Bonus Features: “Knocking out that rag is my only passion”

Before diving into this post, read my TVO article on the Star and the Charitable Gifts Act.

Warning: there’s a lot of material in this one, as so much ink was spilled in the press concerning the Charitable Gifts Act (CGA). What I’m presenting here is a tiny fraction of the coverage. At the peak of the controversy, a quarter of the Star‘s pages (averaging around 56 pages an edition) mentioned the CGA.

Due to COVID-related closures, I was unable to check the Telegram‘s coverage. As the Globe and Mail remained closer to George McCullagh’s heart, I imagine the Tely‘s coverage wasn’t much different, other than using language better suited for the paper’s audience.

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Toronto Star, May 10, 1948.

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Toronto Star, May 10, 1948.

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Toronto Star, July 14, 1947.

Let’s step back a few months, to the news that the Telegram, which had been administered by trustees since founder John Ross Robertson’s death in 1918. Throughout the Charitable Gifts Act saga, politicians and the press wondered why the arrangements surrounding the Tely and the Hospital for Sick Children had not been questioned.

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The Telegram, December 1, 1948.

A front page message from George McCullagh after he bought the Telegram. One can quibble about the claims of political independence, given McCullagh’s strong ties with George Drew and other Progressive Conservatives. Still, he modernized the paper, bringing it into the postwar era by gradually lessening its strong British flavour (the Union Jack soon vanished from the masthead) and bringing in a new generation of talented writers and editors.

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Honolulu Star-Bulletin, January 8, 1949.

McCullagh’s dislike for the the Star made it into the North American wire services, with this story spreading as far as Hawaii.

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Toronto Star, March 26, 1949.

The first of many front-page Star editorials on the CGA and its potential effects.

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Globe and Mail, March 28, 1949. 

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Toronto Star, March 30, 1949.

A few words about who was serving at Queen’s Park at the time. The result of the June 1948 provincial election was 53 PC, 21 CCF, 14 Liberal, and 2 LPP (Labor-Progressive Party, the legally acceptable name of the Communists). Though his party won, Premier George Drew lost 13 seats compared to 1945, including his own. He was vanquished by one of the men seen here, William “Temperance Bill” Temple. Drew handed the premiership over to veteran Peel MPP Thomas Laird Kennedy, who would serve as interim leader until the PCs voted for a permanent replacement on April 27, 1949.

Besides Temple, the CCF caucus of 1949 was an interesting mix of MPPs. Among them:

  • William Dennison (St. David), a speech therapist who served as Toronto’s mayor from 1966 to 1972.
  • Agnes Macphail (York East), elected as Canada’s first female federal MP in 1921. She had switched to provincial politics earlier in the decade.
  • C.H. Millard (York West), who was the United Auto Workers local president during the Oshawa GM strike in 1937, beginning a career which shaped trade union activism in Ontario.
  • Reid Scott(Beaches), who, at 21, was the youngest person elected to the Ontario legislature until Sam Oosterhoff in 2016. He later served the public as a city councillor, judge, and federal MP. When he died in 2016, he was the last surviving member of the parliamentary committee who chose the current Canadian flag.

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Cartoon by Les Callan, Toronto Star, March 30, 1949.

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Ottawa Journal, March 30, 1949.

The Ottawa Journal was among the conservative papers who disagreed with the bill.

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Globe and Mail, March 31, 1949.

A front page editorial where the G&M takes the high ground in paragraph one, then resorts to name calling in paragraph two. But then with a title like “Pay Up and Shut Up,” could you really expect less?

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Ottawa Journal, March 31, 1949.

Premier Kennedy’s thoughts on the bill. Apart from a three-year break following the Liberal landslide of 1934, Kennedy served as an MPP for Peel from 1919 to 1959. He served as minister of agriculture under four premiers, and retained the portfolio during his interim premiership. His name lives on via a Mississauga secondary school and two major roads in Peel Region (Kennedy Road and Tomken Road).

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Windsor Star, April 1, 1949.

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Cartoon by Jack Booth, Globe and Mail, April 1, 1949. 

The G&M‘s cartoon following CCF leader Ted Jolliffe’s filibuster (which, if you have access to the online archives of the G&M and the Star, you can read lengthy excerpts printed in each paper). The man in the dumpster at the back is federal CCF leader M.J. Coldwell. Pro-CGA coverage accused Jolliffe of defending the Star in order to lure the paper away from its traditional support of the provincial Liberals.

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Ottawa Citizen, April 1, 1949.

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Cartoon by Les Callan, Toronto Star, April 2, 1949. 

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Financial Post, April 2, 1949.

The Financial Post also reported on the potential effects of the original bill on charities and foundations, including the University of Toronto (with its interests in Connaught Laboratories and University of Toronto Press) and the Royal Conservatory of Music (which ran music publisher Frederick Harris).

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Toronto Star, April 6, 1949.

Agnes Macphail’s feelings about the CGA, along with a guest appearance by former premier Harry Nixon (also not a fan of the legislation).

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Toronto Star, April 6, 1949.

Was John S.D. Tory (grandfather of the current Toronto mayor) an advisor on the CGA…

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Globe and Mail, April 7, 1949.

…or not?

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Windsor Star, April 6, 1949.

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Canadian Champion (Milton, ON), April 7, 1949.

