5 February 2013

Pieces of the past

Continued from previous post.  I'll pause for a moment, in case you wish to go and find a rat's hindquarters, so you can give it.  Got it? Okay, let's continue.

Every now and then I like to grab my camera and try and find what fire and wrecking ball have spared.  While there is really no old city, there are little bits and pieces, here and there, that have survived fire and wrecking ball.  You look down a blind alley, or around a corner, and you find a little piece of the old city still standing.   For instance, there is the building that now houses Tom Jones Steak House.

It is the corner of an earlier building, standing alone in the middle of a parking lot.  According to the website, the building dates from the early 1830's.  The door frame deserves an extra picture.

I don't know when the door was made.  It looks as though it has a little age, but not 170 years old.  Whoever made it was a master.

Around the corner of the building is a row of old buildings that look as though they date from mid-eighteenth century.

I can't say the name of the street, as there are no signposts.  Even Google maps does not give a name for this little lane.  The lane, whatever its name, was known to the early Catholics and bishops of Toronto.  The differences would be that the corner building would not be painted, and that the lane would have had buildings on both sides, the lane would not have been paved, probably a few beggars in rags,  and some of the buildings would probably have had signs saying "No dogs or Papists."

One other thing than modern visitors do not find in the old parts of the city, and they may be grateful for it, is the old smell.  By the 1850's and 60's, Toronto had become a manufacturing centre, full of houses and factories that burned wood and coal for power. Many houses had animals- pig, goats, chickens and occasionally a cow.  Indoor plumbing lay in the future, and, in addition to the horses and oxen that pulled carts through the streets, animals were often driven through the streets on their way to the slaughterhouse, so the dirt roads were generally covered in a  layer of manure.  And the people bathed once a week.  Usually.  The smell must have been indescribable.

Some of the factories are still around, as are the cottages that housed the old workers.  The factories that survived have been turned into condos, and the cottages now have BMW's and Escalades parked out front.  History has indeed a sense of irony.  I've written and photographed that elsewhere.

Some of the older buildings that have survived and are still used for their original purposes are, of course, the churches.  Not all have survived, and several of the protestant churches now house theatre companies, but many are still around.  Here is the home of some of our worst enemies of old, the current St James Anglican Cathedral, which was started in 1849, the second tallest church building in Canada.

As I said before, the Anglicans used to have money and taste.  I am an occasional visitor to St. James, as they give frequent organ recitals for free.  I'd love to do the same for St Michael's, except they're more concerned about things like "Mass" and "Confession".

St. James is actually a beautiful building, and deserves its own post, only not now.

Here is another home of our old enemies, the Metropolitan United, which began as a Methodist church.  It is said to have the largest organ in Canada, a massive Casavant,  though, unusually, almost all the pipes are hidden from view.  They also have regular organ recitals, sometimes accompanied by singers.  I'd love to sing there, that way I could say I sang at the Met. Get it? Huh? Huh?

I don't have any photos of the interior,which is quite nice and dominated by very large stained glass windows, with some excellent woodwork around the sanctuary, as the doors are usually closed to the church.  This is actually the second church built on this site.  The original church was gutted in a fire in 1928, but was quickly rebuilt with the help of wealthy parishioners.  The tower survived the blaze, and is home to a 54 bell carillon, (the largest carillon in Canada) which often plays on afternoons. 

(As a side note, the bell tower is the only bell tower I have personally climbed.  It was a few years back during one of the Doors Open Toronto days, when many historic buildings opened their doors to visitors.  I went there specifically because they were offering tours of the tower, and I always wanted to climb one of these.  While I was waiting for the tour of the tower, the organist stepped up to the console at the front of the church and ripped out an excellent performance of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.  Did I mention it was Canada's biggest organ?  Bigger isn't always better, but hearing that piece ripped out on several thousand pipes just hit the spot.   At any rate, the tour started soon.  We climbed up a narrow winding stairway, not made for big fat guys, that rose up through the wall itself.  We were allowed to go up right into the chamber that held the bells, where we were very strictly instructed not to touch anything.  The place was all bells and wires, and some idiot immediately says "hey, what's this wire for?" and yanks on it.  Naturally, it was the wire for the biggest bell in the place.  I can still hear the ringing.  If I ever climb another bell tower, I plan on doing so alone.)

Here's a view of Metropolitan United from the side.  The church in the background is St Michael's, literally across the road from the Met, about which I will speak more of soon.


some guy on the street said...

That lane with the painted pub and the lovely arches, it seems to be Colborne Street.


Bear said...

THat's the one. I wonder why I couldn't find either a signpost or a name on Googlemaps.