Frontier’s office is situated at a crossroads where several Toronto neighborhoods converge. This convergence can be observed in both the built form of the area and the communities that call it home.

Capsule, a physical and digital installation and our contribution to the 2021 DesignTO Festival, brings together images, objects, and digital projections that celebrate this place and its people. We hope it engages the diverse points of view of our neighbors and passersby and reveals meaningful connections its juxtapositions.

The activity at an intersection like this is evidence that people, places, and identities are always in a state of change. This evolving installation underscores that fact. As you pass you may only catch a glimpse of Capsule; but, as with the area itself, if you draw closer and spend a little time you’ll uncover rich meanings.

This digital archive mirrors our storefront presentation of recent and historical ephemera, stories, and images of Roncesvalles Village, Little Portugal, and Dufferin Grove and their people.

Click here to scroll to the bottom of the page for an interactive map pinpointing these locations.

Roncesvalles Village

Indian Road follows an eleven-thousand-year-old Indigenous trail that was part of a network of Chippewa, Mississauga, and Ojibwa trade routes

A wonderful design shop on Roncesvalles Ave.

A reminder of summer in the form of pressed flowers from our balcony on Roncesvalles Ave. We love the twenty-three street gardens along the street, which are brought to life by the Roncesvalles Village BIA and cared for by the volunteers at RoncyWorks Green Team and the Parkdale Green Thumb Enterprise.

Jami Mosque is the oldest Islamic center in the city and has been dubbed “the mother of all mosques in Toronto.” Built in 1910 as a Presbyterian church, the building was purchased in 1969 by Toronto’s small and predominantly Balkan Muslim community.

One of our favorite treats in the area: the almond croissant from Cherry Bomb.

Master Mechanic always offers small, uplifting messsages and good vibes.

The Revue Cinema, seen in 1935. Some things don’t change much—and that’s OK!

Roncesvalles was originally settled by Colonel Walter O’Hara in 1850. He had been wounded and captured by the French in the Roncesvalles Gorge in northern Spain, hence the name given to the area. Following the Second World War an influence of Eastern Europeans, pedominantly Poles, settled in the area.

A hangout for Haligonians who miss a bar with the same name in Halifax.

Last fall, when I noticed one of the neighborhood buildings was under construction, I was embarrassed that I couldn’t remember what business was there back in March. I realized I can’t take continuity for granted and how quickly and thoroughly the area will be impacted by the pandemic. So I began making quick sketches of businesses along Roncesvalles Ave. that I used to see on my daily walk and that have since closed.

An ode to the cryptic words written on an inconspicuous building …

The city of Toronto, and Roncesvalles in particular, plays a prominent role in filmmaker John Waters’s 2007 remake of the musical Hairspray. Mid-2000s Toronto became 1960s-era Baltimore. You can see this transformation on Netflix.

A note from a neighbor describing why they have decided to commit further to the neighborhood and open a business on Roncesvalles Ave.

A reminder of the absurdities you are privy to in fleeting moments as you move through the city—or even in your local book shop. Some make you laugh, some prompt you to think deeply, others cause you to roll your eyes. They are all part of what makes a given area unique—and a city so vibrant.

Little Portugal

An alphabet poster made of type photographed on a walk along Dundas Street West.

An annual tradition on Brock Ave. that has been known to cause minor traffic jams. Photo: Amanda Happé

During the first major migration of Portuguese people to Canada, many men were given work on farms in the country’s north. Once they had built a stable life in the city, they brought over their wives and children. As they community grew, businesses opened that catered to it, creating an ongoing cycle of immigrant arrival and investment that created the neighborhood we know today.

If you’ve been, you’ll recognize the arch.

The significant Portuguese immigration to the area began in the 1950s.

Found on Dundas Street West, evidence of a time before the internet mediated even our local communications.

Many have taken to walking through the city to relieve the pressure of always being indoors during the pandemic through the city for sanity. This lovely summer day in Little Portugal was captured before the pandemic by JohnnyStride on YouTube. Used with permission.

This handwriting is full of character—and Cygnet’s coffee is good, too.

Remember this branding? From a neighborhood staple …

From a tree on Queen Street that had recently been cut down

Found on a nearby bus shelter

More poetry in restaurant reviews, please. The Good Fork is a neighborhood favorite for brunch.

On an early date at Pho Phuong, my companion accidentally received my extremely spicy order at Pho Tai. He gamely kept his cool as his face turned a deep shade of red; I think the pepper sauce I had added put it at about 250,000 on the Scoville scale. I’m pleased to say we’re still together despite this mixup—and his love of spice has only grown.

Dufferin Grove

The West End YMCA is a welcoming community hub, and its heritage building has seen a lot of change both within and outside its walls. A crayon rubbing of the building’s datestone.

Chef and co-owner Anna Chen leads the super talented team at Alma. IMO they serve up some of the neighborhood’s most exciting and delicious food. During Covid, they also started creating their own jarred sauces that I honestly can't help but dip into every single day.

Neighbors helping neighbors find suitable pets!

“The old Frontier office and my old apartment, both tiny spaces, were in this neighborhood. There were few places to take personal calls. As a result, I spent a lot of time on the phone outside—and I got to know the neighbourhood really well!”

The neighborhood was first settled by the Denison family, who emigrated to Canada from England in 1792. In 1834, with the city encroaching upon their property, the Denisons decided to clear the forest and begin cultivating the land. Their crops made them wealthy, but just fifty years later the land was more valuable for housing development than agriculture, and the rest, as they say, is history.

One of our favorite lunch spots in the area.

These stones, in Dufferin Grove Park, date back to 1845. Their origin is shrouded in mystery, but they serve as a reminder of Toronto’s rich architectural history.

A diary entry from when I lived on Dovercourt …

From 1907 to 1955, Dufferin Park Racetrack offered Torontonians the opportunity to watch and bet on horse races. Racing was held into November each year, and often races were held in the dim light of the evening. Judges would hold lanterns to judge the finishing order. Today the site is home to Dufferin Mall.

Burdock makes delicious beer for the neighbourhood. They're always brewing up some new strange concoction using oak barrels or grape skins or whatever else they feel like messing around with. But they also always have refreshing pilsners and lights for some easy drinking chill times at a park on a sunny day.

The pigeons, the hot dog stand, the basketball games, the school kids—Dufferin and Bloor is a vital intersection.

Katy is THE BEST, full stop. Do your body a favour and book a massage with her at her Bloordale home. She's got super safe Covid protocols in place as well so you can take care of yourself during these strange and stressful times.

Found on a neighborhood stroll …