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Newmarket Era and Express, April 7, 1949.

Excerpts of pro-CGA editorials from papers of all sizes and publishing frequency were reprinted in the Star.

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Kingsville Reporter,  April 7, 1949.

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Stouffville Tribune, April 7, 1949.

A pair of small-town pro-CGA editorials. Of the larger papers in the province, the G&M published a supportive editorial from the Hamilton Spectator. I wonder what the London Free Press‘s take was, as its name never came up in anyone’s coverage.

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Globe and Mail, April 7, 1949.

The shortest CGA-related editorial, and a fine example of the snark that enveloped everyone.

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Toronto Star, April 7, 1949.

The Star‘s front page editorial the day after the CGA passed. This sums up several other articles which had run in the paper over the previous week.

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Toronto Star, April 7, 1949.

McCullagh’s interview appears to have been in the Canadian version of Time – it’s not in the April 11, 1949 cover dated American edition.

gm 1949-04-08 editorialGlobe and Mail, April 8, 1949. 

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Toronto Star, June 23, 1949.

How the Star and McCullagh’s papers covered the 1949 federal election is worthy of a post of its own, if only to show the depths both went to sling mud at each other. Drew fared poorly in his first election as federal PC leader, as their seat count dropped from 65 in 1945 to 41. In Ontario, their count dropped from 48 to 25.

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Toronto Star, March 26, 1958.

The Water Nymph Club (Part Five)

During the summer of 1923, the Telegram published a syndicated series of swimming tips for women. As summer swim season approaches (maybe), it seems like a good time to return to this series.  Click here for the full series

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The Telegram, August 13, 1923.

Winsome: “generally pleasing and engaging because of a childlike charm and innocence” (for example, “a winsome smile”) – Merriam-Webster

Get used to seeing “winsome” a lot during the rest of this series: the Tely would use it a lot. Do not feel embarrassed if this creeps you out, as from a 2020 perspective, it comes off as the editors going overboard to fetishize female swimmers.

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The Telegram, August 13, 1923.

On the front page of the paper’s second section, readers were told why men cannot be water nymphs. Something about Greek mythology and concrete gender boundaries. Still, the paper made sure any hot-blooded men would have an opportunity to show off their swimming skills and torsos. Given that prohibition was still in effect in Ontario in 1923, there was little chance that, unless you took a flask behind a pavilion, “Swimming Expert” Johnnie Walker would enjoy with you a swig of the fine beverage he shared his name with.

Then again, the copy editor might have tossed back a few shots. Johnny (not Johnnie) Walker was a distinguished swimming coach and instructor, whose notable students included George “The Catalina Kid” Young. Walker’s renown was such that he received an obituary in the New York Times in 1935, which mentioned his training camp for Lake Ontario swimming marathons and his role as swim coach at the West End YMCA. During 1923, his son Tommy was a champion in an American pentathlon.

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The Telegram, August 13, 1923.

By this point, at least two ads a day were dedicated to promoting the carnival. Let’s take a break and return to the actual lessons…

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The Telegram, August 14, 1923.

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The Telegram, August 15, 1923.

Your break from “winsome” is about to end…

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The Telegram, August 15, 1923.

More historically important than the Water Nymph Carnival: work progressing nicely on Kingston Road between Oshawa and Whitby.

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The Telegram, August 16, 1923.

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The Telegram, August 16, 1923.

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The Telegram, August 17, 1923.

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The Telegram, August 17, 1923.

And here’s your admission coupon…

The Telegram printing plant listed at 650 Dupont Street is today the Dupont and Christie Loblaws.

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The Telegram, August 18, 1923.

Next time: Complete team coverage of the 1923 Telegram Water Nymph Carnival.

Additional sources: the May 1, 1935 edition of the New York Times.

A Pandemic Night’s Wanderings: The Beaches, AGO, Grange Park

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All photos in this post taken on May 11, 2020 and copyright Jamie Bradburn. 

A crisp night with few people out and about: the perfect time for my wife and I to wander around the city.

We began our journey on Queen Street in the east end of The Beaches. So far we haven’t relied on wine to get us through the crisis, but, judging from the regular lineups we’ve seen outside of LCBO stores, plenty of others are. Perhaps this is a good time to branch out and try different brands and styles, or conduct experiments in home vintages.

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Outside a pet supply store, spaces were marked out for socially distanced pickup. Or was it a tribute to those unfortunate souls who earn three strikes on Family Feud?

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At Beech Avenue, a quartet of Muskoka chairs for a socially distanced rest.

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Films on extended run at the Fox Theatre.

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A message similar to those on marquees across the city, with a touch of Bogey.

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A quiet night at the laundromat, with baskets lined up neatly in a row.

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With the speed that businesses were forced to close, there are still a few St. Patrick’s Day displays kicking around. Later on, we reflected on how many window displays in the city have frozen a moment in time, and wondered if that’s incredible or unsettling.

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A note of thanks painted on Valumart’s window.

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We walked down to the lake, where warnings about ongoing work by the TRCA and COVID greeted us at the bottom of Silver Birch Avenue.

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All along the boardwalk, there were signs that chairs and benches had once been covered with police tape, but the public had other ideas regarding their use. Other wanderers were seen admiring the clear night sky from Muskoka chairs along the beach.

