Things are Falling into place. Summer has sped past us and Autumn is upon us like a ton of bricks! [ speaking of that – see below ]. Time for us to start fi ring on all cylinders, get ourselves in gear and head down the road toward 2016, full throttle... While planning for next year, there is still much we can do to bring 2015 to a successful close and still many opportunities to engage the public and interested bystanders with what we have to off er and what history means to this city. Time to share some of those successful ideas and look at what other THA members have done to reach out to new people wanting to see our city’s natural, built and cultural heritage protected and given its rightful due.As always it is a bumpy road full of ups and downs. If we’re lucky we can hit the highway at cruising speed and avoid more than a few potholes along the way.And as always take the time to read through what’s going on, what’s coming up and add your efforts to the list so that everyone can benefit from our collective best efforts. All of our member groups have much to off er the public, each other and the city and we have, as always much to celebrate.
UPS & DOWN
400th Anniversary in New France
Congratulations to La Société d’Histoire du Toronto for their spectacular commemoration of Etienne Brulé and his exploration of the Toronto region 400 years ago. The Grande Portage from Orillia to Toronto, recreating the trip and discovery of the area by the French, was a big, big hit and well received. Thanks also to the supporting groups, Swansea Historical Society, who mounted a great street celebration and kept it going during the ‘less than ideal’ weather. It couldn’t dampen the spirits of those involved or participating. Kudos, as well, to Hugh Barnett, and the Etobicoke Historical Society, for continuing the Etienne celebration at the Old Mill, later in the month of September. A great eff ort to bring to the people’s attention that there is more to the city history than the ‘usual’.
50th Anniversary of City Hall
Congratulations to Paul Denter and the Lincoln and Continental Owners’ Club for putting together a great event at Nathan Philips Square on September 13th for the 50th Anniversary of Toronto’s ‘New’ City Hall. With support of Th e Vintage Society and our own Diane Reid from the Costume Society of Ontario, the event offered a great treat for city residents and guests. Despite the attempts by the weather to wet down what it couldn’t blow away, a large crowd enjoyed the exhibits and displays, the fashions and the great automotive history on show. The small THA ‘booth’ attracted a number of curious and some excellent contacts were made that, in time, will lead to more THA undertakings.
About Those Bricks
We still have a precious few authentic, one of a kind, Don Jail [in] famous bricks for those seeking a unique weapon for beating back Zombies at Hallowe’en or making a colourful fall centrepiece or a fabulous and unexpected Christmas/Holiday gift no one else would think of. Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and order yours today!!!
While there was much to celebrate in the city, these last few months, it is fair to say that Toronto’s heritage suffered a number of blows, large and small. A lot of what could have been done by the THA and a number of other groups was curtailed by the city being caught up in the Pan Am and Para Pan Games. We have no desire to diminish the effort and success that this event created but, it is sad when all that can be said after it’s over is that it didn’t mess up the roads too much, that businesses didn’t do too badly, even if the expected crowds didn’t materialize at some places. From our point of view, the ‘trickle down’ effect of new people discovering the local community efforts at heritage and so on, didn’t manifest itself as promised. While we can say that with limited resources and finances, we couldn’t do much, we have to point fingers at the larger public entities that promised access to funding opportunities, and other endeavours that would promote local initiatives to a wider audience. More needs to be done for the local, little guys in future.
With the Pan Am Games taking up time and resources and allocations of funds from ‘regularly scheduled’ events, it became obvious that public funding for other celebrations was limited; notably, the 50th Anniversary of Toronto City Hall. If it hadn’t been for the Lincoln Club and the efforts of THA Board Member Paul Denter, the city provided activities on the Square would have been much diminished and lacking in ‘historical value’. Free chocolate giveaways and a Lego play station don’t speak to our city’s history. The civic booth, handing out leaflets and brochures was not the exciting entre to the city’s heritage, vibrant present and hopeful future one should expect from a major metropolis. While the City Archives mounted a great display in the Rotunda about the building of the ‘new’ city hall, and many other aspects of Toronto’s history, little was done to promote the ‘birthday’ to the public in any major way, and, as a result, there was minimal media attention with little news coverage. Toronto is a busy city and much competes for the attention of the public eye, it is a shame city heritage takes a back seat.
What else can we expect from our public servants and city officials, however, when the best idea they could come up with for repurposing the magnificent ‘Old’ Toronto City Hall, was to suggest it become an annex of the Eaton Centre. While the minions at the city were, no doubt, pushed to suggest ideas that would ‘ maximize monetization’ in the adaptive reuse, the idea of a Timmy’s at one end, Starbucks at the other and a Dollarama in the middle was a pitiful suggestion rightly derided in the media and on public forums. The Toronto Historical Association’s Twitter account lit up with protest and support for our Tweet to ‘Save The Clock Tower’. Rest assured, the THA is following this issue very closely and making its point of view well known.
