Toronto urban nature and winter walks: around Humber River
Updated: Jan 24
WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? A winter walk by Humber River + the neighbourhood's newest café El Almacen + Toronto's oldest bookstore.
Thanks to Anna, who called her local bookstore, Squibb’s Stationers, to find out if they carried my walking guide, the owner contacted me to order copies.
I didn’t know about Toronto’s oldest bookstore in Weston Village.
During the pandemic, I had explored many points of access to Humber River and I really liked the one off Cruickshank Park, a mere 200 metres from this bookstore. So I decided to deliver the books myself this weekend to check it out and see what else was around. That was fun!
The curious walkers will be interested to add the following 1-km circuit around Weston Road before or after their river walk. Note that you will be able to add as much to your stroll as you want by following the Humber Trail running up and down Humber River from Cruickshank Park (which is just north of Lawrence Avenue West).
There’s free parking at Cruickshank Park (3-min walk from the bookstore). And Weston Go Train (1865 Weston Rd) is only a 6-min walk from Squibb’s Stationers (1974 Weston Road).
I loved the retro feel of Squibb’s Stationers, jam-packed with stationary, art supplies and many gift ideas, in addition to a wide selection of books for everyone, now including my own Toronto Best Urban Strolls!
The original store was opened in 1927 by Arthur T. Squibb, an Englishman who was in the stationary business back in England. A.T. Squibb Stationary and Books was first established at 1984 Weston Rd (then called 54 Main Street and currently a pink building). In 1935, it moved to its current location, a few of doors south.
The son, Gordon, took over with his mom Cary when his father died in 1954. It prospered until 1972. Then, the business changed hands a couple of times until Jack and Marilyn Weinberg took over in 1980, with the help of their daughter Suri. Since 2001, Suri has been the sole captain of Squibb’s Stationers, with the help of her husband.
As confirmed by nearby Notice boards, the whole block from 1954 to 1986 Weston Rd is set to eventually make way for a new mixed-use development. But Suri, who is still in touch with Squibb’s great-grand-children, plans to reach the 100th anniversary before bowing out! So we have a few years left to enjoy the old-fashion vibes of Squibb’s Stationers.
Caffeine fix at El Almacén
When I asked her about good cafés nearby, the bookstore owner pointed me in the direction of El Almacen (1917 Weston Rd), a bit further down across the street.
This café is a whole world in itself! It opened here five months ago. Warm and stylish, with lighting over large painting (the work of the owner’s brother Cristian L. Rodriguez), adding drama against the brick wall and dark wood. Behind the inviting counter, one can see line-ups of empanadas waiting to be baked by the chef.
While I sat at the counter to enjoy an excellent americano and delicious chicken empanada, I saw customers come and go, a funky crowd of characters who all engaged a friendly conversation with the owner. Many left (me included) with a take-out of warm empanadas.
The full name of the place is El Almacen Yerba Mate Cafe. They serve the popular South American drink here. On my list to try next time I visit.
Leaving the café, turn right on Weston Rd, then right on John Street. Keep going to reach the pedestrian bridge running over the train tracks and admire the splashes of colour on the Artscape Weston Common.
This new artistic hub was stopped in its tracks by the pandemic. It still hasn’t found its speed but it is the site of the well established outdoor Weston Farmer’s Market (open every Saturday from early June to late October, 8:30 am to 1 pm).
You can then cross the parking lot to reach the small alley with no name reaching Weston Rd. That’s where you’ll find the gorgeous mural of Christiano De Araujo showing the passage of time from the 1920s to the present days.
You then go down Little Avenue across the street to reach the little Memorial Park (featuring an intriguing little stage for outdoor performances). Behind the stage, one can admire a view over Humber River, then access its trail through an opening leading to wooden stairs and the parking lot.
Humber River Recreational Trail
I really enjoy going north on the Humber Trail from Cruickshank Park. It passes by mature weeping willows and reaches St. Phillips Bridge 30 minutes further north. The underpass features a large modern mural by Dan Bergeron, commissioned for the 2015 Pan Am Games. Continue a bit further north and you’ll see a long staircase leading to Mallaby Park. It is particularly pretty with the fall colours. From Cruickshank Park to that park and return will add 2 kms to your walk.