Monthly Archives: August 2011

Remembering the passing of Jack Leyton–the young man who became a Canadian statesman

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This month (August 2012), it has been a month since Jack Leyton passed away. He never knew me, but I knew him. Many people have made similar statements, as Jack reached out to everyone as a friend, creating the feeling that you knew him personally.

When I moved to downtown Toronto twelve years ago, because I was the only person in our condo who was retired, I attended a City Hall meeting about a change in a parking by-law that affected our building. Because of constant delays, it was two days before the by-law in question was finally addressed by council. As a result, I observed the meetings for two days. This was when I first experienced Jack Leyton in action.

On the second day I was there, an irate woman addressed the council and demanded a change in a by-law. Her request was totally unreasonable, but she insisted that she represented her neighbours and that her entire community wanted the change. Jack politely asked her who these neighbours were, as the previous week he knocked on doors and was unable to find a single person who wanted the change that the woman was demanding. He informed her that if she gave him the names of her supporters, he would visit them and seek their opinions. The woman slinked away in defeat. It floored me that Jack would check with the people who would be affected to allow council to make the right decision. During my two-day stint as City Hall, I saw how Jack researched issues carefully, sought compromise, and  voted accordingly. I realized that I was watching  an exceptional man.

Several years later, in community meetings, I met Olivia Chow. She was instrumental in affecting positive changes in our community. One Christmas, I attended a Christmas party in the Layton/Chow home on Huron Street. At one point during the evening, I observed Jack talking to an elderly man who was showing him several photographs. There were over two hundred guests in the house, but Jack treated the man as if he were the only person there. His kindness and patience never waned, and when the elderly gentleman was ready to depart, Jack went to the third floor of the house to retrieve his coat.

The image that Jack projected was real, not a contrived personae for political gain. He marched in the gay pride parades when it was considered political suicide. He championed the white ribbon campaign to draw attention to violence against women. He urged the city to go green at a time when no one cared about environmental issues. Jack Leyton was the real thing. It has been a year now since his death, and I still miss him. He made the harshness of the political scene appear human, and proved that not all politicians are motivated by personal gain. 

The photos below were taken the week that Jack passed away.


                              Floral tributes placed outside the Leyton home.

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Messages of tribute written with chalk on the ramp and cement slabs at City Hall


                                                 Tributes to Jack at City Hall


                          People wait to sign the condolence book inside City Hall

Among those who wrote in chalk at City Hall, many said that he caused them to vote for the first time in their lives. What an amazing and meaningful tribute.

Remembering Jack. A rare man – great Canadian.

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Posted by on August 24, 2011 in Toronto



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The Dufferin Gate of the CNE in the 1920s. It was built in 1910 and demolished in 1959 to allow for the construction of the Gardiner Expressway. 

The “grand old lady of Toronto,” as the Canadian National Exhibition is sometimes referred, has opened for another year. Those of us who knew the Ex in previous decades, lament how much it has changed. Last year as I observed the crowds milling about the midway and flowing into the Food Building, I realized that it remains a place where memories are created. Young people who visit the late-summer fair today are creating their own memories, which in the years ahead, will be as golden for them as our remembrances are for us. My personal memories of the Ex go back as far as 1947, when the Ex reopened after the Second World War. However, I can vividly recall stories of even earlier yesteryears that my dad and grandfather related about attending the great fair.

My father arrived as a young immigrant in Toronto in 1921, and was enthralled with the CNE. Arriving in Canada from a remote coastal village in Newfoundland, prior to the days of confederation, he was overwhelmed by the vast site, enormous ornate exhibition buildings, throngs of people, and variety of foods offered. It was an experience he never forgot, and rarely missed a chance to tell my bother and me about his glorious days at the “wondrous Ex.”



The quotes below are from the novel “There Never Was A Better Time,” a story about my dad, Jack Taylor, and my Uncle Ernie. It tells about their first visit to the CNE in 1921.

In some ways, Jack and Ernie were not to be mere observers at the Ex, but suitors romancing a woman who possessed everything a young man could desire—mystery, beauty, and excitement. Indeed, in this decade, this was the way many people viewed the CNE. It was the highlight of the summer, and perhaps the most singularly important event of the year. By the time the Ex opened, children had grown tired of their rough games in the empty lots and back alleys, and adults were also ready for a more exciting venue. The fair’s arrival made the end of summer seem bearable—perhaps even worthwhile. For schoolchildren, the Ex was a thrilling ritual that would create wistful smiles and dreams that lasted through the first few weeks’ drudgery of the new scholastic year.

As a backwater city of the Empire, Toronto lacked the sophistication of London, Paris, or Rome. Toronto was unable to boast of great cultural institutions or exotic pleasure palaces, but it was still home to the “World’s Largest Annual Exposition.” No citizen questioned this extravagant claim or inquired as to who had compiled the statistics to verify it. All who attended the fair felt capable of assessing it, and there were no doubts in their minds that it was indeed the largest and greatest in the world.


The Toronto Star was on the table in front of Jack, and he eagerly read out details about the Ex to Ernie. The fair had opened its gates at eight o’clock that morning. It would cost $600,000 to pay the expenses for the full run of the great exposition. The CNE advertised a “Baby Show” on Labour Day featuring three pairs of identical twins. Other attractions included the “Biggest War Photograph Exhibition in the World.” The Transportation Building was unable to contain the motor exhibition, and thus it had been supplemented with two acres of tents. The Motor Show promised to be a “record-breaker.” Because of the ever-increasing crowds, officials had added three hundred street signs to help people find their way around.

At the Exhibition Art Gallery were numerous treasures, the masterpieces including George Bellows’s The Knock Out, a painting depicting the boxing ring, and A Child and a Dog by John Russell, a sentimental portrayal of youth. The Band Contest would feature seven bands performing classical and modern music. The Business Exhibition highlighted the latest machinery and up-to-date methods for commercial enterprises.

In the old Ontario Government Building, slated to be demolished after the fair closed, were live beavers, moose, fishers, and pheasants, along with an Algonquin Park exhibit. Many a prim and proper elderly woman, after observing the youth among the crowds, remarked that there were perhaps even more animals on the midway. They felt that, since the war, the conduct of the younger generation was not in keeping with the standards of their beloved Queen Mary. They remarked that young people had been more respectful in the days before the war, referring to the Boer War in Africa, which had started in 1899.

The Government Building contained a detailed model of a rural Ontario community, with farms, barns, and fields of pasture and grain. It also depicted a village with houses, a community centre, and shops. All roads, streets, and highways were accurately laid out. The carefully crafted model was certain to amaze everyone.

Although the new livestock building—the Coliseum—remained under construction, there would still be an enormous livestock display. It would include fifteen hundred cattle, nine hundred horses, seven hundred and fifty sheep, five hundred swine, and over sixty-five hundred poultry. Almost every domesticated animal on earth would be exhibited, whether two-legged or four-, surely an accomplishment that rivalled Noah’s Ark.

Jack continued reading aloud other details, but Ernie said nothing in reply, as he was more interested in seeing the events, not reading about them. He knew that if they hurried, they would see the Warriors’ Day Parade. Perhaps they might even catch a glimpse of Lord Byng, who had been sworn in that very month as Governor General. He and Lady Byng were to be present at the CNE’s official opening ceremonies in the afternoon. They were scheduled to review the troops at the Band Stand. With these thoughts in mind, Ernie insisted that his brother eat faster and read less.


At the Grandstand at 9:15 pm was a show entitled “Over Here,” a tribute to Canada’s history. Advertisements stated that the show portrayed the founding of Canada, the triumph of civilization, and a nation’s progress. This was no small feat to accomplish within a two-hour presentation, even assuming that civilization had actually triumphed within the borders of the Dominion. A large orchestra had been assembled in front, below the stage, and it provided the music for the extravaganza. There was a community singsong included with each performance, and a giant screen flashed the lyrics to the audience. One of the best-received songs was “Home Sweet Home.” Jack and Ernie longed to attend the show, but lacked the fifty-cent admission. For the remainder of the Saturday evening, they returned to the midway to admire the girls, deciding that this activity was really the best fun of all, and cost nothing.

