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Archive for the ‘Heritage & History’ Category

Ed and David Mirvish and King Street West–whose legacy matters?

In Heritage & History on December 10, 2013 at 10:00 PM
The Royal Alexandra Theatre, built 1907, at 260 King Street West Toronto

The Royal Alexandra Theatre, built 1907, at 260 King Street West Toronto

By Catherine Nasmith | Every generation leaves its built legacy.

David Mirvish has said a lot about the Frank Gehry-designed project for King Street constituting the Mirvish family legacy.

The heritage laws now in effect in Toronto (and throughout Ontario) were passed in the sixties and seventies—a time when urban renewal meant urban removal. Similar laws were crafted around the world to enable communities to grow and thrive without destroying the legacy of previous generations.

One of the most important and innovative projects of that period was York Square in Yorkville (Avenue Road and Yorkville). It was the first development to mix new construction with old to achieve something really special. Undertaken by visionary developer Richard Wookey and the brilliant young architectural firm of Diamond and Myers, it was lauded in publications in no less than eight countries, and received a massive ten-page spread in Progressive Architecture, at the time the world’s most highly regarded professional journal. York Square proved to be the first of many Toronto projects that kept the best of the past and made it fresh again.

We have become expert here at combining vibrant new design with traditional buildings to create our most urbane places. It is what we do best—in fact we can legitimately say we showed the world how it’s done.

Toronto builds best by addition not subtraction. Major cultural projects like The National Ballet School, The Art Gallery of Ontario, The Royal Ontario Museum, and Koerner Hall have all expertly and gracefully combined new and old. Housing projects like Dundas-Sherbourne and the Hydro Block did it. Big commercial projects like Scotia Plaza and Commerce Court did it, too, Almost everywhere you look in Toronto you can see a layered approach to city building. It is Toronto’s other “better way”.

The Anderson Building, 1915, at 284 King Street

The Anderson Building, 1915, at 284 King Street West

Toronto also pioneered Doors Open in North America. The first honourary chair of Doors Open was David Mirvish, invited because of his family’s history of preservation and sensitive infill, including not only the Royal Alex and Princess of Wales theatres, but all their buildings along King Street. The Mirvish family have made wonderful contributions to our city. That is a legacy that should be cherished, because of his family’s involvement, but also because conservation honours the legacy of all the families who built all of those buildings.

Mr. Mirvish is now arguing that his family will be better remembered by razing most of what his father spent a lifetime conserving in order to create a trio of new buildings by Frank Gehry. Says who? I find that position puzzling to say the least. Rather, it represents a glaring change in direction for the family, and runs against the grain of the very kind of city building Toronto does best.

The Princess of Wales Theatre, 1993, 300 King Street West, Toronto

The Princess of Wales Theatre, 1993, 300 King Street West, Toronto

Frank Gehry has built many, many projects that integrate new and old. In fact, the project that made him famous started with an ordinary house that he turned into something extraordinary. Here in Toronto, Gehry, reworked the AGO with great results.

It is incredible that these two figures stood before Toronto East York Community Council on November 19 and maintained with straight faces that the only way forward is to sacrifice the past. Their own portfolios argue against it.

Toronto knows better than almost any other city that projects and cities are better when the past is woven into the future. It is an approach that yields great places, and respects the legacy of all Toronto’s city builders, from modest unknowns to famous international stars.


Catherine Nasmith is the President of the Toronto Architectural Conservancy.

This article was originally published on Built Heritage News, Issue 220 | November 25, 2013 and is republished here with the kind permission of the author. Built Heritage News publishes a regular e-newsletter about the built heritage of Toronto, Ontario, and Canada. Subscribe here

Eclipse White Wear Building, 1903, 322 King  Street West

Eclipse White Wear Building, 1903, 322 King Street West


Related posts: 

Heritage and history archive on West Annex News

Last week in the neighbourhood



Na na na na hey hey hey Rob Ford, Barrio Coreano and Harvest Kitchen openings, and more this week in the neighbourhood | November 22, 2013

In Arrivals & Departures, Coming events, Heritage & History, This week in the neighbourhood, Toronto politics on November 21, 2013 at 12:45 AM
All is calm at Toronto City Hall following the neutering of Mayor Rob Ford

All is calm at Toronto City Hall following the political neutering of  Mayor Rob Ford

By West Annex News | So the deed is done. Our municipal boil has been lanced. Peace, order and good government reign. You know the details. But here are a few fun items you might have missed:


Doug Ford on CNN with a bottle of Grey Goose vodka stashed under his desk | CNN screen capture via Daily Buzz

Self-avowed teetotaler Doug Ford was interviewed in his office by CNN with a bottle of Grey Goose vodka clearly visible stashed under his desk. [Daily Buzz]

Chris Farley stars in Rob Ford the Movie

Chris Farley stars in Rob Ford the Movie | Image credit: Youtube screen capture

The whole incredible story of Rob Ford’s rise and fall is brought to life in this brilliant short film made entirely out of clips from the movies of the late Chris Farley.

