The cluttered beauty of Toronto streets in the 1960s
Toronto's main streets looked remarkably different in the 1960s. Even as the city is more populated and vibrant today, the aesthetic of the urban landscape was at its busiest during this decade. Streets like Yonge and Bloor were a cluttered mess of irregularly shaped signs, flags and awning, but there was an undeniable beauty in the chaos.
This, no doubt, is why photos from the decade inspire such deep nostalgia these days. Toronto has grown up, but its lost much of its messy character along the way. Neon signs had burst onto the scene in the 1940s, and in the span of about 20 years, they completely changed the North American streetscape.
From movie marquees to towering restaurant markers to steel-framed rooftop ads for beer and cigarette companies, streets were packed with a dizzying array of visual stimuli that seemed to announce Toronto's arrival as a big city in a blaze of red light.
Business owners could get away with far more outlandish signage during this period, and they took advantage with ostentatious self-promotion that protruded onto the street and hovered atop many buildings.
No one would endorse this type of urban planning today, but despite the overt commercialism, there was an energy that this bright hodgepodge lent to the city. The hulking signs of today deliver a homogeneity to the city that slowly erases our unique sense of place.
Behold, the cluttered beauty of Toronto streets in the 1960s.
Toronto Telegram Archives
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