rough notes

University Ave

with one comment

I’ve been dwelling about this postcard of University Ave that James Boston posted on his Toronto Before website a week or two ago:


I don’t know the year that the pictue was composed, but I know by the skyline that it’s before the late 1950s. This shot was taken at Queen’s Park, looking toward the lake (that’s Lake Ontario for you non-Upper Canadians). To the left of the shot (i.e. looking east) is the College St facade of Toronto General Hospital, and behind it are the buildings (or at least the site) that would eventually become the present-day Hospital For Sick Kids (where I had several eye operations). On the other street corner are a number of trees, and then Princess Margaret Hospital. Further Down is the Canada Life Building, which still has its large beacon and tower on its roof. Depending on the manner and direction in which the beacon and its tower would blink, locals could tell if the temperature was due to drop or rise, and if precipation was forecasted. I lived only a block away from this intersection in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and I have to say that the light was a handy guide to the weather even then.

Compare this scene to today:


This photo, found on a google image search, is taken at street level, so the traffic is more prominent. The photo doesn’t really do justice to University Ave as it is seen today, though. The road is still a major thoroughfare (turning into Queen’s Park Crescentand then into the greatest name for a road of all time: Avenue Road), but it maintains its wide median which is full of old statues and run-down waterfalls in honour of Adam Beck and the Niagara Falls hydro-electric generating plants. Toronto General appears to be undergoing both a facelift and a fundraising campaign in this new photo. The Confederation Life Building can hardly be seen, and now the Princess Margaret Hospital (as well as Mt Sinai) has been blocked by the Hydro One Headquarters. the Hydro One Building looks spectacular at certain times of the morning when its facing generates a golden reflection from the sun but it otherwise appears completely out of place on the corner.

If we were to look up University Ave, toward Queen’s Park Crescent, we’d see Queen’s Park (a/k/a the legislature) itself, as well as U of T to the west and the stately buildings that housed the provincial civil service to the east. But I’ll let you search out those pictures yourself.

Anyway. Onece again, thanks to James Boston for starting this wave of nostalgia for me.



1.Queen’s Park has the BIGGEST squirrels you’ve ever seen. We called them the nuclear squirrels. They were invading southern ontario from the east, these large black rodents, and pushing the local population of grey squirrels away. Queen’s Park is an island oasis for these buggers. There are so many trees and park benches and uni students and office workers around that there is always a ready food source for them. You knew when you walked in the park that you were in their ‘hood. You walked as quick as you could from Hart House to St Mike’s, lest they attacked you for you PB&J.

2. re the corner of College St and University Ave. The best graffiti I’ve encountered played on this street’s name, as well as the name of a particular college at UofT. It goes:

“I go to University College.”

“Where’s that?”

“At the corner of College and University.”


Written by mitchellirons

January 23, 2009 at 2:47 pm

One Response

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  1. I love that you threw an ‘upper Canadians’ reference in there. And that beacon sounds amazing – I’ve spent almost no time in Toronto but it’s nice to have your reflections on a few day-to-day aspects. I’ll beware the nuclear squirrels.


    January 23, 2009 at 5:39 pm

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