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After weaving our way along side streets back to the car, we headed into downtown. I’ve barely visited the core since the crisis began, and the few experiences haven’t been entirely pleasant. One night I drove along Yonge Street and played dodge ball with panhandlers driven by the lack of foot traffic into more desperate behaviour towards motorists. I feared for their safety (wandering in and out of traffic in a way that could have been fatal had they encountered road racers) and mine (blocking my path as I tried to turn, aggressively knocking on the window).  It was an uncomfortable experience for many reasons, ranging from practical (don’t accidentally injure or kill somebody!) to societal (was I nervous because these were desperate people coping with poverty and mental illness?).

We parked along McCaul across from OCAD. Few people were around, and the silence was broken by the occasional diverted streetcar passing by. The school was well lit.

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At the AGO, a reminder of exhibitions I’ll never get to see. We talked about how museums might reopen, figuring those with large, roomy exhibition spaces where social distancing occur easily might return first, perhaps with reduced capacity or a reservation system for viewing time. Special exhibitions may have to have less “wow” factor to keep crowds away.

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So, so quiet.

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On the backside of the AGO, the garbage and recycling containers in Grange Park were taped off.

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Henry Moore’s Two Large Forms seems to have found a good home in the revitalized park since moving from the other side of the gallery in 2017. Google Maps currently describes the park as a “city oasis with a Henry Moore sculpture.”

Won’t deny that…

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Like several other downtown landmarks, OCAD was bathed in a purple glow to honour those working in the hospitality industry.

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Its doors may be closed due to COVID, but the University Settlement Community Centre still shines its lights on Grange Road.

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Among the other buildings lit in purple: Casa Loma, which we drove by on our way home.

An Exhibition in Crystal

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on August 23, 2008.

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Crystal Palace, 1871. Exhibition Place & CNE Archives.

Once upon a time, the consort of a queen whose empire stretched across the globe was the president of a society that encouraged the promotion of the finest arts, commercial enterprises, and industrial discoveries in his domain. With other major figures, he organized a grand exhibition housed in a magnificent palace made of crystal. The palace inspired observers so much that cities across the ocean built their own versions to raise the same level of excitement that the consort’s fair generated. All went well with these buildings, except for their penchant for eventually catching fire…

Using Sir James Paxton’s design for the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a model, two incarnations of Toronto’s Crystal Palace served the public as a primary exhibition space for half a century while rotating provincial fairs gave way to the Canadian National Exhibition.

The first Crystal Palace, officially named the Palace of Industry, was built in 1858 on grounds northwest of King and Shaw Streets, south of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum. Designers Sandford Fleming (the inventor of standard time) and Collingwood Schreiber based their plans on Paxton’s Crystal Palace in Hyde Park but incorporated more cast iron into the framework to withstand Toronto’s climate (which sounds like the 1850s equivalent of the construction of the Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum). A contemporary account felt the structure “look[ed] very low, and as if crushed down by the superincumbent mass of roof.” The building was designated Toronto’s first permanent exhibition hall and was inaugurated with the annual provincial agricultural/industrial exhibition that had rotated among several cities in Canada West since 1846.

The building was officially opened by Governor-General Sir Edmund Walker Head on September 28, 1858. Attendees of the event were led in prayer by Bishop John Strachan, then treated to a recital by the Metropolitan Choral Society. Among the prize-winning exhibitors was author Catharine Parr Traill, who was honoured for bringing “the best collection of native plants dried and named.” The site would see four more provincial fairs, house the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) during his 1860 tour of Canada, and provide quarters for troops heading west to put down the Red River Rebellion in 1870.

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Crystal Palace, c. 1906. Exhibition Place & CNE Archives.

By the time Toronto was awarded the 1878 provincial fair, the city had deemed the site inadequate to handle increasing crowds. After considering High Park, Bloor and St. George and Woodbine Park as potential sites, the city struck a lease with the federal government in April 1878 for a western segment of Fort York’s garrison reserve that formed the beginning of Exhibition Place. The Crystal Palace was dismantled and most of the ironwork was incorporated in a new main building east of Dufferin Street. The design was maintained with some alterations (an additional story, raised skylights and a cupola). The old site was sold to the Massey Manufacturing Company.

As had been the case two decades earlier, the Governor-General was on hand to open the new Crystal Palace. Lord Dufferin’s speech urged the crowd to draw the nation closer to Great Britain, “live in generous rivalry” with the United States, and to keep a close eye on politicians to ensure their actions rose above partisan shenanigans. The Telegram overheard a visitor declare the new Crystal Palace “ain’t no slouch.” The paper agreed, describing the site glowingly:

The main building is large enough to accommodate the inhabitants of an ordinary township. The buildling, as a building, is admirably adapted for exhibition purposes, being light and airy in appearance and of considerable strength. The internal arrangements are such that no exhibit suffers from want of space or light. When the Philharmonic Society sang at the opening, the acoustics were found to be excellent.

City officials hoped that the Crystal Palace and its surrounding new buildings would convince provincial exhibition officials to keep the fair in Toronto for the next few years. When organizers awarded the 1879 edition to Ottawa, politicians and business leaders mobilized to establish a permanent annual exhibition for Toronto. The first Toronto Industrial Exhibition was held in September 1879 and grew steadily over the next quarter-century. By the time the fair’s name was officially changed to the Canadian National Exhibition in 1904, the Crystal Palace was officially known as the Transportation Building.

