TORONTO, CHICAGO, AL CAPONE, BILLIE HOLIDAY, PROHIBITION & THE WINCHESTER

Chicago mobster Al Capone made himself at home in TORONTO’s Winchester Hotel.Billie Holiday sang from the stage.  Hooks in the ceiling supported a trapeze used in burlesque acts, and some of the biggest entertainers of the 1920’s and 30’s played for the locals.  While MONTREAL was entertaining gangsters in its nightclubs and bars, staid TORONTO was busy making rye whisky at the huge Gooderham and Worts distillery on lower Parliament Street.  It was a natural fit for Al Capone and the mob.  Buy the booze in Ontario, transport it to Windsor, then through the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel, or on an intercity ferryboat, and onward to thirsty Americans.  At its peak, in 1928, Windsor-Detroit had anywhere from 16,000 to 25,000 speakeasies, blind pigs, clubs and joints.  The patrons were drinking booze made 250 miles east in conservative, church-going, teatotaling TORONTO.  The waterways separating Windsor and Detroit saw a huge part (one estimate: 75%) of the alcohol consumed in the United States during Prohibition.<ABOVE – customs officers at work during Prohibition><ABOVE – Al Capone’s hangout – the Winchester Hotel bar in Cabbagetown>

OCTOBER 15/1954 WAS THE NIGHT TORONTO REALLY FELT THE WRATH OF MOTHER NATURE

TORONTO has had its share of natural disasters – The Great Toronto Fire of 1906, and a couple of blizzards each and every year . . . . Serious floods as recently as 2013 and 2018;High winds on a regular basis.On the evening of October 15, 1954, HURRICANE HAZEL attacked TORONTO with winds reaching 124 kilometres an hour, and 200 millimetres (8 inches) of rain falling every 48 hours onto already saturated ground. <AERIAL PHOTO – Canadian Press>For this city, the eventual death toll was staggering –81 people died, 1,868 were left homeless, houses built on floodplains were demolished, 50 bridges damaged, and roads washed out.<PHOTO ABOVE – Pottery Road in the Don Valley, Star Weekly><PHOTO ABOVE – Rescue attempts during the storm’s aftermath – Toronto Telegram>The arrival of HAZEL was a surprise. TORONTO had no prior hurricane experience. Due to the destruction in Canada, the United States and Haiti, the name ‘Hazel’ was retired, and never used again for an Atlantic hurricane.As a result, all developments were banned on floodplains. Parks took the place of low-lying houses. Four conservation authorities formed the TORONTO & Region Conservation Authority to oversee watershed management and sustainability practices. Two large dams were built to control flooding, and all of this has shown its value to this very day.

CROSSING CANADA IN A MODEL-T FORD WITH NO MOTOR COULD BE A CRAZY DREAM OR A NIGHTMARE

Two men from Amherst, Nova Scotia did it in 1927. The trip in a battered Model-T Ford was a brainchild of George Scott and Frank Elliott, whose descendants were named later for a famous carnival in Northern Nova Scotia.  With a bet of $1,000 they left Halifax on July 18, arriving in Vancouver on October 15,1927.  Their first tow took them to Truro, and from there to their hometown of Amherst. Crowds gathered as they crossed the land. The adventurers raised money by selling postcards, and hitched rides with passing vehicles, often along unpaved roads.Altogether their free lifts numbered 168; four were by teams of horses, and two by mule teams. Along the way people sheltered and fed them. They made the Guinness Book of Records after traveling 4,759 miles, and returning home via a coal boat through the Panama Canal.

