THE RIVERDALE BRANCH OF THE TORONTO PUBLIC LIBRARY OPENED ON OCTOBER 19, 1910.

Riverdale was the last of four branches constructed with a $350,000 grant financed in 1903 by Andrew Carnegie. The branch was constructed of red brick with white Ohio sandstone trim at a cost of $24,174. Located at the “great transfer corner” where Broadview Avenue meets Gerrard Street East, as well as two streetcar lines. It’s one of the first to use the “open shelf” system, allowing visitors to browse around themselves, and one of the first Canadian libraries to use radial open stacks. From the entrance, Library staff can monitor reading rooms. the opened front door, and the stacks.

EARLIEST KNOWN PHOTOS OF TORONTO TAKEN FROM THE ROSSIN HOUSE HOTEL IN 1856 OR 1857

This five-part panorama is from the City of Toronto Archives. <Osgoode Hall is in the upper left corner>.<Photogaphers – Armstrong, Beere and Hime.> It’s possible that these pictures were intended to accompany Toronto’s submission to the Colonial Office to promote its selection as capital of the Province of Canada. In the end, Queen Victoria chose OTTAWA to be Canada’s capital. <ABOVE – The developing city from York Street to Bay Street along King Street West.>

WHO’D HAVE IMAGINED AIRSHIPS ONCE DOCKED ON UNIVERSITY AVE AT QUEEN?

This Stalinistic Canada Life building on University Avenue in the 1930’s was a mooring point for airships – once viewed as luxurious aircraft, until replaced by passenger airplanes. From 1951 the tower was then re-converted into Toronto’s weather beacon and that’s what we see today. You know you’re in T.O. when you see the iconic beacon light with its forecast information, updated four times daily, 7 days a week, thanks to Environment Canada. What do the lights mean? Green (clear); Red (cloudy); Flashing Red (rain); Flashing White .(snow). <Photo above by Richard Lautens, Toronto Star>

WHY IS VICTORIA DAY ON MONDAY, MAY 24TH NAMED AFTER QUEEN VICTORIA?

Following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, May 24th was made to be known as Victoria Day, By law the 24th is a date to remember the late queen, who was deemed the ‘Mother of Confederation’. And in 1904, the same date by Imperial Decree was made Empire Day throughout the British Empire – of which Canada was a member.  <Above – Queen Victoria’s sculpture in Queen’s Park, 1910, Toronto> Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day and in 1977 it was moved to the second Monday in March, leaving the Monday before May 25th as both Victoria Day and the Queen’s Birthday. That’s where we are in 2021. <Above – Her Majesty Queen Victoria on her Coronation Day, painted by George Hayter.> Queen Victoria appreciated his merits and appointed Mr. Hayter her Principal Painter and also awarded him a Knighthood in 1841. – Information from Wikipedia.

THE GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT OF ‘OLD TORONTO’ IS PARTLY CREDITED TO STREETCARS

Hong Kong boasts double-decker trams. Double-decker buses signify London: the “L” rapid transit system trundles around Chicago. And bicycles are everywhere in Rotterdam.Toronto maintains and venerates its massive streetcar network. They’re longtime symbols, beginning as far back as the 1860’s several miles from the St. Lawrence Market to Yorkville Town Hall.  Rosie Shephard, a Monarch Park Collegiate student wrote about the streetcar saying “They have been a defining feature of many Toronto neighbourhoods, and developed them into ‘streetcar suburbs’. (They’re) also very profitable, triggering the growth and development of local businesses and restaurants.” The Cabbagetown neighbourhood is a well-rounded example that grew from a suburb to a successful neighbourhood thanks to the streetcar. Other neighbourhoods – Riverdale and The Beaches. <ABOVE – A Toronto Transit Commission streetcar, celebrating TTC’s 80th birthday; photo by Ted Wickson . . . . and #327 is part of the Halton Collection>

IN 1994 STEPHEN OTTO CO-FOUNDED TORONTO’S ‘FRIENDS OF FORT YORK

<Photo – Stephen Otto, by Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail>. The ‘Friends’ were opposed to a massive condo development that was inappropriate for such an important historic site. Mr. Otto wanted to help save access to what he considered ‘The Birthplace of Toronto’. City council meanwhile was considering thousands of apartments to be built onto what’s known today as The Railway Lands. To the rescue came Stephen Otto and his Friends, who managed to bring forth breathing space for the Fort, allowing its garrison to be integrated socially and physically within the city. “What we like,” Mr. Otto told a reporter “is (giving) the Fort the visibility and dignity we think is appropriate. It’s a National Historic Site, and should be treated in more than a passing way.” As we can all see these days, the site has been saved and Fort York is very much at home here.

After a long battle with lymphoma Stephen Otto died at his Toronto home on April 22, 2018 at the age of 78. He was named to The Order of Canada. –  Written by John Lorinc – Special to the Globe and Mail, published April 28, 2018.

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.