A visual history of Toronto when its streets were kind of filthy
It sounds strange to say these days, but there was a time when Toronto was a rather filthy city. No, the streets weren't covered in trash nor was there ever a ton of graffiti, but many of our buildings were covered in a thick layer of soot that cast the entire downtown area in a pervasive brown.
The culprit? Coal. Toronto was once a city run on coal, and that leaves its residue over the decades. Throw in the fact that there was once a far heavier industrial presence throughout the city, and you have the recipe for some gritty-looking buildings.
On an aesthetic level, this filth is anything but pretty, but there's also a certain rawness to these images that speaks to a time that was a little less tidy in general (you know, bad haircuts, hodgepodge signage, less corporate cleanliness).
There's something almost compelling about it all, like photos of New York's SoHo in the 1970s, when the area was more than just a little rough around the edges.
On the flip side, photos like these make it somewhat easier to understand why it is that Toronto's city builders were so cavalier about knocking down heritage structures.
Take City Hall for instance. When it was proposed to knock it down to make way for the new Eaton Centre (a complex that was meant to be much bigger), the building was this nasty dark brown on account of soot accumulation over the years, a sign of neglect that helped foster the idea that it was worth replacing.
While it seems Toronto streets have always remained clean, various improvement and maintenance efforts in the 1980s and 90s would help bring the buildings up to par via the removal of much of this industrial residue — but not before a few were lost to the demolition process.
Behold, that time when Toronto was kind of filthy.
Join the conversation Load comments