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The Telegram, October 19, 1906.

Crystal palaces elsewhere had proven highly susceptible to fire. Toronto’s seemed to be holding up well until October 18, 1906. Just after 10 p.m. a blaze broke out in the wooden grandstand and, despite heavy rainfall, quickly spread to neighbouring stables. The Mail and Empire described the dramatic events that unfolded around 11:30:

A cry arose from the crowds…that the Transportation Building was alight. A spark had found a lodgment directly under the eaves of the east front. It had gradually eaten into the dry wood of the structure…the old Crystal Palace was soon alight and blazing merrily…all efforts to save it were fruitless, for the numerous panes of glass in the walls broke with resounding cracks and served as draughts to fan the flames.

The old building…furnished to the drenched onlooker a much more striking picture in its destruction than ever before in its history. Every window, and they are legion, was outlined in black against a background of fire. As the flames seized upon the roof they leaped high in the air, scattering embers in every direction, and making a fearsome pyrotechnic display. Finally dull crashes were heard, and the roof began to fall, the girders sank to the ground, and all that remained was a number of scattered black pillars of iron, like giant arms stretched imploringly to the scarlet sky.

Arson was suspected, thanks to two unusual encounters Park Commissioner John Chambers had with a cyclist roaming the grounds during the blaze. Chambers told The Daily Star that a man “with a peculiar foreign accent” approached him from the grandstand area and told him that “the whole place [was] going to be burned.” After Chambers assisted firefighters in saving the Fruit Building, the cyclist reappeared to tell Chambers, “[I]t is no use to save any of these buildings. You might as well leave your hose alone, because you can’t do any good.” When Chambers asked the cyclist to help fight the blaze, the man cursed at Chambers (“oh, go to —-“) and vanished into the night.

The Crystal Palace site did not remain empty for long. G.W. Gouinlock’s dome-topped Horticulture Building was erected the following year. As for the building that provided the initial inspiration, London’s Crystal Palace went up in flames in 1936.

Additional material from the September 25, 1878 edition of The Telegram and the October 19, 1906 editions of The Mail and Empire and The Toronto Daily Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Crystal Palace, date unknown, used in Landmarks of Toronto Volume 5. Toronto Public Library, JRR 552 Cab.

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Sketches of Toronto by Alfred Sylvester (Toronto: Rossin House News Depot, 1858).

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Crystal Palace, looking north, with Dufferin Street Wharf in the left foreground. Photo of wood engraving based on a drawing by William T. Smedley, 1881. Toronto Public Library, JRR 2729 Cab. Click here for larger image.

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Sketches of Toronto by Alfred Sylvester (Toronto: Rossin House News Depot, 1858).

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Crystal Palace, 1884. Toronto Public Library, E 9-189 Small.

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A negative review of the Crystal Palace, The Grumbler, October 9, 1858.

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Postcard by Walter M. Lowney Co. of Canada, Limited, 1905. Toronto Public Library, PC 33. Click here for larger version

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The Globe, October 19, 1906. 

Bonus Features: “Forget the golf stick and use the hoe” (WWII Victory Gardening)

Before diving into this post, read my TVO article on victory gardening in Ontario during the Second World War.

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Weston Times and Guide, May 20, 1943.

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Globe and Mail, February 26, 1943.

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Globe and Mail, March 18, 1943.

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Weston Times and Guide, May 20, 1943.

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Windsor Star, March 25, 1942.

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Windsor Star, March 25, 1942.

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Ottawa Citizen, February 28, 1942.

The Citizen‘s “Uncle Ray” urged children to participate in victory gardening from early 1942 on. Subsequent columns included kids who “enlisted” in the Uncle Ray Garden Brigade, along with tips on what to grow.

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Windsor Star, May 6, 1942.

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Weston Times and Guide, April 8, 1943.

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Ottawa Journal, May 20, 1942. More on Muggs and Skeeter.

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Weston Times and Guide, May 20, 1943.

gm 1943-05-01 growth of victory gardening

Globe and Mail, May 1, 1943.

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Globe and Mail, June 8, 1943.

oc 1943-08-09 picobac ad good youth and victory gardens

Ottawa Citizen, August 9, 1943.

oc 1943-09-07 old man grows giant veggies in toronto

Ottawa Citizen, September 7, 1943.

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Windsor Star, March 18, 1944.

Not going to lie – my juvenile potty humour kicked in when I saw this series of ads for a downtown Windsor gardening needs supplier.

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Globe and Mail, March 13, 1944.

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Globe and Mail, January 30, 1945.

Bonus Features: “Are these new Canadian painters crazy?” (100th Anniversary of the Group of Seven)

Before diving into this post, read my TVO article about the 100th anniversary of the first exhibition of the Group of Seven.

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Cover to the exhibition catalogue. Image courtesy Art Gallery of Ontario. 

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Review by Margaret Fairbairn, Toronto Star, May 7, 1920.

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Tangled Garden, J.E.H. MacDonald, 1916. WikiArt.

One of several MacDonald paintings in the exhibition that were not for sale.

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The Globe, May 11, 1920.

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Fire Swept – Algoma, Frank Johnston, 1919. WikiArt.

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The Globe, May 15, 1920. 