Shortly after 11 pm, the Grandstand show ended with a dazzling fireworks display that, although it originated south of the stadium, was visible throughout the entire CNE, bursting above the midway and the exhibition grounds. It was Ernie’s and Jack’s first experience of such an event, their previous acquaintance with exhibitions of fire confined to the flames atop the hills on bonfire night in Burin. There was no comparison. The fireworks illuminated the skies in a sparkling array resembling millions of diamonds scattered across the black dome of the universe. The dazzling light reflected off the waters of the lake and illuminated the domes and turrets of the ornate buildings as if it were daytime. The deafening echoes of the explosions reverberated like thunder as they rolled across the grounds.

The downtown towers of modern-day Toronto with their numberless illuminated windows did not exist, and thus the fireworks were the sole man-made lights in the night sky. People gasped and shrieked, their faces reflecting the flashing colours of red, orange, and gold. The evening’s fireworks finally climaxed in a cataclysmic explosion of fire that made it seem as if the end of the world had arrived. In truth, the only thing that had ended was another day at the fair.

At the Grandstand, the words “Good Night” flashed on the giant screen.

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                                             City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1253

The Grandstand where the 1921 Grandstand show was held. It was destroyed by fire in 1946, and a new grandstand opened for the 1948 season. The new 25,000-seat 1948 grandstand has since been demolished.

The links below lead to further tales of the history of Toronto and the CNE

The book that includes the CNE of 1921

Other posts about historic Toronto:

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Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Toronto


A glimpse at the Interior of Campbell House at University Avenue and Queen Street

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Today a tour guide named Tim provided me with an excellent tour of Campbell house, at the corner of University Avenue and Queen Street West.

The following quote is from the book “The Villages Within.”

This 1822 home was originally on Adelaide Street, near Frederick Street. It was relocated to its present site in 1972. It was the home of Sir William Campbell (1758-1834), sixth chief justice of Ontario.

Born in Caithess, Scotland, Campbell fought in the American Revolution, and was a prisoner in Yorktown, Virginia in 1781. After the war, he settled in Nova Scotia, and practised law. In 1811 he moved to Upper Canada (Ontario). He was appointed to the King’s Bench as a judge, and in 1825 was speaker of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada. In 1829 he was knighted, the first such honour bestowed on a member of the judiciary in Upper Canada.

The neo-classical home, with its nine windows in the façade, has been faithfully restored. Its impressive appearance reflects the important position Campbell held in the town of York. It is of red brick, on a stone foundation. Four Ionic pillars support the graceful porch that protects the doorway, with its fanned-shaped transom window and small sidelight panes of glass. The triangular pediment is a classical Greek design.

                  Interior views of Campbell House

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Interior staircase that is original to the home, and the 19th century clock beside the stairs.


Because the house was built as a retirement home, after the Campbell children had grown up and departed, there are only two bedrooms – the master bedroom and a guest room. This is a view of  the master bedroom.

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Ballroom on the second floor, and the ornate fireplace. The room accommodated about thirty dancers.


Dining room on the first floor. At the back of the room, the door on the left is where the servants entered with the trays of food. The door on the right leads to the butler’s quarters.

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Individual bowls used for rinsing wine glasses (left) when a different wine was served, and a view of a dinner plate (right).


Withdrawal room opposite the dining room, where women “withdrew” after dinner


Kitchen in the basement to prepare the family meals. The Campbells employed ten servants.


Modern dining room in the basement that is open daily to the public. The menu changes constantly. Reservations are recommended – 416- 597-0542. I intend to lunch here in the near future and will report on the experience.

Posts about other Toronto historic homes and novels about Toronto –

The book “The Villages Within” provides a walking tour of Queen Street West, which includes Campbell House.


Posted by on August 18, 2011 in Toronto


Toronto’s mysterious historic house

The downtown mansion at 342 Adelaide Street West, on the northwest corner of Adelaide and Peter Streets, looms over the street like a haunted house from a Hollywood thriller. Its tall tower, ornate cornice work and Mansard roof add to the impression that it was a place where evil lurked. Unfortunately there was no evil associated with the house, and the only mystery is establishing when the home was constructed.


                 342 Adelaide Street, at the corner of Peter Street.


               View of the house looking west along Adelaide Street

adelaide east from Spadina 1912

                     City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 0601

The mansion, with its ornate turret is visible in the 1912 photo of Adelaide Street, looking east, when the building was a family residence. In the photo, it is behind the Alexander Engraving Company. The extension across the front of the house was added later in the year.

