streetcarmurals3Colourful artworks between streetcars and the sidewalk have won this year’s $5,000 NXT City Prize.

streetcarmurals1Streetcar safety murals are the brainchild of Lucas Declavasio and Andrew Patterson of the TORONTO-based agency WYSP CREATIVE.

Chief Planner JENNIFER KEESMAAT is looking for a non-profit organization to make the idea happen. “It’s a powerful, impactful idea that can be implemented inexpensively,” she said. “(The murals) will beautify TORONTO and make it safer too.”

streetcarmurals2NXT City connects Toronto’s young leaders with city builders, and its annual prize gives a platform to people with fresh ideas about the city’s public spaces.

Passing a stopped streetcar comes with a $110 fine and three demerit points.



greathall4Opened in 1890 THE GREAT HALL at Queen West and Dovercourt was in danger of shutting down forever. What a loss this would have been for the West End and TORONTO’s music scene.

greathall2Over the past two years and with $4-million in the bank, the red-brick Victorian has been restored to its former glory. An elevator now makes the building more accessible, layers of plywood and tile were pulled up to reveal the original wooden floors, windows – some dating back to 1890 – were repainted and rebuilt, and a modern cooling system has been installed.

greathall3The building began life as the first West End YMCA; then was taken over by the Royal Templars of Temperance; then the headquarters of the Polish National Union where a newspaper was published and Polish refugees from World War II were taken in; distance runner Tom Longboat trained here before winning the Boston Marathon in 1907; psychics gathered; politicians debated; the Theatre Centre, YYZ Gallery, Toronto School of Art all made their homes here, and today it’s become a popular arts centre and performance venue.

greathall5The raised wooden running track that dates back to the West End YMCA is now a balcony for the “completely revamped” lower level.  <PHOTO ABOVE – Fred Lum, Globe and Mail>

greathall6<PHOTO ABOVE – Fred Lum, Globe and Mail>

The firm behind the restoration is Bernard Watts Architects.


mountedforms1Top dollar for a Canadian work of art was reached in TORONTO when “Mounted Forms” by Lawren Harris sold for $11.21-million CAD. This includes an 18% buyer’s premium which goes to Heffel Fine Arts. The 90-year-old painting surpassed its expected sale price of between $3-million and $5-million.

roadtolls2Mayor JOHN TORY says “I am ready to lead,” when it comes to road tolls. Despite the whinging of some 905ers who commute from outside city limits and drive on city highways (the Don Valley Parkway & Gardiner Expressway) maintained by city property taxes, reaction so far has been surprisingly positive.

The proposed toll of around $2 could raise $200-million annually for a city which has roughly $33-billion in future projects and needs capital to pay for them. The Mayor is betting his career on the outcome.

NOVEMBER 29, 2015, TORONTO; The 49th annual Cavalcade of Lights celebration presented by Great Gulf kicked off the holiday season on Saturday night, This holiday tradition at Nathan Phillips Square featured the first illumination of Toronto’s official Christmas Tree, performances by some of Canada’s top musical talent, a spectacular fireworks show and skating parties.

TORONTO kicked off its 49th Cavalcade of Lights this week at Nathan Phillips Square.  The annual event also included the official lighting of the city’s Christmas tree.


Several American cities are embracing a Soda Tax as a new way to raise much-needed funds and to combat obesity.

On board so far – San Francisco, Oakland, Albany Calif., Cook County Illinois, Santa Fe and Philadelphia. Others are thinking about it. Maybe there’s something in this idea for TORONTO and its beleaguered budget.

ceiling1The ceiling of the former Central Library, now the University of TORONTO’s bookstore, College Street at McCaul.

royalalex2“Come From Away” opened at the refurbished Royal Alexandra Theatre and became an instant smash hit.  The Canadian/American musical has already played in La Jolla, Seattle and Washington DC.  It’s on its way to Broadway, and will be in TORONTO for the next two months.

telegrambldg1From the City of TORONTO Archives – a 1950’s photo of the Telegram Building at Bay and Melinda Street.

notfair1TORONTO’s transit system is being short-changed by the federal and provincial governments. The amount of cash per rider the feds and the province chip in to fund our system, over and above what passengers put into the fare box, is a pittance.

By comparison – Chicago gets $2.04US per fare drop; Boston $2.12; Los Angeles $3.00; New York City $1.52; Vancouver $1.86; Calgary $1.69; York Region (the 905 Toronto suburban region) a whopping $4.56; Montreal + or – $1.25; and TORONTO itself a penny-pinching 90 cents per rider. We’re being hosed.

volleyball1End of the Volleyball Season in the Beaches neighbourhood – photo by Bryan Blenkin


WALL6Opened in 1851, the massive Provincial Lunatic Asylum stood watch over – what is now the West Queen West Arts District.  At the time, 1001 Queen West was the largest non-military building in the country.

WALL5A wall was commissioned to keep the inhabitants in, and the curious out.  Eventually the entire 50-acre site was surrounded by high walls, many of which were constructed by the patients themselves.  Unpaid labour was central to the operation of Ontario asylums in the 19th and 20th century.  It was considered good therapy and saved the government money.

WALL1A couple of sections remain – the south wall, built in 1860; and the east wall in 1888-89.  They’re both City of Toronto Heritage sites.  It’s not exactly a tourist attraction, but these walls played a significant part in TORONTO’s history and the treatment of mental health in Canada.



st-annes8On the outside St. Anne’s Anglican Church, 270 Gladstone Avenue, is rather grim, but inside it’s another story.

STANNE'S2ST.ANNES3In 1923, the painter, J.E.H. MacDonald, assembled a group of Canadian artists (unfashionable in church circles at the time), including Fred Varley, Frank Carmichael, other members of the famous Group of Seven, and sculptors Frances Loring and Florence Wyle.  Together they created more than a dozen large paintings, decorative medallions and reliefs of the four evangelists.  Combined with the building’s vaulted roof and central dome in the Byzantine Greek Cross style, and stained glass from the original church on Dufferin Street, St. Anne’s became a sight to behold.  As it is to this day.

STANNE'S1ST.ANNES4The 154-year-old building is Canada’s only Byzantine Revival Anglican church. It’s patterned after ISTANBUL’s Hagia Sophia, and in 1998 was designated a National Historic Site.

ST.ANNES9St. Anne’s has regular Sunday services, or you can arrange individual or group tours through the church office.


GOSS2Just north of Arthur Goss Lane, at 20 Metcalfe Street, is the former townhouse of TORONTO’s first city photographer.  For 37 years, Mr. Goss, a Cabbagetowner for most of his life, spent his time photographing day-to-day life in our city.  The accumulated trove now resides in the City Archives, and some of it can be seen online.

GOSS3GOSS4GOSS6GOSS5GOSS7GOSS8GOSS9<PHOTOS ABOVE – 1) Constructing the Prince Edward Viaduct, July 18, 1917  2) Slum housing in the Ward, site of the City Hall skating rink, 1913;  3) Woodville Avenue Dump, 1914; 4) new bubble drinking fountains, April 13, 1917;  5) Sandwasher, water filtration plant, 1914;  6) inside the Civic Abbatoir, 1914;  7) a tuberculosis patient in a hospital tent, 1912.>

GOSS10<PHOTO ABOVE – Arthur Goss’s most famous photograph – the Group of Seven artists + Barker Fairley meeting at the Arts and Letters Club on Elm Street, 1920 (left to right – Varley, Jackson, Harris, Fairley, Johnston, Lismer and MacDonald>