Well, June has busted out all over and Canada Day is fast upon us. Not only is it a day of celebration of our great nation, it represents the mid-point in 2015! I know many of you will be kicking back by the backyard pool or the beach and hoisting a cool one in commemoration of the many things completed so far, but, if you’re like me, some of you will be panicking and squirming: “Half the year is gone! We still have so much to do!” For a good number of us, this is the start of the busy season. People are out and about, taking time off and curious to see what the city has to offer tourists, visitors and the local population wandering out of their neighbourhoods into the big, bad GTA.
This is the time when walking tours, displays and exhibits, lectures and performances are offered to attract people and alert them to the heritage at their doorstep. As small volunteer groups we are constantly trying to find our niche among the grand sports and entertainment events, the major festivals and presentations, and the big budget publicity efforts of the well funded cultural venues. This year, we have the added competition of the Pan Am Games. So much negative and snide commentary has been tossed out about the games and their impact on the city, but the bottom line is that these games will attract people to Toronto, and, some of these visitors will be curious and interested in local amenities and offerings. Hopefully, THA member groups have prepared activities that can capture a portion of these new to our city and our neighbourhoods and can benefit from the influx. Every person who learns of our efforts in preserving the city’s natural, built and cultural heritage is one more supporter in our endeavour to bring the legacy of Toronto to the forefront. So don’t panic, don’t rest on your laurels, just get out there and show them what we’ve got. It will be worth it!
While we don’t usually promote work by outsiders here, these links are worth a moment of web clicking to
Artisan John Lopreiato has created a couple of unique items related to Toronto’s heritage. Many of you will recall the rediscovery of the Queen’s Wharf, long buried under city infill. John has recovered material from this find and turned the wood into some things of beauty. Miniature boats mounted on pieces of the wharf [ $ 250 ] and turned and polished presentation pens [ $ 25 ]. These are exquisite items that would make excellent presentation pieces or collectables. Limited quantities of course, so act fast. You can see examples of the work and get further details by contacting John directly at: John29.email@example.com
Author and historian, Dave Town, has a new book out and is open to coming out to groups and speaking on the book and Toronto history. We’ve agreed to add him to our speakers’ list. Any group interested in having Dave be a part of one of their meetings can reach him for details at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We direct your attention to more history content on Toronto from local Blogger, Ashley Macnie. She is writing
about city history and is looking for material and background, that she can develop into articles. Ashley has offered to assist the THA, and we’ll be taking her up on the offer, but, any group with stories to tell might be interested in providing her with source material to work with.
See her work at: meanderingmac.com/category/toronto-the-great/
TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
Well, a new memorial to Toronto’s past and people has been unveiled; this one at Sugar Beach. Thanks to the
Canada Company, surplus and decommissioned LAVIII assault vehicles are being made available to communities to be used as memorials or part of monuments to Canada’s Afghan Veterans and Efforts. Applications for obtaining one of these military vehicles can be made through the auspices of the company and dedications set up. Something for your locality? Check out the details online.
The THA has been active on a number of fronts and continues to have representatives attend meetings,
presentations, conferences and unveilings of projects across the GTA, Zoning matters, heritage structures and other issues pertaining to development encroaching on our history. The city is certainly working hard to create a vibrant face in the 21st century. Sometimes, though, it can be frustrating when projects proposed in one instance are negatively impacted by decisions taken in others. The biggest whammy, of course, has been the city decision to ‘hybridize” the Gardiner east section. Three development and preservation projects which had assumed the absence of the Gardiner in that area in their planning, now have to revisit their concepts to adapt to this decision. It seems that we are taking two steps back for every step forward, but, what else is new?
The THA has a Twitter account and, while this scribe still doesn’t fully understand the concept, it seems to be
working in our favour. We now have an average of 900 ‘followers’ and growing. While we are a little behind Taylor.
Swift and her 5.2 million followers, we are catching up. The downside is we need constant input to feed the demand and so events, activities, spontaneous outpourings in support of heritage are required to keep the flow of information going out to the masses. We welcome input and content..don’t be shy in feeding the beast. This is yet another avenue for telling our story to the public and, more importantly, to the younger generations. Follow us @torontohistory
Speaking of stories: our website, too, has a growing readership and, similarly, needs content to keep it fresh. We are still looking for stories and articles about local history. Any scribes out there who would like to take a shot at producing a short piece on a person, place or thing of interest to their groups, neighbourhood or the city in general are invited to submit work for ‘ publication’.. 500 to 2000 words, with properly credited pictures should be sent to: email@example.com
As a consequence of our electronic presence we have been offered help from outside writers / bloggers and others to boost our presence and so we invite you to keep an eye on new developments with the THA online.
