Vintage Toronto postcards, redux
Having shared my first set of old Toronto postcards under a "then and now" theme, I decided to go with a little less structure this time around. As interesting as it is to compare the old city with its contemporary counterpart, the literalism of the exercise tends to diminish the intrigue that surrounds these historical materials.
So there will be no Google Street View today. Instead, I've confined myself to imagining what these buildings and street-scapes look like now, if indeed, they exist at all.
My original plan was to accompany my first post with a series of postcards that depicted "lost Toronto," but I decided against this for two reasons. First, it was rather depressing, and second, it was just too limiting. Of the remaining postcards in my (digital) collection, less than half featured buildings that have been demolished or streets that have become completely unrecognizable.
So, in place of a theme, I've organized the images that follow in chronological order. In most cases, the year associated with the postcard has been established via the post-date on the back of the card -- which is why one should avoid conflating it with the completion date of the building depicted.
There's quite the mixed bag here, but what I like most about this set is the dichotomy between those postcards that depict buildings that remain an important part of Toronto's urban fabric and those that offer a glimpse of the city that no longer exists.
Some of the buildings will look familiar despite a change in occupant or use -- like, for instance, the former Toronto General Hospital (1923 postcard), which is now part of the MaRs Discovery District on College at University or the former Toronto Normal school, whose facade has been preserved as the entrance to Ryerson's Recreation and Athletics centre.
If the fate of the latter seems ignominious, a quick consideration of all the buildings that have been totally lost might put this into some perspective. Perhaps the strangest manifestation of nostalgia is the heartache one feels for that which he's never even seen or experienced firsthand. And yet images of the former Union Station and the old Eaton Centre complex nevertheless instill in me a sense of almost personal loss -- not just for what was, but for what could have been.
Should you enjoy these posts devoted to old postcards of our city, I'd highly recommend having a look at John Chuckman's collection, which may be the most extensive available for perusal on the internet. I've lost more than a few hours scrolling through the amazing images on his blog.
And onto the postcards we go...
The above images come from the Wikimedia Commons.