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The A. Norman Sands Collection of Canadian Local History

February 6, 2015 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Sands Bookplate
The bookplate belonging to A.N. Sands is affixed to many of the items in the collection

A. Norman Sands (1894-1979) was a veteran of WWI (48th Highlanders, Naval Air Service, and Corps Cyclist Battalion), a Director at T. Eaton Co. Ltd, and an avid collector of local history. With 50 Years of service at T. Eaton, he amassed a considerable collection of pamphlets, booklets, and ephemera from
all across Ontario and Canada.

Sands Collection CabinetsIn March 1971, Edith G. Firth, then Associate Head of the Metropolitan Toronto Central Library, contacted Norman Sands to express interest in his collection. The A. Norman Sands materials were subsequently donated to the library. The collection is now housed and available for research in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department on the second floor of the Toronto Reference Library

Things to know

A. Norman Sands collected Canadian church histories, local history pamphlets, travel brochures, souvenir booklets, and postcards, printed between 1890 and 1970.  The collection emphasize Ontario church history and histories of Ontario counties, towns, townships and tourist attractions. Churches, cities, and rural communities celebrating 100 year anniversaries trace their early roots, identify founding families, and comment on origins and changes in place names and district boundaries. Many items were produced as part of Canada's centennial celebrations.

The files contain travel brochures from the early part of the 20th century, but primarily issued in the 1950's and 1960's. Souvenir postcards are available for some large cities and popular tourist destination.

The Toronto files were expanded by including pamphlets for the period 1970-1999.

Geographic Arrangement

The Ontario files are organized alphabetically by country or district and then by town or township. Files for other Canadian provinces and territories are arranged from west to east coast, and then alphabetically by town or township. Large communities with more than 3 pamphlets have their own file folder. Topical files on churches, history, tourism, etc. are interfiled alphabetically with the corresponding province/territory or county/district.

Access to the Collection

The Sand's Collection is located on the 2nd Floor of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department.  Please ask a librarian for assistance in browsing and retrieving the items you want to see. The Sands collection is in locked filing cabinets for security reasons. You will be required to fill out a retrieval slip in order to view materials in the library.

Items in the Sands collection are uncatalogued. However, a significant portion of the collection is duplicated in our regular collection and does appear on the Toronto Public Library (TPL) website. For example, the Souvenir Book authored by St. Patrick's Church (Phelpston, Ont.) in 1965, is in the Sand's collection and is also at the North York Central Library. Whereas, Women in the Church, compiled by the Local Woman's Associations of Simcoe Presbytery in 1957, is only located in the Simcoe folder in the Sand's collection and is not in the regular collection or on the Toronto Public Library website.

Finding Aids

You can view a county list of Ontario coverage here: Download The Sands Ontario County Index (PDF).  If you know the town name but need the county name Download The Sands Ontario Towns & Cities Index (PDF). For a listing of files outside of Ontario for the rest of Canada Download The Sands Index of Other Provinces (PDF).

Size of the Collection

There are over 500 place names listed for Ontario alone, and over 200 place names listed for the rest of Canada. While some folders may contain only few pieces, other folders contain over a dozen. A sampling of two of the drawers would suggest that the collection exceeds 2,700 items, in roughly 25 linear feet or 7.5 metres of storage.

One dozen examples . . .


Order of Service St. James' CathedralA special service at Toronto's St. James cathedral was held to commemorate the coronation of George V and Queen Mary in June of 1911.

The Internet Archive has digitized the form and order of the service  of the actual coronation in Westminster, on Thursday, the 22nd day of June, 1911, which includes the Oath taken by George V.
















Toronto Visitors' Guide

This map brochure, printed by the TTC in the mid-20th century before Toronto had subways, shows Routes and Rates of Fare for Street Cars, Buses, and Coaches.

The back page notes, "The Commission is required to collect a self-sustaining fare. No taxes have been or may be collected for the support of the addition to the city transit system, the Commission owns the Gray Coach Lines, with interurban bus routes radiating from Toronto to Buffalo, London, Owen Sound, Alliston, North Bay, Beaverton, Uxbridge and Oshawa...(and) also owns the suburban electric line to Long Branch and the Scarboro and Port Credit bus routes".




















Dominion Bank King & Yonge

This pamphlet [no date] details the construction of the Dominion Bank Building at 1 King Street West at Yonge in 1913 in an area of the city that "was considered at the time to be the busiest corner in America outside of New York City".

