The Benjamin Johnson House, now Jimmy’s Coffee, is located at 84 Gerrard St W (at Laplante Ave on the northeast corner) in what was once Gerrard Village in downtown Toronto.
The Architecture of the Benjamin Johnson House
The three-storey brick home was built in 1875 by Benjamin Johnson. He was a bricklayer and built the house for himself. The architecture is considered transitional however it’s mainly Georgian style. The exception to that would be the window and door head brick detail which is representative of Second Empire architecture. Other noteworthy elements include quoin corners, dentil cornice, the simple pediment dormer, the fine brick chimney and the raised foundation. Now replaced with a single arched door, the home’s entrance once had a set of narrow doors with an arched fanlight above.
Surrounded by large buildings and tall towers, the house is part of the last remaining block of early building in the Gerrard St W and Bay St area. The majestic home received heritage status in 1974.
Today, the historic property is home to Jimmy’s Coffee. The exterior west wall features a giant mural by artist Christiano De Araujo. The 26 x 12 ft mural called Mount Jimmy’s Rushmore shows Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Jimmy Buffett and Jim Morrison.
The short stretch of Gerrard St W, between Elizabeth and Bay St, and eventually approaching Yonge St was known as Gerrard Village. Artists moved into the area’s row houses in the 1920s. In the 1950s and ’60s, the bohemian neighbourhood was compared to NYC’s Greenwich Village. The colourfully painted shops that lined Gerrard St included the Village Bookstore, the Unicorn (a boutique) and The Artisans while some of the restaurants in the beatnik quarter were Jack & Jill, the Limelight and Mary John’s Cafe. A few of the famous people who called the Village home included Ernest Hemmingway and Pierre Burton. Lawren Harris, a member of the Group of Seven drew some of his early sketches here. By the 1970s, many of the row houses had been torn down as the area was being developed.
How Gerrard Street Got Its Name
Gerrard St was named by Captain John McGill (Receiver General of Upper Canada) after his friend, Irish-born Samuel Gerrard. A prominent Montreal businessman, Gerrard was a fur trader, financier and the second president of the Bank of Montreal.
Benjamin Johnson House Photos
- City of Toronto Heritage Register: 84 Gerrard St W
- Toronto Star: Our Lost Greenwich Village
- Toronto Street Names: An Illustrated Guide to Their Origins by Leonard Wise & Allan Gould
- Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives