RISING SEA LEVELS THREATEN 300-YEAR-OLD FORTRESS LOUISBOURG IN CAPE BRETON, NOVA SCOTIA

The Fortress of Louisbourg was established by French colonialists in 1713 on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. <Photo above by The Weather Network> A major shipping port, with a town population of several thousand, the Fortress was dismantled by the British in 1760, and named a National Historic Site in 1920. During Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s time in office funds were provided to renovate the Fortress, and since then it’s become one of the province’s top tourist destinations.Unfortunately Nova Scotia is now facing a threat from rising sea levels due to climate change.  Powerful waves have stripped wood from the site’s exterior and flooding is occurring more frequently. In November/2018, a large storm surge coupled with a high tide breached the Quay Wall. That’s the possible challenge Nova Scotia has today.  <Photo above by Ian Harte/Parks Canada>.

‘PLAIN JANE’ TOWER BLOCKS GET THE ROYAL TREATMENT FROM ARTIST JESSE COLIN JACKSON

Canadian artist Jesse Colin Jackson, based in Los Angeles, has been photographing tower block neighbourhoods since 2006. His “Radiant City” project, is focused on Toronto’s aging tower blocks and their significance. As they’re being revitalized Jackson’s work revealed the size and complexities these buildings embody. Oftentimes they’re home to incoming immigrants – essential housing for at least a quarter of this city’s population. The location of much of Toronto’s urban poverty, would be products of planning ideologies gone awry, locations of past glory, current dynamism and future potential. Jesse Colin Jackson has previously taught at the University of Toronto and OCAD University, also in Toronto – as well as the Department of Art at the University of California, Irvine.  <Photo above  –  #1) – The Buckingham, 714 + 716 The West Mall> #2) – 3151 Bridletown Circle;#3) – 190 Exbury Road & 2269 Jane Street;#4) –  Leaside Towers, 85 + 96 Thorncliffe Park Drive; #5) – Riverside Apartments, 2737 + 2757 Kipling Avenue

TORONTO’S “BRIGADOON” – RARE PHOTOS OF THE FORMER GERRARD ST. VILLAGE

In the 1920’s, artists, writers, shopkeepers and bohemians began settling into 19th-century row houses along Gerrard West and neighbouring streets.They painted the stuccoed houses in rainbow colours, opened art galleries, bookshops, restaurants and – a first for TORONTO – an outdoor patio.  The neighbourhood was christened GERRARD STREET VILLAGE. It became our city’s Greenwich Village, Soho, the Left Bank – an enclave of Bohemia in the middle of a very conservative town.  CSILLA FEL remembers TORONTO’s first patio: “The first patio was a rented house and was called “The Jack and Jill”. Catherina Barca, aged 97 was part of the Barca pioneers in sidewalk cafes.  She once said “this was my backyard as a child and the atmosphere of coffee and creativity has stayed with me my whole life.”Ernest Hemingway called the Village home for a while; the Group of Seven’s Lawren Harris sketched here; painter Albert Franck rented a shop in the 1940’s.  Some other villagers – poets Al Purdy and bp Nichol, Margaret Atwood, Milton Acorn, Michael Ondaatje, Joe Rosenblatt, Gwendolyn MacEwen – a slew of intellectuals, designers, booksellers and writers.Only a few of the Victorian-era houses remain – “totally emasculated” as one old-timer put it.  A hotel, parking lot, hospital buildings, a condo and a steam plant occupy – what was once – Toronto’s ‘Brigadoon’.“You mention Albert Franck having a hop on Gerrard, but he and his wife Florence Vale, actually lived there too. Harold Town frequented their place (he wrote a couple of books on Franck, and Joyce Wieland and Kazuo Nakamura were, I think, mentioned by Franck. Also on that strip is where the collective General Idea (Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal, and AA Bronson, of whom Bronson is the sole surviving member) had their first salon.” – from STEVEN ERIC KETOLA <PHOTOS – City of Toronto Archives; Image above – David Mason Books>

A SPECIAL HOUSE NAMED VALLEY HALLA – ITS OWNER WAS INTO A BREAKFAST CEREAL EMPIRE

In 1936, at the heart of The Great Depression a rich widower, Dr. George Robert Jackson, was running a health food empire on the West Side of Toronto.  His home, which is still there, east of the Toronto Zoo, is in the Tudor country house style near the Rouge River.The breakfast cereal behind Dr. Jackson’s success, was his Roman Meal brand health food products, introduced just before World War One. A blend of whole-grain wheat, rye, bran and flaxseed, it cost about 25 cents a box and you boiled it into a porridge in about 30 minutes. The Doctor promoted its laxative properties, and added that it could cure kidney problems, hardened arteries, high blood pressure, arthritis and double glaucoma that made him blind in one eye.For a detailed story about the house, Dr. Jackson and the Cereal, go to The Toronto Star story ‘Business History: The House That Cereal Built’, written by Angus Skene, January 19, 2015.

OH YES, I REMEMBER IT WELL – FAMOUS PLAYERS’ IMPERIAL CINEMA ON YONGE ST., CA1960’S

The Imperial could seat about 3,000 movie-goers, and then it was sub-divided.  In the 1960’s while a Ryerson student, I had the privilege of a job there in uniform – which meant a lot of standing and holding a flashlight.  After a while I moved on to Loew’s, a block or so south.  Same job, similar uniform.  There I watched ‘Gypsy’ 27 times, ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’, ‘Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte’, the Doris Day movies with Rock Hudson, and several other musicals and dramas over and over again.  That’s the life of an usher.

