Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dream 02 "The Adultorous Fox" (William Hincks, 1853)

In his dream, William Hincks was at a party. He was in a wonderful mood. His most recent paper on the follies of Darwinism and the superiority of quinarian taxonomy had just been published; he was the toast of the faculty. He drank and danced and laughed.

But at midnight, a fox walked into the room. He was impeccably dressed: his suit cut in the latest fashion, his shoes polished, his gloves crisp and white. He surveyed the room and, catching sight of the professor, approached him.

Hincks was annoyed. He didn’t know this fox; didn’t want his triumphant night disturbed. But there was no escape, the fox caught him by the elbow. “I must speak with you, professor. You see, I have fallen in love with your wife. We’ve been seeing each other socially for several months now. And I understand that under the circumstances, the only honourable course of action is for you to challenge me to a duel. I’ve prepared myself, sir, for whatever may come.”

And with that, the fox drew his sword.


Learn about William Hincks here
Explore more Toronto Dreams Project postcards here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bicycles! Bicycles! Bicycles!

Over at blogTO, Derek Flack is raaaather good at putting together galleries of old Toronto photos. And I think his post of old bicycle pics is one my favourites so far. Most of them are from the early 1900s, back when the car-to-bike ratio was a little less, uh, Rob Ford friendly — some cyclists fly across the not-exactly-gridlocked Bloor Street Viaduct, another trudges up the muddy, automobile-less hills of St. Clair. I'll re-post a couple of my favourires here, but why even bother scrolling down when with a quick click you can check out his full post right here.

Riding along the Don River, between Don Mills & Leaside, 1912

University Avenue, looking at about where the American Embassy is now, 1912

Yonge Street & Summerhill, 1915

The Royal York Hotel, 1919

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Adding A Legend To This Old Photo Of The Foot Of Bathurst

So. This is what the foot of Bathurst used to look like. That's Bathurst going right to left toward the lake. And that's Lake Shore Boulevard (which is also called Fleet Street for this stretch) going up through the middle of the photo. East to west.

01 This is the edge of Little Norway. At the beginning of the Second World War, Norway was officially neutral, but Hitler invaded and occupied them anyway. The Norwegian King managed to escape the country and set up a government in exile in England, joining the war on the Allied side. What was left of the Royal Norwegian Air Force came to Toronto to train. They flew out of the island airport and had their camp just across the gap on the mainland — right at the foot of Bathurst. You can really only see the edge of Little Norway in this photo, most of it is off to the left. Today, that's where Little Norway park is. And you can still catch the ferry to the island airport in the same spot the Norwegians did back during the War.

See what Little Norway looks like today here.

02 This is Maple Leaf Stadium. It opened in 1926 and was home to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the minor league baseball team who played here right up until the '60s. Some of those squads are considered to be some of the best minor league teams who've ever played the sport. Sparky Anderson — the legendary Hall of Fame manager of the Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds — played for one of them. In fact, he got his start managing right here, when the team's owner suggested he might be better at that job than he was at playing shortstop. They tore the stadium down in the' 60s, when the team was sold and moved to Kentucky. Today there's a gas station on that corner and a housing complex behind it. You can see more old photos of the stadium here.

See what the intersection looks like today here.

03 This little building is still there today. It was designed by the same architects who designed Maple Leaf Stadium: Chapman & Oxley. They designed a bunch of the most iconic sights along the lake shore. They're the same guys who did the Sunnyside Pavillion, the Palais Royale and the Princes' Gates (which you can see in the top right-hand corner of this photo, number 8). Originally this was called the Crosse and Blackwell Building, because that was the name of the food company who they built it for. Now, we just call it 545 Lake Shore Boulevard West and Rogers runs some of it cable channels out of it.

04 This was built just a couple of years after Maple Leaf Stadium — as a warehouse for Loblaws. You can see the freight train pulling up to it at the bottom of the photo, blocking traffic at what doesn't really look like the safest crossing in the world. When Loblaws moved out in the '70s, it donated the building to the Daily Bread Food Bank. And when the Daily Bread Food Bank moved out in the year 2000, Loblaws tried to demolish it. But the city stepped in and saved it as an historic site. Now, apparently, they're trying to figure out how to turn into a Superstore and office space. You can read about all that in The Grid here.