Bill Weir’s take down of both Ford brothers on CNN was a joy to behold, but nothing was more delicious than Rob’s squeals of indignation as former Ford BFF John Oakley roasted the mayor when he called in for an impromptu interview on November 18, the day he was stripped of his powers.

Speaking of Council, here’s the final tally of who voted for what in the various motions that transferred power to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly. [Matt Elliott/Metro Canada]

The Rob Ford show overshadowed some of the great work council did this month: funding for the environmental assessment for bike lanes on Bloor and Dupont was approved; councillors moved unanimously to rescue and expand the BIXI bike sharing program;  and new funding was devoted to the backlog of repairs to TCHC properties. [,]


Old City Hall, one of only two building worthy of preservation according the Frank Gehry

Old City Hall, one of only two building worthy of preservation in Toronto–according Frank Gehry

Toronto only has two heritage buildings worth saving, Old City Hall and Osgoode Hall, according to architect Frank Gehry. Suitably dazzled, Toronto and East York Community Council chose to give David Mirvish’s proposal to build trio of 80-storey plus condo towers on King West an express route to Toronto City Council. Council ignored City planning staff’s objections and that of heritage preservationists that the project will wipe away four heritage warehouses and the Princess of Wales Theatre, and further stress overburdened public transit on King Street West. [National Post/The Globe and Mail]


The abandoned Shaw Street School has been transformed into Artscape’s latest affordable living and working space for artists and non-profits including the Luminato Festival and the Centre for Indigenous Theatre. [torontoist]


Food and restaurant news:


Harvest Kitchen will soon open at 124 Harbord Street, once the home of Kensington Kitchen and Bistro Tati | Image credit: Google Street view

The beautiful space at 124 Harbord Street once occupied by Kensington Kitchen and later Bistro Tati has been taken over by Harvest Kitchen, which describes itself as “an everyday diner where vegetarians bring their meat-eating friends”. The restaurant plans to preserve Ontario produce onsite starting with the 2014 harvest.  The opening is planned for “any day now” according to the website. [blogTO]

Rakia Bar on 960 Euclid Avenue, just north of Bloor West has opened in the space once occupied by Hrvati Bar. The menu features vegetarian, seafood, Balkan specialties, and suckling pig with advance notice. 

Barrio Coreano, the latest incarnation in the Playa Cabana franchise is scheduled to open this weekend at 642 Bloor Street West. Rajput’s Bistro was the last tenant in this space, just west of Euclid. [blogTO]


Coming up

The 2014 Hot Docs tickets are on sale now

The 2014 Hot Docs tickets are on sale now

Tickets for the March 2014 hotDOCS festival are now on sale on the hotDOCS website

Wednesday November 27 at 6:30PM, Trinity St. Paul’s Centre, 427 Bloor Street West: Toronto Public Health, TCAT, and Cycle Toronto are hosting “Walk Cycle Move: the Annex”, a workshop to examine public opinion on proposed project to:

  • reduce speed limits to 30KPH on seven streets in the neighbourhood including Albany, Howland, and Brunswick,
  • explore alterations to Bloor Street to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists,
  • discus the revival of the Environmental Assessment for bike lanes on Bloor.

If you can’t make it to the meeting you can still share your views in a survey here.


Related posts:


Last week in the neighbourhood: Rob Ford’s end days, Indian Rice Factory closing, another megacondo and more.




All images by Louise Morin for West Annex News unless otherwise noted.

Rob Ford’s end days, goodbye to the Indian Rice Factory, another mega-condo for the Bloor-Annex strip, Yorkville tree slaughter, and more this week in the neighbourhood | November 8, 2013

In Arrivals & Departures, Coming events, Heritage & History, This week in the neighbourhood, Toronto politics on November 8, 2013 at 12:05 AM

Image credit: The Simpsons screen capture by Phil Tobin /@RPBRooney on Twitter 12:50PM – 5 Nov 13

By West Annex News | Another busy week in and around the neighbourhood.


This week in Fordlandia

Rob Ford hands out his business cards in happier days

Rob Ford hands out his business cards in happier days

The city is almost numb from this week’s blizzard of increasingly sordid and bizarre rumours and revelations in the Rob Ford saga. Somewhere between the release of yet another video of the mayor staggering and ranting in a drunken stupor, CP24’s interview with his awful mother and the fifth estate’s exposé about organized crime’s attempts to get their hands on the Ford crack video, we all stopped reveling in the salacious details and started wanting it to stop.

On Wednesday, November 13, 2013, City Council meets for the first time since the crack scandal reignited. We have high expectations for City Council: no partisanship, no grandstanding by councillors with their own mayoral aspirations (Hello Karen Stintz and Denzil Minnan-Wong). Quickly, without malice, just strip the mayor of all his powers and staff, and get on with the business of the city.


