Monday, June 23, 2014

Coca-Cola on Queen Street West in 1937

It's the spring of 1937 and we're on Queen Street West. We're on north side of the street, looking east toward University Avenue. It's just a block away. Today, this very same spot is home to the big glass wall of One Eighty Queen Street West — a fifteen story building with a bunch of commercial tenants. Next door is one of Toronto's Historic Sites: Campbell House (that old building on the northwest corner of Queen & University). It was built in 1822, but it wasn't on Queen Street back when this photo was taken. They moved it to the current location in 1972.

By this point, of course, Coca-Cola was already an iconic brand. Coke had just celebrated its 50th anniversary. The first bottles of the world's most famous pop were sold in the 1880s. By the 1930s, it was a massive business with lots of advertising. So, while I'm at it, here are a few American ads from this very same year this photo was taken:


I discovered the photo of Queen Street thanks to the Toronto Archives Flickr page. You can check it out here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dundas East Before It Was Dundas East

Dundas is one of the weirdest streets in Toronto. And one of the oldest, too. The guy who founded our city, John Graves Simcoe, ordered it built all the way back in the 1790s. It heads west from Toronto for a couple hundred kilometers — and it also, of course, winds its way through the middle of our city in complete defiance of our grid system.

Part of the reason Dundas doesn't follow the same layout as most of the major thoroughfares in Toronto is because it didn't actually start out as one street at all. The original Dundas — built by Simcoe so troops could move through the province quickly in case of an American invasion — only reached as far east as what's now the intersection of Queen & Ossington. That spot was near the military reserve that once surrounded Fort York. It wasn't until after the First World War that Dundas was extended through Toronto by cobbling together a bunch of smaller streets.

One of those smaller streets was Wilton Avenue. It ran east from Yonge (beginning at the southern end of what's now Yonge & Dundas Square) all the way east to the Don Valley and across it to a spot just beyond Broadview. That's Wilton in the photo above, getting a facelift in the spring of 1912. That spot is just west of Sumach Street — it's completely unrecognizable today, in the middle of Regent Park.

A few blocks to the west of there, between Jarvis and Sherbourne, Wilton took a gentle curve. It was called Wilton Crescent for that bit. And you can still see the curve on Dundas today. It's where Fillmore's Tavern is.

Here it is getting new streetcar tracks in June of 1911:


Sean Marshall tells a more complete history of Dundas on Spacing here. And Chris Bateman does the same for blogTO over here. You can see what the curve on Dundas looks like today on Google Maps here.

I used one of the city workers in the photo at the top of this post as part of the design in my dream postcard for the artist Kathleen Munn. You can check that out here.

Monday, June 2, 2014

UK Tour Update: It's Really Happening!

Well, the flights are booked and the dates are all lined up, so I guess I can finally announce that The Toronto Dreams Project's UK Tour is actually, really, truly happening. Next month, I'll be heading across the Atlantic to leave dreams at Toronto-related historical sites in England and Wales. I'll be there for two weeks: from July 4-19. And while I'm there, I'll leave more than a dozen different dreams at dozens of sites in a dozen different cities, towns and villages.

London, Windsor, Cardiff, Penarth, Whitchurch, Thornbury, Exeter, Budleigh Salterton, Hontion, Buckerell, Dunkeswell, Hemyock... I'll trace stories of Toronto's past from the urban frenzy of Europe's biggest city, to the lush green valleys of South Wales, to the towering cliffs of the Jurassic Coast, to the rolling Blackdown Hills of Devonshire.

As I do, you'll be able to follow along here where I'll be sharing the stories of how the history of our city is tied to the history to those places. From the Englishman who almost became the first President of Canada, to the founder of Toronto facing off against Napoleon, to the Antarctic explorers who nearly froze to death on an infamous expedition to the South Pole.

I'll also be doing lots of tweeting (so be sure to follow me @TODreamsProject) and posting tons of photos to Instagram (also @TODreamsProject) and uploading stuff to my Facebook page, too.

But most importantly! I want to thank everyone who made this possible by contributing to my Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign — and to those who shared it on Facebook and Twitter. This absolutely wouldn't be happening without your support. THANK YOU! And for those of you who picked a perk, I'm hoping to mail them out from across the pond — if not, you can expect them shortly after my return.