High Park Houses

Toronto, Ontario (Map)

Summer 2011.


Back in December 2008, I flew to Toronto, then drove with A.I. to Windsor. Since I had half of a day to kill in Toronto, I picked a random subway stop and walked the streets for a few blocks...and entirely by chance, happened upon a cluster of stately abandoned houses!

I walked around them & snapped some exteriors, but there weren't any glaringly easy entrances. After phoning M-Money, I decided to go have lunch with him instead. It didn't help that I had a large piece of luggage with me & it was a nasty, wintry day; a day where I had a Grizzly Adams beard, entirely covered with slushy, wet snowflakes.

In a strange turn-of-events, M-Money lives very close to these houses. Therefore, I almost hit them another morning; but after staying up late partying the night before, I didn't much feel like waking up at 7am to hang out with Toronto crackies (there aren't a whole lot of abandoned buildings in Toronto & I always assumed these places to have drug users living inside).

En route to Philadelphia this year, my flight left Newfoundland at 5:30am, then I had a 12-hour layover in Toronto.

Not one to pass on meeting up with friends, I left the airport & went off to meet up at M-Money's place. I tried to kill some time so I wasn't calling my friends at 8am, but even with calling at 10:30am, they were still in Barrie & just about to leave.

This afforded me another opportunity to walk around these High Park Homes.

Today I was wearing my best outfit as I came right from the airport (I like to dress up to travel since everyone shows up at my Newfoundland airport wearing jogging pants & ski-doo jackets). This meant that I actually thought twice about going into the houses. I did have my 50-lb luggage with me, but I didn't necessarily want to take my luggage apart to change my shirt and khakis in one of the abandoned garages.

I threw caution to the wind as clothes can be replaced. I found an open window about 4 feet off of the ground & climbed atop a skid which was leaning against the wall. I tried to pull myself through the opening, but this was a casement window & the two windows swayed as I tried to balance. I eventually got inside & pulled my 50-lb luggage up behind me.

In that house, I walked over some junk to a hallway & discovered that the boarded windows provided me zero light. My flashlight was somewhere in my luggage, but I wasn't sure exactly & didn't think it was worth pulling apart all of my clothes & belongings in this room (I'd like to be able to get away from trouble quickly as well, i.e. not have all of my belongings spewed all over this room).

I went into another house & found that I could actually explore this one, since natural light was making it into the rooms. I still struggled to take pictures without a tripod, but at least I could see what the interior of these houses was like.

They reminded me a lot of occupied houses I've been inside in Detroit & various old B&Bs I've come across. Their shabby exterior didn't lead me to think that there would be much to the interior, but once inside, the pleasant woodwork & the old-time craftsmanship was apparent. I lamented the fact that these are sitting abandoned because a developer wants to tear them down to build yet another bland Toronto apartment tower (although it isn't such a travesty in Toronto where so many of these houses still survive).

I went back downstairs towards the dining room windows which I climbed in through. As I was halfway out & passing my luggage through the adjacent window; a grimy, although young, transient cut through the property & was confused by my presence (realize I was wearing khakis, dress shoes & a business button-up shirt at this point). He slowly asked if he could help me with anything, but I had seen what I wanted.

I think he thought I was looking for drugs; I wondered what he was looking when he didn't go inside any of the houses.

I saw a couple more of the houses open through basement windows, but my friends were going to be back in minutes & a basement window is a lot harder to climb through without getting dirty.

I met up with my friends, we drank beers throughout the afternoon & I rushed to the airport eventually. I was enjoying my day all too much & planned to pay the flight change fee to stay in Toronto another day - I was only going to NYC tomorrow anyway - but the desk attendant said that she could change my flight free of charge & I returned to Andy's apartment within a few hours.

We drank more beers, ate Chinese buffet & were in bed at 11pm like the old men we are.

I caught my flight to Philly the next day.


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