The newspaper ad for the exhibition, tucked here between ads for local comedians and singers offering their services. A quick search of the internet shows that a Will J. White wrote a patriotic song two years earlier, “Take Me Back to Dear Old Canada . James Elcho Fiddes was a Scottish tenor who appears to have enjoyed numerous gigs in Canada and the northeastern United States during the 1910s and 1920s.

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Calgary Herald, April 20, 1921.

Some thoughts from A.Y. Jackson for the western Canadian touring exhibition of the Group’s works.

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Terre Sauvage, A.Y. Jackson, 1913. Wikiart.

Though not included in the initial 1920 Group show, this Jackson piece was included in the exhibition which travelled through the United States in 1920-1922. According to the National Gallery of Canada’s website, when this painting was shown during the Royal Academy of Arts’s 1918 exhibition, critic Harold Mortimer-Lamb called it “one of the most important paintings of landscape yet produced by a Canadian artist, and more clearly expresses the spirit and feeling of Canada than anything that has yet been done.”

It is mentioned in the review below…

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Indianapolis Star, April 10, 1921.

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The Beaver Dam, J.E.H. MacDonald, 1919. WikiArt.

Mentioned in the Indianapolis review, this piece was also part of the original 1920 Group exhibition.

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Detroit Free Press, June 5, 1921.

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Buffalo Courier, July 31, 1921.

The Buffalo engagement of this exhibition ran from September 10 to October 5, 1921. The Albright Gallery later became Albright-Knox, and will be known as the Buffalo Albright Knox Gundlach Art Museum once its revitalization/reconstruction project is completed.

Past Pieces of Toronto: Dominion Coal Silos

The pilot for the “Past Pieces of Toronto” series, this post was originally published by OpenFile on October 11, 2011.

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Photo by Ellis Wiley. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 3, Item 125.

To some, they were a nostalgic landmark, a throwback to a time when Toronto homes relied on coal as home heating fuel. To others, they were a contemporary eyesore that should have been razed long before condos took their place. Regardless of one’s views, the nine storage silos that operated for 70 years by Dominion Coal and Wood at Merton Street and Mount Pleasant Road were a key visual element of North Toronto.

Designed by the E.P. Muntz Engineering Company, the concrete coal silos went into operation in 1929 with a storage capacity of 350 tons each. Along with the Milnes Fuel facilities at Yonge Street, Dominion Coal bookended a series of construction and industrial sites bordering the old Belt Line railway along Merton Street that served the growing population of Toronto’s northern edge. Dominion fought for the residential coal business in Toronto against long-established sellers such as Elias Rogers, and over a hundred other licensed dealers who sold the black mineral by the sack-full. When a steep decline in home coal usage caused many of Dominion’s competitors to cease business during the 1950s, the company survived by latching onto the emerging do-it-yourself home construction market. By the mid-1980s, coal and firewood accounted for only two percent of Dominion Coal’s sales, mostly to rural customers who continued to rely on old-fashioned stoves and furnaces. The company didn’t forget what built its reputation: in the 1990s, it received a merit award from Heritage Toronto for restoring the painted advertising that covered the silos.

A fresh coat of paint didn’t have much of a chance against rising land values and a site with an elevation attractive to condo developers looking to sell future residents on great views of downtown. When Dominion Coal president Bruce Chapman announced in May 1999 that the silos would close, he anticipated little resistance from the city in changing the zoning from commercial to residential as other properties along Merton Street had done. Before the last batch of construction material was sold that September, the site was purchased by Urbancorp, whose intent was replace the silos with two condo towers.

Local heritage agencies worked to preserve them. Already listed by the Toronto Historical Board as having “architectural and historical importance,” the site was granted a heritage designation that delayed redevelopment plans. City councillors debated the merits of salvaging any part of the silos. While local representative Michael Walker argued for discussions with the community about preservation, councillors like Mario Silva saw no redeeming aesthetic qualities in the structures—as he told the North Toronto Town Crier in December 1999, “I hate silos myself.” Silva felt they were “extremely ugly” and believed that “the neighbourhood would be relieved to see these silos finally go.” While Urbancorp argued about the excessive costs to build around the silos (which were considered too small to be converted into condos) and the test soil contamination levels around them, the developer devised several plans that allowed the historic structures to remain.

But none of those plans were enacted. By the time Monarch Construction acquired the site in September 2002, the silos had disappeared from the North Toronto skyline and the way was clear for the residences currently occupying the corner. One of the few reminders of their existence was found a few blocks north along Mount Pleasant Road in the window display at George’s Trains, where models of the silos were incorporated into the backdrop. Unlike George’s, which has moved on, a Heritage Toronto plaque will provide a permanent memorial and a space for people to debate whether creative reuses for the silos could have been implemented, or if they deserved their fate.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Looking south on Mount Pleasant Road from Balliol Street, circa October 1957. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 100, Item 361.

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Toronto Star, May 20, 1999.

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Globe and Mail, March 21, 2000.

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Advertorial, Globe and Mail, September 13, 2002.

Past Pieces of Toronto: Uptown Theatre

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 the debut installment of the series, originally published on November 4, 2011.

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Uptown Theatre, interior, Cinema 1, circa 1970. Photo by Roger Jowett. City of Toronto Archives, series 881, file 169, item 2.

