Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Frozen Chuch on Carlton Street in 1912

Beautiful and sad. A church on Carlton after a fire in 1912. I came across this one thanks to Derek Flack's fantastic old winter photos post for blogTO here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Forest Hill Village in 1927

Neat. This is Forest Hill Village — which is just a bit north of Spadina & St. Clair — in 1927. It was brand new back then: the village was incorporated just a few years earlier and wouldn't be officially swallowed up by the City of Toronto until 40 years after this photo was taken. 

Just a block to the west (i.e. to the left) of this spot is Cedarvale Ravine. Hemingway lived not far away just a few years earlier than this, and he'd take walks along Castle Frank Brook, which runs along the bottom of the ravine. It's also where the city planned to put the Spadina Expressway in the 1960s, until the famous grassroots campaign forced them to cancel the plans.

We're looking north at the intersection of Spadina & Lonsdale. That building on the north-east corner is home to a Second Cup now. The one of the south-east is a restaurant with yoga upstairs (Um, well, last I checked, anyway — it's just a few minutes from my place, but I don't go over there as much since my favourite breakfast place closed).

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Yonge & Queen at 5 O'Clock, 1940

Of all the old Toronto photos I've ever posted to Facebook or Instagram (which you can follow me on, by the way, here and here), I think this might be the one that got the most likes. It's called "Five o'clock Rush, Queen & Yonge Streets, 1940". And it was taken by Charles D. Woodley. They've got a bunch of his stuff on the Stephen Bulger Gallery website, including a biography, which is where I've learned the few things that I've learned about him:

He was born in Toronto, in 1910, and he lived here his whole life. He got his first camera as a boy, in 1920 — even started a camera club at his high school, Bloor Collegiate, at the corner of Bloor & Dufferin. He once rode a bicycle home all the way from North Bay after a trip to Temagami — 200 kilometers down an unpaved Yonge Street. He liked to hitch rides on freight trains, too, took them across Canada and the United States. Over the course of his life, he would take photos in every province and territory in our country and in more than 50 countries around the world. He got married and had kids and was a teacher, too — he taught Geography at Western Tech.

He died, an old man, in 2003.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Dream 04 "The Silver King" (Mary Pickford, 1900)

Mary Pickford was still Gladys Smith, just seven years old, when she dreamed she was on stage at the Princess Theatre. At first, there was nothing unusual about that night’s performance. She remembered all of her lines; the audience laughed and drew quiet in all the right places. She was happy and proud.

But then came the scene at the end of the first act, the scene when Denver discovers that he may have killed Ware, and from her spot standing in the wings, Gladys could see that the corpse on stage wasn’t Ware at all – it was her father. She knew it was him – knew it even though she hadn’t seen his face in years – and she was panicked.  He lay there, limp, and she wanted to rush out into the bright lights and save him, to somehow breathe the life back into him. But she couldn’t move. She stood there, bolted in place, and watched him, dead in front of all those people.

But when she wiped away her tears, she realized that his eyes were open; he was looking right at her and he was smiling. With her heart bursting in her chest, she rushed out to him, out onto the stage, to the roar of a thunderous applause.


Learn about Mary Pickford here
Explore more Toronto Dreams Project postcards here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Frozen Niagara Falls in 1848 (Probably)

Okay! A quick and not strictly Toronto one. I posted to this to Facebook months ago, but didn't get around to sharing it here. This is Niagara Falls, frozen over. Some people say the photo was taken in 1911, but apparently, amazingly, it seems more likely that it was actually taken in 1848. An ice damn which formed at Fort Erie that year caused the flow of water over the falls to stop completely. 

