Thursday, January 29, 2015

off the grid: scarborough transit debate goes back to the future

From 2012 to 2014 I contributed to The Grid. This article was originally published online on July 15, 2013. Given the ongoing debates over public transit in Scarborough, this piece will remain timely for a long time to come. You may also wish to read a piece I wrote for Torontoist several months later on the general history of public transit in Scarborough.

Toronto Star, March 19, 1985. Click on image for larger version.

Torontonians love arguing about the same proposed transit lines ad nauseum. Tuesday’s City Council debate—regarding which form the Scarborough RT‘s replacement will take—feels like a replay of past battles where a streetcar/LRT line was displaced in favour of a pricier, sexier option.

Toronto Star, January 29, 1975.
Among the priority studies recommended in January 1975—by a joint provincial/Metro Toronto task force on the region’s transportation needs for the next quarter-century—was a high-speed transit line linking the recently approved Kennedy subway station to Scarborough Town Centre, Malvern, and Pickering. Scarborough officials saw this line as key to spurring development in a downtown area based around the new civic centre, which would employ 25,000 people.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

off the grid: ghost city - 203 yonge street

This story was originally published online by The Grid on May 21, 2013.

There were few sports John Francis Scholes tackled that he didn’t master. The Irish-born, Toronto-reared athlete racked up championship titles in boxing, rowing, and snowshoeing during the Victorian era. His first trophy, earned during a 220-yard hurdle race in 1869, was proudly displayed in the Yonge Street hotel that eventually bore his family’s name.

Illustration of John Francis Scholes, as it appeared in the March 25, 1871 edition of the Canadian Illustrated News.

Scholes entered the hospitality business around 1880, opening a bar and hotel at 185 Yonge St. He moved his business a few doors north to 203 Yonge St. in the late 1890s, christening it the Athlete Hotel. Scholes used it as a base to mentor local athletes, including his sons John (who inherited his amateur boxing skills) and Lou (a champion rower). Scholes’ tough nature carried him through to his end—when doctors indicated a stomach ailment was terminal, he insisted on dying at the Athlete Hotel, where he entertained friends and former competitors.

Friday, January 16, 2015

off the grid: retro t.o. - the eglinton subway we almost had

This installment of my "Retro T.O." column for The Grid was originally published on March 20, 2012. This article launched the series.


Introducing Retro T.O., a new series where we revisit key moments in recent Toronto history that still reverberate today. In this edition, we go back to the August 1994 ground-breaking ceremony for an Eglinton subway line that never materialized.

Cartoon by Patrick Corrigan, Toronto Star, July 21, 1995.
To those assembled at the corner of Black Creek Drive and Eglinton Avenue, August 25, 1994 was a great day for the future of Toronto transit. A group of shovel-wielding dignitaries led by Ontario Premier Bob Rae broke ground on the Eglinton subway, a project that had been discussed for nearly three decades. Rae, whose York South riding would be served by the 4.7-kilometre, five-station line running from Black Creek Drive to Allen Road, touted the thousands of construction jobs required to build the subway before its planned opening in 2001. City of York officials were all smiles, especially Mayor Fergy Brown, who told reporters he was “busting my buttons with pride” that the municipality finally had its own rapid-transit system. If all went well, the future promised an extension from Black Creek to Pearson International Airport.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

off the grid: ghost city - hotel waverl(e)y

From 2012 to 2014 I contributed to The Grid, a weekly magazine/alt-paper which was known as eye for most of its existence. The publication folded in July 2014, leaving its website to slowly decay. Rather than let my contributions wind up in the Internet's equivalent of the afterlife, I will begin posting my pieces in no particular order. As some articles had already vaporized when I began collecting them, some reprints may be based on original drafts. In other cases, I'll toss in bonus material, especially if I learned more about the subject following the original publication.

The following piece, part of my "Ghost City" column, was published on June 18, 2013. I'm using it as the lead-off for this series, as the Silver Dollar Room received a heritage designation this week

College and Spadina, looking northwest, May 13, 1927. The Waverley is in the background (click on photo for larger version). Photo by Alfred Pearson. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 4888.

“If you really want the best, dine at the Waverley,” a person by the name of W.M. Canning advised a friend on the back of a postcard depicting a refined dining room at the Spadina Avenue establishment circa 1908. Hard to believe, but there was a time when the Waverl(e)y was considered a hotel worthy of formal dances, organizational lunches, and tourism offices.

Built by John J. Powell in 1900, the Hotel Waverley replaced a structure that once housed the local YMCA. For the next half-century, the hotel was operated by the Powell family, whose members were active in hospitality-industry associations—Egerton Powell served as president of the Ontario branch of the Greeters’ Association of America during the mid-1920s. That decade also saw the Waverley house the Toronto Convention and Tourist Association’s office and a Canadian Pacific ticket outlet.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

bonus features: new year's eve 1976

This post offers supplementary material for an article I wrote for Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this piece.
Toronto Star, January 1, 1977.
The Star’s initial coverage of New Year’s Eve celebrations put a positive spin on the evening. A full page of its January 1, 1977 edition was devoted to scenes across Metro Toronto, from revellers downtown to skating clowns in Scarborough. Those who ventured out endured temperatures which dropped to -13°C.

On Yonge Street, the new year swept over the strip “like a new disco melody.” Among those mildly disappointed by the scene along Yonge that night was Chuck Ross, a 22-year old marketing analyst from North York. “Most of our friends have girlfriends now, so we figured we’d see if we could find some girls tonight by ourselves,” he observed. “I guess we haven’t tried very hard.” Spurned by the ladies, Ross and a friend wound up dining at an unidentified burger joint, staring at the mirror lining the counter.