The Indian Rice Factory, an Annex institution for 43 years, closed its doors on November 3, 2013

The Indian Rice Factory closed its doors on November 3, 2013. The restaurant at 414 Dupont at Howland had been in decline since the death of founder, owner and chef Amar Patel three years ago. Patel was a visionary chef who introduced haute Indian cuisine to Toronto in the 1970s, and was a pioneer on the then-mostly industrial Annex-Dupont strip.

While the addition of the lovely Chai Bar in 2011 created hope that the restaurant could be revived, the lengthy reconstruction of the Howland Avenue/CPR underpass dealt a death blow to that enterprise. [blogTO] []


Planning and development news

DTAH design consultants reported their findings from the Bathurst Street Built Form Study to the community on October 22, 2013. They found that the Official Plan and the zoning already in place are appropriate, and that public consultations “underscored the need for more park space along Bathurst and for the preservation of Mirvish Village.” [Inside Toronto]



Architects’ rendering of new 66-storey condominium proposed for 80 Bloor Street West | Image:  archtectsAlliance

Krugarand Corporation has made an application to the City of Toronto to tear down the 18-storey 80 Bloor Street West retail and office tower, and replace it with a 66-storey residential mixed use tower. The building, sandwiched between Harry Rosen and Capezio, currently houses a Gap, Banana Republic, Extreme Fitness and 204,000 square feet of office space. Public consultations are coming. []


Tree slaughter in the Village of Yorkville Park

Tree slaughter in the Village of Yorkville Park

Just when the spruce trees at the east end of the Village of Yorkville Park on Cumberland Street were getting to a nice size, the City chopped them down. Catherine Naismith heard from Kristan Wong-Tam that the trees were removed due to their deteriorating soil beds, caused by a parking garage underneath. New trees will be planted in the spring of 2014. [Built Heritage News]


Early in the new year, Councillor Mike Layton will be hosting public meetings regarding the future of development on Dupont Street. The north side of the street is now zoned as an employment area in the Official Plan. It is facing increasing pressures from developers to to convert the land to residential uses, specifically condominium towers. Layton says “These meetings will be held to help develop a better understanding of how the community would like to see Dupont grow and to receive feedback on specific applications.” []


U of T's proposed Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship | Image credit: Montgomery Sisam Architects/Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

U of T’s proposed Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship | Image credit: Montgomery Sisam Architects/Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

The University of Toronto revealed plans for a new $50 million Centre for Engineering and Innovation Entrepreneurship. U of T will build the Centre on the site of the parking lot between St. George Street and Simcoe Hall. [Yonge Street]


The City of Toronto has launched a new blog all about Heritage Conservation District studies and plans throughout the city. “The new blog is intended as a resource to learn about milestones, events and ways to participate in the heritage conservation district studies and plans currently underway in the city,” said Councillor Peter Milczyn, Chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee, as quoted by Catherine Naismith. The blog also contains a gallery of photos of historic Toronto. [Built Heritage News]


What’s coming up this week:

Remembrance Day services at University of Toronto Soldiers' Tower

Remembrance Day services at University of Toronto Soldiers’ Tower

Monday, November 11, 2013, Remembrance Day services. Local services will be held at the University of Toronto Soldiers’ Tower at the western end of Hart House, 10:20 to 11AM, followed by a reception at the Great Hall, 7 Hart House Circle.  


Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 7:00PM at St. Lawrence Hall, 157 King Street East, Evergreen’s Executive Director Geoff Cape will be moderating a free Natural History Symposium to discuss Toronto’ natural heritage including “trees as natural heritage resources, what the average citizens can do to conserve natural heritage in the context of our natural ecosystems, the City of Toronto’s Natural Heritage Study and the management of natural heritage resources related to water.” 


November 12 to 14, 9:30AM each day, the Supreme Court of Canada considers questions about Senate reform. The hearings will be broadcast on CPAC including the CPAC Internet live stream.

The Supreme Court of Canada's hearing on Senate Reform start November 12, 2013 at 9:30AM

The Supreme Court of Canada’s hearings on Senate reform start November 12, 2013 at 9:30AM


Related posts:

Last week in the neighbourhood: Rob Ford’s very, very bad day, Honest Ed’s sale, Trinity-St. Paul’s reno, and more




All images by Louise Morin for West Annex News unless otherwise noted.

Nuit Blanche 2013, Bathurst and Bloor charette, Eden Smith’s own house, the Bathurst bendy bus, and more this week in the neighbourhood | October 4, 2013

In Arrivals & Departures, Coming events, Eating & Drinking, Heritage & History, The West Annex, This week in the neighbourhood on October 4, 2013 at 12:05 AM
The Four Corners of Bathurst and Bloor charette will be hosted by Councillors Layton and Vaughan on October 5th

The Four Corners of Bathurst and Bloor community charette, hosted by Councillors Layton and Vaughan, October 5, 2013, 1 to 4PM at Central Technical School. | Image credit bottom left photo: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, item 1043, April 3, 1911; all others West Annex News.

