The Annex is Toronto's most heterogeneous community. Its residents include successful business people, prominent artists, University of Toronto students and faculty, and people from all walks of life. It is also home to some of the finest homes in Toronto. This is a vibrant neighbourhood that draws its energy from the University of Toronto, as well as from the bars, restaurants and nightclubs that crowd together along Bloor Street. Many of the rooming houses and multi-unit homes in the Annex have recently been converted back to single family houses reflecting the return to prominence of this historic Toronto neighbourhood.
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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. Its residents are predominantly English-speaking and well-educated. According to Canada 2011 Census, the neighbourhood has a population of 15,515 with an average income of $66,742.67, significantly above the average income in the Toronto census metropolitan area. The Annex is not known for its big population of immigrants: in 2011, Statistics Canada declared that there were about 4,665 immigrants - predominantly from the United Kingdom and the United States - living in the area.
Although The Annex is made up of three census tracts, the most populated one is CT 5350091.01, which is surrounded by Avenue Road on the east side, Bloor Street on the south side, Spadina on the west side, and Bernard Avenue on the North side. According to the 2011 National Household Survey conducted by Statistics Canada, the area had 7,055 residents, with a median income of $40,183—a significant increase from 2006's reported median of $30,093.
The Annex | Neighbourhood Profile
The Annex is mainly residential, where streets are lined with huge trees dwarfing the massive 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. But thanks to the Government freeze of development in 1975 for any buildings higher than 45 feet, most of the homes have been unscathed. There are now over 500 buildings in the Annex protected by the Historical Board of Toronto, so developers have less chance of maximizing their ventures by tearing down old mansions and developing low rises and townhouse complexes. 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 has a population density of 8,500 people/km², ten times that of the sprawling GTA.
The stretch of Bloor Street, between Avenue Road and Bathurst Street, is a vibrant social and mixed-use area offering a wide range of services from moderate-priced dining to independent discount retailers, in buildings which often include residential space in upper floors. Just west of the Annex proper, along Bloor Street (between Bathurst Street and Christie Street), there are street signs that post Koreatown due to the high percentage of Korean owned businesses (although that neighbourhood is officially called Seaton Village), but many locals refer to the area as "West Annex" (even though the official West Annex area is bound by Bloor, Bathurst, CP Railway, and Spadina). During the 1950s and 1960s, an influx of Hungarian immigrants moved into the neighbourhood after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution was suppressed, and some of the businesses and properties along Bloor may still be owned by Hungarian-Canadian families.
The Annex | A Unique Character
The Robert Brown House, an Annex style house owned by the University of Toronto
The Annex is home to many examples of a uniquely Torontonian 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 by some 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.
Transportation in the area is full of Subway stops and entrances. There are five separate subways stops; two on the north/south line, Dupont and Spadina, and three on the east/west line, Bathurst, Spadina and St. George. But it doesn't end there. The east/west stations each have two entrances separated by entire city blocks, creating an ever closer web of proximity for pedestrians to access the subways. Furthermore, there are two additional stops less than a block outside of the Annex area; Museum station and Bay Station (far west entrance close to Avenue Road).
The Annex | House Styles
Seaton Village or 'West Annex' is west of Bathurst Street and includes the Koreatown shopping district at its southern border. It is sometimes inaccurately referred to as the "West Annex". While Seaton Village shares several characteristics with The Annex (notably its architecture and its popularity with University of Toronto students), it is generally quieter, more family-oriented, and has smaller, less expensive homes.
Vermont Square Park is near the centre of Seaton Village. The park has a playground, including a wading pool. St. Albans Boys and Girls club and the Bill Bolton hockey arena are also located in the park.
Clinton Street features a house almost totally covered with circular "woodcakes" cut from billiards cues.