Old City Hall was a highly significant development for the status of Toronto and its grand statement about the city’s place in North America at the turn of the 20th century. What happened to the concept of making it the home of Toronto’s History Museum?
Recently, a Toronto Star journalist wrote a piece extolling the many interconnected parks and parkettes in the urban core of Toronto that form a walking trail paralleling Yonge Street among others. A ‘nature walk’ as an alternative to the PATH system underground. Your humble scribe stumbled upon one part of this network when in the city for another purpose. Off Temperance Street, west of Yonge, in the old stronghold of, staunch Methodist, Jesse Ketchum lies a unusual alliance. On the south side of the street, at the corner, a great old piece of Toronto’s early industrial/commercial heritage is undergoing restoration so it can present a fresh face to visitors on Yonge. Behind it, a modern glass and steel structure is shooting up to the stars, but, at least, it is giving a nod to its forbearers in the design and presentation. On the north corner is the Dineen Coffee Shop, housed in a restored building and fronting two other bistros stretching back from the main thoroughfare along Temperance. Immediately behind these trendy eateries is the parkette that forms part of the urban walk network. Named “ Cloud Park” , it is supposed to be a tranquil green space and a reclamation project of management organizations and various trade unions who came together to establish a bit of nature among the concrete and steel.
The design apparently won a number of awards and accolades according to posted plaques and the approval of various civic entities. Sad then that, no doubt through budget cuts, it has been allowed to fend for itself with haphazard ‘natural regeneration’. Trees are overgrown, weeds choke out the grasses and supposed flowers, waterfalls and fountains are turned off, and, given the moss, weed and rust buildup, were devoid of water for a good part of the summer. With the city ignoring this oasis, it was no wonder that the people did as well, adding their detritus to the landscape, littering it with coffee cups, food wrappers, cigarette butts, empty beer and alcohol containers. Pigeons were the only ones, other than me, enjoying the ‘tranquility’. One more instance of our natural heritage getting short shrift by those entrusted with its upkeep. To bring this small plot back to health will take money from the city and time by more than a few volunteers in the alternative. Is this another casualty of Pan Am Games funding taking priority in 2015?
Here is an example of other parts of our city history slipping below the radar:
FORMER DURANT MOTOR COMPANY HEAD OFFICE BUILDING, IN LEASIDE, THREATENED BY PARTIAL DEMOLITION AND REDEVELOPMENT.
Submitted by Geoff Keittel
The Durant Motors office building on Laird Drive in Leaside (Toronto), a listed heritage building, is proposed to be partially demolished and redeveloped as a seven story condominium with 109 units, linked to an eight storey rental retirement home with 175 units next door. The two storey brick and stone building, which was originally constructed as the Administration Building for Durant Motor Company in 1928, represents the one remaining vestige of the manufacturer of Durant motor cars in Canada. The factory was established in 1921 in a redundant munitions factory located across the street on a site (now redeveloped as a shopping centre). By 1929 Durant had become Canada’s third largest domestic producer of automobiles.
The developer’s proposal is to retain only the front facade of the building and part of the north and south sides. The additional storeys would be set back but, over-power the heritage building. As well, the distinctiveness of the Durant Motors building in its setting is radically diminished by the blending of the two buildings.
The unacceptable low level of heritage conservation is part of the reason why the local residents and the Leaside Property Owners’ Association are vigorously opposed to the proposed development.
Unlike the building’s new ‘storeys’ the Durant Motors ‘story’ is distinct. Durant Motors of Canada was founded in 1921 as a Canadian subsidiary of the American company, Durant Motors Incorporated. Durant Motors acquired the former Munitions Company on Laird Drive where it expanded the property to include 20 acres of land with eleven buildings. By 1924, the company was the third largest producer of automobiles in Canada, and an impressive office building was completed on the west side of Laird Drive, opposite the plant, in 1928. Two years later, the American parent company faced financial failure and passed control of the venture to its Canadian branch. In 1931, Durant Motor Company was taken over by Dominion Motors Limited, a new enterprise headed by Durant’s Canadian president and based in Leaside. With the impact of the Great Depression, Dominion Motors closed in 1935. The Durant Motors office building was subsequently acquired by Imperial Oil Company for its Ontario sales division. In the late 1960s, the Metropolitan Separate School Board occupied the building for a long term lease, and in recent years it has housed a number of small businesses and politicians including former MP John Godfrey and former councillor Jane Pitfield.
City Planning invites comments on the plans. You can contact Guy Matthew at 416-395-7102 or email@example.com with your comments.
