I Am a Pedestrian: Part 6
Walking around a city
I Am a Pedestrian is the result of a 159-kilometre walk around Toronto. The book consists of 159 observations gleaned from a 42-hour adventure at the perimeter. I Am a Pedestrian is a record of underexplored places, stories of people encountered and lost histories rediscovered at Toronto’s current city limits.
Before the onset of the novel coronavirus, I promoted I Am a Pedestrian in public libraries and other venues with a talk titled, The Time Travelling Pedestrian. With the aid of historical photographs, maps, and group discussion, the presentation revealed how Toronto has grown from a lonely French outpost in 1750 to today's bustling metropolis.
At times during the walk, I trespass on private property. These encroachments are committed without malice. Below is an excerpt from the book.
I am in a cellar.
Before I shake dust from the soles of my shoes at Keele I trespass into the empty cellar below Jacob and Sarah Stong’s 1859 two-and-a-half-storey redbrick house.
The rear door was slightly ajar. Just walked in. Swear.
Eldest son of Daniel and Elizabeth, Jacob Stong farmed the eastern portion of the family lot. Stong descendants resided here until 1952.
Besides farming, Jacob Stong was:
A sawmill operator
A Justice of the Peace
A CNE director/livestock judge
A York Pioneer Society member, instrumental in the preservation of Scadding Cabin
Jacob Stong died tragically after the horse-drawn wagon he was travelling in was struck by an express train at a nearby level crossing. Two of his adult daughters were with him. One survived; the second died at the scene with her dad.
Lilac bushes grow profusely against the side of the house. Except for rotted floorboards, the structure is in good repair. Recently the roof received new shingles.
York’s Faculty of Fine Arts has studio space in the building. Stong House played a significant role in the development of the modern Canadian art movement. It was the creative launchpad for the art collective Regina Five, as well as others, including Tim Whiten, York faculty from 1968 to 2007.
The stone cellar is cool. Acoustically, it is dead. Scout sounds hollow. I get out.
Traces of an apple orchard are present at the back of the property. Stong’s gambrel barn, which he built, is currently used by York’s maintenance department to store equipment. The double-wide wooden barn doors are open. I go inside. A man tells me I have no business here.
I cross Keele Street.
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