TORONTO’S PRIDE BACK IN THE 1950’S WAS THE YONGE STREET SUBWAY – CANADA’S 1ST UNDERGROUND

<AN ORIGINAL Yonge Street Subway sign>WHY A SUBWAY? Rush hour traffic on Yonge Street, near College, November 18, 1941.TANGLE of public utility conduits and pipes, October 14, 1949 – because of the steel shortage caused by the Korean War (1950-53) most of the bridges were made from reinforced concrete. Even enforcing steel rods for the concrete were scarce. Rather than using Canadian suppliers the TTC was forced to buy more expensive steel from the United States & Britain.EXCAVATION for streetcar entrance on Bloor Street, east of Yonge, June 25, 1951.DAVISVILLE STATION looking south, November 24, 1953LAST STREETCAR ON YONGE STREET, on the afternoon the subway opened. LINEUP TO RIDE on the subway, opening day, March 30, 1954 – the public had to pay the fare, 10 cents cash, or three tickets or tokens for a quarter. Over 200,000 people rode the subway on that day.  <PHOTOS – Canada Pictures Limited & City of TORONTO Archives>

ST. BASIL’S CHURCH, THE COLLEGIATE CHURCH OF SAINT MICHAEL’S COLLEGE, 1856

Best known to Torontonians as the church with the noontime bells, ST. BASIL’s was built in a neighbourhood once called CLOVERHILL.  The architect was a Scotsman – WILLIAM HAY.  In 1856 – this area was all open countryside, but today it’s filled with high-rise condos.As more buildings go up, the neighbourhood had been fighting to save a small park with mature trees at the corner of St. Joseph and Bay – and they’ve succeeded.

THE INHABITANT OF A CABBAGETOWN HOUSE, 226-228 CARLTON ST., HAD A FULL LIFE WITH A BAD ENDING

I walk by this Second Empire style building almost every day. Built in 1879 it was the home of Dr. Rowena Hume, who was born in 1877 – the youngest of 12 children. Dr. Hume became the founder of Women’s College Hospital (one of Toronto’s finest) in 1911. In 1932 she opened the first Birth Control Clinic in Canada, in Hamilton, Ontario. She also ran a private practice in TORONTO after retiring. Dr. Hume was also involved in the Salvation Army, Alcoholics Anonymous, and the Fred Victor Mission. All went well until October 2, 1966, when Dr. Hume was murdered inside the house. From The Parliament News, by way of @historicbuildingsToronto; contributed by Maryam.  Photo – Women’s College Hospital Archves

QUEEN ELIZABETH II, 33, & PRINCE PHILIP UNDERTOOK A 1959 CROSS-COUNTRY TOUR OF CANADA

H.M.Y. (Her Majesty’s Yacht) ‘Britannia’ docked on June 29,1959, delivering the Queen and Prince Philip to TORONTO. They were in the process of visiting the Maritimes and Quebec after their landing in Gander, Newfoundland on June 18th. This was to be an extensive Royal Tour.The Queen and her Prince carried on regardless around the Great Lakes, parts of the United States, including the Detroit River, the Prairies and the West Coast. Inside the Harbour, the royal couple were welcomed with a 21-gun salute, a ceremoniously decorated Lake and several ocean liners, and the thundering cheers of Canadian sailors.During their two days in Ontario’s capital city, they stopped at City Hall for a ceremony, had dinner at the Royal York Hotel, visited the O’Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts, and took in the 100th running of the Queen’s Plate. Along the way, they waved and met many Canucks from coast-to-coast, and a good number of Americans too. Eventually they were off from Malton Airport (now Pearson International) for Ottawa, and then to Halifax, Nova Scotia. After that, the famous couple left the country on August 1, 1959, bound for London. They’ve visited us many times since.<Queen Elizabeth iI and Prince Philip as they were on June 10, 2016>

AN ENGINEER’S NAMESAKE, THE KEATING CHANNEL IS A WATERWAY MOST OF US HAVE NEVER SEEN

Named after engineer EDWARD HENRY KEATING (1844-1912), the waterway is a 1,000-metre-long connecfion between Ashbridges Bay, the Don River, the inner harbour and Lake Ontario.<The Keating Channel looking east, Toronto Public Libraries, 1914>
Early on, the banks of the Channel were lined with industry, including the Toronto Shipyard Company, which built World War I vessels and freighters.The elevated Gardiner Expressway, the Cherry Street drawbridge and the condo towers of the Distillery District add some urban ambience.