Tuesday, November 24, 2015

off the grid: retro t.o. the end of eaton's

This installment of my "Retro T.O." column for The Grid was originally published on August 28, 2012. This was the final installment of the column, though I continued writing for the paper under the "Ghost City" banner.
Toronto Star, August 21, 1999.
“The notice posted on the doors of the flagship Eaton’s store in the Toronto Eaton Centre on the morning of August 23, 1999 is not the usual professional presentation,” observed Eaton-family biographer Rod McQueen. “The 8-1/2 by 11″ document has been photocopied and hung in place with Scotch tape. The typescript statement, evocative of the words carved on a tombstone, reads: ‘The T. Eaton Company Limited, an insolvent person, pursuant to subsection 50.4(1) of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, intends to make a proposal to its creditors.’”

Shoppers lined up outside the store that morning, expecting bargains galore as Eaton’s began to liquidate its stock. They were disappointed; the details were still being worked out, and the great sell-off wouldn’t begin for two more days. While some customers bought items before they vanished forever, others browsed quickly before wandering off empty-handed. Nostalgia for a faltering Canadian icon was one thing; benefitting from its misery was another.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

off the grid: retro t.o. dining at the coxwell kresge

This installment of my "Retro T.O." column for The Grid was originally published on June 26, 2012.

Kresge's Come to Toronto
Toronto Star ad announcing Kresge's arrival in Toronto, June 12, 1929. The original location on Danforth west of Woodbine is, as of November 2015, occupied by Dollarama. Click on image for larger version.
While modern successors of five-and-dime stores like Dollarama expand across the city, they lack certain attributes their ancestors possessed. You won’t find the mingling of odours from parakeets, popcorn, and rubber boots. You won’t find the latest chart-topping records. And, in the chains at least, you won’t find a classic lunch counter.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

off the grid: ghost city 20 st. joseph street

This installment of my "Ghost City" column for The Grid was originally published on November 6, 2012.

Creating more space within a heritage building can be tricky, especially if plans outlining previous changes are unavailable. When the Canadian Music Centre wanted to open up its main floor for a performance space and lounge, architects worked around obstacles like central-air ducts installed over the course of the former Victorian home’s history.

Monday, October 12, 2015

an editorial about bigotry and federal election campaigns, 1904

The [Toronto] News, October 28, 1904. 
Given the ugliness of the 2015 federal election campaign, especially regarding bigotry and excessive partisanship, it's unfortunate that comments within this 1904 Toronto newspaper editorial are still relevant. Only a few words require adjustment to reflect the present situation.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

early adventures in the journalism trade department: destination downtown

Packing for a move inevitably causes glimpses of your past to resurface, especially when you have packrat tendencies. Sifting through a pile of papers atop my record shelf, I found a golden yellow folder cover in newsprint-smudged fingerprints. Inside were multiple copies of several stories I wrote for the University of Guelph's newspaper, the Ontarion, during my final year in academia. I suspect the articles in the folder were intended to be attached to job applications, which I sent plenty of as I tried to sort out my future and avoid a forced return to the Windsor area.

Among the clips was this piece, my first feature-length foray into urban issues, published during the summer semester after I graduated. My work for the Ontarion had been almost exclusively arts-related or the weekly archival roundup, though I had started to slip in the odd news story (such as covering hearings for a student occupation which occurred while I had been abroad). When this article was published, I still had no idea what the future held. By summer's end, I became the arts and culture editor after the initial hire left. 

Little did I know that two decades later covering urban revitalization would still be on my professional radar. 

Click on the images for larger versions. 

The Ontarion, May 26-June 8, 1998.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

off the grid: retro t.o. cbc's black wednesday (and the impact in windsor)

This installment of my "Retro T.O." column for The Grid was originally published on April 10, 2012.

Cartoon by Patrick Corrigan, Toronto Star, December 7, 1990.
It was an evening that should have been joyous for Canadian television. But as the Gemini Awards ceremony ended on December 4, 1990, the audience learned of an ominous announcement on that night’s edition of The National. The hosts of Monitor—the Gemini-nominated investigative-news series that aired on Toronto’s CBC affiliate, CBLT—stood arm-in-arm as they watched a story indicating that CBC would slash $110 million from its budget by closing 10 regional TV stations and cutting 1,200 employees. It was believed that Monitor was among the shows that would get the axe, an event for which co-host Jeffrey Kofman seemed prepared. “Toronto is already well served by the media,” he told the Star. “I’ve had five great years. I’ll survive.” The punctured mood was summed up by Peter Mansbridge, who found it difficult to enjoy his Best Broadcast Journalist award “when I know a lot of my colleagues will be losing their jobs.”

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

off the grid: the choosing of an interim toronto mayor, 1978

Looking through my files recently, I found this story, which was published by The Grid toward the end of 2012. Details are sketchy - I suspect it was one of those pieces which fell off the website before the publication folded. I don't remember what the original title of this article was, though the sub-head likely mentioned Rob Ford during a time when it appeared he might be tossed from office.

ts 78-08-27 johnston beavis title fight
Toronto Star, August 27, 1978, Click on image for larger version.
When Toronto city councillors voted for an interim mayor on September 1, 1978, the deadlock the media predicted came to pass. Candidates Fred Beavis and Anne Johnston had 11 votes each. Under the law, there was one solution to determine who would fill the last three months of David Crombie’s term: placing the contenders’ names in a cardboard box.

