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Proud to live in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood

This Junctionite knows the boundaries of his hood, and is annoyed when outsiders attempt to lay claim to his community’s good name.

Edward Keenan – Toronto Star

I live in The Junction.

Like many people who live in The Junction, I’m proud of my neighbourhood. In fact, a certain self-referential pride in living in The Junction is often a defining trait of local residents.

If you’re inclined, you can ride the Junction 40 bus route out to a party organized by The Junction Project social group, held at The Junction City Music Hall, where you could sip beer made around the corner at the Junction Craft Brewery and talk about how sad it is the Junction Flea has lost its lot, or perhaps discuss the proposed JunXion condo development — the news about which you might have read on the blog Junctioneer.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never lived in a neighbourhood where residents spend as much time talking about how much they like living in the neighbourhood. And saying its name while doing so. It’s fun to say. Try it: “Junction.”

Junction Railway History
One word for this characteristic might be “insufferable.” But we like to think of it as “having a strong sense of identity.”

But we’re not the only ones who like saying it, apparently. Another favourite topic of conversation around my house these days is the frequency with which people call other places The Junction. It comes up more and more frequently.

Comment: Sure, some of it is simple mistakes. Others want to borrow some neighbourhood “cool”.

An identity-deficient neighbourhood just to the east of us held a contest a few years ago to name itself, and settled on “The Junction Triangle.” This sound-a-like name for a near-ish place leads to all kinds of confusion. Headlines in the Star and the CBC and elsewhere recently have carried news of interesting people doing interesting things in The Junction — putting a curling rink in their backyard, for instance — but when you read the story, you often learn these people actually live in the Triangle. Or not even: often the neighbourhoods of Carleton Village and Wallace Emerson are said (by real estate agents, especially) to be in The Junction Triangle or The Junction, and as often as not those places now get called “The Junction,” too. In this newspaper.

Comment: But there have been all sorts of historical precedents for various names. From West Toronto Junction to West Toronto to The Junction to The Junction Triangle. As with many things, the names and boundaries have been fluid over time.

The Junction Keele and Dundas
I’ve been trying to explain to my editors why I find this annoying — why they should respect my insistence that these very fine areas of town not be confused with mine. I point to the history of The Junction stemming from its roots as the once-independent city of West Toronto Junction, its unique legacy of prohibition that endured until the local ban on booze sales was lifted less than 20 years ago. I explain about the preserved pre-war streetscape and the local salvage shops and park communities and sense of fierce, proud community.

What’s in a name? I explain that like Kleenex or Xerox protecting their trademarks once upon a time, we fear something we’re proud of is in danger of being rendered meaningless by overuse to describe similar but different things. Or that it’s like naming your baby something perfect and unique, and then having a close friend or family member choose the same name for their child. I appeal to the universal editor’s instinct for simple accuracy.

Comment: Wanna talk about The Beach/es? According to some people, it stretches as far north as Danforth. I mean, really?

But even as I rationalize my defensive pride, I can’t ignore that there’s also something else at work. I recall as a child living and going to school in what was then called South Riverdale (since rebranded “Riverside”), how insistent those who lived in increasingly desirable Riverdale insisted on their distinction from the ungentrified South. I recall how aghast residents of the Beach(es) were when real estate agents started branding Main and Gerrard “the Upper Beach.” I remember activist Annex sweaterheads scoffing at the suggestion that the area west of Bathurst Street had anything to do with them at all. And I remember what I thought of all those objections.

Comment: Hey, when I was a kid living at Broadview and Gerrard, we just called it Chinatown. Some might have called it Riverdale. But back in the early 1980s, no one really cared.

Keele and Dundas the Junction
I thought they were plain old snobs, who had invested money and some of their identity in a neighbourhood they viewed partly as a status symbol, a residential label that carried cultural cache. They saw their distinction diminished by the casual expansion of neighbourhood boundaries.

Comment: But there is financial gain to be had. Real estate in hot or trendy neighbourhoods is worth more than that in other areas. Having a house in “The Beaches” makes you sound like you have a nice place that is worth a lot of money. Selling your house? That listing looks better if it says your house is in The Beaches, The Junction or Riverdale. It wasn’t done for nothing, there is money and bragging rights riding on it.

One irony is that when my family and I first moved to the neighbourhood more than eight years ago, apartments right on the Dundas West strip were advertised as being in “Upper Bloor West Village” or “High Park North.” Perhaps that’s where part of the snobbery of longtime residents (and early gentrifiers like us) comes from: we recognized the value of the neighbourhood before anyone wanted to say they were from The Junction.

Yuck: sentiments don’t get any more hipster than “I was into that band before anyone.”

As I acknowledge the uglier impulses at work, I hope it’s clear that while my love of my neighbourhood is real, my objection to the democratizing of the name is mostly in fun. In a city of neighbourhoods like Toronto, the area rivalries and odd internal squabbles (Beach! vs. Beaches!) are — like professional sports allegiances — part of the fun.

And I might as well note there are plenty of Junctionites who would look down their nose at me in exactly the same way. We live north of the railroad tracks, in the part of the neighbourhood often called “The Stockyards” because of its meat processing history. Although it’s firmly inside the boundaries most neighbourhood (and historical) maps designate as The Junction, the psychological boundary of the tracks north of the Dundas St. strip are the end of many residents’ mental maps of the neighbourhood (and the local business association’s boundaries, too).

Comment: Which is true. And neighbourhoods are defined as much by people’s gut feel and mental images. Which means you are playing the same game. While living in an area most would NOT consider to be The Junction, you claim historical precedent to justify your use of the term. You just defeated your entire argument… Take Yorkville, for instance. Historically, it reaches all the way east to around Church and south to Hayden or so. Yet no one considers anything east of Yonge to be Yorkville. Heck, even a small part of The Beaches is technically Scarborough (once you cross Victoria Park), but no one is ever going to argue that the RC Harris plant is NOT in The Beaches.

Sometimes people will condescend, “Technically, you don’t really live in The Junction,” or “it’s nice you managed to stay so close to The Junction.”

To which I’ll just point to the street sign at the intersection nearest my house, which reads “Junction Road,” and explain a bit of history.

Comment: But then you would argue against people calling the area inside the 3 CN rail lines “Junction Triangle”. It is a triangle formed by rail lines, two of which form “the junction” for which your neighbourhood is named.

Go ahead and call me insufferable. Call me a snob. Just don’t tell me I don’t live in The Junction. And don’t try to tell me people at Lansdowne and Dupont do.

Comment: No one has EVER said that Lansdowne and Dupont is part of The Junction. Heck, that is Davenport Village, which they are VERY proud of. But in the same vein, don’t tell other people what neighbourhood they do or don’t live in.

Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.