By West Annex News | Here’s what’s happening this week in and around the neighbourhood.

The Four Corner of Bathurst and Bloor Community Charette, Saturday, October 5, 2013, 1PM, Central Technical School, 725 Bathurst Street. From the public notice:Now that the future of Honest Ed’s and Mirvish Village are up for debate, it is even more important to set out a vision for the four corners of Bathurst and Bloor. There are many sites at this corner that may become development sites in the next decade and we need to be prepared as a community to define how we want our neighbourhoods to grow.”

Prepare for the charette by reading Putting the CON in Consultation“. This indispensable guide tells you the tricks and techniques developers and city planners use when they want to mute your voice in working groups, visioning studies and other so-called community consultations. [Dooney’s Cafe]

Nuit Blanche Toronto 2011

Nuit Blanche Toronto starts Saturday, October 5 at 6:51PM

Nuit Blanche 2013, from sunset (6:51PM) Saturday, October 5 to sunrise the next morning. It’s the big one: Nuit Blanche 2013, Toronto’s annual free, city-wide sunset-to-sunrise celebration of contemporary art. All the major city blogs–[blogTO] [Now] [The Grid] [Torontoist]–have good guides to the most highly touted events. But here are some local events that deserve some love:

  • Convergence North at Spadina House, 285 Spadina Road. An array of interactive light sculpture installations along a path created through the five-acre grounds of the Spadina Museum.
  • Nothing is Better at the Church of the Redeemer, 162 Bloor Street West. Synchronized multi-screen video, music, sound, live performance. A thought-provoking and amusing science musical documentary and allegorical journey from the city’s outskirts to its heart of darkness.
  • Art meets Chess at Wychwood Barns, Chess pieces created by artist Blandford Gates out of recycled metal will be re used to recreate the Game of the Century, game 5 in the match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1972.  See video below to learn more.

The Pottery and Glass Show at Artscape Wychwood BarnsSaturday and Sunday, October 5 & 6, 2013, 8AM to 5PM: This juried show and sale showcases the best of Ontario’s glass and clay artists. Admission is free.

Eden Smith's home at 267 Indian Road | Image credit Google Street View

Eden Smith’s home at 267 Indian Road | Image credit Google Street View

For the architourist, Eden Smith’s own house is for sale for $1,169,000. The Century 21 listing says the c. 1896 home at 267 Indian Road home was the prototype for Smith’s Art & Crafts/English Cottage style. [Built Heritage News].

Harbord Village is being lauded for its laneway-naming project which has reminded the community of its history. [YongeStreet]

The TTC’s new Bombardier bendy bus was in Bathurst station today for a test run from the TTC’s Hillcrest complex. While the buses are generally receiving favourable reviews, the routes they serve will see a cut in the frequency of bus service to offset the new bus’ increased rider capacity. [Torontoist]

Kops Records’ Annex location opened last weekend at 592 Bloor West  (formerly Markus Fashion). This continues a trend: interesting new shops are bypassing the West Annex stretch of Bloor east of Bathurst in favour of Koreatown. [BlogTO]

"Before the last supper . . . they at brunch" says Big Crow's Anthony Rose | Image credit Rose and Sons Big Crow

“Before the last supper . . . they ate brunch” says Big Crow’s Anthony Rose | Image credit Rose and Sons Big Crow

Anthony Rose’s Big Crow (in the back of 176 Dupont Street, the former People’s Foods) is opening for brunch on weekends starting October 5th. Brunch hours are 11AM to 3PM, Saturday and Sunday. The brunch menu is here.

Theh west field of Sibelius Square is closed yet again for soil decompacting and re-sodding.

The west field of Sibelius Square is closed yet again for soil de-compacting and re-sodding.

The playing field at Sibelius Square is out of commission. Again. The $1 million plus park renovation in 2012 made the field’s drainage problem worse, not better. Councillor Vaughan’s constituency assistant Areej Hasso reports that city staff is blaming soil compaction, not a design flaw. Staff says they de-compacted the soil before laying new sod on October 3rd. No word on when play can resume on the field.

And oh yeah, there was that rat article. They’re on the rise in the Annex. Your green lifestyle may be partly to blame. []


Related posts:

Last week in the neighbourhood

Nuit Blanche 2012: West Annex News presents Fortifications for Small Worlds

Jean Sibelius Square Park official re-opening

This week in the neighbourhood | September 27, 2013

In Coming events, Heritage & History, This week in the neighbourhood, Toronto politics on September 27, 2013 at 12:05 AM
Heritage tree tour of Queen's Park Sunday, September 29th. See detail below | Photo credit: Alden Cundanin/Toronto Before

Heritage tree tour of Queen’s Park Sunday, September 29th. See detail below | Image credit: Alden Cundanin/

By West Annex News | There’s so much great stuff going on this coming weekend we’re going straight to it.

