Sunday, August 31, 2008

Even more ruins!

Guildwood Park in the east end of metropolitan Toronto (excuse me, that's the Greater Toronto Area, aka GTA) contains more than 70 architectural fragments and sculptures collected by Rosa and Spencer Clark. They rescued fragments from demolished buildings in and around Toronto and used them to create a sculpture garden.

To the right is the one of the columns from the Greek Theatre, which includes the lintel block, Corinthian capital, and two column fragments from the Bank of Toronto.

Below are fragments from the Temple Building and North American Life Assurance Company.

And below is an amalgam of the decorative elements from several demolished banks, and the limestone and marble entranceway of the Bank of Nova Scotia. At least, I think that's what it is. I left my map at home that day...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Where to relocate Our Lady of York?

Despite the heat and humidity, about 90 people came out on Saturday afternoon for the Heritage Toronto "Faces on Places" walking tour downtown.
I discussed (and showed pictures of) the former York County Registry Office at 60 Richmond Street East, with its sculptures by Jacobine Jones of a woman and the County of York coat of arms, which I've written about here before. It was demolished last year and the sculptures are in storage, awaiting relocation, possibly to the new building that is going up on the site.
I referred the walkers to a really informative comment I thought had been left on one of those earlier posts - but discovered when I arrived home that the comment had been sent to me in an e-mail. I had intended to post it at the time (in April), but failed to.
So here it is now, hoping it's better late than never - but apologies for the delay to Stanley Dantowitz who was a former employee of the Registry Office of the East and West Ridings of the County of York, who provided the information.
"I had wondered what had happened to (the sculptures) in the recent demolition," he wrote. " I agree that they should be on display to the public outside a building, not inside. If they are not suitable to affix to the outside of the new building at 60 Richmond St East, I suggest that they be located in a nearby public park."
The County Registry Office was at Berti and Richmond from 1946 until the mid 1960's when it moved to the current Toronto City Hall, which also housed the City of Toronto Registry Office.
"Prior to the 1960's the City of Toronto and Land Titles Offices occupied a building just about where the south-west corner of the current Toronto City Hall is now. Between the south-west corner of the current Toronto City Hall and Osgoode Hall is a strip of lawn. In the centre of the lawn is a children's playground," Stanley said.
"Perhaps the sculptures could be located on the lawn south of the children's playground?" he suggested. "They would be almost on top of the site of the former City of Toronto and Land Titles Offices. A suitable plaque could describe the three former offices."
Stanley included Toronto Community Housing's Leslie Gash on the e-mail, and she replied after talking to Sherry Pedersen in the Heritage Section of the City Planning Department.
"We spoke last summer about the fate of the sculptures," Leslie said. " I have sent her your email Stanley as well as the link to your website Terry and the renderings of the new building. They are willing to look at other alternatives for the sculptures. We still have lots of time on this but it was good to get the discussion started."

That is very encouraging, especially because all too often, sculptures from demolished buildings are either lost, or place inside the new buildings, where they aren't seen by the public.

Stanley also provided some information on the "Deeds Speak" motto that appears on the County of York coat of arms. He cited an article by Carl Benn (PhD) in last summer in The Fife and Drum, the newsletter of the Friends of Fort York and Garrison Common.
Benn, who is chief curator of the City of Toronto Museums and Heritage Services, attributed it to the Rev. John Strachan while he was rector of the Town of York, who used the phrase in praise of the York Militia in the capture of Detroit during the War of 1812.

I'll stay on top of this, and will post news of further developments in a more timely manner.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More ruins

Taking his cue from Mackenzie King's Kingsmere, Stephen Braithwaite used pieces of demolished Ottawa buildings (along with some new bronze sculptures) to create "Strathcona's Folly," a sculpture/play structure in Ottawa's Strathcona Park.

The somewhat unsettling looking faces are from a Bank of Montreal branch.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


I am spending some time in and around Ottawa, and that included a visit to Kingsmere in Gatineau, Que., yesterday. That's the former estate of our WWII-vintage prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. The grounds have several of these "faux ruins" that King brought in during the 1930s, largely from buildings being demolished in Ottawa. Not much in the way of faces, but neat ruins.
More about this later since I'm using a temperamental dial-up connection.

I will only add, for now, that this has got to be the most photographed scene at Kingsmere - portraits taken through this now-empty window. In fact, this woman was telling her children as she tried to arrange them (there's a third child you can't see - I think he fell off the back and down into a field of choke cherries)that when they got home, she would show them the picture her parents took of her in the same spot.