Equipped with the latest in sound technology in its later years, the main auditorium of the Uptown was a great place to see films in which things go boom. As the action unfolded on the screen each punch or explosion reverberated in your seat. Such experiences, and the grand architecture and decor, made the demise of Uptown Theatre so painful: its final corporate parent refused to pay for wheelchair accessibility upgrade.

Loew’s Uptown opened on September 20, 1920 as a 1,600 seat theatre showing pioneering director D.W. Griffith’s film The Love Flower. As the Globe‘s E.R. Parkhurst reported, “it would be difficult to conceive of a theatre more admirably designed for the comfort of its patrons or better adapted for the enjoyment of the very best that brains, equipment and talent can provide in motion picture entertainment.” The opening gala saw appearances from leading lady (and Griffith’s lover) Carol Dempster, movie star/former Upper Canada College student Bert Lytell, theatre owner Marcus Loew, and Toronto mayor Tommy Church. A live orchestra was present, as it would be through the silent era until the Uptown became one of the first theatres in Toronto wired for talkies.

Following a fire in 1960, the theatre underwent renovations that, when officially unveiled to the public in 1962, the Toronto Star saw as a barely a nod to the new post-television reality of movie-going as a social occasion. “In New York,” noted Star writer Wendy Michener, “many houses serve coffee and have a really comfortable sitting-meeting-talking lounge. In Toronto, the only move in that direction to date has been the installation of hot-dog machines.” Perhaps theatre management sensed that Torontonians of the future would be able to snack on frankfurters anywhere downtown.

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Uptown Theatre, 1970. Photo by Ellis Wiley. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 2, Item 111.

Shortly after the 20th Century theatre chain took over the Uptown in 1969, the cinema closed for four months as it was converted into a five-screen multiplex under the eye of architect Mandel Sprachman. Referring to his work on the Uptown and the Imperial Six further south on Yonge (now the Canon Theatre), Sprachman noted that “if I didn’t step in, those grand opulent cinema temples would be torn down and replaced with parking lots and high-rises. What I do is to give old cinemas a new lease on life. Architecturally speaking, I do my damnedest to help the old and new live together.” In the case of the Uptown, the result was a 1,000 seat main theatre for first-run spectaculars (starting with the musical version of Goodbye Mr. Chips), two other mainstream first-run screens, and the two “Backstage” theatres that specialized in art films. The complex was redesigned in eye-catching, playful pop-art influenced colours.

Over time, the Uptown became a key venue for the Toronto International Film Festival, especially as other Yorkville-area cinemas such as the Hollywood and Plaza closed their doors. When the Ontario Human Rights Commission ordered Famous Players to make the Backstage, Eglinton and Uptown wheelchair-accessible in 2001, the chain decided to close the historic theatres rather than incur the cost of required renovations. Famous Players cited a changing market and shifting demographics as the real reasons for the closures, but these were treated with skepticism in the press. The Backstage shut down immediately after the closures were announced in December 2001, and the rest of the Uptown lingered on until it took its final bow during the 2003 edition of TIFF. While the Eglinton survived as an event venue, the Uptown was sold to condo developers. Tragically, the theatre experienced a final burst of reverberating action during demolition work in December 2003 when a section collapsed onto the neighbouring Yorkville English Academy, killing student Augusto Cesar Mejia Solis.

Sources: the September 21, 1920 edition of the Globe and the August 16, 1962 edition of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

globe 20-09-18 preview of opening

Globe, September 18, 1920.

globe 20-09-20 opening gala preview

Globe, September 20, 1920.

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Toronto Star, September 20, 1920.

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Toronto World, September 20, 1920.

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Opening night coverage by E.R. Parkhurst, Globe, September 21, 1920.

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Toronto World, September 21, 1920. 

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Toronto Star, August 16, 1962.

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Toronto Star, August 16, 1962.

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Toronto Star, July 31, 1969.

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Uptown Theatre, exterior, Balmuto Street, circa 1970. Photo by Roger Jowett, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, File 169.

From an interview with Mandel  Sprachman published in the June 21, 1980 Globe and Mail:

What is the role of the architect in the world of split palaces and mini-multiplexes? “If the job involves a palace,” says Sprachman, “I respect the work of the architects before me. I know they’re going to chop away at it, I can feel all the vaudeville people who once performed there–it gets pretty schmaltzy. I don’t want to do it but better me than a parking lot or a standard high-rise apartment building. The trick is to try to make cuts as clean as possible and leave as much as possible of the original building.”

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Toronto Star, April 4, 1970.

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“Exuberant graphics decorate the Balmuto St. side of the revamped Uptown Theatre on Yonge St.; where the five theatres have been fitted in. The Backstage 1 and 2; entered from Balmuto; are the best part of the whole.” Photo by Dick Darrell, originally published in the April 4, 1970 edition of the Toronto Star. Toronto Public Library, Toronto Star Photo Archive.

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Toronto Star, December 12, 1970.

An excerpt from Doug Fetherling’s editorial page “Toronto Notebook.” “Marshall Delaney” was Robert Fulford’s film critic alias at Saturday Night magazine.

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Globe and Mail, March 6, 2001.

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Globe and Mail, March 14, 2001. 

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Globe and Mail, December 13, 2001.

