Being an immigrant can be an alienating experience: you come to a strange city and you just take it for granted –you’re there but you could be anywhere, the city’s history is a blur, it’s just a place where you sleep, eat, and work, it’s a space that simply is not home.
Making it home is laborious, but fascinating if you’re up to it. I’ve been in Toronto for more than 3.5 years, and I keep discovering corners and stories that make me appreciate it all the better.
Through the wonders of ebay, I got myself an old atlas map of Toronto –from 1898. That makes it 109 years old. I think it’s amazing:
I’m far from finishing exploring it, but I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve found.
I was intrigued by this piece of the map. Where we now have the Old City Hall, the map says it’s the “Site of New C.H. (Courthouse?) & City Hall”. Apparently construction of the now Old City Hall was finished in 1899 – one year after this map was printed.
But if back then that was the New City Hall, where was the old one? The answer really surprised me, like the murderer in a mystery novel: Why, but if it’s old and yummy St. Lawrence Market!
Wikipedia confirms it: “It was established in the early part of the city’s history and (was) home to Toronto’s first permanent city hall and jail house from 1845 to 1899. Designed by Henry Bowler Lane, the first floor was formerly Police Station # 1.”
Why did nobody tell me?!
Two more findings from the map, and I’m gone. First, the corner of my current apartment building (Charles and Balmuto) didn’t exist yet: Charles ran from Yonge eastwards, not to both east and west; it’s continuation from Balmuto westward to Queen’s Park was called Czar St. If you’re around the area, you can now spot that Charles was two different streets, since the line from Czar St. ends a bit to the north of Charles:
Finally, of course there was no subway in 1898 Toronto. But there was public transportation. The dotted lines you see in the previous three maps represent horse railroads:
I feel a bit ignorant, but I don’t think I even knew these things existed:
They ran on Yonge, King, Queen, College, and other streets. Great stuff. Back to study the map…
Photo of St. Lawrence Market by SimonP. The horse car picture is not from Toronto, but from Stamford, Connecticut.