And one final point. There is still at least one Durant car in Leaside. All Canada Storage owner Hal Spradling has one sitting in his storage business at 1 Laird Drive.
The Lincoln & Continental Owners Club supports the preservation of this heritage building. So much of our automotive heritage, in Toronto, has already been lost or gutted.
The THA continues to be involved in offering advice and counsel to the City and Waterfront Toronto and other interested parties in the long term development of Villiers’ Island, the project that will, over many years, reclaim the Don River mouth/delta and establish a new community in the area of the lower and east Donlands. The THA is monitoring and offering suggestions for the protection and appropriate reuse of the natural and built heritage that exists in this location. A number of 19th century buildings, an old fire hall and a major industrial facility, all of which are listed, designated and protected under various city and provincial legislation, are of particular concern to the Association and we are continuing to offer input on creative and benign uses that will speak to the history of the structures and the old community.Toronto Parks:
The THA has offered input and been asked for consideration on the expansion and development plans for the rejuvenation of Massey Hall. Of particular concern to the THA is the proposed reuse of the two former banking buildings on Yonge Street [195, 205 . Many long time THA members will recall that 205 was the former home to Heritage Toronto and the meeting place of the ad hoc Toronto heritage group known as MAHG. It was in this very building that the THA was formed and began its formal life in 1998. Thankfully, the designs and proposals for the Massey project are, at present, respectful of the architecture and history of the buildings and present a positive adaptation incorporating them into the new construction. We’ll see how these concepts formalize when the plans are submitted to the city for approval.
This is an ongoing issue, with the THA continuing to discuss the future of the building with the City, the corporation in charge of the hotel on site, Classical Library Hotels. While the project is behind schedule, it is nearing completion and will see an official opening sometime in the spring of 2016. The preservation work to protect and present the remains of the ‘new fort’ barracks which lay, in part, underneath the hotel are spectacular and welcome and we hope that the same, if not more, respect will be shown to the Stanley Barracks in moving forward. The Hotel chain is required to submit a formal proposal for heritage reuse of the building to the City as part of its land lease and development deal. We’ll see what comes before the parties with a vested interest in this endeavour.
One of our newest member groups, The Mimico Station Community Organization, is in need of volunteers to help in the restoration of the Mimico railway station and make it, once more, an active part of the community. While they need help in many ways, they are looking to boost their expertise by recruiting new members to the Board of Directors. If anyone has the time and talents, wants to roll up their sleeves, has an interest in the railway and trains and the local community, here’s your chance to get up and out and away from binge viewing on Netflix. Contact Peter McHale: firstname.lastname@example.org or look for more information at: www.mimicostation.ca
The Historical Society of Leusden [ the Netherlands: email@example.com ] is in need of our help. They are investigating the crash of a RAF bomber in the town in 1943 and found that five of the eight crewmen were Canadians. They are researching the descendants as part of their efforts to establish a monument/memorial to the lost airmen. While they have the support of the DND and other Veteran groups, they are looking for help in researching or locating a ‘local boy’, William Obediah Powell [ born Dec 14, 1920 ]. They have a hopeful link to William in an obituary that appeared in the Toronto Star in late April/early May 2008. A Phyllis Powell died, age 87, at the Ina Grafton Gage Nursing Home, she appears to be William’s sister. Anyone who can move this investigation further is asked to contact Albert Schothorst: firstname.lastname@example.org
Recognition for Volunteers
The Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade, Province of Ontario
Once more, the Province is offering volunteer groups the chance to recognize their own. Calls for nominations to the June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Volunteerism in Ontario have now been made.
Individuals and groups have until December 5, 2015 to submit their entries. Go to: www.ontario.ca/honoursandawards and then click on the June Callwood icon, download the PDF file and submit your choice.
While on the site, check out the many other opportunities to recognize the, often unsung, eff orts of your members and others involved in heritage in all its aspects. Raising the profile of heritage does us all good.
More Toronto History
Sometimes we stumble on new bits of Toronto’s history, sometimes it lands in our laps. From out of the blue [well the web] we were contacted and presented with a link to a wonderful site that should be a stopping place for every city history buff . Th e work of Liam Peppiatt, this site is following the work of Robertson’s Landmarks of Toronto Revisited. You must check out: www.landmarksoftoronto.com and make sure you send a high five or more to Liam at email@example.com for the great work this site has to off er.
You’re invited to a Book Launch
“Canadian Women in the Air: 100 Years of Flight”, by Elizabeth Gillan (Liz) Muir with some of the women who starred in the book.
Wednesday, November 18, 6:30 - 8:30 pm at DORA KEOGH, 141 Danforth Ave, east of Broadview subway station, Toronto.
