toronto gargoyles

Someone created a map highlighting all of Toronto's gargoyles and grotesques

Despite its relatively young age compared to old-world cities, Toronto has managed to build up an architectural landscape boasting some surprising variety. Though the city's built form is becoming dominated by sparkling glass towers, earlier periods brought architectural opulence to the skyline in a different form.

A now-dying art, elaborately carved masonry details define some of Toronto's best-known landmarks. It was a common way for grand buildings to distinguish themselves as late as the early 20th century, when modern construction and design principles began to limit the demand for skilled stonemasons.

Their work lives on in buildings — and in some cases, ruins — around the city, much of it either hidden away in the details or faded into obscurity over the passing decades.

But one anonymous architecture enthusiast wants it all to be rediscovered, creating a comprehensive map with roughly 175 entries of the gargoyles and grotesques that adorn early Toronto buildings.

As you'd expect, the map's densest concentration of gargoyles and grotesques can be found in the city centre, with isolated pockets further out in neighbourhoods like High Park, The Junction, and The Beaches.

One extreme outlier can be found in the Armour Heights area, just north of Avenue Road and Highway 401. Known simply as Penryth, this gorgeous Tudor Revival-style house on Sandringham Drive was built in 1930 with some detailed masonry work you'd never see in a modern home.

Even the gargoyles and grotesques of lost buildings are represented. The map shows a cluster of points in the far east end of the city, where the Guild Park Gardens house preserved relics of demolished buildings from Toronto's past.

It's a popular spot for weddings and photographers, set amid ruins and salvaged fragments from some of the city's most lavish lost structures, including the Bank of Toronto building, the Temple Building, and other demolished landmarks.

Though not associated with the project, artist, writer, and cartographer Daniel Rotsztain is the one who brought the map to wider attention with a recent tweet lauding the yet-to-be-discovered creator.

Keen on the subject himself, Rotsztain tells blogTO of the map's potential to make this aspect of Toronto history more accessible to the masses, saying, "Toronto has so many layers, it can be overwhelming. Highlighting one particular feature, like gargoyles and grotesques, is a helpful tool to discover, or rediscover the city, appreciating familiar places in new ways."

Rotsztain notes how gargoyles are a particularly fun thing to see mapped, "as they form the fine details you are likely to pass in the hustle and bustle of urban life. Look closely, there is so much detail and hidden features in each! I recommend accessing the map on your phone and going for a walk, finding as many as you can."

Still, Rotsztain points out that while "the mapmaker diligently identified the location of so many gargoyles in Toronto, what's missing is the history."

Looking at the map will tell you where to find these carved bits of history, but it won't tell you much about them.

"So many of these gargoyles and grotesques have their own story, like the ones on Old City Hall, apparently included by its architect E.J. Lennox to grotesquely depict several aldermen at the time who voted to keep the budget of project low, stymying the grandeur of Lennox's original design," says Rotsztain.

He also mentions "the legacy of Diabolos and Reznikoff, the feuding stonemasons behind U of T's most famous ghost story, forever enshrined by grotesques along the west wing of University College."

Lead photo by

Bruce Reeve

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