                   Adelaide Peter 1950

                   City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231 Item 108

This 1950 photograph shows the addition that was constructed across the front of the house in 1912.

Series 372, Subseries 58 - Road and street condition photographs

             City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub-series 0068, Item 1962

Looking north on Peter Street toward Adelaide Street in July of 1962. The three-storey shops visible in the distance, on Queen Street, have been demolished and the site is now a parking lot.


The house on the northwest corner of Adelaide and Peter Streets as it appears today.

The Toronto list of heritage properties states that the house was built in 1858. Establishing the provenance of the the residence is not easy, as the houses on the street were renumbered three times. There are no Goad’s Atlas maps for the 1850s, and the building is not shown on the Bolton Map of 1858.

In the Toronto Directories, the first time that a house is listed on Adelaide Street near Peter is in 1861. It was 262 Adelaide Street, the residence of Frederick Perkins. I was unable to ascertain if this was in fact the house in question. The reason there is doubt is that between the years 1866 to 1868, the Directories state that the land on the north side of Adelaide between Peter Street and Spadina (Brant Street) contained only empty lots.

In 1869, the Directories again list the house at 262 Adelaide Street as the home of George Perkins. Apparently Frederick Perkins had relocated to a house at 26 College Street, and his brother George had moved into the property on Adelaide Street. George and Frederick Perkins were business partners. They owned “Perkins Ince. and Co.” – wholesale grocers and importer of wines and spirits. Their warehouse/shop was at 43 Front St. East.  

In 1874, the address of the house was changed to number 298. However, the Goad’s Atlas shows that number 298 Adelaide was on the northeast corner of Adelaide and Peter Streets, not the northwest. The 1874 Toronto Directories do confirm that the house at 298 was that of George Perkins. This remains true during 1875 as well.

In 1876, Henry Seaton Strathy purchased the property at 298 Adelaide Street, and the Toronto Heritage list states that a Mansard roof was added in that year. Henry Strathy was born in Edinburgh in January of 1833. He first lived in Montreal, where he was a founding member of the Montreal Stock Exchange. In Toronto, he was head of the Federal Bank of Canada at 17 Wellington Street West. In 1876 he purchased the property at 298 Adelaide Street, to which he added the magnificent Mansard roof.  


                              The Mansard roof of the house.


                              Facade and west side of the house


Brickwork under the cornice reveals where the Mansard roof was added in 1876.


Although the overall style of the house is Second Empire, it possesses an Italianate tower.

To view the Home Page for this blog:

To view other posts about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

The 1860s houses on Elm St. (Barbarian’s Steak House)

The old “Silver Snail” shop on Queen St. West

The 1888 Toronto Club at Wellington and York

The north building at the St. Lawrence market that is to be demolished

The Ellis Building on Adelaide Street near Spadina Ave.

The Heintzman Building on Yonge Street, next to the Elgin Theatre

The tall narrow building at 242 Yonge Street, south of Dundas

Toronto’s first Reference Library at College and St. George Streets.

The Commodore Building at 315-317 Adelaide St. West

The Graphic Arts Building (condo) on Richmond Street

The Art Deco Victory Building on Richmond Street

The Concourse Building on Adelaide Street

The old Bank of Commerce at 197 Yonge Street

The Traders Bank on Yonge Street—the city’s second skyscraper

Toronto’s old Union Station on Front Street, built in 1884

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at King and Simcoe Streets.

The row houses on Glasgow Street, near Spadina and College Streets

The bank at Queen and Simcoe that resembles a Greek temple

The cenotaph at Toronto’s Old City Hall

The magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral at King East and Church Streets

St. Stanislaus Koska RC Church on Denison Avenue, north of Queen West

The historical St. Mary’s Church at Adelaide and Bathurst Streets

The Bishop’s (St, Michael’s) Palace on Church Street, Toronto

The Union Building at Simcoe and King Street West

The Ed Mirvish (Pantages, Imperial, Canon) Theatre, a true architectural gem on Toronto’s Yonge Street

The Waverly Hotel on Spadina near College Street.