05 I'm pretty sure all of the land in this entire photo used to be lake. It wasn't filled in with dirt until the 1920s, which kind of explains why all the buildings in this photo were built in the 1920s. The original shoreline was just to the right of this photo. That's the spot where Garrison Creek met the lake, and where John Graves Simcoe decided to build Fort York all the way back in 1793. The Fort, of course, is still there. But now they've snuck the Gardiner Expressway into the space between it and the right-hand edge of this photo. 

I'm also pretty sure I read somewhere that this is a pretty hard place to build really big stuff, since you're digging your foundations in land that used to be water. But that doesn't seem to have stopped anybody. The whole corner is pretty developed — there are even new condos going up right now in pretty much this exact spot. They haven't completely forgotten the history of the place, though: the condo tower right on the corner has a statue out front in commemoration of the War of 1812. Douglas Coupland designed. A Canadian tin solider stands victoriously over the body of an American tin solider lying on the ground at his feet.

See what the statue and that corner looks like today here.

06 The Tip Top Tailors Building. A Polish immigrant by the name of David Dunkelman started the company in a storefront on Yonge Street in 1909. By the time '20s rolled around, he could afford to build these new headquarters down by the lake. The building is still there, but now it's the Tip Top Lofts. Which look pretty awesome with that giant old red neon sign and streetcars passing by.

See what it looks like today here.

07 This is Coronation Park. It was the 1930s before they decided what to do with this land. During the Great Depression, it was a construction site — in the fight against unemployment, the government hired people to build that seawall just offshore. They didn't start work on the park until 1936, after the seawall was done. That's when the old King George died and the stuttering, new, Colin Firth-y King George took over. In honour of the crowning of the new king, a group of veterans of the First World War — awesomely calling themselves "The Men of Trees" and declaring that restoring green space was "the most constructive and peaceable enterprise in which nations could cooperate" — planted a big oak in the middle of the park. In honour of the military units who had fought Canada's wars, they planted 137 maple trees. And they weren't done. In the years after that, they added even more — a series of pathways curved through hundreds of trees. In 1939, King George himself came to visit with his wife, the Queen Mum. They drove along what we still call Remembrance Drive, as veterans and schoolchildren planted trees for every single one of the public schools and high schools in the city. Today, though, there's not much done to remember any of this. Some of the trees have died. Some of the plaques have gone missing. Most of the paths aren't there anymore.

Coronation Park is also where The Grateful Dead played a free show in 1970. The day The Festival Express took over Exhibition Stadium there were clashes between hippies and cops outside the official concert. Woodstock had convinced a lot of people that live music should be free. To keep the busted heads to a minimum, The Dead and some of the other Festival Express bands finally agreed to head over here to park after their official sets and play for the people who couldn't — or wouldn't — pay.

See what it looks like today here.

08 The Ex! This is very eastern edge of the Exhibition Grounds — you can see the Princes' Gates right at the edge of the photo. The Gates, as I mentioned above, were also designed by Chapman & Oxley. And, no surprise, they were also built in the 1920s. The Princes themselves were here to open it: Colin Firth's older brother, King Edward VIII, who abdicated; and their younger brother, who was also, very confusingly, named George. The Goddess of Winged Victory stands on top of the Gates, with a maple leaf in her hand and nine pillars beneath her representing the nine provinces in Confederation at the time. More recently, we've added a garden out front, with the official flowers of every Canadian province and territory.

See what the Gates look like today here. And what the garden looks like here.


One of Rob Ford allies, Scarborough councillor Paul Ainslie, has been trying to get Coronation Park restored. You can learn more about that from the Toronto Sun here.

Torontoist has a neat post with an interactive panaroma of Coronation Park here. And there's more information about it here. Wikipedia's got more of the down low on 545 Lake Shore, the Tip Top Tailors Building and Chapman & Oxley.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Toronto Dreams Project Sticky Plaque Division

Here's my new thing: sticky plaques. That's what I'm calling these stickers I'm printing, each with a QR code on it. (QR codes are those fancy looking codes that you scan with your smartphone to automatically open a webpage.) Those QR codes all link to webpages which tell the story of something historical that happened on the spot where the sticker gets stuck. Sometimes those webpages will be my own posts right here on the Toronto Dreams Project Historical Ephemera Blog. And sometimes they'll link to other posts I like.

The idea is to highlight historical stories and locations that might not already have their own official non-sticky plaques. And to provide more information and multimediaishness to some of the places that already do.

You can see photos of some of the places I've stuck sticky plaques here.