours in Toronto)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
Author: ann
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • St. James-the-less Chapel
  • Wellesley Cottages
  • Amelia Street
  • Winchester Hotel
  • Winchester Street Theatre
  • Necropolis Chapel
  • Necropolis
  • Riverdale Farm
  • Riverdale Park
St. James-the-less Chapel

1) St. James-the-less Chapel

The Chapel of Saint James-the-less in downtown Toronto is a High Victorian Gothic Revival style funeral chapel, built in 1860 by F.W. Cumberland and Storm. The church sits on a slight rise, and has a small parish, a soaring spire, short and square bell tower, rough-cut stone walls, steeply pitched roof, low eaves, and intricate woodwork with a nave, porch, tower and transept. The building itself is made from Georgetown grey sandstone, Ohio stone trim, slate, and white brick.

The non-denominational chapel fulfills its vocation as a consecrated “mortuary chapel.” Due its slight elevation, it offers a picturesque view of the adjacent cemetery. Built in 1844, the cemetery holds about 20 historic burials which are shown on guided tours around the chapel and allowed to be photographed. The cemetery’s records, traditionally made on paper, are now scanned and stored in appropriately.

Edward, Prince of Wales planted a peach tree at the entrance to the chapel during his visit in 1919.

As a non-profit organization, this chapel collects revenue and invests it into its own development and maintenance. The regular life-cycle program takes care of the maintenance and repairs of the building. In 2002, a major refurbishment was done wherein the stone work was cleaned and woodwork re-varnished, the stained glass and furniture were also sent for repair and cleaning. The renovated chapel is now open for visitors.

In 1990, the city declared the Chapel of Saint James-the-less a National Historic site.
Wellesley Cottages

2) Wellesley Cottages

The comely blue-trimmed, white-walled row-houses of Wellesley Cottages laneway emit vibes of a small Victorian village, hidden off the main path, both beautiful and undisturbed. Sometimes referred to as the worker’s or working man’s cottages, this style of properties dominates Amelia Street.

In Ontario, the worker’s cottage became the most common architectural style adopted for small homes following the Crystal Palace industrial exhibition in London of 1851. The presented there housing model, fitted with all of the “innovative” amenities of the day, such as running water, internal sanitation, drafty corridors, and segregated living space, influenced a good number of North American architects at the time.

Built in 1886-1887, each Wellesley property is an idealistic example of the worker’s home: one-storey, narrow lot characterized by a steeply pitched gable facing the street. As a touch of modern trend, the cottages are separated by suburban white picket fences, behind which are tiny front gardens, some in keeping with their Victorian heritage. The cottages were originally 400 square feet each, and were inhabited by employees of a nearby rendering plant, where horses from the neighbouring farms were turned into glue.

A renovation in the 1980s added some 2,400 square feet to the homes without touching their existing front façade, as the heritage laws disallowed such alterations. Thus, the Wellesley Cottage properties remain largely traditional and can be admired for their natural “worker’s” look, featuring original materials, such as wood and stone, and the true forms of the worker’s cottage style. Absolutely charming!!!
Amelia Street

3) Amelia Street

The envy of Cabbagetown, Amelia Street is a tree-lined oasis, long known for its insouciant, subtle, yet enchanting atmosphere produced by the historic architecture. The latter represents an eclectic display of well-preserved vintage housing, ranging from quaint worker’s cottages to the largest in North America collection of stately Victorian and Gothic Revival residences, making up a defining element of the Cabbagetown Metacalfe Heritage Conservation District, of which Amelia Street is an integral part.

The rows of Victorian homes found on this street are complemented by the mature canopy of trees. Together with the overall combination of styles, materials and ad-ons, this creates a rather intimate streetscape.

Amelia Street is also home to Cabbagetown's prized restaurant F'Amelia! Remarkably, this is one of the best Italian restaurants in Toronto, albeit located outside Little Italy. Housed in a cozy abode turned restaurant, F’Amelia specializes in Northern Italian cuisine. If you make here for dinner, try their gnocchi, the deliciousness fit to melt in your mouth! Otherwise, consider risotto, ravioli or pizza from the wood-fired oven to please your taste buds or those of your family members, including kids. However, if you're more into wine and snacks, check out the sibling Extended F'Amelia right next-door.
Winchester Hotel

4) Winchester Hotel

Winchester Hotel is a historic sight situated on the eponymous Winchester Street, which is one of the main arteries of Cabbagetown, Toronto well known for its Victorian Heritage architecture. The most famous building on the street, the hotel, in fact, is rather infamous and was once dubbed "The Bucket of Blood" for being one of the toughest drinking spots in the area. Featherweight boxing champion and local star, Albert “Frenchy” Bélanger, used to work the door here.

Also sometimes referred to as the Lake View Hotel, this imposing three-and-a-half storey red brick edifice, complete with a two-and-a-half storey south wing, features a distinctive Second Empire style. Built in 1888, it adjoins the equally renowned Winchester Hall, erected eight years earlier, and was designed by noted architects Kennedy and Holland who thus contributed a much needed low-rise lodge to the neighbourhood. In 1941, architect Benjamin Swartz oversaw alterations to the hotel’s interior, changing it to fit the tropes of the Art Moderne style.

Back in the days of Prohibition, the Winchester Hotel is said to have been used by Al Capone as the site for arranging alcohol smuggling into the United States. Reportedly, the American gangster even asked to have a staircase built at the back of the building to escape the police if they showed up.