Monday, October 05, 2015

off the grid: ghost city 1172 dundas street west

This installment of my "Ghost City" column for The Grid was originally published on May 2, 2013.

Dempster's Staff of Life Bakery is visible in the background of this streetcar track construction shot taken along Dundas Street on July 19, 1917. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 58, Item 681.
During the last decades of the 19th century, the Toronto bread market was a battleground. Bakers faced resistance from housewives used to making their own loaves and tough battles for customers with an increasing supply of commercial competitors. When teenager George Weston entered the business in the early 1880s, the future food mogul joined nearly 60 other city bakers and nearly 60 more confectioneries.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

bonus features: revisiting the past lives of st. lawrence market

This post offers supplementary material for an article I recently wrote for Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this piece.

St. Lawrence Market, north market (1850-1904), Front St. E., north side, between Market & Jarvis Sts.; interior, main corridor, looking north, before alterations of 1898. Toronto Public Library. Click on image for larger version.
The construction of the 1904 incarnation of the north market was anything but a smooth process. Mind you, if you changed the few specific details, the following Star editorial could apply to many projects which go off the rails.

star 1904-09-19 editorial on slm
Toronto Star, September 19, 1904.

Monday, September 14, 2015

off the grid: ghost city 10 scrivener square

This installment of my "Ghost City" column for The Grid was originally published on May 14, 2013. Last week, an onsite time capsule was opened.

Globe, September 10, 1915.
The Canadian Pacific Railway was tired of arguing. Negotiations with government bodies over the development of a replacement for the existing Union Station were heading nowhere fast. Fatigued by squabbling, in 1912, the CPR moved several passenger routes from downtown to a line it controlled in the north end of the city. While a train station already existed on the west side of Yonge Street near Summerhill Avenue, it hardly matched CPR executives’ visions of grandeur.

Friday, September 11, 2015

off the grid: ghost city 696 yonge street

This installment of my "Ghost City" column for The Grid was originally published on January 29, 2013. The building is still boarded up as of this reprint.

Toronto Star, September 12, 1957.
The Church of Scientology’s Toronto headquarters are in the midst of an “Ideal Org” makeover—signalled, last month, by boards nailed to the Yonge Street high-rise. While it remains to be seen whether the move will fracture the controversial faith’s local followers as similar, costly refurbishings have in other cities, the plans are less than modest, indicating a colourful new façade will be placed on the almost-60-year-old office building, along with a new bookstore, café, theatre, and “testing centre” inside.

Built around 1955 in the International style of architecture, 696 Yonge’s initial tenant roster included recognizable brands like Avon cosmetics and Robin Hood flour. They were joined by an array of accounting firms, coal and mining companies, and the Belgian consulate, along with a number of construction and property management companies run by Samuel Diamond, whose name later graced the building.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

bonus features: memory lane

This post offers supplementary material for an article I originally wrote for The Grid, and was recently republished by Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this piece. 

ts 66-07-23 viking books profile
Toronto Star, July 23, 1966. Click on image for larger version.
Of the other stores mentioned in this article, Ryerson Press's home at 299 Queen West would become home to the CHUM/CITY media empire.

Friday, August 28, 2015

off the grid: ghost city 672 dupont street

This installment of my "Ghost City" column for The Grid was originally published on April 1, 2013.

Toronto Star, February 25, 1915.
Employees of the Ford Motor Company likely smiled as 1915 dawned. During a January banquet at the automaker’s recently opened plant at the northwest corner of Dupont and Christie, employees learned they were receiving an across-the-board raise and would soon be joined by a fresh batch of co-workers. There aren’t any reports, however, as to whether workers celebrated by taking extra spins in freshly-built Model Ts on the rooftop test track.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

off the grid: retro t.o. the golden age of swarming

This installment of my "Retro T.O." column for The Grid was originally published on April 24, 2012.

Globe and Mail, May 27, 1989.
Depending on the city, the practice had different names—“bum rushing” in New York, “trashing” in Los Angeles, “steaming” in London. As the 1980s came to a close, the media in Toronto reported that a growing number of local youths participated in “swarming” attacks on individuals and businesses to steal jackets, jewellery, money, shoes, and, in the case of the Yonge and Eglinton branch of Fran’s, pastry. These incidents heightened fears about increased gang activity and how to handle restless, disaffected youth throughout all socio-economic levels in the city.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

off the grid: ghost city 1115 queen street west

This installment of my "Ghost City" column for The Grid was originally published on November 27, 2012.

Queen-Lisgar library branch, 1909. Toronto Public Library.
When the Theatre Centre launches its new space in the old Queen-Lisgar library next year, it’s unlikely there will be as many disappointed faces as have witnessed past grand openings at 1115 Queen Street West.

The building’s origins date back to 1903, when philanthropist Andrew Carnegie granted $350,000 to the city to build a new central library and three neighbourhood branches. The grant allowed the Toronto Public Library to own sites rather than rent existing buildings. In the case of Queen-Lisgar, it replaced a 20-year-old branch rented on Ossington Avenue that had inherited the collection of an earlier Parkdale library. The new building was designed in a Beaux-Arts style by City Architect Robert McCallum, whose other surviving projects include the palm house in Allan Gardens. During its official opening on April 30, 1909, Chief Librarian George Herbert Locke assured the audience that the shelves would be fully stocked by the following week. Another speaker noted that the library would include special facilities for mechanics and students, but “the sort of fiction ladies were reputed to be fond of would occupy a secondary place.”