According to the December 12, 2001 Star, other estimated costs to the Uptown complex included $225,000 for a new sprinkler system, and $75,000 for upgrades to the Backstage. A Famous Players official admitted the theatres affected by the OHRC’s ruling would have closed anyway, but the decision “accelerated the plan.” The OHRC ordered Famous Players to pay five complainants between $8,000 and $10,000 each “as damages for loss arising out of the infringement of their rights.” One of the complainants was to receive an addition $2,000 in damages for mental anguish.

From the September 19, 2003 Star, an excerpt from Geoff Pevere’s column on the final closing of the Uptown:

The Uptown was the kind of theatre–old, deep and dark–that made even going to bad movies a little less painful. Even if the movie sucked, the floor was sticky and the guy in front of you kept shifting so you couldn’t see past his mullet, it felt good to be there. When an old movie theatre disappears, as just about all of them now have or soon will, with it go your memories of the emotions you experienced when seeing a movie there. This is what gives its disappearance a sadness that most other victims of dubious urban development lack: These were the places where you remember experiencing things intensely. You went there to feel fear, desire, laugh, pine and momentarily forget what awaited you outside.

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Toronto Star, December 3, 2003.

As for the condo tower completed following the tragedy, Alex Bozikovic does not have kind words in Toronto Architecture: A City Guide, calling it “a tall neo-Deco mediocrity.”

Post #600: One Fine Sunday Walk in Rosedale, Pandemic Style

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View of MacLennan Avenue and Summerhill Avenue taken from the pedestrian bridge, May 3, 2020. All photos in this post copyright Jamie Bradburn, 2020. 

Hi, how’s everyone doing?

Hopefully you’re riding out the pandemic as best as you can. My coping mechanism has been plenty of walking through residential neighbourhoods, both close to home and in other parts of the city. Besides aiding my mental health, it’s been a way to discover/rediscover the local landscape. Low traffic on residential streets helps with the ballet pedestrians perform to achieve good social distancing – with enough practice, you develop a good rhythm in dodging others for the greater good.

For the first summery day we’ve had, I tested my skills in Rosedale.

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There were two boxes of books by the curb close to where I parked. My porcupine assistants Qwilly and Qwillamina chose these two to take home.

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I started the walk by wandering up and down dead end and limited-access streets, going back and forth between Glen Road/Summerhill Avenue and the train tracks. This limited the number of other pedestrians, giving plenty of space to take in the blossoms. Locals were taking advantage of the sunny weather to spruce up their landscaping.

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A home with an artistic touch.

Walking west along Summerhill Avenue, foot traffic rose as I approached Summerhill Market. Outside, a guitarist played “Puff the Magic Dragon” and an ancient former ambulance clumsily tried to park. Inside, shoppers could treat themselves to single rolls of toilet paper for $1 each. On my way out, the ancient former ambulance clumsily exited the parking lot, turning on its siren as it headed east.

You can’t make this stuff up.

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Nor can you imagine signs like this one, posted on the pedestrian bridge at MacLennan and Summerhill.

Issue #1: while intended to promote social distancing, the placement of the giant “STOP” sign suggests the opposite.

Issue #2: if the graphics are taken literally, the sign suggests that optimal social distancing is achieved by one person hovering above another. Gravity has other ideas.

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The porcupines decided to provide a lesson in proper social distancing.

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One safety measure nobody was using at MacLennan and Summerhill were the cups of flags spread around the intersection. Found across neighbourhoods in north Toronto, I’ve rarely seen them used. They fall into a long tradition of solutions to road safety issues whose value is more symbolic than practical (or push most responsibility onto pedestrians).

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Next, Rosedale Park, home of the first Grey Cup game.

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The most common sign in Toronto’s parks during the pandemic.

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I’m not sure how much sense this sign makes at the moment, given that plenty of playground equipment, including some pieces in Rosedale Park, is covered in police tape to prevent usage.

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While the amenities were left alone, people in the park were mostly observing current distancing conventions, whether they were sunbathing or doing other contemplative activities. I also noticed people who, rather than use the benches, brought fold-up chairs to rest in.

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The park’s Little Free Library was full of material, including a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.

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Moving on, I zigzagged down to the architectural gems along Beaumont Road. More time to appreciate the blossoms.

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There were CDs hanging in the windows of Oakhaven, once home to Emmett Cardinal Carter.

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The Proctor Residence, at 3 Beaumont Road.

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A friendly reminder as you head north along Glen Road.

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In the Little Free Library outside Rosedale United Church, a selection of parenting guides, books om Christmas and opera, a Penguin Classic of early Christian writing…and another book in the Fifty Shades series.

As Fifty Shades books have appeared in nearly every LFL I’ve seen across the city lately, I think the good people of Toronto have quietly decided that dumping their copies of this series is a good civic project during the pandemic.

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Next, Chorley Park, where the switchback path leading into the Don Valley has not, as some residents feared, led to the end of Western civilization.

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At one of the gateways to the path, a Heritage Toronto plaque outlining the odd history of Chorley Park.

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I then drove over to the Summerhill end of David Balfour Park, which is closed due to the rehabilitation of the Rosehill Reservoir. The construction hoarding along Summerhill Gardens is filled with hopeful messages.

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At journey’s end…the entire Fifty Shades series!

A Look at Toronto’s Cycling Heyday

Originally published as a gallery post on Torontoist on May 27, 2013 to mark the beginning of that year’s Toronto Bike Month. As of this posting, 2020’s edition has been postponed until September due to COVID-19.

