Providing a wonderful mix of Victorian and Edwardian homes as well as some high-rise apartment buildings, the Annex is central to Toronto’s thriving communities while offering an electricity and personality of its own. Found between Toronto’s Koreatown and Yorkville neighbourhoods, the area transitions nicely to an ethnic collective fuelled by long-term residents and students from the University of Toronto. With its proximity to some of Toronto’s most affordable restaurants with delicious foods, this neighbourhood provides a wealth of entertainment and recreational options.
Adjacent to Toronto’s Seaton Village and Yorkville areas, the Annex borders the University of Toronto (Bloor Street West) to the south, Bathurst Street to the west, Avenue Road to the east, and the CPR railway tracks to the north. Spadina Avenue, running north-to-south, divides the Annex neighbourhood into two halves, but with no distinction between each area. The look and feel of the neighbourhood is consistent throughout.
European settlement is the key to this area’s character, with an influx of Hungarian immigrants in the 1950s and 1960s providing much of the influence. Originally part of Yorkville to the east, the area was annexed by the City of Toronto and subdivided in 1886 — hence the name “the Annex,” from developer Simeon Janes calling it the “Toronto Annex.” This area was originally a destination for the upper classes in the early 1900s until the more affluent migrated to Forest Hill and Lawrence Park.
In the 1960s, there was a proposal to build the Spadina Expressway, a large throughway that would have severed the Annex — much to the dismay of the residents. The residents lobbied the city unrelentingly, and the construction was never carried out.
Noted residents include novelist Margaret Atwood, former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, writer, producer and actor Ken Finkleman, novelist and playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald, and members of the band Sloan
Previous residents include Catherine O’Hara of Second City TV and environmentalist David Suzuki
The Annex was once the home of Timothy Eaton, business mogul, and George Gooderham, president of the Gooderham & Worts Distillery
The Good News
The stretch of Bloor Street West that provides the southern border of the neighbourhood is brimming with shops and restaurants that typically provide late service. For fare further afield, the neighbourhood also provides walking-distance access to the fine eateries in Koreatown and Mirvish Village. The neighbourhood is also a brief stroll from the eclectic shopping district of Kensington Market and the high-class emporiums of Yorkville.
The Bad News
Because the University of Toronto borders the Annex to the south, many university students make up the transient tenants of the neighbourhood, with several fraternity and sorority houses within the Annex itself. Not necessarily a bad thing, but you may find yourself invited to a kegger or two.
The area is also densely populated, with a density of 8,500 people per square kilometre — one of the highest densities in the city.
Homes, Architecture, and Real Estate
You’ll find the Annex’s architecture to be relatively consistent, with Victorian and Edwardian mansions lining its streets, built between 1880 and the early 1900s. The style — coined “Annex style” — borrowed its look and feel from the American Richardson Romanesque and British Queen Anne styles, creating a design unique to Toronto. Further examples of the Annex-style home can be found throughout the city — with most in the Annex, of course.
Because of the large size of many of the mansions in the Annex, when the wealthy residents moved on, several of these large homes were divided into apartments and offices for boutique businesses.
Post–World War II development saw the destruction of some of the mansions to provide space for luxury apartments and condominiums, contrasting with the older and statelier residences.
Who Is Your Neighbour?
As mentioned, students from the neighbouring University of Toronto make up a significant portion of the transient and seasonal residents, contrasting with over 15,000 permanent residents. The average annual income for the neighbourhood is in the range of $60,000. So the neighbourhood aims at a younger demographic of educated individuals.
Parks and Green Spaces
Because of the large density of people living in the neighbourhood, green space is hard to come by. But you may find some quiet time in the following areas:
- St. Alban’s Square
- Joseph Burr Tyrrell Park
- Gwendolyn MacEwen Park
- Taddle Creek Park
- Jean Sibelius Park
Recreation and Culture
Found on the southwest corner of Bloor Street West and Spadina Avenue is the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, providing the area with health and swimming facilities available to all.
