September 21, 2010

HLFD in Toronto: Wychwood Barns (From Streetcar Barn to Community Centre)

There's something about certain redeveloped spaces that bring me hope.  Like the Highline in NYC, everything old is new again at the Wychwood Barns in Toronto.  What was once an abandoned streetcar space has been turned into a place where the community can gather together. 

According to its website, "The Barns are the first Heritage building redevelopment project in Ontario to seek Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Canada Certification. The redevelopment process integrates construction elements that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and superior performance standards in environmental responsibility and energy efficiency."

Wychwood Barns once housed streetcars for repairs.  It was left vacant in the 1980's, but now through government, private sector, and citizen donations, the barns have been redeveloped into a multi-use space.  There's now a children's playground, weekend farmer's market, and cultural festivities.
Inside, there's a greenhouse that is used to not only grow food (I saw figs, bananas, pineapples, and more!), but also to educate children.  Called the Green Barn, it (along with everything food-related at the Barns) is part of The Stop Community Food Centre.  The after school program engages kids (aged 10-12) in fun, hands-on activities that teaches growing, cooking, and choosing healthy foods while encouraging positive attitudes towards healthy eating.  Most of the herbs and vegetables from the greenhouse are donated to The Stop's Food Bank.

 Some of the Wychwood Barns space has be saved for subsidized housing for artists and their families as well as work spaces.  Their works of art are displayed in the Community Gallery.  
There's also a kitchen and on-site cafe that makes products made with Green Barn and locally-sourced ingredients.  When I toured the site, I watched Strawberry and Rhubarb galettes ($5) being baked but fixated on a vegetarian sandwich.  The Portobello Bean-ball sandwich ($6) was rich and hearty, with fragrant fresh herbs from the greenhouse.
The Wychwood Barns have come a long way since its original purpose.  New projects include herb/vegetable gardens conceived by community elders of various ethnic and cultural groups.  These global gardens contain vegetables and herbs of Somalia, the Philippines, China, South Asia, Latin America, Italy and Poland.  Elders and youngsters team up as the seniors teach the younger gardeners about what they're planting and the kids help do the manual work.  The food will be distributed between The Stop's food bank and amongst the garderners (both old and young) themselves.

There's a lot of positive change going on at Wychwood Barns. But the fun spirit surrounding the Barns seems to have remained the same - that outdoor make-shift ice rinks from the past now re-appears every winter. 

Wychwood Barns is located at 601 Christie St in Toronto, ON, Canada.


  1. living in toronto for my entire life - I've never been to this place before. ><" it must be interesting but I've been to christie station. I'm probably not a downtown person eh.

    have a lovely tuesday love.
    jen @

  2. You know how to showcase a place that brings hope to my heart! Also, that galette brings desire to my belly.

  3. Thanks Conor! Your comments always make me smile!

  4. Hi Jen! I think Wychwood Barns just opened a couple of years ago and it's actually closer to St. Clair W so I took the streetcar from St. Clair station. Have a great day!


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