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The City of York A Story in Pictures

This exhibition is sponsored by Heritage York, 2019.

Heritage York acknowledges the lands we are on were part of and subject to the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt covenant, an agreement between the Haudenosaunee and the Confederacy of the Anishinaabe and allied nations, to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes including along the Humber River.

We also acknowledge this land has been sacred territory of ancestral Wendat and Tionontati First Nations, Haudenosaunee peoples, and most recently the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

Today, Toronto is home to many indigenous people from across Turtle Island, including Métis, and we celebrate the Covenant which binds all generations to protect and care for these sacred lands on which we gather today.

In 1793, a man by the name of John Graves Simcoe plotted out the land that would become the City of York. Bordered on the west by the Humber River, this town, over 200 years later, would extend further out, changing, evolving and eventually in 1998 would amalgamate with the City of Toronto.

Over the years, the former City of York has held onto its unique charm, its historical value and its dedicated inhabitants.

Read on to experience the history of the City of York as told through Heritage York's Bryce Collection. Accompanying the images in this special collection are photographs from the collections of the Toronto Archives, the Toronto Public Library and contemporary views.

About the Collection

The Melbourne H. Bryce Collection

In the year 2000, Heritage York acquired the Melbourne H. Bryce collection, which was donated by his daughter. It consists of over 250 glass slides, many hand coloured. Bryce was a school teacher by profession and principal of King George Public School on St. John's Road in the City of York for 19 years. By hobby, he was a photographer. He created a travelling show by combining many of his own photos, the photos of fellow photographers and photographs from the city libraries and archives.

Fourteen of these lantern slides, all showing historical street views or buildings, are now included here in this exhibition.

What is a Lantern Slide?

A lantern slide had its origins in the 17th century. It is an image or transparency painted or printed onto a piece of glass. This glass slide is then loaded into a projector, which beams light through the transparency, projecting the image through a fixed lens. This enlarges the image and casts it out onto a flat surface, like a wall or screen, for all to see. Earlier versions of this device would have used candle light. Later, with the invention of electricity, it would have been projected using a lightbulb as the source.

Packaging for slide projector light bulbs. Heritage York.
A lantern slide projector. Heritage York.

Watch here! The Victoria and Albert Museum's short clip on the history of Lantern Slides. Once you have finished watching, press the X on the top right of your screen to exit the video and return to this page.

The location of the fourteen featured lantern slide images from the Bryce Collection are plotted below in red. Follow along by streets and neighbourhoods to see how this city has changed over the past two hundred years.

Alexander & Cable's map of the City of Toronto & suburbs 1891. Courtesy of the Toronto Reference Library.

Dundas West

Corner of Old Dundas Street, Humberhill and Dundas Street, Looking Southwards. 1962. City of Toronto Archives Fonds 220, Series 3, File 141.

Pictured to the left is Dundas Street (Now called Old Dundas Street), in 1898. This photograph shows a view from the west looking east up the road. Pictured is the Howland and Elliot General Store. Lambton Hotel (turned Tavern, turned House) is pictured just to the right.

This area along the Humber River had been becoming a growing community thanks to an industrial boom. There is evidence of settler-colonial families settling in the Humber Valley as early as the 1810s. Today, it is home to many residents of all backgrounds and incomes; a quiet, residential community just outside of the bustle of Toronto.

Heritage York, Bryce Collection, LMA 030.

A snowy, wintery view of Howland and Elliott's General Store and Mill Office in 1899, with Lambton Hotel just next door. The building that sits just between the General Store and the Lambton was the Howland's home. To the right, behind Lambton was the Toronto Suburban Railroad's barn. Up on the hill in the distance to the left was the Lambton Park Pavilion. City of Toronto Archives Fonds 501, File 1.

City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 220, Series 3, File 141.

City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 501, File 1.

The Tavern had been shut down by 1989 in expectancy of new apartment developments taking over. A group of locals and the City of York Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee banded together and rallied to save the building. Today, it can be seen standing as a monument to 19th century Toronto.

