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Dentonia Park

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

Surface: wood chips.

Equipment by GameTime / Kompan.

We visited Dentonia Park to review the playground, yes, and I’ll get to that in a second. I promise.

But my secret reason for going was to sneak a peek at the neighbourhood that borders Dentonia Park to the north: Crescent Town.

Crescent Town's grand opening: organizers seriously overestimated the degree to which bunting can ratchet down the dystopian-ness of mid-century apartment blocks. (Image: Toronto Public Library)

Crescent Town is a cluster of apartment buildings in the extreme southwest corner of East York, within (probably literal) spitting distance of Scarborough. The apartments are of the 1960s-70s variety that you’ll find everywhere in this city, and while Crescent Town is nowhere near the scale of St. James Town or Thorncliffe Park, it’s a fascinating look into the kind of city living developers thought people wanted in Centennial-era Toronto.

As it turns out, the kind of city living 1960s developers thought people wanted is pretty similar to what 21st-century condo developers offer: self-contained communities; on-site amenities; island neighbourhoods connected to other parts of the city by thin lifelines of highways and transit. And maybe a park.

When you see the area the way a planner does – on a map – it really does look like an ideal location. Next door to the subway. Dentonia Park to the south. Beautiful Taylor Creek to the north. There’s even walkway access to a golf course, which I assume was the reason one ad declared, with a touch of delirious optimism, that Crescent Town had “Florida living all year round!”

Florida living? Really? (Image: Toronto Star Archives)

Car traffic through Crescent Town is limited to two roads – Massey Square and Crescent Town Road – which more or less circle the towers. Pedestrian traffic, meanwhile, is set above those two streets, in the form of walkways that cross over top of the two roads and connect the towers and the aforementioned amenities. This separation of cars and people is a well-intentioned theme of mid-century neighbourhood design, in which planners aimed to maximize driving efficiency and walking safety, but ended up saddling both motorists and pedestrians with significant downsides. I pity the Uber driver that tries to find an address in Crescent Town, only to end up directly underneath it while their fare texts them angrily from the walkway five metres overhead.

The problem, of course, with building neighbourhoods that are self-contained is that they end up feeling…contained. Nobody walks or drives through Crescent Town by accident, or discovers it on the way to somewhere else. Like a rock in a river, traffic is designed to flow around Crescent Town. The line between self-contained and isolated is very thin.

Having said all that, I should add an important point: what the hell do I know? I don’t live there, and I don’t know anyone who does. Maybe residents of Crescent Town love their Florida living. Maybe they love being disconnected from the rest of the city when they want to.

At the very least, I hope they love Dentonia Park.

A large park with all kinds of sports fields to run around in, Dentonia is quite similar to Stan Waldow Park, which also sits near Taylor Creek just a bit to the west. The equipment at Dentonia is just a bit better though; if your kids are avid climbers, they’ll enjoy the small climbing wall on the larger structure, and the myriad monkey bar options at the far end. The splash pad is small but nice for a summer cool-off, and with plenty of parking and Victoria Park Station nearby, it gets some good convenience points. It would make a good end point after a bike ride through Taylor Creek on a hot day.

Oh, and if your kids a growing out of their playground phase and into an appreciation of mid-century urban planning that involves a healthy dose of concrete…well then you’re really in luck.

I learned a lot about Crescent Town from the excellent Scenes From A City blog by Bob Georgiou. If you're a big enough Toronto nerd to read this far, you'd probably enjoy his blog.

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