The faded grittiness of Toronto streets in the 1970s
Ever noticed that photographs of Toronto from the 1970s tend to have a brown hue? Part of this has to do with faded film negatives, but it's more than that. Thanks to the greater supply of old warehouse buildings and years upon years of burning coal as fuel, the city really was more brown back then. Throw in the curious preponderance of beige cars, and you have a distinct aesthetic that seems as distant as it is captivating.
Back in the 1950s, Toronto looked more orderly and less vibrant. The rise of neon signage took care of that with the cluttered beauty of the 1960s, which continued through the start of the 1970s with the addition of a bit of sleaze. The cars were big, the signs were big, and Toronto's appetite for growth was big. Many of the stained brick warehouses of the previous era started to come down to make way for the modern city that was about to come.
By the time the '90s rolled around, the city had been completely transformed, and brown was mercifully a less popular colour for cars. In the span of about 15 years, the peculiar look of the city captured in 1970s photos was gone. Glass and steel buildings towered over that which was built with the brick and stone.
I don't think you'd call the Toronto of the 1970s a particularly beautiful place. Our historic buildings really do look much nicer now that they've been cleaned up. Nevertheless, there is something almost painterly about these photos, a quality that captures a city on the brink of massive change but still tethered to its weathered past. The effect is fascinating.
Behold, the brown-tinged grittiness of Toronto streets in the 1970s.
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