Friday, December 2, 2011

Bloor & Spadina Was Pretty Beautiful Back in 1933 (Featuring Old-Timey Streetcars)

This is Bloor Street, just west of Spadina, in the summer of 1933. By then, it already been about 50 years since the Annex was annexed into the city of Toronto. But the growth hadn't stopped there, of course. By the time the 1920s rolled around, the city had begun to swallow up villages and neighbourhoods even further north, spreading up the escarpment into places like Moore Park and Forest Hill, and west too, through Parkdale. That's when we decided that our transportation system should be amalgamated as well: the TTC was officially born and a brand new fleet of streetcars hit the roads of Toronto.

You can see them here in the middle of the photo. They're called Peter Witt streetcars, named after the guy from Cleveland who designed them in the early 1900s. We had a few hundred of them, which apparently makes us one of their best-known homes, but they also appeared in cities all over North America and Europe: New York, Chicago, Detroit, Mexico City, Madrid, Naples, Milan... The TTC used them for about forty years, finally taking the last ones out of commission in the '60s, but in Milan, they are still about two hundred Peter Witt streetcars gliding through the streets, painted bright orange. A few of them have even made their way from Milan to the United States, where they grace the hills of San Francisco.

I found this photo on the Toronto Archives Flickr page (which rules). They've got an entire set dedicated to the Peter Witts. I'll post a few of my other favourites below and you can check out the full set here, read more about the streetcars on Transit Toronto here or in Agatha Barc's blogTO post here. You can also watch a little video of one of the streetcars in action here from the Halton County Radial Railway Museum, where they've got one you can ride.

The Peter Witts ran on different tracks from the ones we had before