A cyclist during the height of the bicycle craze of the 1890s would have scoffed at the notion of a Toronto Bike Month. At the time, no special observance was necessary. Everybody was picking up two-wheeled vehicles in models designed for comfort, fashion, and style. They were speedier than a horse carriage, roomier than a crammed streetcar, and offered independent mobility. Outside of the winter months, bicycles were poised to rule the city’s streets for years to come.

The introduction of equal-sized wheels and inflatable rubber tires during the late 1880s produced safer bicycles, sparking a boom in sales. At the height of the fad, trendy riding clothes were available, spectators lined streets and tracks to watch competitive races, and relationships were cemented on leisurely rides. Yet within a few years of the 20th century’s arrival, the bike’s popularity began to fade as the next big thing began to take over: the automobile.

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Mail and Empire, February 9, 1895.

A sampling of top-end models offered by one of the city’s largest bicycle retailers. A second ad in the same newspaper noted that “our Mr. Hyslop has given up all his other business connections with the intention of pushing the bicycle trade to its utmost extent…If energy, push, and live business ideas count for anything, we shall have it.”

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The Globe, April 4, 1901.

Department stores sold their own lines of bicycles. In this ad, Eaton’s explains why they could sell a bike for far less than the average $50-$150 range. Given Eaton’s legendary generosity in terms in accepting returns with few questions asked, we imagine a few wheels made their way back to the store when riders needed an upgrade.

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The Globe, April 18, 1898.

It’s a fact: stopping for a rest by the roadside while out for a ride will immediately turn your clothing to tatters and cause stubble to sprout from your face!

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The Globe, April 2, 1887.

Shockingly, the paper was not swamped with letters from angry bicycle repairmen for being portrayed as greedy businessmen preying on cyclists who chose their vehicles poorly.

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The Empire, January 21, 1895.

During this era, competitive cycling was used as a sales pitch. L.D. Robertson, T.B. McCarthy, and R. Hensel were the top three finishers during the inaugural edition of the Dunlop Trophy Race on September 29, 1894. Participants rode a 20 mile course which included several loops of Woodbine Racetrack (then located at Queen and Woodbine), a journey out and back along Kingston Road, and a final loop of the horse track. The Globe observed that while Woodbine was is in good shape, Kingston Road was “pretty dusty and rutty.” It was also observed that race officials were too cheap to publicize the competition, resulting in only 1,000 spectators at Woodbine. The race moved to Ottawa in 1926, a year which proved to be its final ride.

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The Globe, April 1, 1897.

Teach a few lessons, promote cycling as a competitive sport, and hope the lure of an “academy” sells a few more Cleveland brand cycles. Brilliant marketing, n’est pas?

471 Church Street was the venerable Granite Club’s second location, having moved there from St. Mary Street in 1880. The site hosted athletic and social activities for the local upper crust until the mid-1920s.

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The Globe, April 8, 1908.

Have fun working through the logic of this ad. Would a transit pass plan be the modern equivalent of the hold-up man taking away your hard-earned cash?

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The Globe, April 14, 1897.

The bike courier market was well catered to.

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Mail and Empire, May 3, 1898.

Agricultural machinery giant Massey-Harris was among the manufacturers who jumped into the bicycle business. Instead of using country farmers to sell their bikes, M-H presented images of urbane gentlemen of all ages and sizes.

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The Globe, April 30, 1897.

Bicycle advertising wasn’t immune from the depiction of Victorian women as delicate flowers.

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Mail and Empire, April 2, 1898.

Since 1898, all bicycle repairs have been made bare-handed, without the assistance of tools.

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Mail and Empire, May 7, 1898.

We’ll test you on your Red Bird part knowledge later on.

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Mail and Empire, May 14, 1898.

Bicycles offer a less claustrophobic (unless caught in a tight squeeze with other vehicles), more independent alternative to crowded streetcars. Downside: you can’t read the latest catalogue while riding your bike.

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Mail and Empire, May 21, 1898.

This man is laughing at the fools herding onto the streetcar. Or least we think he’s laughing—hard to tell beneath the beard, not to mention the fine Victorian skill of repressing external displays of emotion.

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The News, April 2, 1903.

Unlike the Pullman railway car, the Hygienic Cushion Frame did include space for sleeping, or a porter to tend to any belongings you brought on your ride.

By this point Massey-Harris’s bicycle division had merged with several other manufacturers to create the Canada Cycle and Motor Company (CCM). The new company settled in Weston prior to World War I, establishing the town as the region’s bicycle production hub.

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The News, April 2, 1898.

It might not be Daisy giving her answer do on a bicycle built for two, but perhaps this is how couples too clumsy to balance a tandem rode together.

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Toronto Star, June 4, 1898.

A ride wasn’t complete with a fine new bicycle suit.

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Mail and Empire, May 25, 1895.

Modern Tweed Ride participants may want to seek antique Rigby suits in case of rain.

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The World, May 20, 1895

Next time you have a tummy ache, hop on your bicycle!

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The World, February 17, 1900.

Then as now, there was a stampede for repairs and tune-ups before spring cycling season.

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The News, May 10, 1902.

A sign of things to come—Hyslop began selling a motorized contraption called an “Olds Mobile.” Bicycle companies soon fought for ad space with car manufacturers, a battle the two-wheeled vehicles eventually lost.