Lambton House in 2019 still stands, defiant of the apartment complex that now sits just behind. It has undergone several renovations, including the replication of its original white verandah. Today, it is used as a cultural and community hub for all interested in our built, natural and cultural heritage.
Dundas West and Medland, mid-20th century. Heritage York, Bryce Collection, LMA022.

A streetcar approaches from the east in this scene from the Junction in the 1950s. Businesses line the streets. Every service was being offered, from shoe repairs to clothing companies to drug stores to funeral chapels. This vibrant, colourized slide from the Bryce Collection shows us a busy, growing city.

Today, the Junction remains a busy neighbourhood with lots of restaurants, bars and cultural venues. The streetcar tracks are now gone and construction remains a constant. If you compare the two photograph's however, you will notice that buildings from the mid-century still stand.

Dundas Street West and Medland Avenue, 2019.

In this view of Dundas West Street looking westward, you can see streetcar tracks well embedded into the roads, with many businesses lining the streets.

Street view of St. John's Road and Dundas West. Mid-20th century. Heritage York, Bryce Collection, LMA070.

This intersection still remains a commercial one, however it has become much more residential over time.

Dundas Street West and St. John's Road, 2019.

Evelyn Crescent from Fairview Avenue. Late 19th century. Heritage York, Bryce Collection, LMA046.

A streetcar, the Toronto Railway Company (TRC)’s #5, sits alone on the tracks, the white sleeves of the operator visible in the front of the cab. These early electric streetcars were introduced in 1892. They would have replaced the previously horse-drawn cars. The Toronto Transportation Commission (TTC) would encompass the TRC in 1921.

The photograph shows an area still developing; the dirt roads broken up to introduce a track. The city’s first streetcar line was downtown, running across Front Street to St. Lawrence Market. Over a number of years, these lines extended out over into the northern parts of the city, connecting neighbourhoods like this one.

Today, this former streetcar stop is a lushly green residential area.

No streetcar tracks remain.

Bloor Street West

TTC workers at Bloor West and Runnymede Road, 1921. Heritage York, Bryce Collection, LMA049 / City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 560, Item 196.

TTC employees work hard in the bright sunlight to build new tracks, the year is 1921. The TTC had just been inaugurated, encompassing all the previous forms of public transit in the city into one cohesive company.

Runnymede Road and Bloor Street West, 2019.

Bloor Street West and Harcroft Road, looking east towards High Park, mid-20th century. Heritage York, Bryce Collection, LMA073.

This playful slide of cars driving across Bloor Street West shows High Park sitting in the distance. We can see by the tracks that this was when the Bloor Streetcar Line, operated by the TTC, still ran. It was replaced by the Bloor-Danforth subway line by the 1960s. This old streetcar route extended from Jane station all the way to the east end of the city. It was still operational in parts of the city up until 1968 when the subway line was completed.

Bloor Street West and Harcroft Road, 2019.

Bloor Street West at High Park, looking west, 1914. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 18.

In this scene from Bloor Street, we see the streetcar running down from the west, through the intersection of Keele and Bloor Street. High Park is visible to the left.

Bloor Street West at Indian Grove, mid-20th century. Heritage York, Bryce Collection, LMA 159.

Bloor Street West and Indian Grove, 2019.

High Park blooms in the height of summertime while heavy traffic dominates Bloor Street West in the morning.

Bloor Street West and Dundas West, looking west in the mid-20th century. Heritage York, Bryce Collection, LMA080.

Bloor Street West and Dundas Street West, looking east in 2019.

Baby Point

Wintertime at Humbercrest United Church; built in 1925 in the Baby Point neighbourhood. Heritage York, Bryce Collection, LMA075.

In this closeup, you can see the detail that goes into colourizing lantern slides. The artist here has added small touches of red to emphasize the wearers' scarves. This pop of colour adds life to the otherwise wintery scene, amidst the brown tones of the building.

