I started with this map from 1910, cropped to just a few blocks around our temporary condo home:
|Our condo building replaced almost the whole block to the left|
of St. Lawrence Market, shown bottom right
The map is from Goad's Atlas, helpfully scanned and uploaded by Nathan at Recursion. It was fun to compare what what the area looked like in 1910 to what it looked like in Goad's 1884 map, and I made a note to pay attention to the places where there were differences as we walked by in person.
In the middle of both maps, for example, there is a police station surrounded by roads on all four sides, with a courthouse at the back that fronts onto Adelaide Street Now though, the police station is a park, and the courthouse is a restaurant. I had forgotten until I noticed this that in my mystery-writing days I went with a few other Sisters in Crime members with a newspaper photographer to be snapped in the jail cells that are still in the basement there. They're small and dark and not meant for a group of people holding books.
Once I was really looking, I saw a lot of evidence of the way the city used to look. How did I miss registering this gem on my regular walks up Church Street, for example?
I know how: I'm too busy watching traffic. Downtown driving is only slightly less treacherous than downtown walking. Anyway: it's the original head office of Confederation Life, and it was built in 1892.
Another thing I did before we went out was to source some photographs of old Toronto as a reference point. Our condo unit is just a few feet north of the second floor window on the extreme right of this photograph from the 1890s:
(the flatiron building on the left is still standing, and is the constant subject of visitor photographs. also, the pub underneath does an awesome shepherd's pie!)
Check out this photograph of people getting on a streetcar at Yonge Street and Queen - just north of where I cropped my map - in 1908 or thereabouts:
It's crowded on streetcars today but it looks like it was then too, and certainly at that busy intersection. Imagine coping with cramped standing space while wearing one of those hats! You almost never see those things pictured from the side so I didn't know they were quite so crazy big.
Once you're looking, you can tell there are a lot of old buildings (by new world standards) still in use in Toronto today. This one is at the northeast corner of Lombard and Victoria:
And this whole block is on the south side of Colborne, just west of Church. I love how well all of it's been preserved because it makes it so much easier to imagine the little elements of what life was here like a hundred years ago.
Lots of arches, aren't there. And you go up a few steps to access many of the main floor shops and restaurants that occupy them now.
It's funny about the ugly parking lot I stood in to take this picture. The pretty sculpture garden I walk through most days just to the north of our building was once a run of buildings like these, torn down in the 1930s to make space for - a parking lot! I can definitely imagine how the city struggled to adapt to the growth of the automobile industry, because parking is still a huge issue here, and everywhere else too.
Of course, after we got home again I discovered this list of all the old buildings still standing in Toronto. Oh well, we'll use it next time!
How about your neighbourhood? Do you know what stood there a hundred years before you did?