Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Paper Chase

Some time ago, I received a most remarkable gift from a friend. It was a small treasure among a number inherited from a dear aunt, chosen with me in mind. How perfectly lovely. It's quite an artifact. It's a sheet of Prince Edward County Heritage Paper. Suitable for wrapping a copy of  The Settler's Dream for impressive gifting.

The nameless individual who created these fine renderings is identified onlyby S.A.H. Design; the work is dated 1983. 

Now in 1983 I was living in Grand Forks, B.C. and my interest in Ontario heritage architecture was germinating between the covers of my copy of  The Settler's Dream, a gift from my mother, on a trip 'back east' 

I recall our exit from PEC, beginning yet another drive across our beloved country, the book on my knee, tears streaming down my face as I identified one after another of the homes Cruikshank and Stokes had recorded. Leaving my red brick town - and heritage - behind until our permanent return to Ontario in 1985. 

On many photo junkets through my home county since then, I have captured so many of these worthy structures, and pored over their beauty and history. This is fun. Like a sticker book. Pair the photo with these wonderful renderings, created to celebrate the rich architectural history of this place. And please, someone, let me know who the talented S.A.H. might be?  

And so on. You get the idea.


Monday, May 16, 2022

Morituri te Saluant

It's taken a bit of time on Streetview and other odd places to track down this neo-Gothic building and its history. Now I can say I know its past. Its future is more in doubt. This is 51 Bond Street, whose life was tied up in this alteration plan in 2018. So far, no good.

Next I unearthed the 2009 designation bylaw. It dignifies the boarded-up, windows-smashed dereliction of the place with some great detail. 

This Streetview capture, taken within the past couple of years (note careful pedestrians with face masks) shows the house's position at the corner of Bond and Shuter Streets. Given its location across the street from St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica  I at first assumed it belonged to the holdings of the archdiocese.

Metropolitan United Church 1872
 (rebuilt after a fire in 1929)
But no. In fact this boarded up structure belongs - or belonged?  - to Metropolitan United Church at 56 Queen Street East. It's the 1906 Metropolitan United Church Parsonage.

The late Doug Taylor's astonishing website Historic Toronto contains the history of the first Cathedral of Methodism near Toronto's tony (in the day) Jarvis Street residential neighbourhood .

I am feeling a sense of loss, having just wandered onto Doug's site, to find the notice that he died of cancer in 2020. Yet another significant soul lost that year. Doug's executor has found a home for his work, now housed with BlogTO. They post his incomparable Toronto history items from time to time. 

north side

Photo from the parking lot across from Jazz Apartments on Church Street. So much 'potential.'

Seen from the southeast corner, towers looming behind  its still dignified human-scaled late Medieval detail. Old trees, once in leaf, will dignify the graffiti and posters on the hoarding surrounding it.

So, old friend. I salute you. I will look for you when next I visit your town.

Layered Look

 An offering of views that caught my eye -  captured, but not ennobled, by a 5 year old Android phone on a mostly dull (weather, that is) Toronto weekend.

I've written before about the visual treat that a large city is for me - easy when my vantage point is a quiet spot, my schedule contains only peaceful enjoyments. The mix of styles, materials, ages of buildings creates a rich texture, a tapestry, which I love. I didn't bother to caption these - if you know Toronto even as well as I, you will recognize these buildings and perhaps take a moment to enjoy the patchwork with me.

This view of the instantly recognizable 1891 Gooderham Building ( history ) was taken from an Old Town walkabout in 2017, in the fullness of spring. Like the St. Lawrence Market it keeps its head above water in the maelstrom of  a burgeoning modern city in the original 10 blocks of historic York, here in Old Town Toronto.


As anticipated, my first visit to Toronto since the death of my dearest travelling companion, and two years in hiding during the tempest of Covid, was an emotional journey. But a great one, doing what I love most in this great city - walking. (Well there was that afternoon at the AGO, and La Traviata at the light-filled Four Seasons Centre.) From my delightful bolthole at the friendly and efficient Hilton DoubleTree, 'my' Toronto was at my feet. The opera? A short ten minute walk off-street - and that's counting reading ubiqitous plaques. 

The texture of Toronto - walls of towers oppressive yet appealing, their variety of design and material creating a rich tapestry which never fails to delight me. And occasionally, leaved between all that glass and masonry, there will be something on a smaller scale, of earthier materials, quieter somehow, emitting a different energy, surely an invitation to time travel. Something from 1850, say, or thereabouts. Seeing the city before its many trees burst into leaf, bleak on this grey day, focussed attention on these little islands in all the city haste, and wonderfully, revealed secret places usually hidden in treetops.

This day, this walk, enabled me a new view of a favourite place. I found it in another life, fleeing the overload of yet another download of new stuff from the Ministry in the overwrought Mowat Block on Bay Street, then escaping the intensity of a fast-walk along Bay Street. Trinity Square. 

Since then, I have been drawn many times to this square. It's a portal to another age, evoking the power of the ancient labyrinth. It makes an homage to past building and natural history - Taddle, one of Toronto's buried creeks, arches recalling an early Eaton's structure. I found a 1908 photo of men hand-digging the foundation for the Eaton's warehouse, hard by the side of the church.

Many photos exist of a later incursion, when the entire church complex of three early buildings was saved from extinction during the ambitious 1977 insertion of the Eaton's Centre, built around and not over the square, thanks to  passionate opposition by heritage groups.

Despite all this city, and history, peace of a sort reigns here. This 1847 church, built on what was once farm fields and swampland has been a radical church from the beginning. The church appears to have been  endowed by an Englishwoman who was shocked at the inequity of  pew rentals - costs which prohibited those without means, access to church services. Ironically, the church continues its ministry to the inner city poor, cheek by jowl with that icon of posh shopping, the Eaton Centre. I  keep getting the image of the poor huddled outside the castle, the moneychangers in the temple.

marble mosaic, broken in rage that the homeless die
amidst all this wealth

Holy Trinity's social justice mission is expressed more eloquently than I can do on their home page.

Here are two comprehensive accounts of  the rich history of Holy Trinity - the incomparable Taylor on History, and that of  Blog TO, which has taken over the archive of  Doug Taylor's lifetime of work, and publishes his accounts from time to time.