Toronto, as you might imagine, has had pretty a close relationship with Niagara ever since our city was founded. Back in the days when we had less smog, you could even sometimes see the spray from the falls all the way over here. We also dammed it in the early 1900s to provide the city (and much of the province) with hydro-electric power. In fact, the whole reason Toronto was built here in the first place was to replace the original capital at Niagara-On-The-Lake. It was too close to the border with the States back in those days, when a war with the Americans was just a matter a time.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Kickass Foreword to an Interim Report on a Master Plan of Archaeological Resources for the City of Toronto

Mohawk village, 1600s
Okay, so a couple of weeks ago on Spacing, I re-posted my piece about the prehistoric footprints discovered on the bottom of Lake Ontario. They were left there by some of the very first human beings to ever set foot on this land — about 11,000 years ago, not long after the end of the last ice age – and then they were discovered by construction workers in the early 1900s. Revisiting that story got me digging into some more of the history of Toronto in the days before our city was founded. Which is how, by following a link from a Torontoist article, I ended up looking at a municipal report from 2004, laying out the framework for our city's Archaeological Master Plan.

As it turns out, that report has a kickass foreword. It's by William Woodworth, Raweno:kwas, an architect and Mohawk from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. I thought I'd share it, since it reminds me of some of the things I was thinking about when I started the Toronto Dreams Project: about the ghosts that haunt our city.

Of course, for me and my existential, atheistic, postmodernism-ish-ness, that haunting is a metaphor: a way of thinking about how the city of today is the product of all the people who have lived here before us. It seems to me that in a lot of ways, we're literally living in their city: surrounded by their buildings and the stuff they left behind, the systems and infrastructure they developed, the ideas and values we inherited from them. Their stories are all around us; people been infusing this place with meaning and knowledge ever since they left those first few footprints in that prehistoric clay. The more we learn about the decisions they made and the lessons they learned, the more we learn about our city and ourselves — and the better equipped we'll be to make this place an even better place to live.

But Torontonians don't exactly have a reputation for being good at remembering that history. Almost as soon as we discovered those prehistoric footprints, we poured concrete over them. We wanted to put in a pipe. Today, most of us have no idea they were ever there. And we don't tell many stories about any of the other people who have left their footprints here, either. Whether they were Wendat or Iroquois, British or French, Italian or Ukrainian or Chinese or any of the countless others who have contributed to the making of this place — our home.

I'd like to think that The Toronto Dreams Project is one tiny, tiny step toward a city that's better at remembering. Toronto's Archaeological Master Plan, which will hopefully make sure that we never pour concrete over footprints like that again, is obviously a much, much bigger contribution. And an incredibly important one, too.

Because those stories are still there to be told — the ones we haven't paved over already. They're in our old buildings and on historical plaques, in the archives and libraries and museums. They're in heirlooms and family photos and traditions. They're on Wikipedia and in books and on blogs. And some of them are even embedded in the very ground beneath our feet.

All land is sacred.
Held in the land are those things that have been given to us in Creation and the remains of all that has come before us. This endowment deserves our respect. As we go about our lives on the Body of Our Mother, we leave our own footprints, not unlike my Ancestors who, following the last recession of the ice, traveled into this land, guided by the cycles of nature. The stories of their lives, traced and recorded through the protocols of modern, scientific archaeology, are coming up once again to teach us to remember and to respect. Such is the foundation of any deep and evolving culture. [...]

It has been said: 'we will never understand the present, until we understand the past.' This has never been truer than amidst the greed and amnesia of modern life.
The spirits of the Ancestors are present among us today, unconsciously informing our daily actions. We need to begin addressing them once again, offering respect for their good ways, which can be our ways, and asking forgiveness for having dishonoured their memory. Many newcomers have come here in retreat from their original homelands, and in the trauma of leaving home, have brought an expediency to their settling in this new place. In order to heal our relationships with one another, with the Mother Earth, and indeed with Creation itself, we must begin in earnest the work of remembering. [...]

Onen [“that is all, I am finished with what I had to say in my duty”].

William Woodworth Raweno:kwas


You can read the whole document (which has a great rundown of the pre-European cultural history of Toronto) here. It's a PDF. You can learn more about William Woodworth here and here. (Be warned, pleasant forest sounds may begin playing if you click through the first one.) And he made a contribution to the Toronto Museum Project here

You can read my post about the 11,000 year old footprints on the bottom of the Lake Ontario, which was published on Spacing this week here.

It was Kevin Plummer's article for Torontoist about the Wendat nation that led me to the report. You can read his post here.

The photo of the model of the Mohawk village comes the New York State Museum. You can learn more about it here