recently, Toronto poet Kevin Irie invited me for a walk through one of Toronto's most exclusive neighbourhoods--the legendary Wychwood. he told me it was a 19th-century artists' enclave--so i wasn't expecting mansions, or private tennis courts. but anyone who has been to Wychwood knows that this place is a very unique take on the artist life, snuck into a woodsy hill near Bathurst and St-Claire. the park was founded by landscape painter Marmaduke Matthews in the 1870s, but most of the houses were built post-1907. many were designed by the architect Eden Smith, who saw himself as an upholder of the William Morris Arts and Crafts tradition. so the houses for the most part are timbered and many-gabled, and though they ought to be unbearably twee, they're actually marvellous. (Smith also built low-cost housing in a similar style...i'd love to see some of those, to compare.)
Marshall McLuhan lived here from 1968 until the end of his life (i wouldn't mind his house, near the pond...) and innumerable Toronto novels have been set here--i just read Russell Smith's very funny Muriella Pent. i hope the park is haunted by all sorts of artistic ghosts, even ones who never lived here...it's certainly the most romantic place in Toronto, and despite its air of private property, anybody at all can wander through these winding streets, admiring the gardens and contemplating the illusive nature of fame.