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Issue No. 178 | June 8, 2011


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Feature Stories

  1. Councillor Peter Milczyn and Heritage Toronto Heritage Roundtable
  2. Ontario Heritage Conference Review
  3. Doors Open Gets to Chicago
  4. CTV: The Speaker bids farewell, and sets the Record Straight on 21 Avenue Road
  5. Hansard: The Speaker Takes the Last Word
  6. Globe and Mail: Fort York Archaeological Discovery
  7. Zeitag: Cool Historical Toronto app


The Speaker's Walk

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1. Councillor Peter Milczyn and Heritage Toronto Heritage Roundtable
Catherine Nasmith, editor

The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

This week, Councillor Peter Milczyn - Chair of the Planning and Growth Committee - in partnership with Heritage Toronto,  hosted a heritage roundtable.  

The public roundtable was a follow-up to the release of Heritage Toronto and the Toronto's Historical Association's publication Heritage Voices, a report on the state of heritage which was drafted from issues brought to attention by the heritage community.

The roundtable was charged with providing recommendations on how to improve heritage management in Toronto including: strengthening the heritage planning policy framework; improving the Inventory of Heritage Properties and designation of heritage properties; improving heritage conservation/preservation through the planning process; organization and structure of heritage preservation in the City of Toronto; and enhancing public engagement and education.

Now that's a tall order, and as you might guess in four hours the panel members barely scratched the surface. I was not able to attend the full discussion, but offer several observations. 

There was total agreement that the listing and designation process is hopeless at identifying what is important, and its under-resourcing for the past 30 years cannot easily be overcome. There is little political will to increase staff in heritage preservation services to deal with the problem. To make matters more challenging, staff need information that they can stand behind at an OMB hearing, a nirvana that everyone acknowledges is impossible, even with a significant increase in resources that shows no sign of arriving.

It would seem in the discussion the perfect is the enemy of the good. Even though utilizing community researchers has been wildly successful in bringing large areas of the City forward for protection as Heritage Conservation Districts, city staff express reservations about the potential for collecting or spreading misinformation if community researchers are involved without oversight by heritage professionals. 

The parallel is obvious with the stalled new policy for HCD's that HPS has been struggling to finish for several years now, which has prevented any new HCD's from being finished or started since it began.  The quest for perfection could leave a very small number of properties protected, and no less frustration in communities and the development industry seeking certainty and speed in the process. 

I have collaborated with several communities putting together HCD's, and would say that for the most part the research is excellent. I would gamble on setting up an online data base that won't accept unreferenced data, and let people submit data as they find it. Consultants also regularly find material and keep it in personal files. Imagine what might happen if a student just spent time transferring Robert Hill's excellent research to the City data base of properties. There are many other sources of information online now. 

One excellent suggestion came from Michael McLelland, and was supported by ACO Past President, Lloyd Alter. The proposal is to put the onus on the private property owner to demonstrate there is no damage to heritage when they make applications for planning or building permits. They rightly point out that the City has an excellent policy to preserve the City's tree canopy, requiring all applications to produce a tree survey. The emphasis would shift to private consultants to review existing properties and determine if existing buildings had heritage value. Even if there was disagreement among professionals as the property owners' reports come forward, at least we would have information when we need it and set up an expectation that the City intends to identify and conserve heritage resources through the planning process. 

Not discussed while I was there, but I can't imagine Lloyd Alter not raising this point, was the idea of conserving built resources as an environmental benefit, irrespective of the formal heritage value of the property.

Surely the City's building stock, whether it is "heritage" or not is an asset worthy of conservation. Most existing buildings have utility. Having the virtually unfettered right to demolish built into the Ontario Building Code ensures that buildings that might become the incubators for tomorrow's entrepreneurs, or provide affordable housing end up in the dumpster. It also skews property values in favour of redevelopment. Slowing the stream of buildings on their way to landfill would force a much more creative approach to the re-use of Toronto's existing building stock as the City intensifies.

There was also a sense that the Preservation Board and staff recommendations were too easily ignored by Council. Paul Bedford asked how this works in New York. He might be interested to learn that in New York, City Council has to appeal Landmark Commission rulings, and the Commission is a highly respected, independent body filled with extraordinary experts who donate their time. Its proceedings are constantly covered by the New York Times. Having said that, in Chicago and San Francisco have their preservation staff in their planning departments, and are quite successful. 

A key difference between Canadian and American practice is the lack of financial incentives in Canada. David Crombie emphasized the need to make the development industry a friend of heritage.....that would happen if there were tax subsidies, grants or other incentive programs.....and certainty in the preservation system.

Another issue identified was the need for heritage expertise in other municipal departments. Madeleine McDowell presented a fragment from a terrazo sidewalk that had been ripped up in error by overzealous public works. She said the construction crew were more than contrite, they were horrified to learn of the heritage value they had destroyed. It will be reconstructed but that is never the same. Public Works, TTC, Buildings all deal with heritage issues, and not always well. 

