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Carlaw Avenue Parkette

Updated: Jul 12, 2019

Surfaces: sand.

Pint-sized and built directly on top of the Bloor-Danforth subway line, this is pretty much just a poor-man’s version of the Langford Parkette.

There isn’t much else to say about it, so instead I’d like to talk about the enormous Danforth icon that towers over the playground, overshadowing it both literally and figuratively: the Holy Name Church.

Holy Name stands out not only because of its size, but also its style. While most churches along the Danforth (Eastminster, St. Barnabas, the Danforth Church) have the appearance of larger versions of the century-old brick homes in the wider neighbourhood, Holy Name looks like it’s been plucked straight out of Baroque-era Rome.

Which, in a way, it was.

Architect Arthur Holmes, who built several Toronto churches and St. Michael’s College, designed the façade to resemble the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. The decorative front, along with the bright white stone and domed bell tower, make for a Danforth landmark that is hard to miss. Take a look east from Broadview and you’ll see it. Look back west from Greenwood and you’ll see it.

Construction started in 1913 and finished in 1926, which is pretty efficient given the size of the structure, and the fact that for several of those years Canada was busy shipping its able-bodied men off to war. In a city where we routinely take the better part of a decade to renovate subway stations, thirteen war-interrupted years is pretty good.

Speaking of which, when nearby Pape subway station was renovated in 2013, the design gave a little shout out to Holy Name Church, which had just celebrated its 100th birthday. Overall, the Pape Station renovation was, in my opinion, pretty dismal. At street level, it looked more like a condo presentation centre than a subway station. But one bright spot was that at platform level, the walls were decorated with images from the neighbourhood up above: street signs written in Greek, old bank buildings, and of course, Holy Name.

All this is to say that if you visit the Carlaw Avenue Parkette, keep this information in mind. It will give you something to divert your mind with while your child plays on a small, decidedly mediocre playground.

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