Scroll to see The Humbercrest United Church in 2019. With summer in full bloom, the church is enveloped by the large trees which bare fans of green leaves. Besides the growing trees, not much has changed this church over the past seventy years.

Humbercrest 2019.

Old Mill and the Humber River

The Humber River is vital to this area. It has supported life on its banks for thousands of years. It continues to be a place for activity and recreation for the community, with many flocking to its banks in the summertime.

In this photograph from 1901, we see the Old Mill's structure with the bridge connecting both sides of the Humber River's banks.

City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 501, File 1.

March 1916. Top image courtesy of the City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 7145. Bottom courtesy of Heritage York, Bryce Collection, LMA 137.

The bridge at the Old Mill was destroyed by a storm in 1914.

The Bridge at Old Mill, 2019.
The Bridge at Old Mill, 2019

The Old Mill Bridge was rebuilt in 1916, made from concrete faced with stones. Today, it is a major landmark which sits as a part of Étienne Brûlé Park, connecting the Humber trails and city roads together.

Read more about the history of the Old Mill from their official website.

Eglinton Avenue West, Dufferin and Weston Road

Eglinton Avenue West and Dufferin Street, 1919.

City of Toronto Archives Fonds 501, File 1.

In this colourized lantern slide from the Bryce Collection, we see Eglinton and Dufferin here again, unrecognizable from the scene above.

Eglinton and Dufferin, 1954. Heritage York, Bryce Collection, LMA192.

In 2019, Eglinton and Dufferin once again is changed drastically to welcome the new crosstown train. With construction pushing on for the next couple years, this intersection will surely continue to remain dynamic.

Eglinton and Dufferin, 2019.
Eglinton and Oakwood, mid-20th century. Heritage York, Bryce Collection, LMA 124.

Eglinton and Oakwood today has been changed completely, the intersection filled with construction for the crosstown train.

Oakwood Avenue and Eglinton Avenue West, 2019.

Shops still line the streets despite the disruption of construction.

Weston Road

Weston Road and Hollis Avenue, just north of Eglinton. Heritage York, Bryce Collection, LMA077.

Sometimes, parts of the city do not change so dramatically. Above and below is the corner of Weston Road and Hollis Ave, just north of Eglinton Av W. The Bank of Nova Scotia remains here, with a contemporarily branded facade. The bank was moved around 90 feet to accommodate the widening of Eglinton Avenue. The restaurant on the corner also persists, albeit with a large glass addition. In the background you can see the Church of St. Mary and Martha.

Weston Road and Hollis Avenue, 2019.
Weston Road and Lambton Avenue, mid-20th century. Heritage York, Bryce Collection, LMA194.

Once, a trolley bus ran up Weston Road. By the 1950s in Toronto, the trolley bus ruled as an easier-to-maintain form of electric transit, one that rivalled the streetcar. By 1993, due to low ridership and a recession, the TTC discontinued its last trolley cars.

"In some ways, the trolley buses featured the best of both worlds; they emitted a lot less pollution than their diesel counterparts, were quieter and could climb hills better. At the same time, they were more flexible than streetcars, with simple accidents rarely backing up service as they would on streetcar tracks. Unfortunately, they also offered the worst of both worlds; they didn't have the streetcar's capacity, they couldn't be operated in trains, and their infrastructure requirements meant that they were not as flexible as diesel buses".

(source) THE HISTORY OF TORONTO'S TROLLEY BUSES (1922-1993)

Weston Road and Lambton Avenue, 2019.

The Bryce Collection offers a keen insight into the City of York through its various amalgamations. The uniquely colourized and vibrant lantern slides are a peek into the 20th century; a fascinating and nostalgic window into the past.

Special thanks to the Toronto Archives and The Toronto Reference Library. Contemporary photography and exhibition development by Heritage York Intern Defne Inceoglu.

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