06
Mar

Historical overview of Oasis Aqualounge-a journey back in time!

The Original Owner:

The mansion was built for William Wilkens in 1887.  Wilkens immigrated to Toronto from Ireland in 1834, and by the early 1880’s had established a viable business with his son. Their company built over 100 homes in the Eastern portion of the city.

The Neighbourhood:

In 1834, Bishop Strachan, a prominent 19th century Torontonian, purchased 25 acres of land North of Gerrard. It is assumed that Wilkens purchased the land from Strachan/his estate. Carlton St. is named for Strachan’s wife, Ann, maiden name-Carleton. Carlton St. at the time was a clay road without houses or sidewalks, and walking east to Homewood Ave, you would find a small gatehouse leading to a natural pathway through a thick pine grove.

Later in the 20th century, South of the mansion was the Mutual Street Arena, one of Toronto’s big, early skating arenas.  It stood just south of Dundas, on Mutual Street, from 1912 till 1989, and was much mourned by residents when demolished.

LGBTQ History Connections:

On Feb 5th, 1981 a massive police raid was carried our at four bathhouses, resulting in the largest mass arrest (286 men arrested) in Canada since the War Measures Act.   Beginning at 11pm on Feb 5th, 150 police men simultaneously raided what is now Oasis Aqualounge (then, the Club Baths, the Romans II Health and Recreation Spa, the Richmond St. Health Emporium and the Barracks.

Arrests in this number weren’t seen again until the G20 Summit.

 On Feb 6th, over 3000 people gathered in downtown streets in an angry late-night protest against the bath raids. On Feb 20h, over 4000 people rallied at Queens Park and marched to Metro Toronto Police’s 52 Division to protest the raids and call for independent inquiry. The raids caused so much uproar, it galvanized the LGBTQ community and their supporters, leading to the founding meetings of Toronto Gay Community Council, the first Toronto Pride Parade in 1984 and the creation of the Toronto Pride Committee in 1986.