Thornton & Lucie Blackburn escaped Kentucky slavery via Underground Railroad

Some communities did more, but TORONTO played a significant role as an Underground Railroad terminus for escapees from slavery in the American South.  Many came, and many stayed.

Two such refugees from KENTUCKY – Thornton and Lucie Blackburn – made their TORONTO home 54 Eastern Avenue, which today would occupy the southeast corner of Inglenook Community High School’s playground.  They lived there from 1834 until 1890.

The Blackburns left Kentucky on July 3, 1831, and made their way north to Detroit.  Two years later they were captured, and faced certain extradition.  But Detroit’s black community forcefully stepped in (the Blackburn Riots of 1833), and managed to get the couple safely across the border into Canada.  Requests from Michigan’s governor to have them returned to the US were denied.

In 1985, archeologists digging in the Inglenook schoolyard, found clues to TORONTO’s history as a terminus of the Underground Railroad, and artifacts belonging to the Blackburns.

While working as a waiter at Osgoode Hall, Blackburn saw the need for a taxi service.  Using blueprints obtained in Montreal, he had a red and yellow box cab constructed.  Drawn by a single horse the little cab, named The City, was a huge success.  Upon his death, Thornton Blackburn left an estate of $18,000 and six Toronto properties.  He and his wife are buried in the Necropolis, Sumach Street at Amelia.

The Blackburns are honoured in Kentucky by a plaque in downtown LOUISVILLE.  In TORONTO, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated the Blackburns as “persons of national historic significance” – not only for their personal struggle for freedom, but because theirs was emblematic of so many similar, but typically undocumented, cases.  A plaque on the site of their home was erected in 2002.

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Enoch Turner Schoolhouse, 106 Trinity Street, 1849

Enoch Turner Schoolhouse, 106 Trinity Street, was established by brewer ENOCH TURNER, to educate poor children in Corktown.  It was the city’s oldest free school from 1849-59, and later became a Sunday School, a Boer War recruitment centre, a soup kitchen in the 1930’s, and a youth clubhouse in the fifties.  It nearly became a vacant lot, but was saved by the citizenry and Eric Arthur (author and architect, “Toronto, No Mean City”).  The schoolhouse was restored and is now a museum.
Eastbound King streetcar #504 to Trinity Street

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Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, 34 Isabella Street

TORONTO is home to one of the largest gay and lesbian archives in the world.  The Canadian Gay and Lesbian Archives, a volunteer organization, was established in 1973.  Its Georgian-style home at 34 Isabella Street contains a research reading room, large gallery and a reference library.  The collection includes paintings, photographs, posters, video and audio recordings, matchbooks, t-shirts, sports paraphenalia and advertising.
HOURS – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, 7:30-10 pm; Subway stop – BLOOR, and walk south to Isabella Street

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Delft University’s ‘superbus’ is a beaut!

Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands has created the world’s first Superbus.  Backed by the Dutch government, Dow Chemicals, and the Saudi conglomerate Sabic, the glamourous midnight-blue, electric-powered vehicle recently made its debut.  Top speed: 250 km/h (155 mph); seats 23; length: 49 feet; can cover 75 miles in 30 minutes; equipped with 8 gullwing-style doors on each side; cost per vehicle: $11,000,000 CAD.

<PHOTOS – Delft University, Netherlands>