The Bain Avenue Co-op is a unique community of some 700 people, tucked away in one block of Riverdale, a neighbourhood not far from downtown Toronto.
Originally named Riverdale Courts, the Bain Co-op was built just over a hundred years ago as part of the Garden City movement. The intention was to provide affordable housing for the working class. The Arts and Crafts style was a big influence on architect Eden Smith
In 2013 the Co-op held a one hundred year celebration with shadow plays, puppet shows and live theatre all depicting the community’s history.
Each courtyard in the Co-op is named for a tree. This makes for a confusing if poetic address system. Adding to the confusion, some buildings bear the name Aberdeens and while this sounds like a tree, it isn’t. They are named after Lady Aberdeen.
No courtyard is named for the London plane tree although three dominate the street which runs through the Co-op. These distinctive trees are related to sycamores.
It is posited that in the 1600s a gardener to Charles I of England planted seeds of American sycamore (from Virginia) and these American Sycamores subsequently crossed with an Oriental sycamore growing nearby. Plane trees are now one of the most widely planted urban trees because they withstand pollution and city grime so well.
Lush gardens abound in spring and summer: flowers, vegetables, herbs, fruit and edible weeds too!
There are many chimneys on the rooftops of Bain. The romantic view would be that they are for fireplaces. The truth is the chimneys were once part of the central heating system, which used coal. There never were fireplaces. The chimneys are now heritage fixtures only.
The Co-op presents many enchanted views on cold winter nights. Indoors, the rads supply plenty of warmth and occasionally create great symphonies of creaks and wails and groans.
Riverdale Courts was right in step with the times when it was built circa 1915, providing electric lighting indoor and out. One hundred years on, there are still a few old barrel lights on the property, but keeping in step with the modern way, lighting has been upgraded to moonlight-dousing levels. At night one feels the need for sunglasses and sunblock.