HELP IS ON THE WAY:
As part of our website we have a ‘contact us’ portal. And boy does it get busy! Averaging two to three enquiries a day, we receive requests for information, support, research or other activities. We have been contacted to provide experts for film and television projects, to help locate or identify locations, objects or artifacts, provide speakers for conferences and events and all manner of questions on how to save buildings, trees, city features. While we can’t help in all circumstances, the fact that people are reaching out to the THA is gratifying and welcome. It builds our credibility and profile. Whenever possible, we refer people to the local THA member group for assistance and, we hope, that your group will come forward and respond to help heritage in the city in, yet another small, but effective, way.
As well ,we are receiving enquiries from individuals who wish to volunteer with a heritage group. Some of these people have skills and expertise that could benefit a group quite significantly. Again, we try and direct them to the closest group, or one which matches their interests. Let us know if you are contacted and the outcome / benefits. We all need help and encouragement.
PROMOTION AND PRESENCE:
Someone asked whether the THA had a Wikipedia page. This is something we hadn’t thought of. How many of
the THA member groups have a wiki page telling the history of their organization? Yet another way of reaching the people. THA has been offered expertise in setting up such web links. Contact us for the information.
We have been approached by a company seeking to develop educational material for teachers at the local level. This would entail, initially, converting or revising existing handouts, brochures, pamphlets into a consistent format. Given the many constraints on education funding these days, anything that teachers can use to bring their classes out into the local community is a good educational opportunity. THA groups which have walking tours, museums, exhibits or other ‘outreach’ material, may benefit from this initiative. Contact the THA board for an outline of the concept and links to the developers.
53% of the City of Toronto residents do not have English or French as their first language. They receive their news and information through the various print and electronic ‘Ethnic Press’. These organizations are constantly producing material about the ‘homeland’ of many of these Torontonians, but also want to have material about the city they now live in. This is a bridge and an opportunity to reach a new audience with our history. These people, often, castigated for living in an enclave or isolation, do want to know about the history of Toronto. We need to look at working with the ‘foreign language’ press to develop stories and information about our work. This is a project in its early stage and long overdue. Your input and help would be appreciated. Contact THA President, Paul Federico, for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
ST. JOHN’S YORK MILLS ANGLICAN CHURCH, 1816-2016:
The bicentennial is just one year away for St. John’s York Mills Anglican Church, the oldest church in North York and the second oldest in Toronto. The oldest is St. James Cathedral, which is a parish church as well as a cathedral. St. James, at King and Church Streets in downtown Toronto, was started in 1807. St. John’s, located on Don Ridge Drive in the York Mills-Old Yonge Street district, was started in 1816.
Before the church was erected, the area was served with missionaries from St. James. St. John’s began as a 10 by 20 metre frame structure, built by the community from trees felled on the three-acre property, which was donated by Joseph Shepard and his wife. A wood stove heated the building. For the first few years this church and the Friend’s Meeting House in Newmarket were the only places of worship on Yonge Street, a distance of forty miles, as the street extended from the town of York (Toronto) to Lake Simcoe.
Deterioration over the years led in 1843 to the replacement of the wooden church, with a brick one that has grown over the years to the building as it is today. The plans for the new church were done by architect John G. Howard, who later donated High Park to the City of Toronto. The original dimensions were 12 by 18 meters, with a tower and organ loft. The style was Gothic. The contract price was £632.00.
St. John’s not only has the distinction of being the first church in North York; it also is well known for its barrel organ, one of only a few of its kind in Canada. Rather than being played by an organist, as a conventional pipe organ is, a barrel organ is operated by a person turning a crank. Pieces of music are encoded onto wooden barrels (cylinders). St. John's organ has three barrels, each of which contains ten tunes. The organ, installed in 1847, was sent over from England at a cost of £80 10s 6d.
According to the church’s historian, Bill Dennis, the barrel organ was the church’s main instrument until1860s, when a small cottage or finger organ was installed. A pipe organ was installed in 1928.
For 69 years ending in 1930, the barrel organ was operated by St. John’s sexton, John Page Squire. He also rang the church bells, tended the graveyard, kept the church in repair and dug graves, until he was in his late eighties. In the days before electricity, he had to take care of two dozen coal oil lamps. He was the oldest sexton in Canada. He died in January 1931, just six weeks after retiring. For the next three months the organ, which he loved, was kept silent in his honor.