What’s up this weekend:

Sunday, September 29th 11AM Heritage Tree Tour of Queen’s ParkPresented by LEAF with arborist Philip van Wassenar, the tour will explore rare, old and other significant trees in Queen’s Park and Philosopher’s Walk, some of which are promised to have as much heritage value as the historic buildings around them

Sunday, September 29th 11AM: Park Crawl. Join the David Suzuki Foundation crawling by foot, bike and canoe between four parks along Toronto’s former Garrison Creek corridor.  Each of the four parks will host food booths by Pizzeria Libretto, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, the Country General, Ursa and 13 others, and local musical acts including Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Choir!Choir!Choir! and Local 164. The crawl starts at Christie Pits at 11AM, moves to Bickford Park at 1:00PM, to Fred Hamilton Park at 2:00, and to Trinity Bellwoods at 3:00PM.

Soupalicious this Sunday from 11AM to 4PM at Wychwood Barns | Photo credit Heidi Swanson/100 Cookbooks

Soupalicious this Sunday from 11AM to 4PM at Wychwood Barns | Photo credit Heidi Swanson/101 Cookbooks

Sunday September 29th noon to 4PM: Soupalicious at Artscape Wychwood Barns. Enjoy 10 free soup tasting with the cost of admission. Advance tickets $12, $20 at the door. From the website: “we highly recommended that you arrive no later than 2:30 pm to enjoy the full array of soups.”

Friday to Sunday, September 27th to 29th: U of T Toronto Science FestivalThe University of Toronto is launching a public celebration of science. The festival will include keynote talks, panel discussions, film screenings, live music and dance, microscope and telescope sessions. You can even send a message into space.

Saturday and Sunday, September 28th & 29th: Culturedays. The local and totally free events in this country-wide festival are:

Ai Wei Wei's Forever Bicycles under construction in Nathan Phillips Square for 2013 Nuit Blanche

Ai Wei Wei’s Forever Bicycles under construction in Nathan Phillips Square for 2013 Nuit Blanche

And don’t forget to mark October 5th, 6:51PM in your diary for the big one – Nuit Blanche 2013. You can preview Ai Wei Wei’s Forever Bicycles under construction now in Nathan Phillips Square. More on Nuit Blanche next week.

This week in and around the neighbourhood

Hot Docs has completed their first economic impact study.  It shows the festival contributes $29.9 million to Ontario’s GDP. [Broadcaster]

Anne Mirvish, wife of the late Honest Ed Mirvish, died at age 94 on September 20, 2013. [National Post]

Kensington Market | Credit:  Friends of Kensington Market

Kensington Market | Credit: Friends of Kensington Market

Keep Walmart out of the Kensington neighbourhood. Friends of Kensington Market are crowd-sourcing for funds to pay for traffic and market impact studies and for a lawyer to represent them at the Ontario Municipal Board.  If you care about the market, donate here, and sign the petition at  “We are seeking to have Torontonians build Toronto, and not the OMB or Walmart” says Councillor Adam Vaughan.

The 2014 mayoral race see-saw. First The Star reported that Olivia Chow received assurances over the summer that councillors Adam Vaughan and Shelley Carroll will not enter the 2014 mayoral race, thus eliminating any rivals from the left. The latest Forum Research poll showed Chow would defeat Rob Ford in a head-to-head race 57 per cent to 33 per cent. Then the mayor scored $660 million in funding from the feds for the Scarborough subway and got a bump up in his approval rating to 49%.

Meanwhile, Michael Bouck AKA @VainHostile told us on Twitter this week about the ABCDEF movement – Anybody but Chow or Dat Eedjit Ford.

Speaking of the mayor, Ford Fest West was held in Centennial Park in Etobicoke on the evening of September 20, 2013. Here’s what you missed:



Related post:

Last week in the neighbourhood


Image credits:

The before and after image of a Queen’s Park tree was used with the kind permission of Alden Cundanin. Visit his Toronto Before blog for more of his enchanting juxtapositions of historic and contemporary Toronto images, and follow him on Twitter.

Jean Sibelius Square Park official opening Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 3:30PM

In Coming events, Heritage & History, The West Annex on June 4, 2012 at 8:05 PM

The new entrance at the north-east corner of Brunswick and Wells Avenues.

By West Annex News | After years of community consultation and construction,  a revitalized Sibelius Square is ready for its coming out party.

The park’s official opening will be held this Sunday, June 10th. Live music starts at 3:30PM, with remarks from Councillor Adam Vaughan and others at 4:15PM, followed by a free barbecue.

