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Globe and Mail: Old City Hall....Museum of Toronto!?
Alex Bozikovic | January 22, 2018

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After years of neglect, Old City Hall deserves Toronto

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/after-years-of-neglect-old-city-hall-deserves-torontos-attention/article37679366/

From Issue No. 266 | February 12, 2018

It's time to bring that history back to light. In a report being delivered to City Council's Executive Committee on Wednesday, city staff recommend that the building be re-purposed to house – among other things – a new Museum of Toronto.

The idea of a museum is long overdue, and there's no better place to put it: The building is the ideal venue for revealing the stories of Toronto and the ambition that has pushed the city forward.

 

When architect E.J. Lennox won a design competition for a courthouse and city hall in 1886, he employed the Richardsonian Romanesque style – the choice of prospering metropolises including Pittsburgh and Buffalo. The building opened as Toronto's third city hall in 1899, after plenty of partisan wrangling and cost increases. It was, without question, the grandest building of Toronto's first 100 years.

For now, it's a bit of a mess.

 

Since the city's government moved to the current City Hall in 1965, the older one has served simply as courts, and half a century's worth of drywall partitions, vomit-brown ceramic tile, and pink linoleum have been added to the place.

But if it's tarnished, it remains a gem. Last week, I took a tour of the building with architect Peter Ortved and facility manager Doug Kozak. After passing through the security screening, we were free to look around the main reception hall: the intricate tile mosaics, the scagliola columns and the dentil mouldings overhead, and in front of us Robert McCausland's stained-glass window, The Union of Commerce and Industry, which shows a history of Toronto's origins, like bearded workers meeting up with well-travelled traders.

None of the cops, citizens or red-sashed judges who walked by us seemed to notice.

"This is an icon," Mr. Ortved said. "It's the premier heritage building that the city owns, and they've never paid much attention to it. It's got a site to die for. And it deserves to be treated better."

 

Editors Notes: I wrote an essay on Old City Hall for a course given by William Dendy in 1977, got an A. It is one of the City's most iconic buildings and one we would have lost if not for citizen efforts in the late 1960's. No doubt it would be a great site for a museum of the City, but I worry about financial sustainability in this tax averse town.
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