Well, apparently I've written fewer posts on the blog this year than in any other year since I launched the Dreams Project. But I'm going to go ahead and say that's because this year's posts were bigger, longer, more detailed and more ambitious than ever before. So I'm especially happy to share my favourites from 2015. They cover everything from drunken Prime Ministers to bloody, fashion-driven wars, from ghosts to dogs to pirates, plus plenty of baseball, too. Some of them are among the most popular posts I wrote this year; others are just personal faves.The last couple of months have been especially quiet around these parts — but that's mostly because I've been caught up working on some exciting new ideas for 2016. Thanks so much to everyone who has read and shared and commented over the last twelve months. The next twelve should be a lot of fun.
The summer of 1930. It was the beginning of a difficult decade for Toronto, along with much of the rest of the world. The Great Depression had just begun. But before the stock market crashed, the boom of the 1920s had fueled construction projects all over the city. Toronto was full of elegant new landmarks — many of them still familiar to Torontonians today: Union Station, The Royal York Hotel, Maple Leaf Gardens, The Palais Royale, The Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion, The Princes' Gates... And on one July day, a photographer climbed to the top of a building on the north-east corner of University & Dundas, pointed a camera south, and took this photo of our city's new skyline. It's full of interesting details, so I thought I'd give a brief "tour" of some of the buildings you can see... [continue reading this post from March 17, 2015]
Plus, I wrote a couple of other baseball-related posts this year:
On José Bautista's Bat Flip & The Making of History in Toronto
The Tragic Tale of Toronto's First Big Baseball Star
It was the summer of 1793. The summer our city was founded. On an early Tuesday morning, as the late July sun rose above Lake Ontario, a British warship sailed into Toronto Bay. She was the HMS Mississauga. She had sailed overnight from Niagara, arriving in darkness, waiting for dawn and a local fur trader to show her the way through the treacherous shoals at the mouth of the harbour. On board was the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada: John Graves Simcoe. His family was with him, too. The Simcoes had come to found a new capital for the new province: a tiny muddy town that would eventually grow into a booming metropolis of concrete and glass filled with millions of people... [continue reading this post from May 27, 2015]
By then, Spadina had also been built. It was laid out as a wide avenue by William Warren Baldwin, a doctor and lawyer who also designed Osgoode Hall and would play a leading role in the political struggle for Canadian democracy. He had just built a brand new house on his sprawling country estate; it stood on the hill above Davenport: the original Spadina House. Baldwin had the grand avenue carved out of the forest south of his home in order to get a better view of the lake. The estate, the house and the new road would all be given the same name: Spadina. It's an Anglicized version of an Ojibwe word: "Ishpadinaa" ("a place on a hill").
So it was when Baldwin built his avenue in the 1820s that the intersection of Queen & Spadina was first created... [continue reading this post from June 23, 2015]
But Mackenzie wasn't ready to give up. Not yet. His failed rebellion in Toronto was just the beginning. Now, he and his supporters would launch a war against the British government in Canada, hoping a series of bloody border raids would spark a full-scale democratic revolution. It would last a year — for pretty much all of 1838. We call it the Patriot War.
And the rebel's admiral in that war was a man by the name of Pirate Bill Johnston... [continue reading this post from July 8, 2015]
This was a few years after Simcoe founded Toronto. He'd come back home to England by then, returning to his country in a deeply troubled time. England was at war with France... [continue reading this post from August 3, 2015]
Their war was driven by a fashion trend. Far on the other side of the Atlantic, in the cobblestone capitals of Europe, hats made of beaver felt were all the rage. The demand had already driven European beavers to the brink of extinction. Now, the furriers turned to the Americas to feed their ravenous sartorial appetite. The competition over the slaughter of the large, aquatic rodents plunged the Great Lakes into more than a century of bloodshed and violence. By the end of the 1600s, a series of conflicts had been raging for decades on end. Thousands of warriors fought bloody battles over control of the fur trade. They called them the Beaver Wars.... [continue reading this post from December 16, 2015]