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Toronto, Ontario

Leslieville's Crazy Doll House

This Toronto garden collects stares and tchotchkes in equal measure. 

Leslieville is a quiet neighborhood along Lake Ontario, east of Old Toronto. It used to be more industrial, the streets lined with single-family homes that once housed the local labor force. Most of them have small, well-tended gardens in front, but there is one particular garden that’s tended a little differently than the others.

Instead of boxwood, hydrangeas and day lilies, the gardener responsible for 37 Bertmount Avenue prefers to plant Superheros, Hello Kitties, mermaids, and troll dolls.

It’s known as the Doll House, and owner Shirley Sumaiser has been collecting her stuffed and plastic critters for over twenty years, using them to fill up her little plot of Leslieville.

The Doll House is not just dolls—there are toys, stuffed animals, plaques, and signs, some hung from the fence, some mounted on wooden stakes, and some lining the porch and eaves. Together they create a landscape cacophony, the collection often is redone to suit a holiday or a set of new or seasonal additions. The result is an ever-changing garden of tchotchkes that attracts Toronto tourists and shutterbugs alike.

What’s become Shirley’s passion over the years began as a harmless little collecting hobby, after her husband had sadly passed away. Two decades later, and her Doll House is a beacon for the neighborhood, the one garden that everyone who lives in Leslieville can direct you to.

Know Before You Go

The house in the Leslieville section of Toronto, on Bertmont Avenue (between Queen St. E and Dundas St. E), not far from the Harbourfront.

Contributed by
b bandersen
Edited by