TORONTO IS STILL IN PARTIAL LOCKDOWN, BUT WE CAN SALUTE THE IRISH ON MARCH 17TH

In September/2017 Ross and I were in The Republic of Ireland and had plans to visit Northern Ireland when the skies opened up and we sampled an Irish deluge. We’ll go up north next time. My day was made when the tourism lady asked my name. When she heard my last name, Moore, she said “you’re one of us!” with a jolly good laugh. We went off to explore the capital and there was plenty there to explore.You can’t miss the Spire of Dublin, or the Monument of Light. Either one, it’s made of stainless steel, 121 meters tall, located on the site of the former Nelson’s Pillar on O’Connell Street in the heart of the city.Oscar Wilde’s childhood home, now restored and occupied by the American College DublinThere’s so much to do and see in Dublin, that once the pandemic ends, we’ll both be on our way there again.Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

IN 2009 CABBAGETOWN’S HERITAGE WINCHESTER HOTEL & HALL NEARLY MET THEIR ‘WATERLOO’

But they survived in only one hour, thanks to Toronto’s fire fighters. There were damages, but no injuries at the site, and this was a reminder of Cabbagetown’s wealth when it comes to historic buildings, culture, and the stories of people who once lived there – and many who still do. These days the Winchester has become a treasure.  There are many heritage buildings along Parliament and within the neighbourhood. The Winchester stands out – a giant among emerging businesses – and after several months of rebuilding, it’s become first rate – complete with a modern ‘dome’ on top.<Above – the original Winchester Hotel, named The Lake View, built in 1880.  The Winchester Hotel and the adjoining Winchester Hall, were constructed in 1888 by the noted architectural firm of Kennedy and Holland. Those structures are both still standing. In 1941, architect Benjamin Swartz oversaw alterations to the site, including the Art Moderne interior.>

THEY’RE LONG GONE, BUT MAYBE NOT FORGOTTEN – THREE ‘SENIOR’ TORONTO HOTELS

Remember The Warwick, where Dundas East met Jarvis Street. It was the site of significant dance bands in the 1940’s and 50’s – until the 1960’s.

Then it switched to burlesque, and became notable for Toronto’s earliest crossdressing personalities. Allan Maloney, would host the evenings in his alter ego as Brandee. The Ford Hotel, Dundas Street West at Bay, 750 rooms, was built in 1928 and for decades thereafter was one of Toronto’s most prominent hotels. It was close to the Toronto Bus Terminal, and naturally became an ideal place for travelers to find cheap rooms. The Ford became known as a site for crime and vice, as well as outlawed affairs.The Lord Simcoe, 150 King St. West, was named after John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada. It opened for business in 1956.  <photo – The Lord Simcoe under construction> The 20-storey concrete and glass modernist structure  lacked central air-conditioning, lost money over 24 years, and had insufficient convention space. The Lord Simcoe was closed in 1979 and demolished in 1981. It was replaced by the Sun Life Centre East Tower in 1984.

FROM THE WINTER PALACE TO GERRARD ST. E., A GRAND DUCHESS’S ‘RICHES TO RAGS’ TALE

Grand Duchess OLGA ALEXANDROVNA was born into the richest monarchy in the world, residing in a 200-room mansion with 70 servants. As the younger sister of Tsar Nicholas II, she was driven out of Russia when her brother abdicated and was executed.She fled to Denmark, then to Canada, dying in poverty in TORONTO in 1960 at the age of 78.This is where the Grand Duchess ended up – living in a tumbledown apartment over a beauty parlour in TORONTO’s east end. The building still stands at 710 Gerrard Street East.)From LOOKOOM – “In Canada, the Grand Duchess and her husband lived mainly in Mississauga (Camilla Rd), modestly but not in poverty. Through her mother she was a member of the reigning royal family of Denmark. It was only after the death of her husband in 1958 that she became ill and moved to an acquaintance’s home in Toronto where she died.”

THE CREST WILL ALWAYS BE A PART OF TORONTO’S THEATRICAL HISTORY

Opened in 1927 as the BELSIZE, it became The CREST in 1953, and in 1971 the REGENT.The CREST Theatre Company was founded in 1953, and a year later opened its first eleven-play season. This was the beginning of indigenous, commercial theatre in TORONTO. Up until then there had been mostly touring productions from the West End and the US.Many of TORONTO’s (and Canada’s) best-known actors and actresses performed at The Crest. These included Kate Reid, Richard Monette, Jackie Burroughs, Frances Hyland, Eric House and Martha Henry. Most went on to Stratford, the Shaw, television and movie careers.Among the directors – Douglas Campbell, Barry Morse, Mavor Moore, Leon Major, John Hirsch, Herbert Whittaker and Allan Lund.The CREST closed its doors on April 30, 1966 after mounting 140 productions. This was the beginning of commercially viable home-grown theatre in TORONTO. Soon after, the Crest became the Regent, and began showing movies.  Recently it functioned as a sound mixing studio by day, and a cinema at night.