James’ photographs reveal pre-First World War Toronto as a city whose confident growth was matched by the stresses of industrialization, immigration and the growing gap between rich and poor.
As an appealing antidote to downtown sights, he also created images of rural scenes from what he glimpsed while travelling along Lakeshore Road. These, along with his views of Oakville’s tidy sidewalks, mature trees and picket fences, promoted the country road and this archetypal village as spaces from a less complicated time.
The road is a dominant element in the composition of these images; it represented the power to be able to exit at any time from the city. Photographs and postcards celebrated the new possibility of being transported from urban to rural worlds and back again.
At the same moment that James photographs were circulated in the daily papers and printed postcards, W. G. MacKendrick’s paving business was helping to define the shape of the city and the more distinct atmosphere of particular neighbourhoods.
Beyond creating the car-friendly, hygienic streets and tidy sidewalks that were emblematic of a healthy community, Toronto roads separated or united residential areas from each–they defined the enclaves of privilege with its winding streets from the geometry, density and distasteful sights of the larger urban environment.
To read more go to Menu: “Paving the Way to Paradise…” Introduction and Chapter 2.
1. city of toronto archives fonds 1244, 1122a Toronto skyline & smog 1912?
2. city of toronto archives fonds 1244, 659 slum kids in the “ward” 1908?
3. city of toronto archives fonds 1244, 1033
4. city of toronto archives fonds 1244, 1066 Oakville 1909?5. city of toronto archives fonds 1244, 9045 Oakville 1908 Colborne St.
6. city of toronto archives fonds 1244, 518 Poplar Plains Road 1910