Public consultation for Sibelius Square’s redesign June 18, 2008, Working Group Chair Patrick Kennedy at right.

The opening is a chance to thank the neighbours who brought the redesign to fruition: Patrick Kennedy, the steadfast chair of the working group, together with group members Ginny Brett, Fred Freedman, Tom Friedland, Caroline Harvey, Julie Markle, Kristina Reinders, and Ted Watson.

Together they spent six years consulting with the community, and wrangling with off-leash dog advocates, city bureaucrats, and the city-imposed landscape architects. The result is the park’s refreshed playground, field house, playing field, pathways and central plaza.

The natural skating rink on the west field of Jean Sibelius Square Park, 2010

Also present at the opening will be Brian Green, City Parks supervisor. Brian devoted hours of his personal time to the much-loved Sibelius Square natural skating rink to ensure its survival after the City stopped maintaining the rink in the late 1990s. He trained the community volunteers who now build and flood the rink each year.

Community volunteers Simon Freedman, Fred Freedman and Tom Friedland building the Sibelius Square natural skating rink in January 2011

Sibelius Square was at a low ebb in 2006 after a failed off-leash dog experiment left the park almost deserted, with its playing fields devoid of grass, a magnet for local drug dealers.

Kennedy enlisted the support of newly elected councillor Adam Vaughan to use section 37 monies from a nearby Walmer Road development for the community-lead redesign.

Councillor Adam Vaughan, left, at the Gwendolyn MacEwan Park re-opening July 20, 2010

Vaughan has made community-lead design and control of local parks a cornerstone of his tenure at City Hall. Several major parks in Ward 20 are being re-designed and re-constructed with local residents making the design decisions. Sibelius Square is the third Annex park to complete this process, with a renewed Gwendolyn MacEwan park opening in 2010, and Taddle Creek Park in 2011.

Sibelius Square Park, then known as Kendal Square, on October 9, 1913

The City purchased the lands of the park–bounded by Wells, Brunswick, Kendal and Bernard– in 1906 and named it Kendal Square.

The park in July of 1939

The city renamed the 1.22 acre park after the composer Jean Sibelius in 1956, after City Council was lobbyied by members of the Toronto Finnish community.




Other related articles:

St. Alban’s Square: A historical primer

Sibelius, St. Alban’s Squares to face further attacks from off-leash advocates

Doors Open Toronto May 26 & 27, 2012 | The Cathedral of St. Alban the Martyr, 100 Howland Avenue

In Coming events, Heritage & History on May 23, 2012 at 10:05 PM

The Cathedral of St. Alban the Martyr, 100 Howland Avenue in Toronto’s West Annex will be open for Doors Open Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27, from 10:00AM to 4:30PM

By Jane Beecroft and Louise Morin | Walking north from Bloor Street up Howland Avenue in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, one soon comes across a surprising sight: looming above the rooftops of  this house-lined street is one quarter of a 19th century cathedral. Built out of rose-purple Credit Valley sandstone, the magnificent building is abruptly truncated on its west end. There a hodge-podge of modern structures have been awkwardly tacked on to the Norman-inspired Neo-Gothic architecture of the cathedral.

How did this partial cathedral come to be?

The story begins in the early 1880s, when the Howland Land Syndicate acquired a four and a half acre parcel of land just north of the Toronto city limits at Bloor Street, between Bathurst Street and Brunswick Avenue, in order to develop a residential subdivision.

To attract buyers to build outside the city, the Syndicate struck a deal with the Anglican Synod to build a cathedral for Toronto’s Anglicans. The congregation of St. James had consistently refused to serve as the cathedral for Toronto diocese as they had fully paid for their own church and did not want their parish facility taken over by the diocese.

After passage of a special act of the Ontario legislature to qualify the site as the cathedral for Toronto, the Synod agreed to buy one of the six city blocks in the subdivision–bounded by Barton, Wells, Howland and Albany Avenue . The Syndicate in turn gave funds to the Synod to start building the cathedral named for St. Alban the Martyr. The Syndicate named the residential subdivision in the cathedral’s honour: St. Alban’s Park.

The ambitious plans for the Cathedral of St. Alban the Martyr at 100 Howland Avenue, including a    135 foot tower. How much is left for future generations to enjoy?

Architect Richard Cunnigham Windeyer drew ambitious plans, inspired by the Cathedral of St. Alban the Martyr in Hertfordshire, England. Construction of the cathedral–the first building in the subdivision–began in 1884. In November 1889,  one quarter of the cathedral–the choir and crypt–was finished and regular services began. See House, where three Anglican bishops of Toronto would live, was completed next door at 120 Howland.

See House, 120 Howland Avenue, where three Anglican bishops of Toronto once lived.