Seaton Village Profile
The Annex is by far the leader in diversity when compared to other city neighbourhoods in Canada, and arguably the United States too. The neighbourhood has a thriving cultural scene, with the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, the Jewish Community Centre, Native Canadian Center of Toronto, The Chinese Consulate, Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, Italian Cultural Institute, Toronto Baha'i Centre, Alliance Francaise Toronto, more than twenty churches of several religions including Trinity-St. Paul's United Church and Hare Krishna Temple where many community events occur, several children private schools of different teaching philosophies, many institutional buildings for education of every kind, halfway houses, group homes, old age homes, bed and breakfasts, a slew of yoga studios, spas to choose from, alternative art stores and clothing shops, many coffee shops filled with students of every kind studying, various eclectic book and hobby stores, night clubs, many health food stores and vegetarian restaurants, several cultural eateries with Sushi being the predominant one, Lee's Palace, Designers Walk (and district with notable street signs), Royal Conservatory of Music, Royal Ontario Museum, Paupers Pub, Kilgours, Annex Billiards Club, Mayday Malone's pub Ristorante, Madison Avenue Pub, Vesta Lunch Restaurant, Bata Shoe museum, and the now closed famous Toronto landmarks Poor Alex Theatre, Ye Old Brunswick House (both at Bloor and Brunswick), and Honest Eds. Many of these names are adjacent to the official zoned Annex, but our not officially in the Annex zoned area because they are situated on the opposite side of the arterial roads which bound the Annex, namely Bloor Street and Avenue Road. Stores are open late and some restaurants are open well past midnight. Nearby businesses, while not in the Annex, include the Bathurst Street Theatre south of Bloor Street, Casa Loma north of the CPRail, the Tranzac Club (Toronto Australia-New Zealand) and Tilt Arcade Bar, both just meters walk south of Bloor, and the Karma Co-op Food Store west of Bathurst. The East end of The Annex melds with the affluent Yorkville area, where some of the expensive shops spill into the east side of the Annex. The southeast end of the Annex melds into University of Toronto, where some of the institutional buildings spill into the Annex. One of the standout cultural traits of the Annex are the countless Frat houses for students attending University of Toronto. The dynamic in the Annex is everything but ever-changing, where hundreds of old institutions and businesses have remained the same for decades and in some cases over (and close to) a century.
Much of the area's retail, restaurant and entertainment venues are aimed at the university student demographic - young, educated, telecommunications-connected, non-driving.
The Annex | Culture
Popular Annex restaurants include Puck'n Wings, Fanny Chadwick's, Sushi on Bloor, Sushi Couture and Greg's Ice Cream which is often busy during summers. El Furniture restaurant is popular among students because everything on its menu is offered for $5. Night time spots include The Green Room, Labyrinth and Dance Cave above Lee's Palace.
The Annex | Food and Entertainment
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 Sr. (1830–1905), 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.
The Annex | A History
The northern Annex (north of Bloor Street) was home to many members of Toronto's Eaton family, Baldwin, Ross, and Simpson families until the mid-twentieth century. Timothy Eaton had his home at the corner of Lowther Avenue and Walmer Road, and the Baldwin family built three homes on the northern side of Lowther near Bedford Road.
Admiral Road in the Annex is home to the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, as well as John Ralston Saul and his wife, the former Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson. Her ex-husband Stephen Clarkson lived on nearby Lowther Avenue across from former MP Belinda Stronach. David Suzuki lived for years on Bernard Avenue. 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 37 years until her death in April 2006. CBC writer, producer and actor Ken Finkleman and members of the rock band Sloan also reside in the neighbourhood. Recently, members of the Eaton family have relocated to Bedford Road and Boswell Avenue.
Brunswick Avenue in particular has served as a home for many writers, including Matt Cohen, Austin Clarke, Morley Callaghan, Howard Engel, Marian Engel, and bpNichol.
Seaton Village is the former home of Canadian poet and children's author Dennis Lee, Oscar-winning (for Chicago) sound engineer David Lee (no relation; now deceased), and sociologist Barry Wellman. It is the current home of novelist and playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald.