Lawrence East

Somewhat to my amusement, I discovered that the unrelenting passage of time had erased all memory of Lawrence East from my head—even though the stop was briefly my ‘home station’ many years ago.

Pedestrian tunnel beneath the rail tracks at Lawrence East station
The dismal pedestrian tunnel at Lawrence East.
Imagine walking through here every day.

Back in my halcyon university days, I once spent a merry co-op work-term programming children’s games for the Scarborough Board of Education, along with three other fresh-faced troublemakers.

Instead of working out of the main SBE office (in the Scarborough Civic Centre), we were stuck inside an anonymous, fluorescent-lit room on the second floor of the Charles Gordon Senior Public School, just south of Lawrence and Midland. To torment us, there was a radio tuned permanently to an easy-listening station, which we weren’t allowed to change: every day just past 3pm, without fail, These Eyes by the Guess Who would start playing, and we’d all croon along.

I was too lazy to commute, so I rented an apartment on nearby Prudential, a stone’s throw from the school—and from Lawrence East.

Lawrence East RT station, south east elevation
Soutbound RT departing Lawrence East station

That was a mistake, because at night-time there was precious little for a restless fellow to do in that neighbourhood—at least, that wasn’t mischief-related—so invariably I’d trudge over to the station, and take the SRT up to the mall at Scarborough Centre, or I’d head down to Kennedy and take the subway from there downtown.

Returning to the station all these years later, I realized why I could recall nothing about it: Lawrence East is a transit backwater, practically devoid of anything remarkable to reminisce about—unless perhaps you are a fan of naked, barren expanses of concrete wall.

Passenger walkway beneath the platforms at Lawrence East.
What a cheery vista for passengers

Interior of Lawrence East station
Industrial chic: a jumble of stairs, and massive roof support pillars

I’m trying to think of another station matching Lawrence East for its lack of pulchritude. My other candidates each have some redeeming qualities: e.g. due to its scale, Warden has a brutish vitality; the exterior carapaces of Glencairn and Keele conceal interiors that delight. And while Museum has been unforgivably tarted up by hooligans, at least it’s fun for the kids.

I would nominate Midland, but I already wrote that I approved of it due to its mournful ambience, so that would be hypocritical of me.

Lighting at Lawrence East station.
Hypnotizing space-age lighting. Note also the netting to keep birds from roosting in the ceiling.

Lawrence East interior waiting area.
The one pleasant image I took of Lawrence East. Enjoy.

Although Lawrence East doesn’t feature any art of its own [see update], many riders will be familiar with the landmark East Side mural, opposite the station. This distinctive mural, with its Lao Tzu quotation, has greeted northbound RT passengers since 1995. (And outliving, incidentally, the software that I wrote that term, which survived cockroach-like in Scarborough school computer labs for over a decade before it was finally retired.)

Lawrence East officially opened for service March 22, 1985 as part of the Scarborough RT line (though the station was previously used as the end point for the RT’s inaugural run from Kennedy on July 5, 1984).

Update: For the 2018 Nuit Blanche festival, Canadian-Chilean artist Shalak Attack installed an evocative vinyl mural on the platform at Lawrence East, titled Universal Language. (Fall 2018 was a fertile period for her at the TTC, as a large-scale commissioned work of hers was also unveiled at Wilson.)

Universal Language by Shalak Attack: a radiant addition of psychedelic magical realism to an otherwise dreary station

Following the event, the TTC decided to keep the art (Ellesmere and Midland also received murals, from other artists, that were retained). Maybe I’m just a sucker for visual narratives, but if any station deserved a bit of a mood booster, it was Lawrence East. Update to the update: the art was removed in 2022. Sigh.

Photo Gallery

Tour the station, and view captioned historical images from its past: (hint: turn on the captions)

Lawrence East station photo gallery

Transfer for the TTC's Lawrence East RT station
Lawrence East station transfer

More about Lawrence East

TTC Station info | Map | Wikipedia: Lawrence East

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