In The Annex, The Story of a Toronto Neighbourhood Jack Batten continues the story:

That may have been St. Alban’s most triumphant moment. Its history was not all downhill from there, but neither did it come close to the hopes and plans that Archbishop Sweatman and the congregation imagine to be the cathedral’s due. The building as it stood in 1889 was in the form it retains in essence to this day: one quarter done, lacking the 135 foot tower that was fundamental to Windeyer’s design.

Windeyer died in 1900 and this blow, along with world-wide depression, the Boer War, and other factors slowed down fundraising.

In 1911, parishoner Sir Henry Pellatt took charge of seeing the cathedral to completion. In  1913, he hired architect Ralph Adams Cram to complete the construction of the cathedral. Cram got as far as laying the foundations for the balance of the building when funds ran out yet again. By now the diocese of Toronto was having financial trouble: it was expanding rapidly and needed funds for new churches elsewhere.

The cathedral suffered a further setback when a sudden fire damaged the interior in 1929.

On April 8, 1929 the interior of the Cathedral of St. Alban the Martyr was damaged in a sudden fire | Photo by J. Karl Lee 

Firefighters battle the 1929 fire at the Cathedral of St. Alban the Martyr | Photo by J. Karl Lee

In 1936, Bishop Derwyn Owen cancelled cathedral status for the unfinished building, demoting it to a local parish church. The Synod turned ownership of the church property to its congregation. It sold off the gardens and playing fields to the north of the cathedral as residential lots. It transferred the parkland to the south, St. Alban’s Square,  to the city.

Despite these setbacks, the congregation thrived. Among other good works, it established St. Alban’s Boys Club (now St. Alban’s Boys and Girls Club) headquartered today in Seaton Village.

In 1964, the congregation rented out buildings to St. George’s College, a private boys’ school said to be looking for  temporary premises only, while the school sought “a satisfactory (out-of-town) site for a permanent residential college.”

But St. George’s settled in, and began a series of expansions. The 89 students enrolled in 1964 grew to 253 by 1970, to 361 in 1991. The student body spread to the other church buildings. A brutalist-style cement gym was built at the back of the cathedral, on top of the nave foundations.

A hodgepodge of additions made by Royal St. George’s College on the unfinished foundations of the Cathedral of St. Alban the Martyr

Soon the ever-expanding St. George’s College coveted more of the property for themselves. In January 4, 1994, the school headmaster John Latimer assured neighbours about a proposed severance of Church lands to permit the sale of properties by the Diocese to the college:

“The Church will retain ownership of the church building itself and the lands on which it is located. The building will continue to be the home of the congregation of St. Alban the Martyr, your local parish.

The purpose of this letter is simply to assure you that the effect of the severance and transfer of the facility to the School itself will not result in any change in use, will not result in any increased traffic and so far as we are aware, will have no impact on the neighbourhood.”

But the local parish opposed the plans of St. George’s, and launched a court proceeding to prevent the sale by the Diocese.  While the legal maneuvers dragged on, the size of the college’s student body swelled again, to 417 in 1996, and to 440 in 1998.

Although the Cathedral and See House had been designated as being of architectural and historical value and interest under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1992, this did not stop them from falling into private hands. In 2000, the parish’s legal avenues exhausted, the church brass dis-established the congregation and sold the entire property to St. George’s College.  The Cathedral of St. Alban the Martyr became the private chapel of the college.

Constant construction has been the hallmark of Royal St. George’s College’s stewardship of the    Cathedral of St. Alban the Martyr and its related lands and buildings.

Slowly but steadily, St. George’s College built upon the foundations of the unfinished portion of the cathedral, for more classrooms, a library, a music room, an exercise studio, and a theatre, obscuring the original unfinished foundations of the cathedral. Today, only one small fragment of the unfinished foundations remains, on the west end of the property, opposite 104 Albany Avenue.

Foundations for the never-completed nave of St. Alban the Martyr Cathedral, opposite 104 Albany Avenue.

On September 18, 2010, careless workman working for the College left oily rags in the cathedral. They ignited, causing another devastating fire.

Damage from the September 18, 2010 fire. | Photo credits Royal St. George’s College.

While insurance monies provided the funds to restore the blackened woodwork, plaster and stained glass, original carved English oak furnishings from the 18oos were destroyed, as was a large portion of the original floor.

The restored cathedral re-opened in the spring of 2011 for the private use of students, faculty, parents, and alumni of the college, and their invited guests.

The famous double-hammer beam ceiling of St. Alban the Martyr Cathedral, restored after the 2010 fire.

Doors Open 2012 is the first time the Cathedral of St. Alban the Martyr–described in the Doors Open program as “truly a national treasure”–has opened its doors to the general public since the College acquired it in 2000. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit this embattled but enduring building.


See the Doors Open website for more information about visiting the Cathedral of St. Alban’s the Martyr the weekend of May 26 & 27, 2012.


Offline sources:

Jack Batten, The Annex: The Story of a Toronto Neighbourhood, 2004, Erin, Boston Mills Press.

