Wychwood Barns

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Artscape Wychwood Barns
Wychwood Barns.JPG
Type Community centre / Urban park
Location 601 Christie Avenue
Toronto ON M6G 2X7
Coordinates 43°40′48″N 79°25′25″W / 43.68000°N 79.42361°W / 43.68000; -79.42361Coordinates: 43°40′48″N 79°25′25″W / 43.68000°N 79.42361°W / 43.68000; -79.42361
Created November 20, 2008 (2008-11-20)
Owned by City of Toronto
Managed by Artscape
Open 09:00 - 17:00
Status Open all year
Website torontoartscape.org

Wychwood Barns is a community centre and park in the Bracondale Hill area of Toronto. The converted heritage building was built as a streetcar maintenance facility in 1913.[1][2] It now contains artist housing and studios, public green space, a greenhouse, a farmer's market, a beach volleyball court, and office space for many local community groups and general public. The site is a total of 5,574 square metres (60,000 square feet).[3]


Previously a privately owned streetcar enterprise, the Toronto Transit Commission bought all of the infrastructure and space associated with the streetcar.[4] In 1913 the site was expropriated by the City of Toronto for use by the Toronto Civic Railways (later the TTC).[1][5] The first of an eventual five-building streetcar maintenance facility, known as the streetcar "barns," was built that year. Streetcars accessed the site from the main lines on St. Clair Avenue, just north of the barns, using lines running down Wychwood Avenue on the east side of the property. A series of switches led to spur loops on the property, many of which were south of the enclosed barns, and were used for storage. The facility was known within the TTC as the St. Clair Carhouse. Operations continued at the Carhouse until 1992, by which point a series of expansions at the nearby Hillcrest Complex had long made the Carhouse redundant.

The property was transferred to city ownership in 1996 for a nominal $1 fee. The City of Toronto currently leases the site to Toronto Artscape Inc., a not-for-profit organization that develops and operates space for the arts, at $1 a year for 50 years.[1][6][7] Artscape redeveloped the site, raising a total of $19-million including $2.3-million from the federal government of Canada, $3-million from Ontario's provincial government, and $4.5-million from the City of Toronto.[8]

Construction occurred between March 2007 and October 2008, with the official opening on November 20, 2008.[9]


Wychwood Barns is a historical complex made up of 5 buildings on 4.3 acres that has been converted into a community centre in an example of adaptive reuse. Architect Joe Lobko and city councilor Joe Mihevc worked to transform the early 20th-century facility into a multipurpose space.[10] Lobko, with the help of the community, was able to identify the activities missing in the area. He came up with a program of activities that can educate the community, promote partnerships with nonprofit organizations and allow Toronto’s culture to grow.[11]

The original barns were built from 1913 to 1921 as an industrial building.[12] They are brick structures, two storeys high with an interior steel structure that was exposed[clarification needed]. Lobko retained most of the exterior envelope, only adding a few additions of glazing[clarification needed]. He programmed Barn 1 as private live-work studio and housing for community artists, while Barn 2 was made into a community gathering space.[13] The space became a covered street that is two storeys high, 60 metres long, and 10 meters wide. Barns 3 and 4 are private-public spaces where non-profit organizations can operate. A greenhouse and community gardens are located in Barn 4. Finally, Barn 5 was stripped of its roof and remains exposed to the elements. All that remains is the steel structure that forms the arcade.

Culture and amenities[edit]

Today the Wychwood Barns functions as a successful community centre and multi-use park for the surrounding community and general public.

The Global Roots Garden[edit]

The Global Roots Garden begins at the start of spring to late fall in Barn #5. The public garden provides a ethnic oriented space for seniors and youth. Seniors and youth are provided with a garden to harvest vegetables and plants that are commonly grown in their ethnic culture while simultaneously educating one another. The Global Roots Garden enforces a sense of community. Ethnic gardens range from Tibetan, Italian, Filipino, Polish, Latino-American, South Asian, and Chinese while the youth are provided with their own garden space.[14]

Brewery Market[edit]

The Brewery Market takes place on summer Sundays in Barn #4. The events are held in the Sheltered Garden of The Stop’s Green Barn, which is partially covered and outdoors, making it a pleasant summertime spot for a beer. On each Brewery Market Sunday, one can sample beers from a single Ontario brewery.

The goal of The Brewery Market is to give people the chance to try out the best beers available in Ontario in a comfortable and relaxed setting. Each week a different craft brewery is featured, with a number of different beers available. 11 breweries in total were featured in The Brewery Market’s summer 2011 series.

