This LGBT-oriented neighbourhood is nestled in the downtown core of Toronto, with its boundaries defined by the Gay Toronto Tourism Guild. You're within easy access of subways, shopping, eating, and partying in a friendly, safe, and clean area. It's more or less Gerrard Street to the south, Yonge Street to the west, Charles Street to the north, and Jarvis Street to the east. With the bustling Bloor Street steps away and Queen’s Park with the University of Toronto just to the west, this neighbourhood is central to everything downtown Toronto has to offer.
- This neighbourhood is home to the famous and annual Pride Week, including the parade with over 90 floats that grows each year, attracting thousands of participants.
- A portion of the neighbourhood was once the estate of Alexander Wood, a magistrate who had a sex scandal in 1810. His lands were known as "Molly Wood’s Bush" in the 19th century.
- The elected officials who represent this ward were Kyle Rae in 1991, the city’s first openly gay councillor, and Krisytn Wong-Tam, the city’s first openly lesbian councillor.
The Good News
If you sit at the corner of Church and Wellesley, you'll see your life and old friends walk by… just try your hardest to look your best at all times. Everything is available here — and I mean everything. Once known for its parties and clubs, this community has grown into a safe, welcoming neighbourhood for straight and LGBTQ residents alike.
The Bad News
With all that comes rising property values and expensive rentals. Restaurants struggle with high rents. Clubs fight to hold onto fickle late-night partiers. Expect to see more chain restaurants and stores and less “mom and pop” or “pop and pop” retail. Expect to see more condominium high-rises due to the great success of Radio City and some of the other buildings on Carlton Street. That means that some of the Victorian stock may dwindle — especially as Ryerson University keeps expanding.
Part of the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood was once the estate of magistrate Alexander Wood. In 1810, he was involved in a scandal, when he was accused of homosexual advances, and he had to leave the city for a couple years. A statue stands there now, commemorating the long-standing history of diversity in the area. After a sour spot in the Depression years, the neighbourhood went through gentrification in the 1950s, which welcomed the first high-rise apartments in Toronto.
These apartments began filling with young professionals, and many happened to be gay men and women.The long-time centre to Toronto’s LGBTQ community has changed greatly over the years, but it has been a growing and improving community since the 1970s, where LGBTQ-friendly bathhouses and bars filled the area. In 1981, George Haslop ran for political office as a gay activist, after the unfortunate bathhouse raids, and helped fight for LGBTQ rights. Once a questionable place to purchase a home or condo, it’s become very fashionable. Where once the LGBTQ community was shunned and hid in dark, dank bars, it's now out on the street and has spawned one of the biggest festivals in the city.
Homes, Architecture, and Real Estate
The homes in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood are historic, with Victorian and Edwardian homes dating back to the 19th century. The neighbourhood has experienced huge residential growth in the past decade.
With such a central location to the best neighbourhoods in the city — the Annex, Yorkville, and the University of Toronto — Church and Wellesley is a safe and welcoming area that will continue growing with the city. A mix of high-rise condos, upscale townhouses, and historical houses fills the area.
Who Is Your Neighbour?
Church and Wellesley is known for being a welcoming LGTBQ community, but it has grown to include many straight residents as well. Its closeness to luxury areas like the Annex and Yorkville welcome young professionals that are mid-to-upper class. According to residents, the neighbourhood is for those who would rather not own a car and love easy commuting, and who love pets — a ton of Church and Wellesley dwellers have animals (some even with cute outfits to match).
Parks & Green Spaces
The Church and Wellesley neighbourhood has many parks and green spaces that welcome joggers or walkers away from the bustling city streets.
- George Hislop Park offers benches, greenery, and flowers in the summer, and it's named after one of Canada’s most influential gay activists.
- Cawthra Square is a small park that's home to the AIDS memorial, where the members of the community who have passed away from AIDS are remembered with their names on bronze plates. Every year during Pride Week, a candlelight memorial is held.
Toronto AIDS Memorial by Gary Bembridge
- Ryerson Community Park has a great pond that turns into an outdoor skating rink in the winter located at 50 Gould Street.
- Norman Jewison Park
- James Canning Gardens
- Alexander Street Parkette
- Joseph Sheard Parkette
- McGill Parkette
Recreation and Culture
Some of the fitness studios in the area include:
- Sagrario Pilates Studio (405–65 Wellesley Street E, 416-929-7405)
- Yonge Street Fitness Club (7 Isabella Street, 416-920-3157)
- Dynamic Conditioning Centre (619 Yonge Street, 416-929-7812
- Evolution Fitness (101 Yorkville Avenue, 416-220-7883)
The 519 Church Street Community Centre has built a welcoming space for the LGBTQ community. It has wonderful programs (anti-violence, homelessness, counselling, and advice) and events (holiday parties and memorial services). It's located at 519 Church Street.
There's a place for worship at St. Paul’s Bloor Street Anglican Church, just north of the neighbourhood. It teaches courses such as Christianity 101, Parenting, Marriage Counselling, and Reworking Retirement.
The closest library in the area is the Toronto Reference Library at 789 Yonge Street, one block north of Bloor Street. It's one of the three largest libraries in the city.
Another Toronto Public Library branch is in Yorkville (22 Yorkville Avenue).
Schools, Colleges, and Universities
The University of Toronto campus begins two blocks west of Yonge Street, and Ryerson University is a short distance south from Wellesley Street.
Arts and Entertainment
- Gallery Hi Art (516 Yonge Street, 416-928-1700)
- Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street, Toronto, 416-975-8555)
- Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge Street)
- Varsity Cinemas (55 Bloor Street)
- Cumberland Four Alliance Cinemas (159 Cumberland Street)
Yonge Street has a lot of stores to choose from for all shopping needs. Similarly, Bloor Street and Bay Street are famous for their beautiful shops like Tiffany’s, Williams-Sonoma, and Pottery Barn — gorgeously decorated, especially around the holidays. South of Church and Wellesley, there are also shopping plazas like College Park, which has a tonne of underground shops for winter usage, and the Eaton Centre, one of Toronto’s largest shopping malls.
Here are a few of the many restaurants Church and Wellesley has to offer:
- Masa Sushi Japanese Restaurant (15 Charles Street E, 416-920-3388)
- Wish (3 Charles Street E, 416-935-0240)
- Ginger (695 Yonge Street, 416-966-2424)
- Lola’s Kitchen (34 Church Street, 416-966-3991)
This part of the city is very public transit–friendly, with subway stations all along Bloor and Yonge streets — Bloor-Yonge, Wellesley, College, and Dundas. The Yonge and the Bloor subway lines also offer busses and streetcars running from each.
Driving is a bit trickier because the area has heavy traffic, especially during rush hour, but the Don Valley Parkway is about 10 to 15 minutes east of Yonge Street.
Medical Centres and Doctors
The closest hospitals, although west of the Church and Wellesley area, include:
- Women’s College Hospital (76 Grenville Street)
- Toronto General Hospital (200 Elizabeth Street)
- Mount Sinai Hospital (600 University Avenue)
- St. Michael’s Hospital (30 Bond Street)
- Princess Margaret Hospital (610 University Avenue)
- Toronto Police Services Division 52
255 Dundas Street W, Toronto, ON (416) 808-5200
- Toronto Fire Station 314
12 Grosvenor Street, Toronto, ON M4Y 1A8