Perhaps by the end of the afternoon solutions were found for some of these dilemmas. Cudos to Councillor Milczyn and Heritage Toronto for bringing together an excellent discussion. More is needed. 

The report, Heritage Voices, and a detailed agenda can be found on Heritage Toronto's website, 

2. Help Save the Former Town of Mimico Fire Hall and Police Station
Peggy Moulder

The Town of Mimico's last remaining municipal building is still standing at 13 Superior Avenue. It is the former Fire Hall and Police Station. Both the Town Hall and Public Utilities Building which were on Church Street (now Royal York Road) were demolished long ago. This building is threatened by a condominium development called 11 Superior by Davies-Smith Developments as it does not appear on the proposed site plan.

The Firehall and Police Station was designed in 1929 by James Procter and Redfern Ltd. There is a copy of the plans in the Horwood Collection at the Archives of Ontario. Construction proceeded in the summer of 1929 and was completed by the fall. The building was given its official opening in late September/early October 1929. The total cost was $7,500. The builder was Andrew Crowe, who was a prominent individual in the Town of Mimico. When he was killed by a falling wall in 1932, Mimico Council passed a resolution of sympathy indicating that he was “held in high regard amongst his fellow builders and the townspeople in general”. Sometime later a second storey was added to the building.

They should be able to create an amazing project at 11 Superior that will act as a catalyst for rejuvenation in Mimico while at the same time protecting and preserving this important building as part of a win-win situation for both the developer and the community.

What You Can Do

If you would like to support the protection and preservation of the Mimico Fire Hall and Police Station you can:
- write to Councillor Mark Grimes at:
- write to Heritage Preservation Services at the City of Toronto at:
- write to Davies-Smith Developments at: 

A sample letter can be found here:

The building is historic due to a number of factors:

• It is the last surviving municipal building in the former Town of Mimico
• It is one of the few surviving single-bay Fire Hall buildings left in the Toronto area (and Ontario)
• The builder, Andrew Crowe was a well-known Mimico resident
• The details of its construction are largely well-known



3. Ontario Heritage Conference Review
Lloyd Alter, Architectural Conservancy of Ontario Facebook Pages

Terry O'Reilly at the podium

What a Terrific Heritage Conference in Cobourg!

It certainly opened with a bang, with Mad Man Ad Man Terry O'Reilly of The Age of Persuasion. Riffing on the theme of the conference, Creating the Will, Terry noted how hard it is to change peoples' minds.

One of the most difficult tasks marketing can undertake is to change a perception. People treat perceptions like possessions, and don't give them up easily.

But with a mix of research and intuition, it can be done.

When you try to create the will to preserve buildings it takes time to change people over. it takes patience and fortitude. Persuasion takes time.

Saving Places discussed the three-episode television show on heritage, produced by Andrea Nemtin and starring ACO Past President Chris Borgal; watch the trailers here; I hope that someone picks this series up again.

During the seminar I moderated, Stephen Fai just blew me away with his 3D modelling of Batawa. This isn't your usual model, but "leverages the capabilities of Building Information Management (BIM) software to provide a navigable timeline that chronicles tangible and intangible changes in the past and the future of this Bata company town." More information in a post I wrote for my day job here.

Using Websites To Communicate Your Message: Kayla Jonas writes:

"Riley Ashton presented first on using google maps to create walking tours and maps of important properties in your community. He showed several maps that he created for Cobourg including one with historic photos. Laura Looney followed. She explaining how she used to create the Restoring our Heritage website. My presentation was last and focused on using blog to promote your organization or use them personally to create connections." See it all at Adventures in Heritage.

Editor's Note:
I have taken the liberty of taking the full article from the ACO Facebook page. If you haven't looked at the ACO Facebook pages before, you might want to start. They are constantly updated by so many people and are creating an important online communication venue.

4. Doors Open Gets to Chicago
Catherine Nasmith

Downtown office buildings from Millenium Park, photo Catherine Nasmith

Much credit is given to Mayor Daley for the beauty of Chicago’s waterfront, and he certainly deserves a lot of credit for recent improvements.

So many people come back raving about how beautiful Chicago is…that one worries can it live up to expectations. But it does and then some. I was there with my husband in the middle of May.

If you haven’t been lately to the windy city, find a reason. In a couple of hours by plane you can be strolling down beautiful Michigan Avenue, or through the nearly 20 miles of Waterfront Parks. One upcoming reason to get on that plane will be the first Open House Chicago, a program that is based on Doors Open Ontario, and Open House New York. (OHNY also borrowed from Toronto’s Doors Open).

We flew into Midway airport and were able to ride the El to within a couple of short Chicago blocks of our hotel. Great introduction.

Right away we were struck by the sheer scale of the city, bigger and better in so many ways--big boulevards, parks, and big buildings to go with them. Chicago has a long history of architectural heroics, and building well has been one of the city’s ongoing passions.