Several fitness centres are also in or near the neighbourhood, such as:
Kula Yoga Studio Annex, providing a variety of classes for the beginner as well as the more advanced student
Ahimsa Yoga Centre, promoting health, happiness, and wholeness
Annex Dance Academy, teaching residents a variety of dance techniques for young and old
Wu Xing Martial Arts, providing the teachings of Tai Chi
Culturally, the Annex is blessed with its proximity to some of the city’s wonderful museums and galleries:
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM): One of the largest museums in North America, a new and somewhat controversial “crystal” façade was developed for the museum that has awed new visitors. Exhibitions regularly rotate, with special unique events run weekly. Of note is the “ROM Friday Night Live” allowing visitors to eat, drink, and dance while enjoying foods from local restaurants and music spun from local DJs.
The Bata Shoe Museum: Probably the most unusual and unique Toronto attraction, the museum exhibits footwear from across the globe. The permanent collection contains over 12,500 artefacts. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn about shoes.
The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO): Though not in the Annex exactly, the gallery is steps from the neighbourhood, providing art exhibits to residents that are sure to provoke as well as delight.
Several churches provide places of worship in the neighbourhood, including Bloor Street United Church at 300 Bloor St W, (416) 924-7439, Walmer Road Baptist Church at 188 Lowther Ave, (647) 351-7222, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at 69 Walmer Rd, (416) 921-8108.
The Annex’s main library is the Spadina Road Library at 10 Spadina Road, (416) 393-7666. But walking distance from the neighbourhood is the Palmerston Library at 560 Palmerston Avenue, (416) 393-7680 and the University of Toronto’s Robarts Library at 130 St George Street, (416) 978-8450.
Schools, Colleges, and Universities
The neighbourhood borders the University of Toronto, but the neighbourhood does contain a few schools as well:
- Royal St. George’s College, 120 Howland Avenue, (416) 533-9481
- Huron Street Junior Public School, 541 Huron Street, (416) 393-1570
- The Waldorf Academy, 250 Madison Avenue, (416) 962-6447
The neighbourhood is also walking distance to both Central Technical School at 725 Bathurst Street, 416-393-0070, and Harbord Collegiate Institute at 286 Harbord Street, (416) 393-1650.
The Annex is also home to the Royal Conservatory of Music at 273 Bloor Street W, (416) 408-0208.
Arts and Entertainment
Central to the arts scene in the Annex is the newly renovated Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, which provides one of the key venues for the annual Hot Docs documentary festival. The neighbourhood is also a short stroll to the Varsity Cinemas in Yorkville.
The Annex also boasts the classical music of the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra & Chamber Choir.
All you need to do is stroll down Bloor Street West to see the number of shops that dot the way. Variety is key, with so many different shops to help satisfy even the most ardent of shopaholics.
So much choice — so little space to list them! Here is a short list of what the Annex has to offer:
- Indian Rice Factory, 414 Dupont Street
- Mistura, 265 Davenport Road
- Bistro Tournesol, 406 Dupont Street
- Insomnia, 563 Bloor Street W
- Amnesia, 526 Bloor Street W
- Smoke’s Poutinerie, 490 Bloor Street W
- Sushi Couture, 456 Bloor Street W
- Hey Lucy Pizza & Wine Bar, 440 Bloor Street W
The Annex is lucky to host three TTC subway stations, St. George (at Bloor Street W and Bedford Road), Spadina (at Bloor Street W and Spadina Avenue), and Bathurst (at Bloor Street W and Bathurst Street). All three provide immediate access to the rest of the city through subway, streetcar, and bus services.
For drivers, the Don Valley Parkway is a mere ten-minute drive away, providing access to the 401 or the Gardiner Expressway.
Medical Centres and Doctors
The closest hospital to the Annex is Toronto Western at 399 Bathurst Street, (416) 603-2581 — on Bathurst Street between College Street and Dundas Street.
Several of Toronto’s top doctors also provide private practices in the area.
52 Division, 255 Dundas Street W, (416) 808-5200
Toronto Fire Station 344, 240 Howland Avenue