The Art Deco Bank of Commerce building on King Street West.

The Postal Delivery Building, now the Air Canada Centre (ACC)

The Bellevue Fire Station on College Street

The Bank of Nova Scotia at King and Bay Streets

Toronto’s old Sunnyside Beach

Toronto’s architectural gems—the Runnymede Library

Spadina Avenue – sinful, spicy and diverse

The Reading Building, a warehouse loft on Spadina Avenue

The Darling Building on Spadina Avenue

The amazing Fashion Building on Spadina Avenue

Toronto’s architectural gems – the Tower Building at Spadina and Adelaide Street

The Balfour Building at 119 Spadina Avenue

The Robertson Building at 215 Spadina that houses the Dark Horse Espresso Bar

An architectural gem – Grossman’s Tavern at Spadina and Cecil Streets

History of the house that contains the Paul Magder Fur Shop at 202 Spadina

An important historic building that disappeared from the northeast corner of Spadina and College

Historic bank building on northeast corner of Spadina and Queen West

History of the Backpackers’ Hotel at King and Spadina

Hamburger corner – Spadina and Queen Streets

Lord Lansdowne Public School on Spadina Crescent

The Victory Burlesque Theatre at Dundas and Spadina

The Dragon City Mall on the southwest corner of Dundas and Spadina

Buildings on the west side of Spadina a short distance north of Queen Street.

History of the site of the Mcdonalds on northwest corner of Queen and Spadina

A former mansion at 235 Spadina that is now almost hidden from view.


Military hero of the War of 1812 lived near corner of Spadina and Queen West.

The Art Deco bus terminal at Bay and Dundas Streets.

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

The old Dominion Bank Building at King and Yonge Street

The Canada Life Building on University and Queen Street West.

Campbell House at the corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue

A study of Osgoode Hall

Toronto’s first City Hall, now a part of the St. Lawrence Market

Toronto’s Draper Street, a time-tunnel into the 19th century

The Black Bull Tavern at Queen and Soho Streets, established in 1822

History of the 1867 fence around Osgoode Hall on Queen Street West at York Street

Gathering around the radio as a child in the 1940s

The opening of the University Theatre on Bloor Street, west of Bay St.

122 persons perish in the Noronic Disaster on Toronto’s waterfront in 1949

Historic Victoria Memorial Square where Toronto’s first cemetery was located, now hidden amid the Entertainment District

Visiting one of Toronto’s best preserved 19th-century streets-Willcocks Avenue

The 1930s Water Maintenance Building on Brant Street, north of St. Andrew’s Park

Toronto’s architectural gems-photos of the Old City from a book published by the city in 1912

Toronto’s architectural gems in 1912

Toronto’s architectural gems – the bank on the northeast corner of Queen West and Spadina

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

The St. Lawrence Hall on King Street

Toronto’s streetcars through the past decades

History of Trinity Bellwoods Park

A history of Toronto’s famous ferry boats to the Toronto Islands


Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Toronto




In the above picture, the historic 1870s houses sit on a parking lot on the east side of John Street. The corner of John and Adelaide, which has been a hive of activity for the past month, is now now silent and empty. The construction equipment and numerous workers have departed the scene. The tree that once grew on John Street, lies strewn across the corner of the vacant lot. It was sacrificed to permit the houses to be moved on to the parking lot.

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Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Toronto




Early this morning (Saturday), the houses were rolled across John Street (View looking south on John toward King Street) .


They were rolled up on to the parking lot on the east side of the street ( view is looking south on John Street from King Street)


    The houses on the parking lot, ready to be re-positioned.

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The truck that pulled the houses, employing a thick steel cable.


The houses on the parking lot, where they will remain for about two years, until the condo at Adelaide and John is completed.

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Posted by on August 13, 2011 in Toronto




The southwest corner of Adelaide and John Streets, the site of a new condominium. The historic houses that were removed from the corner are now awaiting their relocation.


Ready to roll – – across the street to the parking lot on the east side of John Street.


Earlier in the week, the 1870 houses overlooked the foundations where they had rested for 141 years.


The foundations were bull-dozed this morning (August 12th)


Removing the foundations of the 1870 houses.

Information on the history of the houses

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Posted by on August 12, 2011 in Toronto