Go take a hike!

No seriously — Bloor West Village has lots to offer

The cooler weather is upon us, true, so why not hit the Bloor West Village streets and celebrate what makes the village what it is before the snow flies?

Here’s a snapshot of some local sites with interesting stories you may not know about.

Neil McLellan Park

Start at the corner of Runnymede Rd. and Bloor St. West and go just a bit north. There you’ll find Neil McLellan Park, one of the only, if not the only, park in Toronto that was dedicated to a person while they were still alive.

Bloor West Village BIA past-chair Alex Ling says he wrote a two-page letter to the Toronto Historical Board asking it to make an exception to its rule that a person must be deceased in order to have a park named after him or her.

Ling argued that Neil McLellan, owner of McLellan’s Jewellers and one of the founders of the local BIA, deserved to be honoured for his dedication to improving business along the Bloor West strip. It took two years but the request was approved and the park dedicated to McLellan in the 1986. He died in the late 1980s but the park remains.

Former Runnymede Theatre, now Chapters Indigo

On the other hand, if curling up with a good book to escape November’s blustery winds sounds more appealing, take a peep in the Chapters Indigo on the southwest corner of Runnymede and Bloor.

Formerly the Runnymede Theatre built in 1927, Chapters restored the building in 2003. Now lifestyle books and magazines can be found on the main stage area. The beautiful gold light fixtures and wall detailing, along with the blue walls and ceiling, provide an inspiring canopy under which book lovers can enjoy their reads.

On the top floor, the original movie projector still stands and red velvet movie chairs from the old theatre are scattered throughout for those looking for a comfy reading nook.

Dedicated benches

If you’re doing some shopping on the Bloor St. West strip, or perhaps just in the mood to lollygag, why not do a bench hop as you walk west?

There are at least 30 wood benches along the street that have been erected by the Bloor West Village BIA, all partly paid for by residents.

Each bench bears a personalized message on a plaque so residents can honour a departed loved one. Reading these personal dedications is like poetry, and a lovely example of how community building and the personal intersect.

Ling says the association never solicited people to pay for the benches (the BIA does subsidize some of the costs and installs them), but rather several residents approached him and wanted to sponsor benches. Once a few were erected, more and more locals wanted to participate.

Fountain dedicated to Alex Ling

Now you should be at the corner of Jane St. and Bloor. Remember the park that was dedicated to Neil McLellan when he was alive?

Well the fountain at the northwest corner was dedicated to the man who made the McLellan Park dedication happen — Alex Ling.

While Ling was chair of the BIA, he helped erect that fountain in the 1990s. He says that he and the BIA rallied to have the fountain run all year round, and that it’s one of the few in the city that doesn’t get boarded up in the winter.

Paula McInerney, now Bloor West Village BIA chair, kept everything hush-hush but managed, with the help of TABIA executive director John Kiru, to get the fountain dedicated to Ling in spite of the fact that Ling was and still is very much with us.

The story goes that when the Toronto Historical Board learned that the fountain dedication request was for Ling, they had no problem relaxing their rule once again. The dedication ceremony, celebrating Ling’s 30-year contribution to the BIA and TABIA, was in 2005 with Mayor David Miller officiating.

About this article:

By: Kelly Gadzala
Posted: Oct 14 2009 12:22 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto