The Hemingway is a grand old former apartment building, constructed in the early 20th century on the edge of the Cedarvale Ravine. Consisting of 20 units spread over 5 floors, you know they are all a decent size. With only 4 units per floor, they range in size from around 1,075 square feet to almost 1,350 square feet. Some are 2 bedrooms, some are 3 bedrooms, but all only have 1 washroom.
The building was built probably around 1914-1915, as it does not appear on the 1913 Goad’s map, but is mentioned in the 1916 City Directory (George McKay is listed as living there). Bathurst north of there was but a dirt track through the ravine, as the current bridge was not built until 1927. There is even a 1912 real estate map which shows the absence of the building. It is said that the building and land cost over $150,000, though there is no mention of who built it.
In 1926 an article was written, about the big apartment building changing hands. It was been sold to C. and J. Cira, who purchased the property as an investment. The article describes the building as “one of the most up-to-date and beautiful apartment houses in the district”. The purchase price was not disclosed. At the time, Bathurst street was just being paved as far north as the apartments and the upcoming $500,000 bridge was planned to span the valley to the north.
Amazing for a building of this age, all of the units have parking, in a surface lot behind the building. And it is from behind that you can see the sun rooms that each unit has. And the single hidden rear patio belonging to a ground floor, which opposes the the two small terraces overlooking Bathurst Street belonging to top-floor units.
Originally known as the Cedarvale Mansions, it was a luxury apartment building, constructed at the beginning of Toronto’s foray into rental living. In 1985 the building turned co-op for a spell, known as the Bathurst Forest Hill Place Apartments. Just under 30 years later, in 2002, it was converted to condo and assigned the name The Hemingway. Some of the units have been updated since, many others have not. They still have hot water radiant heat and no central air conditioning. At least they have ensuite laundry!
Of course, most people have figured out by now that the building got its name from a certain famous ex-resident. If not, there is an historic plaque at the front door, affixed at the time of the 1985 co-op conversion, informing visitors to the building that literary giant Ernest Hemingway lived there in 1923-24 while working for the Toronto Star.
Hemingway started out working for the Kansas City Star, as a cub report, in the waning days of WWI. Wanted to see some action – and write about it – so he convinced the Star to place him with an ambulance unit in Italy. He wanted action, he got it, returning wounded from this adventure.
He was giving a talk about his war experience to a women’s group in Michigan (where his family had a cottage), where he met Harriet Connable of Toronto, whose husband, Ralph, ran the Canadian branch of Woolworth’s department stores. The Connables needed a companion and mentor for their disabled teen-aged son who could live with them in Toronto. Not long after, he moved into the Connable mansion at 153 Lyndhurst Avenue near St. Clair & Bathurst. Hemingway then persuaded Ralph Connable to get him an introduction at the Toronto Star. And the rest is history…
The problem is, Hemingway hated Toronto. Touchy and narcissistic, he fought often with Toronto Star city editor Harry Hindmarsh. The two men disliked each other intensely, and Hemingway’s main preoccupation during his Toronto years was to spend as much time as possible not actually in Toronto. Paris is where we wanted to be.
He convinced The Star to let him travel Europe and write about, to which they agreed. In his four years of writing for The Star, from 1920 to 1924, Hemingway traveled extensively. He claimed to have journeyed 10,000 miles in one year alone, some on the Orient Express. During these travels, he connected with major cultural circles, spending time with the likes of Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso and Ezra Pound. These travels also took him to Spain in 1923, where he quite famously fell in love with bullfighting.
Even though he left Toronto for a stint in Chicago in 1921, it wasn’t long before he came calling back at The Star, asking for his old job back. He worked out of the long-gone original Toronto Daily Star building at 18-20 King Street West. They sold that building in 1927, then constructed the massive new edifice at 80 King Street West in 1928. The Star moved in 1929. Sold for $200,000 at the time, and was rumored to be the site for a new International Stock Exchange. The stock exchange was eventually built around the corner on Bay street and the Star building site is now the old RBC headquarters, still used by the bank as offices.
Much of the details of Hemingway’s time in Toronto and his writings for The Star are contained in some 6,000 letters (85% of them never before published) to be issued in the coming decades under an ambitious program called the Hemingway Letters Project. There you can read how Hemingway found Toronto expensive (a complaint not since ceased to be uttered by many) and complained that “the Doggone Star” paid him only once a month. But he was having “fun,” he wrote his parents, and getting published.
He met his wife Elizabeth Hadley Richardson in 1920 in Chicago. After courting in Paris, they were married in 1921. She became pregnant in early 1923, but did not want to give birth in Europe, so back to Toronto they came. At first they lived in the Selby, on Sherbourne, another famous Hemingway residence. Not long after, in September of 1923, they moved into 1599 Bathurst. Their unit is #19, top floor, with the patio above the northern entrance door.
The lease was for 6 months, at a rent of $125/month. His son John (known as Bumby) was born in October. And then things got worse. Relations with The Star went way downhill, as Hemingway was unhappy with what he perceived as being too many assignments taking him away from his son. He tendered his resignation, effective January 1st, 1924.
He now had to break his lease, as he wanted out of Toronto immediately. The story goes that he threw a party, and asked each of his guests to take something with them when they left. A creative and sneaky way to his belongings out of the apartment without the landlord catching on to the fact that he was moving out early!
Thus the story of the building, the name it now holds, is based on only 3-4 months of occupancy.
No matter, it is a lovely old building with an interesting claim to fame. Now it sits on the western edge of Forest Hill, just a few hundred metres from the shops and eateries of Forest Hill Village. The subway is just to the southeast, with green space all around.