The story of how Canadian women broke through the sky blue ceiling, first as passengers on planes, then as pilots and stewardesses, and finally as astronauts. Published by Dundurn Press
EVENTS October-November 2015:
The Toronto Scottish Regiment will be receiving a new Battle Honour in recognition of the Reserve Unit’s
contribution to the Afghan Conflict, on October 26, 2015 in the presence of HRH Prince Edward, Earl of
Wessex. Select THA members will be attending and will duly report on the event in a subsequent newsletter.
The Riverdale Historical Society is presenting guest Jennifer Bonnell on “Reclaiming the Don”. Dr. Jennifer Bonnell teaches Canadian and environmental history at York University. Her book on the Don has been awarded both the Clio prize from the Canadian Historical Association and the Fred Landon prize from the Ontario Historical Society. The Lower Don River was considered a dangerous and problematic place by nineteenth-century Torontonians, and various schemes were devised by civic politicians and engineers to deal with what was commonly understood as “the Don problem” including flooding and pollution. The talk will start at 6 p.m. at the St. Matthew’s Clubhouse, 450 Broadview Avenue at Langley.
Admission $5/free to RHS members.
YIMBY will be taking place again this year on Saturday, October 31, 2015 –this year at Ryerson University
[55 Dundas Street]. The Toronto Historical Association will have a table and welcomes brochures, pamphlets,
notices and other promotional printed material from THA member groups which can be handed out to
the attendees. Contact Paul Federico at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange picking up/transferring
La Societe d’histoire du Toronto is hosting a heritage event in the city. Sunday, November 1, 2015 at
Historic Campbell House,160 Queen Street at University Avenue. Limited to 40 people and at a modest
cost of $20 per SHT members and $ 25 for others, one can indulge in the exquisite taste of chocolate from
Nouvelle France prepared by Chantal Véchambre, culinary historian and author of “French Taste of Atlantic
Canada, 1604-1758, A Gastronomic History”. More details at email@example.com.
The Community History Project is hosting an evening of fiddle musical on Saturday November 7, between
4 p.m. and 6 p.m. at in the Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum at the corner of Bathurst and Davenport. Seating is
limited. More details at: www.tollkeeperscottage.ca
The Community History Project is hosting an evening of fiddle musical on Saturday December 5, between
4 p.m. and 6 p.m. at in the Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum at the corner of Bathurst and Davenport. Seating
is limited. More details at: www.tollkeeperscottage.ca
The Community History Project is hosting our Annual Cookie Day in December event on Saturday
December 12, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. at in the Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum at the corner of Bathurst
and Davenport. Tours of the Museum are given during this event. Admittance to the tour is by donation.
CHP holds this event every year on a Saturday in December prior to closing the Museum for the holiday
season. The Museum will reopen on January 9. More details at: www.tollkeeperscottage.ca
Afterwards, we will have our Annual End-of Year Party for members and volunteers, starting at 4 p.m.; this
is a Pot Luck Event.
Please forward your activity or event to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are reaching that plateau in our fame that people are reaching out to us with opportunities and other activities to move history
along, to offer our members and the public chances to listen to history and be a part of the discussion. Three authors have come forward with the chance to have them attend THA groups or offer their services for a literary gathering. They would be happy to present their works and discuss their research in exchange for the usual chance to flog their books to all and sundry!
Caitlin Press is offering the THA, author Bonnie Reilly Schmidt who has written; Silenced: The Untold Story of the Fight of Equality in the RCMP. The contact is Andrea Routley: 604 885 9194 or email@example.com
The second book is The Burying Ground, set in 1851 Toronto, and is the fourth book in the Thaddeus Lewis Mystery Series. The others in the series are “On The Head of a Pin, Sowing Poison” and “47 Sorrows”, published by Dundurn Press. Author Janet Kellough is open to speaking and presenting to THA member groups. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our third author is Sandra Joyce, who has written Trees and Rocks, Rocks and Trees, part of a series on the British Home Children, the 120,000 or so young people shipped to Canada from 1879 to 1939. She can be contacted at www.sandrajoyce.com or www.britishhomechildgroupinternational.com
Google’s Street View Mapping system has moved to explore beyond the roads and laneways. It was announced that interior views of a number of places were being developed. The CN Tower revolving restaurant, the Hockey Hall of Fame, The Orillia Opera House and the entire campus of the University of Waterloo have been covered. Isn’t it time that some of our THA sites be covered? Toronto’s 1st Post Office, the Toll Keeper’s Cottage, Scadding Cabin – all could benefit from the Street View treatment and, I’m sure, many more structures and locations could be covered. Let’s see what we can do to bring our THA member efforts to more prominence in this.
To post your activity or event in our newsletter please forward your activity or event to: email@example.com.