The first person buried in the graveyard was a seven year old child, a grandson of Cornelius van Nostrand, who came from Long Island as a United Empire Loyalist in 1797. The family plot has about ninety graves. The acacia trees around York Mills are said to have been grown from cuttings, brought from the van Nostrand home on Long Island. At the time the boy was buried, slaves were still being advertised for sale in York County, of which Toronto was the home seat, and Toronto was still mostly forest.
© Susan Goldenberg, Director, North York Historical Society
NEW ON OUR WEBSITE:
Thanks Susan for sharing this story with us. St. John’s York Mills Anglican Church, the oldest church in North
York is also available on our website at: torontohistory.net/st-johns-york-mills-portrait.html
EVENTS July - August 2015:
Always too numerous to mention, but here is a short list of upcoming activities.
April 1 to October 31:
Opening hours for the Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum, starts at 11 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. Website: www.tollkeeperscottage.ca.
The Town of York Historical Society presents PAPER TRAIL DIARY AT THE P.O.
Tuesday, July 14, 7-9pm
“The Paper Trail Diary is a blog about paper-loving hobbies.”
And that is just the beginning of this popular blog! Author Jessica covers books, zines, all things postal,
stationery, and paper crafts. In July, she’ll be throwing a party at the P.O. to celebrate letter-writing! As
always, stay tuned to our Facebook page or our website for details. And don’t forget to check out Paper Trail
Diary itself! Website: www.townofyork.com
August: 22-23 2015:
Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation : Annual PowWow.. worth the drive to Hagersville. See their
website for full details: www.newcreditpowwow.com/schedule.html
Saturday, September 12:
BUS TRIP TO BUFFALO
Yes, the rumours are true! The Town of York Historical Society is shuffling off to Buffalo to tour such
historical and architectural marvels as the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin-Martin House, and more!
We’ll be sending out another email once details are nailed down, but we are taking RSVPs now. Give us a
call, and you’ll be offered the first tickets when they become available: townofyork.com or 416-865-1833
Sunday Sept. 13
THA Member Group, the Lincoln and Continental Owners Club is taking the lead, with support from the THA and others, in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Toronto’s “New” City Hall. September 13 from Noon to 5 pm on Nathan Philip’s Square. Details to follow and support is welcome.
La Societe d’histoire de Toronto is finalizing their plans for the Great Portage. Monsieur Brule and his
Warriors will be leaving Orillia on September 11 and following the trail from 400 years ago to end up at
Etienne Brule Park on September 13.Again, full details to follow as the event draws closer.
Community History Project is having its Annual General Meeting.
On Sunday Sept 13, at 1:30 pm, at the Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum, 750 Davenport Rd.
Guest speaker will be Wendy Smith.Website: www.tollkeeperscottage.ca
Sunday, September 27, 1-4pm:
CULTURE DAYS + POST-A-LETTER
Drop into the Post Office’s Reading Room for “Post-a-Letter at the P.O.” As part of the Post-A-Letter Social
Activity Club, we’ll gather to spend quality time writing letters and creating mail for someone special. Edda
Manley, our favourite hand-writing analyst, will be with us to talk about the Campaign for Cursive and tell
you what your handwriting is *really* saying. So break out your back-to-school supplies and let’s make mail
P.S. This month’s Post-a-Letter is presented slightly off our regular schedule, as part of Culture Days | Fête de la culture.
FIRST STORY TORONTO:
FIRST STORY TORONTO is an interactive multimedia map of Toronto’s Aboriginal history, empowering the Indigenous community of Toronto to reveal and explore our geography and culture for the benefit of all residents and visitors to the city. Users will have access, via a smartphone, to stories, photographs, archival documents, audio and video clips that illuminate Aboriginal presence and history in this area.
We plan to create a more extensive website that will include educational and exploratory resources. We also offer charter bus tours for groups and will begin offering walking and cycling tours in 2015. To download the free app:
1) for your Android smartphone or tablet, search the Google play store for ‘First Story Comap’.
2) for your iPhone or iPad, search the iTunes app store for ‘First Story’.
If you have a story, photograph or anything you would like to share on the app about the Indigenous
history of Toronto or for more information,
please contact us at: email@example.com or 416-964-9087, Ext. 260.
FIRST STORY TORONTO is being developed by:
• The Toronto Native Community History Project based at the Toronto Native Canadian Centre,
• The Centre for Community Mapping based in Waterloo: www.comap.ca
To post your activity or event in our newsletter please forward your activity or event to:
By the way:
THA only has 32 Don Jail bricks left ... get them while they’re hot!!