Life at the City Edge 100 years ago
An illustrated talk in the market on the origins of local street shapes and open spaces through the photographs of William James.
Pressured by a population boom and the ill effects of downtown congestion, Torontonians began to view the open spaces surrounding their city with new eyes.
As settlement spilled over city borders, there was a scramble to define and locate the ideal residential environment.
Photographs of local sights, circulated in the daily papers and as postcards, created a popular visual inventory of idyllic Toronto. This imagery pleasurably associated with leisure activities along scenic river valleys and winding ravine trails was used by property developers to define the value of particular “country estate” districts.
At the other end of the residential property market was the farm land that had been long cleared of forest. These were not subject of art photography or postcards. Outside Toronto’s boundaries and without the township, town or developers’ interest in supplying infrastructure, they were do-it-yourself frontiers.
The neighbourhood surrounding the Artscape Wychwood Barns, in its street patterns, open spaces and house styles, offers glimpses of the range of subdivisions that existed in the decade before the First World War. Reaching back into the rapidly receding past for inspiration and improvising on this according to need and desire, the early residents of Wychwood Bracondale were actors in an important chapter of civic history.
The City’s conflicted relationship with the aspirations and pitfalls of suburban living was played out here over a century ago. In a pre-regulatory window of opportunity our neighbourhood achieved its distinct identity in an explosion of commercial speculation, individual sweat equity and creative design.
Room 254—Map activity and meeting room
What are the routes you take through the neighbourhood?
What are the spaces in which you linger?
What are your landmarks?