Nowadays no longer a hotel, the place is still opened for business and accommodates various commercial tenants. Among them is the outlet of Tim Horton’s, Canada's largest quick service restaurant chain, specialized in coffee, doughnuts, and other fast food items. The most recent restoration of the building took place in 2005.
Winchester Street Theatre

5) Winchester Street Theatre

The Winchester Street Theatre, located in Cabbagetown, Toronto, is a remarkable historic edifice. Originally serving as Saint Enoch's Presbyterian Church, this architectural gem was constructed in 1891 under the visionary guidance of Gorden & Helliwell. Standing as a rare exemplar of the Romanesque Revival style within the city, it holds a unique status within the neighborhood, solidifying its significance as an integral part of the Metcalfe Heritage Conservation District, both from a cultural and historical perspective.

Today, the Winchester Street Theatre proudly houses the Toronto Dance Theatre and its associated dance school, founded in 1968 by esteemed dancer/choreographers Peter Randazzo, Patricia Beatty, and David Earle. Their collective contributions over the years have resulted in the creation of over 60 meticulously choreographed works, often accompanied by original scores composed by talented Canadians.

Recognized by The Canadian Encyclopedia as one of Canada's foremost modern-dance companies, this troupe regularly embarks on national and international tours, captivating audiences far and wide. Their performances, a blend of artistic excellence and creative expression, grace not only the Winchester Street Theatre but also the esteemed Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.
Necropolis Chapel

6) Necropolis Chapel

Found at the edge of Don Valley in the Cabbagetown neighborhood, this Gothic Revival styled Necropolis Chapel was built in 1872 by Henry Langley. Beautifully preserved, the chapel fits well into the surrounding context of heritage conservation. The name Necropolis translates into “City of the Dead” and is the first non-sectarian cemetery in Toronto. The chapel has a patterned roof with pitched gables raising high to a sharp ridge. Two different patterns of slate covering the roof give it a unique multicolored appearance. The chapel also has detailed trefoils, rich wrought iron-worked fences and a pointed barrel stone vault marking the entrance, leading to the building's central area.

On the east side is a square tower which gives the edifice a picturesque, asymmetrical appearance and seems to shift the structure's center of gravity, thus giving it an ascending diagonal axis. The edifice is built mostly with yellow-bricks and has a jagged and pointed contour due to the steep roof and the tower. The eaves of the porch and barge-boards of the gables of the caretaker’s house and the main gate are decorated with white sawn wood ornaments.

In the mortuary chapel lie the remains of Toronto’s first mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie, and one of the fathers of Confederation, George Brown.

7) Necropolis

Open since 1850, Toronto’s Necropolis has been the resting place for some of the most renowned and historically important people of Canada. Among them are William Lyon Mackenzie, the first mayor of Toronto, George Brown, the founder of The Globe and the Mail, Joseph Burr Tyrrell, noted geologist and mining consultant (the man who discovered that dinosaurs roamed in Alberta's Badlands), and Ralph Day, Toronto’s Mayor between 1938 and 1940.

Over the years, this quiet, serene and picturesque graveyard has served as the final abode to over 50,000 people. Apart from being the oldest cemetery in the city, the Necropolis is also one of Toronto’s historically significant sights. Entering it instantly transports the visitor to the early 19th century. The area boasts of some of the city’s oldest buildings. A brilliant landscape of greenery, with a sprinkle of antique architecture, the Necropolis portrays some of the finest high Victorian Gothic-styled structures that are well maintained.

The collection of monuments and sculptures found inside the Necropolis contributes to its reputation of being one of the most beautiful resting places in Toronto.
Riverdale Farm

8) Riverdale Farm

Toronto is a city filled with surprises and the Riverdale Farm is surely one of them. A quiet, tranquil hideout, no less than a countryside except the fact that it sits right at the heart of a buzzing metropolis, Riverdale is a perfect picnic retreat combined with scenic landscapes and an occasional bleat and bray of the farm’s residents.

These 7.5 acres of grasslands are sure to make for a day of complete fun and frolic for the entire family. The Riverdale Farm is not your typical modern day park where opinions and interests are split between which amusement ride is more thrilling and what arcade game is the most challenging. At the Riverdale Farm you get in touch with the simpler things in life, such as taking a long walk with your family, sitting under the sun and reaching out to the country side of things. Representing the rural farms in Ontario, the Riverdale offers you an experience of living a day in the midst of greenery, simplicity and tranquility, far away from the chaos of the city.

Located in the downtown community of Cabbagetown, the farm is open every day of the year from 9am to 5pm. Admission is free. So, feel free to come if you want to visit this humble abode in one of the busiest cities in Canada.
Riverdale Park

9) Riverdale Park

Riverdale Park, situated between Cabbagetown and Broadview Avenue in Riverdale, Toronto, is a spacious park that stretches across the Lower Don River. Initially owned by John Sadding, an estate manager and clerk for John Graves Simcoe, Governor of Upper Canada, the park holds historical significance. Sadding's cabin, constructed in 1840, can be found south of the park on the Canadian National Exhibition grounds.

The park offers various amenities, including a soccer field, an ice rink, a running track, tennis courts, two baseball diamonds, three playing fields, and a swimming pool on the eastern side. On the western side, there is a field house with restrooms and two sports fields. The eastern slope of the park was utilized as a landfill during the 1920s but was later transformed with the planting of trees, as part of an event organized by Task Force to Bring Back the Don. To connect the two sides of the valley, a footbridge spans the Don Valley Parkway, alongside a north-south bicycle trail that follows the river. The artist Elizabeth Simcoe depicted this bridge in her watercolor painting "Playter's Bridge Near York."

Within the park's vicinity, the southeast corner is home to the Bridgepoint Hospital and Sun Yat-Sen monument, while the city-operated Riverdale Farm lies to the west. Besides serving as a recreational space, the park is utilized by the military for parades and sports activities. During winter, it is a popular site for tobogganing. In the summer, the park hosts a free movie series that everyone is welcome to attend.

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