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DeLorean out of gas? Try the Toronto Archives....
July 4, 2006 7:57 AM   Subscribe

From Muddy York to the Toronto of today.... My search to discover the exact age of the house I recently bought led me to the fabulous Toronto Archives. Even if you don't have the good fortune to live in Toronto and so have the ability to visit the Archives to take a free tour and check out their massive holdings, they have a whack of stuff on line. Of their million photographs dating back to 1856, over 21,000 are online. Check out some of their virtual exhibits. I couldn't begin to give you an overview of the site or even the best of its many gems, but check out Chinatown's VE day victory parade, Bay and Wellington as it was after a huge fire in 1904, old advertisements, letters and postcards (including some from the disenchanted), snapshots of a, er, less politically sensitive time (thanks, Capn!), and — inevitably! — hockey artifacts. A friend of mine makes a hobby of Toronto's history, and after this search of mine, I better understand her interest. It’s fascinating to see what lies beneath the layers of time on a surface so familiar and loved.
posted by orange swan (23 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sigh. The hockey artifacts link revisited.
posted by orange swan at 8:03 AM on July 4, 2006


Hah... Buffalo must have been much nicer in 1914, for "Phil" to label Toronto "A rotten burg" :) Great find, makes me nostalgic for home.
posted by antifuse at 8:24 AM on July 4, 2006


Thanks, orange swan. "Congress of Fat People", ha!

See also Halton Images and Early Canadiana Online.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:49 AM on July 4, 2006


even if you don't have the good fortune to live in Toronto

You looking to get scorned and mocked there, little buddy? Everyone knows Vancouver is where it's at.

But nice links, thanks.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:05 AM on July 4, 2006


Superb post—thanks!
posted by languagehat at 9:08 AM on July 4, 2006


It is easy to forget that all our ancestors were real people with hopes and dreams. Photographs such as these give us a real sense of their presence, and we get a window on their world.

A Fourth of July salute to you, orange swan, for sharing this today. Another "Best of Web" connection.
posted by rdone at 9:09 AM on July 4, 2006


Fantastic post. I'd love to see something like this for my city.

And the Congress of Fat People...Guess who has a new desktop picture?
posted by rollbiz at 9:13 AM on July 4, 2006


Even when people complained about things in old postcards, their handwriting was still enjoyable. A lesson to all of us, I should think.
posted by redsparkler at 9:19 AM on July 4, 2006


I keep meaning to do this for my house, too. I live so close to the archives and I go in there every once in a while for the exhibits. I love this kind of stuff.
Great post.
posted by chococat at 9:20 AM on July 4, 2006


Some of the most poignant pictures I have come across are the many, many photos of the children available for adoption. Whatever happened to them....
posted by orange swan at 9:29 AM on July 4, 2006


On top of being all around awesome - thanks orange swan - this would be great accompanying material to anybody reading, or teaching, Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion

Vancouver? Come on, Vancouver is just Calgary-By-The-Sea. Great if you're into Rollerblading
posted by Flashman at 9:51 AM on July 4, 2006


Excellent post. This will keep me going for days. Thanks.
posted by purephase at 10:04 AM on July 4, 2006


University. Ontario government archive site though..
posted by Chuckles at 10:24 AM on July 4, 2006


Ah... the University theatre, where I saw the Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double-bill during the original ESB run. A beautiful theatre - I could never understand why the demolished it.

Also, great post.
posted by GuyZero at 10:53 AM on July 4, 2006


orange swan -

In case you didn't find the information you were looking for, a possible resource for you is Assessment Ontario, who is responsible for the property assessments in your province. Where I live (out in the prairies) the assessment agency keeps track of the dates of building permits. Maybe they can help you.
posted by raedyn at 11:07 AM on July 4, 2006


Even if you don't have the good fortune to live in Toronto

Heh, good one. A friend reported this rhetorical question recently posed by an apparently somewhat myopic Torontonian relative: "Why would anyone want to live anywhere else, we have everything right here." I can only suppose my concept of 'everything' is perhaps... dissimilar.

But yes, nice post, anything that helps the world learn more about others is good. You mean Canada's not just igloos, beer, moose, and lumberjacks? They have cities with electricity and everything? And this has been going on since when?
posted by scheptech at 11:15 AM on July 4, 2006


This is quite incredible. I live on Merton Street in Toronto - a street covered with 12 storey condominiums and it's incredible to look at photos like this one which show a slightly different state of the street.

Thanks for sharing the link...
posted by aubin at 11:32 AM on July 4, 2006


You mean Canada's not just igloos, beer, moose, and lumberjacks?



You, sir, are a racist. This is aboot heritage! This is aboot history! This is aboot finding a connection to one's city and community!

Let's have no more talk about beady eyes and flapping heads so full of lies.
posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 11:58 AM on July 4, 2006


You, sir, are a racist. This is aboot heritage! This is aboot history!

Heh, back off hoser - and quit making fun aboot Canadians' Scottish roots eh?
posted by scheptech at 2:26 PM on July 4, 2006


Great post! I grew up around Broadview and Gerrard and it's pretty neat to see what that intersection looked like a hundred years ago when they first laid the TTC track.
posted by phoenixc at 2:54 PM on July 4, 2006


The archives are excellent - have spent a few hours there, researching my house.

Phoenixc - I'm just south of you (near Dundas). If you check the archives, there is an old map of the area (1884) with Gerrard called Josephine east of Broadview (then called Don Mills Road) and called Rambler's Road west of Broadview.

The archives are fascinating. For the Skin of a Lion fans, there's a ton of old photos of the construction of the viaduct. They also used to take photos of buildings about to be demolished - lots and lots of cool pics.

I found a photo of my street from 1903 - wooden sidewalks, dirt road, old firetruck, and for a very reasonable fee, got an enlargement done.
posted by parki at 5:33 PM on July 4, 2006


I spent an hour and a half at the archives last Friday. I'll have to go again, but I want to find out how old my house is, learn whatever there is to learn about the history of my street, and if possible, get some reproductions of documents and photos pertaining to my street. These I will have framed and hang in a little collection in my front hallway. It'll be kind of neat for vistors to see how my street used to look.
posted by orange swan at 6:06 PM on July 4, 2006


great link and definitiely support seeing the archives in person. It's an amazing repository of information (as archives tend to be). I think the Archives used to be in the basement of City Hall - my mum and I would go there every once in a while. Every city should have something quite as well organized as it.

Love the Canadian - and Toronto! - related posts on the blue.
posted by rmm at 7:10 PM on July 4, 2006


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