The Community History Project brochure, St. Alban’s Park Subdivision

Other related articles:

St. Alban’s Square | A historic primer

What is the West Annex

The Weekly Wrap for Friday, February 4, 2011

In Heritage & History, This week in the neighbourhood on February 4, 2011 at 8:29 AM

A new condo for Bathurst and Bloor? The former Loretto College property at 783 Bathurst Street has been sold for $6.97 million by the Catholic District School Board  to H & R Developments. [Urban Toronto]
A new strip mall for Dupont? Bert Archer reports on an application to rezone Leal Rentals at 555 Dupont, across the street from Loblaws . [YongeStreet]

A visual history of Yonge and Bloor. Derek Flack looks the changes to this intersection through historic photographs dating from the 1920s to today. [blogTO]
The new owner of 69 Albany Avenue talks about his house. [Town, h/t to Ring Around the City]
Who you gonna call? Lisa Day profiles Ward 20 councillor Adam Vaughan’s office staff. []
Urbanism in the the age of climate change. An excerpt from Peter Calthorpe’s new book. []
The Annex Shul aka the cool shul welcomes its first full-time spiritual leader, with a celebration Shabbat Saturday, February 12th. [Jewish in Toronto]

Every Friday, the Weekly Wrap collects articles from around the web about or of interest to residents of the West Annex.

For previous weeks’ columns, visit the Weekly Wrap archive.

The weekly wrap for January 28, 2011

In Coming events, Eating & Drinking, Heritage & History, This week in the neighbourhood on January 28, 2011 at 12:01 AM

“One of the best pizzas in the Annex”. Renée Suen praises Bar Mercurio’s excellent pie. [Toronto Life]

The inner city is a safer place to raise children than the suburbs. Tamsin McMahon looks at the not so surprising data on the safety of downtown. [National Post]


With pluck and grit, a Globe food critic roughs it on the Bloor-West Annex strip. Joanne Kates bravely endures the lack of a coat check to enjoy bargain-priced omakase at Sushi Couture. [Globe and Mail]


A History of Toronto in 8 Millimetres, screening Sunday, January 30 at 7:00PM at the Bloor. Jason Anderson recommends this compendium of amateur Super 8 films that provide glimpses of life in Toronto between the ’30s and the ’70s.[]


Robert Baldwin is the greatest Torontonian ever. Derek Smith tells Steve Paikin how Baldwin–the scion of the family who owned the lands immediately east of the West Annex–brought responsible government to Canada. [TVO]


Every Friday, the Weekly Wrap collects articles from around the web about or of interest to residents of the West Annex.

For previous weeks’ columns, visit the Weekly Wrap archive.

The weekly wrap for December 17, 2010

In Eating & Drinking, Heritage & History, Reviews, This week in the neighbourhood on December 17, 2010 at 1:01 AM

“Does the Annex really need another budget-friendly Japanese restaurant?”  Apparently yes. Gizelle Lau loves the fresh ingredients and home made stock at Kenzo Ramen. [Toronto Life]

Kenzo Ramen | 372 Bloor Street West

“We wanted to bring in city bikes from Holland that are upright, fashionable, and can function as your car.” Wyndham Bettencourt-McCarthy profiles Eric Kamphof, manager of Curbside Cycle.  [torontoist]

“The Green Room . . . a place so dirty that a health inspector found even its license completely covered in cockroach feces.” David Topping calls out the Green Room as one of torontist’s Villains of 2010.  [torontoist]

Beer was still 15 cents a glass and big old homes yet to be gentrified were cheap rooming houses. Jim Henshaw recalls David French and the Annex theatre scene of the early 1970’s.  [Legion of Decency]

Still looking for the perfect gift for that left-wing bike-riding pinko kook in your life? Get your commemorative T-shirts from Biking Toronto and buttons from spacingtoronto.  The buttons are also available locally at the Outer Layer, Curbside Cycle, and Sweet Pete’s.

First came the stagecoach stop in 1876. Eric Murtrie explores Brunswick Avenue at Bloor, and environs. [spacingtoronto]

They tested Model Ts on the roof. Matt Bubbers uncovers the storied history of the Faema Building (and former Ford automobile plant) at the corner of Dupont and Christie.  [ Autos]

“You get to the point when you see so much pain in people’s lives, you have to do something.” Eileen Donnelly profiles Harbord Collegiate Institute teacher Michael Ericson’s work to establish a shelter for Toronto’s homeless LBGTQ youth.  [The Toronto Observer]

“One of Toronto’s oldest cinemas has been nestled in the Annex for almost a century.” Tracey Chen recounts the history of the Bloor Cinema, AKA the Madison Picture Palace.  [Heritage Toronto]

The Madison Picture Palace, now the Bloor Cinema | Courtesy of City of Toronto Archives


Every Friday, the Weekly Wrap collects articles from around the web about or of interest to residents of the West Annex.