The other thing that is so striking coming from Toronto is how incredibly helpful and friendly Chicagoans are, proud of their city and happy to share all they know with visitors. From the first person that showed us how to buy transit tokens, to the person who walked us to our hotel, to everyone at the Chicago Architecture Foundation…our hotel staff, taxi drivers, musicians, bar owners---everyone was incredibly helpful. The fact it was so strikingly different for us made me determined to come home and be a “Chicagoan” in Toronto. Perhaps there is a relationship between beauty in the environment and civility. In Chicago it seems to be bigger than mid-western hospitality.

While much has been made of the parallels between Toronto and Chicago, both waterfront cities, that while Toronto has been talking about developing our waterfront since the 1840’s, Chicago has been busy building. On the other hand, Toronto is way ahead in the way we live together, one can't help but notice that there are next to no white people in service jobs in Chicago.

You can bet that Chicago will find a way to make its Open House program bigger and better than anyone else’s, because that is what Chicago does best.

We met with Bastiaan Bouma of the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) who is working to get the program off the ground. In addition to opening over 100 buildings, Chicago plans to have small buses moving between sites in various clusters, a system to track visitors, competitions for visiting the most sites, passports to get to the front of the line if booked in advance. The program has an active component to bring a broader audience to architecture than has traditionally been active in the Chicago Architecture Foundation and to introduce Chicagoans to neighbourhoods they might not ordinarily visit.
And they have fantastic plans for publicizing with media sponsors and a great budget to advertise.

My guess would be if there is going to be any issue, it is going to be not enough sites for the crowds the promotion will generate….not a bad problem to have.

Good luck Chicago, you will no doubt succeed big-time.

For more info, take a look.

5. Honours to Steve and Rollo
Catherine Nasmith

Steve and Rollo .....its not all work!

Recently two of Toronto's most inveterate and valuable heritage figures have been honoured for their lifetime achievements. Stephen Otto was awarded the title Doctor of Sacred Letters by Trinity College at University of Toronto, his alma mater. Rollo Myers has been made an Honourary member of the Ontario Association of Architects, awarded at the Annual General Meeting of the OAA.

Both of their bios are too long to cite here, but they have collaborated on many things since they were both on the Toronto Historical Board in the 80's. Toronto's Walks and Gardens research, the uncovering of the First Parliament Buildings, the founding of the Friends of Fort York in 1994. Stephen Otto has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Fort ever since, and has been instrumental in peopling the various Fort York projects with strong people. Rollo Myers served as governor for Heritage Canada for two terms, and is currently the much loved manager, chief cook and wine steward at the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario. 

No one can ever thank these two friends enough, but a day in the spotlight is a start for sure.



6. Conservation Review Board Recommends Against City Plans to Move Lansdowne Parks Horticulture Building
Heritage Ottawa Press Release, forwarded by David Fleming

Heritage Ottawa wins its objection to de-designating the heritage building

Ottawa, May 28 2011 – The influential Conservation Review Board has issued a formal Recommendation upholding Heritage Ottawa’s position that the City should not move the Horticulture Building in order to make way for parking and a mulitiplex cinema at Lansdowne Park.

In a four-day hearing before the CRB in April, Heritage Ottawa objected to the City’s plans to repeal the bylaw that protects the heritage status of the 1914 Horticulture Building. The City of Ottawa intended to lift the designation in order to re-locate the structure elsewhere in Lansdowne Park, allowing private developers full rein to construct a massive cinema and underground parking on the site.

“Based on the evidence heard, the recommendation of the Review Board is not to repeal all or part of Bylaw 8-94,” read the ruling of hearing Chair Su Murdoch and Co-chair Stuart Kidd. “The cultural heritage values or interests… are still valid and are best protected in situ.”

David Flemming, President of Heritage Ottawa, called the finding a clear recognition that the City has the obligation to respect its own bylaws and commitments to preservation of our past.

“We brought this case on behalf of all the people of Ottawa,” he said. “Our intention was never to stand in the way of revitalizing Lansdowne Park – indeed, neglect is the enemy of heritage. Rather, we have consistently worked to enrich the Park by setting these wonderful historic structures at the heart of new development. We hope the City will respect the clear CRB view that the City must conform to the heritage laws and guidelines, and do the right thing.”

In synthesizing the arguments brought by the City, Heritage Ottawa and independent objector Jean-Claude Dubé, the Recommendation report identifies two deciding questions: “What is the authentic environment of the Horticulture Building?” On this, the report agrees firmly with Heritage Ottawa’s exhaustive evidence and finds that “it is the in situ location of the Horticulture Building at the traditional hub of exhibition and sports activity within Lansdowne Park that is its authentic environment. “ It recalls the Heritage Ottawa evidence that “heritage happens in a place.”