Partial proceeds from The Brewery Market help support The Stop’s many healthy food initiatives, which include community kitchens and gardens programs, community advocacy, urban agriculture projects, sustainable food systems education and perinatal care programs.[15]

Music in the Barns[edit]

Music in the Barns, Studio 164 at the Artscape Wychwood Barns, is a nexus for exploring and creating new avenues in the advancement of classical music. Music in the Barns functions as performer, presenter, and educator, by presenting events, concerts and educational opportunities. Its resident ensemble, The Music in the Barns Chamber Ensemble is made up of 8 leading musicians, gathering some of the most interesting and creative classical musicians in North America.[16]

On Thursday August 4, 2011, the inaugural summer concert was performed, featuring works by J.S. Bach, W.A. Mozart, R.V. Williams and A. Piazzolla.[17]

Adaptive Reuse[edit]

In 1996, abandoned and deserted, Wychwood Barns future was not promising. Plans for demolition and sale were scheduled until Toronto Councilor Joe Mihevc proposed a heritage study for Wychwood Barns.[18] Formally declared a site of heritage for the city of Toronto, the abandoned street car building can no longer be used for its purpose it was built for. Due to by-laws against demolishing a heritage site, Wychwood Barns used the adaptive reuse approach to restoring the site. Other examples of adaptive reuse in Toronto can be found in the Distillery District and Brickworks.

Wychwood Barns has become an influential site of adaptive reuse in Toronto. The successful adaptive use of space can be seen in it's multiple communal amenities created by the community and provided to the community and public. The quote by Jane Jacobs that states, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody” [19] is apparent in the infrastructure, amenities, and events held in Wychwood Barns.


Two rival groups with different views of the redevelopment plans were created: Friends of A New Park and Neighbours for 100% Park. Both groups leafleted the area surrounding the barns. On November 28, 2002, the redevelopment proposal, complete with amendments to the city's official plan, went to a vote in Toronto City Council. The vote was delayed due to the vote earlier in the day to approve a bridge to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. When the vote was finally held at 1 am, city council immediately approved a motion to call the question with over 60% support, thus forgoing a formal debate. The motion passed with a 20-10 vote. The councillors who voted yes were Altobello; Augimeri; Bussin; Chow; Di Giorgio; Disero; Duguid; Flint; Hall; Johnston; Jones; Lindsay-Luby; McConnell; Mihevc; Miller; Moscoe; Nunziata; Pantalone; Rae; Silva. The councillors who voted no were Holyday; Kelly; Korwin-Kuczynski; Minnan-Wong; Ootes; Shaw; Shiner; Sutherland; Tziretas; Walker. The passing of the motion without a formal debate was controversial. The group opposed to the plan, Neighbours for 100% Park, portrayed this as a procedural trick to force the project onto the neighbourhood. Conversely, Friends of a New Park, which supported the plan, portrayed this as way to prevent opponents from further delaying the development:


  1. ^ a b c Jamie Bradburn (2013-09-10). "The 100-Year Legacy of Wychwood Barns: What we know today as Wychwood Barns was once part of a bold, early experiment in Toronto public transit.". Torontoist. Retrieved 2013-09-10. Beginning in 1913, the St. Clair carhouse serviced the St. Clair line and many other routes that eventually carried passengers as far as the ferry docks, North Toronto, and Earlscourt. The TCR’s modern repair and storage complex looked especially impressive compared to the aging, decaying facilities of the TRC, which let its system rot as its 30-year franchise wound down. 
  2. ^ Aaron Adel, James Bow (2013-01-27). "St. Clair (Wychwood) Carhouse". Transit Toronto. Retrieved 2013-09-10. St. Clair Carhouse dates from 1913, about eight years before the Toronto Transportation Commission came into being. It is the only property still standing today retaining some of its streetcar heritage that was constructed by the Toronto Civic Railways to house its streetcars. 
  3. ^ City officially names Wychwood Barns Park.
  4. ^ Steiner, D. (2010). Making new tracks: The adaptive reuse of long-vacated streetcar service barns as a cultural precinct in midtown toronto is a prime example of what the city is starting to do right. Canadian Architect, 55(6), 12-16. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/docview/926261521?accountid=15182
  5. ^ http://www.wychwoodbarns.com/a/history.html
  6. ^ http://www.toronto.ca/greenmunicipalfund/pdf/GMF-Backgrounder.pdf
  7. ^ http://greensource.construction.com/green_building_projects/2011/1102_artscape_wychwood_barns.asp
  8. ^ http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/toronto/archive/2008/11/20/letter-from-wychwood-avenue-a-community-success-story.aspx
  9. ^ Artscape Wychwoodd Barns | Artscape
  10. ^ [Steiner, David. “ Making New Tracks.” Canadian Architect June 2010: 12-16. Print]
  11. ^ [Chodikoff, Ian. “Viewpoint.” Canadian Architect January 2008: 6. Print]
  12. ^ Cait McKinney. "Artscape Wychwood Barns". Retrieved 14 November 2012. 
  13. ^ [Berland, Jody, Bob Hanke. “Signs of a new Park.” Public: Art/Culture/ Ideas 26 (2002): 72-99. Print.]
  14. ^ The Stop
  15. ^ The Brewery Market
  16. ^ Music in the Barns
  17. ^ http://musicinthebarns.eventbrite.com/ Chamber Music in the Barns
  18. ^ Wychwood Barns Case Study
  19. ^ Jacobs, J. (1961). The death and life of great American cities. [New York]: Random House.

External links[edit]