“When I say Yorkville, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Hippies? Free love? Psychedelic rock? Unlikely these days. Now the area is a high end shopping haven. Home to the ‘Mink Mile,’ the neighbourhood is home to some of the most expensive retail space in North America, but this was not always the case. In the 1960s, Yorkville was not a hub for the extravagant shopper, but a sanctuary for the counterculture movement in Canada – an equivalent to New York’s Greenwich Village. The Village of Yorkville was established in 1830 by Joseph Bloore and William Jarvis as a suburban retreat. In 1883 the village was annexed by the city of Toronto and continued for the next 80 years as a quaint residential neighbourhood lined with Victorian-style homes. But by the 1960s, Yorkville had transformed into the nucleus of hippie culture. The cheap cost of rent in Yorkville led many German and English immigrants to buy property in the area. The charming, but often neglected Victorian homes were converted into coffee houses. At the time, the drinking age in Ontario was 21, and these venues provided an alternative gathering space for Toronto’s young, hip crowd. The 60s were a vibrant era in Toronto’s history. The spirit of revolution was celebrated through nonconformity, creativity, drug and sexual exploration. Yorkville was at the heart of it all. By the late 60s a network of up to 40 clubs and coffee houses dotted the Yorkville scene. Talent was expressed in all forms; poetry readings, art showings, fashion boutiques, and above all, live music. People from all over North America traveled to experience the bustle of the neighbourhood. The most iconic club during this era was the Riverboat Coffeehouse at 134 Yorkville. The decor included red booths, pine walls and brass portholes. Located below street level, it seated a cozy 120 patrons, creating an intimate setting in which to discover the up and coming names in folk and psychedelic rock: Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Bruce Cockburn, and Neil Young. …”
What Yorkville was like in the 1960s
William Gibson & The Summer of Love
Toronto hippies campaign for street closure, Canada, 1967
Once Upon a City: Yorkville, home of Toronto’s original indie music scene
CBC: Toronto’s Yorkville: Hippie haven in 1967 (Video)
Looking Back on Toronto’s Yorkville Scene of the 1960s (Video)

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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