The Recommendation is more damning of the City’s position in discussing “When is it reasonable to repeal a designating bylaw on the grounds of a need for relocation”? Here, the CRB found that the City’s reason of repurposing appears to be “transient, project specific and insufficient grounds”.

David Flemming said the unequivocal Recommendation was proof of the strength and legitimacy of the Ontario Heritage Act and the standards and guidelines which the City is committed to respect. “The CRB has ruled clearly that the City was in contravention of the spirit and letter of the legislation, not just with the Recommendation, but throughout its review of all the arguments. It is now up to the City to take stock and reconsider its plans.”
The Conservation Review Board is a regulatory tribunal that hears disputes on matters relating to the protection of properties considered to hold cultural heritage value or interest as defined by the Ontario Heritage Act. Its finding is a Recommendation only, and City Council will now have to consider whether or not to respect the opinion of the CRB.
The CRB recommendation follows a unanimous vote by the City’s Ottawa Built Heritage Advisory Committee, also recommending against the relocation of the Horticulture Building; as well as many submissions by Heritage Ottawa arguing that the revitalization of Lansdowne park should embrace and feature its heritage assets, rather than shoving them out of the way, at significant cost to taxpayers and loss of heritage value.
“Think Byward Market, Distillery District in Toronto, or Granville Island in Vancouver,” said Leslie Maitland, a Heritage Ottawa Board Member who was a witness and instrumental in mounting the objection before the CRB.
“With imagination, Ottawa could have a marvelous thriving Lansdowne Park that draws people in with its character and charm. Instead, just as the CRB rules that it would be wrong to move the Horticulture Building, it is announced that a cinema chain plans to move into a hulking great structure more fitting of a suburban mall, right on the same site.”
“Now is the time for the City to show leadership and force the developers to accommodate the values of the people of this city, rather than allowing insensitive development to make us all poorer,” she added.
Heritage Ottawa is a volunteer organization that works to preserve and promote the city’s built heritage. Heritage Ottawa argued its own case before the Conservation Review Board, led by Board Member Linda Hoad. Ken Elder, another Board Member, gave expert evidence as a respected conservation architect, along with Ms Maitland, an architectural historian and consultant on heritage planning.
The Horticulture Building is structurally sound, but the City has allowed it to fall into disuse after its heydays at the centre of activity in Lansdowne Park. It is important, in part, because it reflects the Prairie Style of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

For further information:
Brigid Phillips Janssen, 613-618-3922

7. Architectural Record: Preservation in Haiti
David Sokol

Haiti's Gingerbread Houses Focus of Preservation Efforts

Of the approximately 300,000 buildings in Haiti that were damaged during the January 2010 earthquake, the country’s historic gingerbread houses endured the disaster relatively well. In fact, researchers estimate than only 5 percent of these beloved buildings partially or fully collapsed.

As the country slowly rebuilds, lessons could be learned from these charismatic dwellings built more than a century ago. A report released this year by the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the World Monuments Fund (WMF) states that traditional Haitian construction—particularly braced timber framing and colombage, which features that same framing with masonry infill—withstood seismic loads far better than more recent structures made with rigid Portland cement. These findings were based on an April 2010 survey of approximately 200 gingerbread houses in the Port-au-Prince neighborhoods of Bois Verna, Pacot, and Turgeau. The study was produced with support from the Amsterdam-based Prince Claus Fund and the Haitian organization Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL).

Click here for Link

8. CTV: The Speaker bids farewell, and sets the Record Straight on 21 Avenue Road
The Canadian Press

Ontario's chief political referee says goodbye

The Canadian Press
Date: Friday Jun. 3, 2011 12:23 PM ET
TORONTO — If you want to know who's been calling the shots in the Ontario legislature over the past few years, look no further than the footwear.

Below the sombre black robes that mark Speaker Steve Peters' position as Ontario's chief political referee are a pair of purple high tops -- a parting gift from the legislative interns.

It's a cherished addition to the history buff's vast collection of Converse sneakers. But the shoes also offer a glimpse at the down-to-earth personality who put a modern stamp on the job, while staunchly defending the province's oldest democratic traditions.

It's not unusual to see the store clerk turned politician offering spontaneous guided tours of Queen's Park, or playing peacemaker in his lush legislative apartment -- one of the perks of the job -- to the province's warring parties.

Over the weekend you might catch the 48-year-old Peters playing hide-and-go-seek with his young nephew, dodging into ancient elevators whose grinding wheels often give him away.

But after almost four years, Peters is turning in his robes and leaving the cavernous building his family has teasingly dubbed "the castle." The former Liberal cabinet minister from St. Thomas, Ont., is sitting out the Oct. 6 election and retiring from public life.

As he says goodbye to his beloved pink palace, there are a few words of wisdom Peters wants to impart to the next slate of elected politicians.

