A Step Back Through Time

I took advantage of the nice weather recently to head out to a small park on the east end of Toronto.  It’s a rather unique place that I discovered by accident and I get a great deal of pleasure from visiting this quiet little corner of the city.

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Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many cities in North America were going through a period of economic growth.  In the name of progress, concrete and glass skyscapers began to replace the original heritage buildings.  Toronto was no exception.

Thanks to the foresight of a local couple, 70 architectural features were salvaged from demolished buildings and relocated to some land they owned near Scarborough Bluffs.  The result was this unusual outdoor museum of Toronto’s architectural history.  The cost and effort to save these massive pieces must have been staggering.  This property was later purchased by the Conservation Authority for the Toronto Region.

These massive blocks are all that remain of the Temple Building built in 1896.  At the time it was built, it was the tallest building in the British Empire -but there is conflicting information as to whether it was 9 stories or 12 stories tall.  I wasn’t able to find any evidence to contradict its brief claim to fame.

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I think there is a whimsical feeling to this park although others have said it has an abandoned feel like an ancient ruin.  Early Toronto builders certainly had a fondness for Greek and Roman architecture.

These Greek columns were once part of a downtown bank, although there is conflicting information as to which bank – Bank of Canada or Bank of Toronto.  In fact, most of the pieces in this park were salvaged from former bank buildings – not surprising I guess since that’s where the money was to be found.

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It’s really a shame that Toronto destroyed so many of its historical buildings rather than carefully preserving them.  Instead, they were replaced with bland boxes poking into the sky and these relics sit in a largely unknown park.

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Thanks to Rosa and Spencer Clark,  people like me can go and admire this unique collection of ‘art’ they assembled at the Guildwood Park.

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About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
This entry was posted in Random Stuff, Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to A Step Back Through Time

  1. Pingback: Welcome to August – The Changing Seasons | My Life Lived Full

  2. Those are awesome pieces; I’m so glad that they were preserved, too. Thanks for sharing them; I feel like a much richer person now. BTW, there is a park in St. Louis, Missouri, called Tower Grover Park that has a lovely pond/fountain (called the Ruins) with some reclaimed architecture, too (http://www.towergrovepark.org/index.php/history/landscape.html), though not nearly so much as Guildwood Park does. I use a picture that I took several years ago of one of their pieces frequently on my blog.

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  3. Nothing in Las Vegas was built to last, it seems. Or maybe it’s just the fluctuation in temperatures from the low 40’s in winter to well over a hundred in the summers that forces the habit of demolishing and rebuilding every few years. More cities should preserve their older architecture. It is part of our history. There should be more parks like this in every city. Here we only have the Neon Boneyard, where old neon hotel and casino signs are preserved.

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  4. NIce post and photos Joanne. I love these old architectural elements. And having them displayed outdoors, as single pieces (instead of as a part of a building) make them even more interesting to see. When I see pieces like these, I realize how characterless so many of our buildings are today. ~Jamees

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  5. What a wonderful heritage. A pity some was destroyed and lucky that some was saved.

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    • joannesisco says:

      I agree – I’d like to think that our city administrators are more ‘enlightened’ now and attempt to save heritage buildings and incorporate them into new developments rather than tear them down. I’m also somewhat delusional ….

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  6. What a fantastic place for admiration and respite. The architecture is stunning – and to pair it within the grounds of a park is a little like having an outdoor museum. What a lovely idea. The photos are so enticing and your description of all so delightful, I now find this park is going on my bucket list of must-sees.
    Lovely post. Cheers!

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    • joannesisco says:

      thank you for the kind comment!
      I have a deep respect for this couple I never knew who had the foresight and resources to make this happen … when they personally had nothing to gain from it, except a sense of what is right.

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  7. nancytex2013 says:

    Beautiful photos. You were right near my neck of the woods, Joanne! I’m just east of the Bluffs, where the Rouge River meets the lake. (Port Union/Lawrence area).

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  8. davecenker says:

    There is a small corner of my mind (that is expanding) that simply loves architecture. The way it is captured in your eye evokes emotions almost like a well told story. And, in essence, it is telling a story of the past. I remember taking a class in college that required a field study of structures in our local area, and then using the information gleaned to piece together a story of the town over its history. It was simply fascinating.

    Whether the park exudes whimsy or abandonment, both have their value. Beautiful images and a wonderful step into the past, thanks for sharing!

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  9. Architecture has certainly taken a turn for the worse. Love the old buildings.

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  10. I too am baffled by the urge to tear down rather than preserve. As usual, it all boils down to $$$ – it’s cheaper to tear down and build new than it is to upgrade to current standards.

    Wonderful photo essay, Joanne. I would love to see these in person. Some day…

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  11. bulldog says:

    What a find and what magnificent features that have been saved… I’m surprised that this place seems not so well known… loved the photos you share of such architectural beauty…

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  12. M-R says:

    Joanne, I think this pair deserves a medal – I LOVE what they did … and it was all they could do ! Here in Sydney we tear down our old buildings with nary a thought for what small history we have: developers call the shots in this country. Yes, the Clarks are heros !!!

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  13. WOW. just wow. An ode to our stupidity – the poor guys who lovingly crafter those buildings to last must have shook their heads to see them torn down and replaced by modern materials that wouldn’t last or please the eye the same way.
    Thank goodness that couple made the effort to save the last elements to remind the population to think twice about doing it again – if there is anything left to destroy?

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    • joannesisco says:

      You said it very well MM. Stupid indeed!
      I have deep respect for people like the Clarks – they had absolutely nothing to gain by salvaging these pieces, except a sense of doing the right thing.

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  14. ponymartini says:

    Gorgeous photos! I wish more cities would do this. Well, I’d rather they didn’t tear down the buildings in the first place, but if they must, then this is the best alternative. Thank you for sharing this.

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    • joannesisco says:

      Our dysfunctional city administration certainly can’t take credit for this – well except for agreeing to let developers tear down our brief history. Thank goodness for the generosity and forward thinking of this amazing couple the Clarks.

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  15. Lynn says:

    Wow, what a wonderful find Joanne. So much history in these beautiful pieces, I will have to check it out at some point!

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  16. This is on the Guildwood Inn property – right? I used to attend meetings there and the Inn itself was also interesting…I haven’t been there in many years so thanks for reminding me through your great photos.

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    • joannesisco says:

      That’s right – it is where the Guildwood Inn is – or least where the abandoned building is. I attended a wedding there many years ago. It’s rather sad that it’s all boarded up.

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  17. sinewavelife says:

    How gorgeous! I had no idea they had such artifacts there. Maybe it’s time for another trip to Canada — love your beautiful country.

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  18. Helen C says:

    What an interesting story! Beautiful architectural features! Thanks for writing about it.

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  19. I always feel such a loss in the pit of my stomach when I see beautiful things torn down to be replaced with the new.

    I love this idea, if only more cities embraced it, we could have some truly magnificent, magical places to visit xx

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    • joannesisco says:

      Buildings used to be interesting and added character to the area. Now so many commercial buildings are just plain boxes with no soul.

      I was delighted to find this place and I’m grateful to this couple who cared enough and obviously had the resources to make this happen.

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  20. sueslaght says:

    Joanne I had no idea this park existed. Thank heavens these pieces were saved. We in Canada seem so very quick to tear down the old don’t we?

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