Tuesday, August 27, 2013

bonus features: making and remaking hazelton lanes

This post offers supplementary material for a Torontoist post I recently wrote, which you should dive into before reading any further.

Source: the Toronto Star, April 5, 1973.
It was nice for a change to read about a development project where the nearby residents weren't convinced the sky was going to fall. Unless there's a secret back story missing from both the media coverage and the personal correspondences I leafed through while researching this article, it sounds like the developer did everything right to reassure the community that all would be well. 

Besides the Avenue-Bay-Cottingham Ratepayers' Association, the neighbouring Annex Ratepayers' Association (ARA) was consulted. In a letter to alderman Ying Hope, an ARA representative wanted to "commend the process of community association consultation in the development of the project." 

Not that there weren't opponents. In a letter to the city clerk, Hazelton Avenue apartment building owner Mohsen Djelweh complained about the potential traffic bottleneck along his street. He also worried that granting an exception to the 45-foot building height limit would cause Yorkville to "slowly die and convert into a canyon" instead of remaining a "highly regarded, highly attractive low-rise development" which drew tourists.

Monday, August 26, 2013

before st clair, there was the yonge street "disaster"

Background: besides writing Past Pieces of Toronto for OpenFile, I tackled several other assignments for the site. One was this piece, originally published on March 22, 2012.

Subway construction along Yonge Street, 1949. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 574, File 2, Item 4992. Click on image for larger version.
Throughout the debate on whether LRTs or subways should be built in Scarborough, the construction of the St. Clair streetcar right-of-way has been a persistent bogeyman. Vilified by ardent subway supporters such as Mayor Rob Ford as one of the biggest disasters in Toronto transit history, the work carried out on St. Clair has been criticized for its delays and impacts (real and imagined) on local business and traffic. Those who imagine fewer hardships building a subway than a surface line may want to examine the miseries that surrounded the construction of the original Yonge line, which was far more disruptive to the local landscape than what occurred on St. Clair.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

past pieces of toronto: china court

From November 2011 through July 2012 I wrote the "Past Pieces of Toronto" column for OpenFile, which explored elements of the city which no longer exist. The following was originally posted on July 1, 2012.

Source: The Traveller’s Encyclopaedia of Ontario 1979 (Toronto: Government of Ontario, 1979)
 As the future of the ethnic shopping mall is debated in the media, one of the first to grace Toronto’s landscape is all but forgotten. A glance at the exterior of Chinatown Centre on Spadina Avenue gives no hint of its immediate predecessor, an attraction deemed worthy of mention in the provincial Traveller’s Encyclopaedia: “Constructed and decorated by craftsmen brought in from Hong Kong, this sparkling assortment of authentic oriental pagodas, gardens and Chinese boutiques makes a new focal point for the Chinese community in Toronto.” Despite such attention, China Court operated for only a decade—the victim of grander visions from its developers.

Monday, August 05, 2013

past pieces of toronto: the toronto mechanics' institute

From November 2011 through July 2012 I wrote the "Past Pieces of Toronto" column for OpenFile, which explored elements of the city which no longer exist. The following was originally posted on June 10, 2012.

Source: Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto Volume 2.
For a building that launched one of Toronto’s greatest assets, the Toronto Mechanics’ Institute (TMI) had a history that historian Donald Jones once described as “disasterous.”

Established at a public meeting in 1830, the TMI (known as the York Mechanics’ Institute until 1834) was intended to provide for “the mutual improvement of mechanics and other who become members of the society in arts and sciences by the formation of a library of reference and circulation, by the delivery of lectures on scientific and mechanical subjects…and for conversation on subjects from which all discussion of political and religious matters is to be carefully excluded.” It was inspired by a wave of mechanics institutes established in Great Britain during the 1820s that aimed to educate the working classes. Since Toronto was barely industrialized in the 1830s, the organization’s early membership tended to be drawn from the middle class. Its early directors included prominent figures such as William Warren Baldwin, Sheriff William Jarvis, Jesse Ketchum and John Rolph. As historian J.M.S. Careless once noted, the TMI soon appeared to provide little more than “intellectual amusements” for its founding families. Regarding an early, well-publicized lecture on “Natural and Experimental Philosophy,” Careless suspected that “what any mechanics present may have thought of all this is something else.”