Click here for Link

9. Hansard: The Speaker Takes the Last Word

Speaker pleads for Government to Stop 21 Avenue Road

I want to close with this, and it is the only political comment that I will make from this dais: We have two days left and there is a blight that is going to come over this building. It is an apartment complex that is proposed for Avenue Road and Bloor. If we collectively want to leave a legacy in this place and not destroy the beautiful vista that exists of this building as we travel up University Avenue, let’s stop 21 Avenue Road. I don’t care about what the developers may think, but we have an opportunity to preserve this vista for future generations. If we don’t do it now, that opportunity is lost and that is going to hang over all of us collectively within this House.

Click here for Link

Editor's Note:The next day, Ted Arnott, Culture Critic for the Conservative party carried materials prepared by the ACO showing potential damage to the view of the L.A. if the province doesn't intervene and placed them in the Premier's hands, along with a copy of the letter from Lloyd Alter requesting intervention. The government cancelled the last day of sitting, so did not take the opportunity to make a last minute save. Now it becomes an election issue.

10. Globe and Mail: Dunlap Observatory Fight -- More Rounds
Ian Merringer

Richmond Hills battle for green space

For 76 years, the telescope at the David Dunlap Observatory has penetrated the night sky. While it scanned the relatively immutable heavens, ground-level suburban development encroached on all sides, to the point where its surrounding forests and fields are now an isolated patch of green in the heavily subdivided south end of Richmond Hill.

The place where astronomers first confirmed the existence of black holes may now be spiralling toward one of its own. During a meeting last Tuesday that went past midnight and had to be moved to a hotel conference room to accommodate the crush of interested attendees, town council rejected a developer’s proposal to build 833 houses on the observatory’s 76 hectares of land, meaning the case will be drawn into pre-hearings at the Ontario Municipal Board next week. The sometimes unknowable forces at work within the OMB have many worried about what might get spit out the other side.

At issue is the weight that will be given to the rights of the landowners, Corsica Developments Inc., versus the abilities of local politicians to guide development and protect cultural, natural and recreational sites.

Click here for Link

11. Globe and Mail: Fort York Archaeological Discovery
Richard Blackwell

Excavation near Fort York unearths locomotive history

Looking east from the Bathurst Street bridge just south of Front, a mighty wall of new towers looms over the landscape. But just over the edge of the bridge, adjacent to the latest building under construction, is an incongruous site: A vast archaeological dig that has uncovered 150-year-old remains of the Toronto waterfront’s once-booming industrial age.

Here, a stone’s throw from Fort York, a huge cruciform-shaped building was constructed in 1855 and 1856 to service and repair engines of the Grand Trunk Railway. Only the northeast portion of the foundations survive, but inside the engine house’s footprint are the remains of brick ovens where wrought-iron locomotive parts were forged, and a vaulted chamber whose use is still a mystery.

Outside the stone foundation walls, the bases of wooden privies – still rank from use more than a century ago by railway workers – are intact. And portions of Queen’s Wharf, a massive wooden dock that for decades jutted far out into Lake Ontario, have also been unearthed.

The dig is on the site of the Library District construction project, a joint venture of Toronto Community Housing Corp. and Context Development. It includes a condominium tower, social housing, and a library and a park. Because there was expected to be some archaeological material under the site, Context set aside time to conduct the required dig before construction begins later this summer.

Historic maps suggested the developers might unearth some parts of the engine house, and preliminary archaeological work performed at the site about five years ago showed evidence of ruins, said archaeologist David Robertson, whose firm, Archaeological Services Inc., is conducting the dig.

Click here for Link

12. Globe and Mail: Greenberg on the Fort York Bridge
Ken Greenberg

Requiem for a Bridge

Having survived various onslaughts in the latter decades of the 20th century, Fort York now finds itself relatively intact and at the centre of one of the fastest growing areas in the Toronto. To the south this process is well under way from the Exhibition Grounds and the Armoury to the emerging new Fort York Neighbourhood and the filling in of the west end of the railway lands east of Bathurst. And now the greatest opportunities are yet to come on the north side of the rail corridor from Spadina Avenue and the Wellington Place Neighbourhood to the southern flank of the Niagara Neighbourhood, the Ordinance Triangle and the completion of the southeastern portion of Liberty Village.

This redevelopment is bringing a vastly increased population of residents, employees making excellent use of obsolescent sites in this highly strategic central location. The problem is that the current accumulation of transportation barriers – the bifurcating rail corridors, the elevated Gardiner Expressway, the level crossing at Strachan Avenue and the awkward disconnect at the Bathurst Bridge all make it extremely difficult to move around the area. The proposed Fort York Pedestrian and Cycle Bridge would have provided the key to overcoming these barriers facilitating essential east-west and north south links with enormous potential benefits, not least of which speak to the economic health of the city

This bridge would have supplied the missing keystone of a much larger open space network connecting these neighbourhoods to each other and to the Lake Ontario waterfront. Fort York, with its large landscape preserving vestiges of historic Garrison Creek and recall of the original Lake Ontario shoreline plus the steps under way to extend new “green fingers” from it to the east under the historic Bathurst Railway Bridge, to the south through the new June Callwood Park holds the key to overcoming the barriers that have isolated and fragmented these lands for many decades. Add to this the completion of the multi-modal trail that will follow the rail corridor, the elimination of the Strachan Avenue level crossing and the new Portland Pedestrian Bridge and together these new ingredients would have added up to a great deal more than the sum of their parts. Think of the power of the High Line in New York, the Simone de Beauvoir Bridge over the Seine in Paris linking the new Tolbiac and Bercy Neighbourhoods, the new bridges which will cross the Bow River in Calgary connecting the Bridges Neighbourhood and the new East Village or our own Humber Cycle and Pedestrian Bridge, a wonderfully well-used landmark which performs a similar vital role linking South Etobicoke and the Western Beaches across the Humber River and tying together the river valley and waterfront trail systems.

Click here for Link

13. Torontoist: Fort York Bridge dies

Bid to Save Fort York Bridge Fails

Rendering from the environmental assessment of the proposed bridge.
Three weeks ago, the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee unexpectedly voted to send a long-planned, already approved, already budgeted-for pedestrian-cyclists bridge back to the drawing board, due to concerns about the roughly $23-million price tag. The double-helix bridge was slated to be built on the site of Fort York, currently undergoing revitalization in anticipation of War of 1812 bicentenary celebrations next year. The bridge was intended to be finished in time for that celebration—crucially, arrangements had been made with Metrolinx, which operates the nearby rail line, to accommodate construction—and to also service a growing condo boom that will see thousands of new residents moving into that area over the coming years.

Drawing immediate and strong criticism from many residents and from Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), in whose ward the bridge would be located, campaigns immediately sprung up to help save the bridge. Layton presented approximately 2,500 petition signatures and letters, all in support of sticking with the original construction plan.

Today, council considered whether to reverse the Public Works committee decision and proceed with bridge construction as originally planned. Due to vagaries of council procedure, in order to have this item debated at today's council meeting, Layton needed not just a majority vote, but the support of two-thirds of his colleagues. This threshold was not met.

In some cases, sending the bridge back to staff for re-examination would be a setback, but not a severe one—it might sometimes mean a delay of a few months, but not a fundamental threat. In this case, however, because of plans Metrolinx has for those tracks, finding another window for construction will be extremely difficult (the earliest would be 2015) and thus the Public Works Committee vote has the practical effect of delaying the bridge for years, if not squelching it completely.

Click here for Link

Editor's Note:First Hand Notes from Elizabeth Quance: David Grant and I were there for the entire debate on the motion to seize the item. It lasted for well over an hour. Councillors were only allowed to address reasons why the motion should be seized, not the merits of the bridge itself. There were a number of Councillors who might have been prepared to support the motion but the members of the Executive Committee were under orders from the mayor to vote against it. Gloria Lindsey-Luby supported the motion and gave an impassioned speech on the importance of Fort York and of the project. The Mayor spent most of the meeting ignoring the debate, chewing gum and signing autographs for some students who had come to support a motion favouring referring the merits of allowing street hockey. He spent about twenty minutes with the students, turning his back on Council and pointedly ignoring Mike Layton, who was speaking at the time. In all, a shabby display.

14. Billy Wilson's Toronto

Hello, I am Billy Wilson and I have been working on a project that documents the diverse amount of architecture in Toronto. I have studied Toronto and planned things for months. I just came back from Toronto with nearly 5,000 images that I shot in the three full days that I was there. I am currently finishing them and publishing them online, so I am constantly putting up more. If you are interested you can find them here;  I plan on continuing this project in the future.

Click here for Link

15. Globa and Mail: Space Invaders
Ian Merringer

This week, Richmond Hill town council rejected a landowner's proposal to build 833 house around the Dunlop Observatory.

For 76 years, the telescope at the David Dunlap Observatory has penetrated the night sky. While it scanned the relatively immutable heavens, ground-level suburban development encroached on all sides, to the point where its surrounding forests and fields are now an isolated patch of green in the heavily subdivided south end of Richmond Hill.


The place where astronomers first confirmed the existence of black holes may now be spiralling toward one of its own. During a meeting last Tuesday that went past midnight and had to be moved to a hotel conference room to accommodate the crush of interested attendees, town council rejected a developer’s proposal to build 833 houses on the observatory’s 76 hectares of land, meaning the case will be drawn into pre-hearings at the Ontario Municipal Board next week. The sometimes unknowable forces at work within the OMB have many worried about what might get spit out the other side.

At issue is the weight that will be given to the rights of the landowners, Corsica Developments Inc., versus the abilities of local politicians to guide development and protect cultural, natural and recreational sites.

Click here for Link

16. Century-old cottage's future unknown

In that nomination, Harrison noted that the Gardener's Cottage in question, built in the Queen Anne style, was designed by Henry Sproatt and built in 1899 as his only solo project


Etobicoke York Community Council (EYCC) this week decided to defer until May a decision on whether or not to permit the demolition of what neighbours have called an 'enchanting tumbledown cottage' on Lake Shore Boulevard West.
An application to tear down the Gardener's Cottage on the old Lynne Lodge Estate at 2669-2673 Lake Shore Blvd. W. was first received by the city in January, with its owner stating their intention to demolish the one-storey single family dwelling before it becomes a safety hazard.

The owner stated through representatives that they are not in a situation to repair or restore the building to its former state, as the building is currently home to nothing but animals and mold, its roof is falling in, and its exterior is rotting. There are currently no plans to rebuild on the site.

Etobicoke-Lakeshore Councillor Mark Grimes said he was shocked at the application, as he didn't even know the cottage existed, hidden as it is by 10-storey apartment buildings. He moved to defer any decision on the demolition application until the May 25 meeting of EYCC, to give city staff more time to investigate the potential heritage value of the building.

Click here for Link

17. Zeitag: Cool Historical Toronto app
forwarded by Margie Zeidler

An I phone app which maps out the city and links to historic photographs in various locations. Most are from the Toronto Archives.

A fun way to stroll Toronto.....


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18. Ottawa Citizen: Do not move Horticulture Building, provincial tribunal says
Meghan Hurley

OTTAWA  The provincial tribunal charged with hearing disputes on matters related to heritage says the city should not move the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park to make way for a parking lot. The previous city council approved the designs for the first stage of the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park, which include moving the Horticulture Building, in November. The city is undertaking the redevelopment in partnership with a group of Ottawa businessmen who are partners in the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group. As part of the redevelopment, OSEG has promised to bring a CFL team to Ottawa. Heritage Ottawa, a volunteer group that advocates preserving heritage buildings and historic landscapes in Ottawa, challenged the citys decision to repeal the bylaw that protects the heritage status of the building, at the Conservation Review Board, a body established under the Ontario Heritage Act.

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19. Designation for house at former Dover Flour
Ray Martin

This house meets five criteria for designation when only two are needed. We have a duty to designate it.

Former offices of Waterloo Region’s oldest continuing business could soon be designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

In a 5 to 3 vote, council backed the recommendation of its municipal heritage advisory committee (MHAC) and opted to designate the red brick house at 126 King St. W.

Council took the action despite pleas from representatives for P&H Mill Group, owners of the former Dover Flour Mill, to defer the designation to give them more time and flexibility in dealing with a series of concerns caused by Waterloo Region’s plans to revamp King Street. In addition, Grand River Conservation Authority has issues with the fish found in the sluiceway running beneath the mill established in 1806.

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20. Ottawa Citizen: Mayor and councillors unfazed by recommendation against moving Horticulture Building at Lansdowne
Joanne Chianello

OTTAWA — Mayor Jim Watson is still in favour of the moving the Horticulture Building in a redeveloped Lansdowne Park, even after a provincial heritage board recommended against relocating the historic Prairie-style building.

“I’m supportive of the plan, so I’m prepared to vote to move it,” said Watson Monday in an interview.

“While I respect the decision of the Conservation (Review) Board, at the end of the day it will be the elected officials who make the decision.”

Watson added that he “wouldn’t vote to do anything that would harm the building, but I have confidence that the move is both justifiable and doable, and will make for a better-integrated site.

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21. Windsor Star: Ambassador Bridge Expansion and Sandwich HCD
Dave Battagello

Bylaw foes engaged in 'fantasy'

Opponents of a bylaw that prevents demolition of abandoned homes near the Ambassador Bridge are engaged in "innuendo, speculation and fantasy," a Superior Court civil trial was told Thursday.

"I heard 2½ days of submission and all I heard were strange conspiracy theories totally unsupported by the facts," said lawyer Christopher Williams, who is representing the City of Windsor. "If you are making serious allegations against a municipal corporation you have to do more than just connect the dots."



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Editor's Note:Nice to see the Windsor Council fighting to protect an HCD in Sandwich, but if you look at the side articles you will also see that a citizens group has formed to argue for demolition. Messy, painful, heritage preservation is not for the faint of heart.

22. National Post: Review of Ken Greenberg's Walking Home
Shawn Micaleff

“City” is no longer a bad word. If you’ve paid attention to how popular culture has treated cities during the latter half of the 20th century, you’ve noticed that by the 1970s, the city was a code word for decay, danger and filth. Think of all those paranoid films from the era, like the Death Wish and Dirty Harry series, or the original Taking of Pelham 123: There was a perp hiding around every rotten corner. Good people didn’t live in the city anymore, those folks left for the suburbs. It’s a wonder they didn’t move Sesame Street out to a cul-de-sac.

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23. The Guardian: Britain's Modern Heritage
Rowan Moore, forwarded by Tamara Anson-Cartwright

How Britain is failing its modernist masterpieces

Preston bus station is a masterpiece of 1960s architecture, but faces demolition, to be replaced by a generic shopping complex. Photograph: Alamy
Sir John Nash's Regent Street, Sir John Soane's Bank of England, the Euston Arch, the art deco Firestone factory and Preston bus station: all, except one, are buildings demolished in the name of efficiency and progress that were said to have outlived their useful purpose, to be impractical and expensive to maintain, and whose loss was regretted forever after.

The exception is Preston bus station, which still stands, just, pending erasure by a huge retail development indistinguishable from huge retail developments elsewhere, which is presented as absolutely essential to the future health and happiness of Preston. Locals and experts alike have urged the preservation of the bus station, but the relevant ministers in this government and the last have turned them down.

You might think that Preston bus station does not belong in this august company – after all, an amusingly dull image of it featured in Martin Parr's anthology of Boring Postcards – but you would be wrong. It is precisely like the old tyre factory or Soane's out-of-date bank, in that it is a great work about to be destroyed just before its period comes to be fully appreciated and just when the functional justification for its existence seems weakest.

With its impossibly long horizontal lines, its surprisingly voluptuous curves, its generous waiting areas, it embodies the spirit of its 1960s age, but it faces the same fate as Preston's Gilbert Scott town hall, long ago lost when out of fashion.

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24. Wall Street Journal: Miller House Museum, Columbus Indiana
Julie V. Iovine, forwarded by Tony Coombes

The Miller House, Reborn

It is very curious that a comparatively small, single-story, flat-roofed house with a carport illustrates the apogee of the American Century when power, confidence and an undiluted faith in progress reigned.

That house, completed in 1957, was the home of J. Irwin Miller, an industrialist (he was the power behind the rise of Cummins Engine Co.) who put his hometown of Columbus on the map through his patronage of modern architecture. It was designed by three men of exceptional talent, each at the height of his own powers—architect Eero Saarinen, landscape designer Dan Kiley, and textile designer and architect Alexander Girard. It is not only a landmark of modern architecture but also a fine example, possibly the finest, of a kind of modernist design with which too few are familiar, one that is warm, livable and majestic as it flows together with the landscape.

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25. Globe and Mail: New Orleans Competition won by Toronto Design Firm
Dave Battagello,

Toronto team designs architectural shot heard round the world

It could have been called “Clam House.”

Also considered were “C-Section,” “Shade House,” and “PHNOSS,” which stands for “Passive House New Orleans Shotgun Style.”

Today, despite the agreed-upon and somewhat pedestrian moniker of “Low Cost/Low Energy House,” this design by local good guys Sustainable.TO can also be called No. 1 with a Bullet. Announced last month, the young firm—with the experienced “green” hands of principal Paul Dowsett at the helm—was awarded first place in an international competition hosted by websites and

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Editor's Note:take a look, very clever, simple design.

26. New York Review of Books: Rebuilding China's Lost Heritage
Ian Johnson, forwarded by Margie Zeidler, Max Allen

China's Glorious New Past

I first went to Datong in 1984 and was immediately taken by this gritty city in China’s northern Shanxi Province. Along with half a dozen classmates from Peking University, I traveled eight hours on an overnight train, arriving in a place that felt even more old-fashioned than Beijing was at the time. It was one of those cities that seemed to exist in a world of black and white: the streets and buildings were covered with soot and grime from nearby coal mines, while outside town, farmers toiled on the bleached soil of the Loess Plateau, creviced and exhausted after millennia of human demands.

But Datong was also blessed with cultural treasures that glinted like dusty diamonds. Just outside our dilapidated state-run hotel were the city’s two awe-inspiring Buddhist temples: Huayansi and Shanhuasi. Housing beautiful Buddhist statues and paintings from the twelfth century that had escaped destruction, they were small, perfect buildings set amid the crumbling and chaotic old city, whose massive walls were still partly intact. The Yungang Grottoes, just out of town, were even more remarkable. The caves contain Buddhist sculptures from the fifth and sixth centuries. At the time, the grottoes had a tiny gift shop offering only black and white postcards. One, a bust of an ecstatic disciple of Sakyamuni, sat on my desk for years.

I’ve been in China long enough to know the futility of nostalgia for old cities, but I was still shocked when I recently made a trip back for the first time in ten years. Datong is now booming, thanks to the region’s rich coal reserves, which have created a class of coal barons as wealthy and crass as any character on the TV show “Dallas.” As with most Chinese cities, Datong is in the grips of rampant real estate speculation, with poor people evicted from their homes in the old city, which is being torn down for new developments. (This is a topic I explore in the context of recent books on the destruction of Beijing in new piece for the NYR.) Datong is famous for a noodle known as daoxiaomian—in traditional restaurants, cooks deftly shave strips off a big block of dough, shooting the noodles directly into a pot of boiling water. My favorite restaurant had of course been leveled, and the only option was a faceless fast food chain that went by the invented English name Eastwheat.

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