The building includes a great vault "which, when constructed, was the largest and best equipped in Canada".

To enter the Safety Deposit Vault, "it is necessary to pass through one of the largest and heaviest doors ever built. It is circular in shape, four and one-half feet thick and has an opening of seven feet six inches. Although the complete door assembly weighs in excess of forty tons, the precision is so fine that a paper clip accidentally dropped in the opening will halt the door from closing".

The building is now part of One King Street West, a hotel and condominium development (2005).






Official Guide to TorontoThis Official Guide (46 pages), published in 1899, describes Toronto in classic Victorian style, and includes an Historical Sketch, a section on Municipal Progress and Government, Public Buildings and Institutions, etc.

The Guide boasts of the recently built City Hall...the "total cost (not yet definitely settled) is estimated at about $2,500,000, for which one of the finest buildings on the continent has been is in the Romanesque style and is of magnificent proportions'.

The Guide also highlights many of Toronto's other accomplishments: "The water supplied to the City is of excellent quality, and is taken from the depths of Lake Ontario by a steel conduit, through which it is forced by pumping engines having a capacity for pumping more than 40,000,000 gallons daily. The supply is stored in Rosehill Reservoir, which covers a bottom area of more that 40,000 square yards, one-third of which is laid with concrete, and around the banks of which is one of the loveliest of Toronto's many lovely parks."



Secord Secretarial School for Girls

A real piece of ephemera, this little booklet outlines: the purpose of the Secord Secretarial School for Girls, the course offerings (Secretarial - Stenographic - Business Machines), the time required for each type of course (12 weeks to 10 months), the Tuition fees ($5/wk or $18/mth) School Hours, description of subjects, and employment prospects.















Muskoka Lakes

This CNR fold-out four page brochure, with no date, was possibly printed in the 1910's. It includes a listing of over 90 hotels in the area along with accommodation capacities. Rates on the "American Plan" range between $2 and $4 per day or $12 to $31.50 per week. Listed are famous hotels that went up in flames: the Beaumaris Hotel (1945), Royal Muskoka Hotel (1952), and the Windermere House (1996).

 Women in the Church"In the following pages", this 47 page booklet begins, "may be found the History of some fifty-five local Woman's Associations of Simcoe Presbytery compiled by ladies searching through old minute books and any other source they could find available." The economic contribution of these Associations is one of the recurring themes of these accounts e.g. the "Treasurers' Reports since 1891 show a total amount raised during those 66 years of $113,995.90" - St. Paul's United Church Woman's Association, Orillia.











These sixty years

One of the many Church Histories in the collection.

"The pages which follow are intended to indicate the trends and high points which sketch, in briefest outline, the story of "These Sixty Years". The publication of this brochure is timely, if only as a record of facts of historical value, though it is more than that. It is a story of Vision; of devotion to God and the fruits of the investment of love and labour."

"Ours the task sublime
To build Eternity in Time!










Canadian Memorial ChapelThis Chapel in Vancouver was constructed as a memorial to those who died in WWI. 

REV (Lt-COL) G. O. Fallis, CBE, B.D. is identified as the "Man with a Vision", who was responsible for raising the money for the building. He served as the minister until 1933.

The booklet describes the 10 beautiful stained-glass windows representing the provinces and one territory ..."Keep in mind the thought that the soldier went overseas dreaming of a peaceful world to be. Think of him as he was in that strange environment, and remember the suffering of those who remained behind". Note that Sir Robert Borden, our eighth Prime Minister, is listed as the Chapel's first patron.







Cathedral Church of the Redeemer

Another example of one of the many church histories; this one is for a church in Calgary.

The church pictured replaced an earlier wooden church built in 1884. The replacement of church buildings is a common recurring theme in these sorts of church histories.

"The cornerstone of the present Church was laid by His Excellency, the Earl of Minto on September 9th, 1904".


Charlevoix, Chicoutimi, Lake St. Jean

This guide with a beautiful cover, published by the Québec Tourist Bureau in 1940, includes a formal looking Invitation "to Our Friends from the United States of America".

"Your President, Mr. Roosevelt, declared in a recent official statement that no deterrent to travel exists among the friendly nations of the Western hemisphere, and he then proclaimed 1940 Travel America Year."

The invitation is signed by, "Adelard Godbout, Prime minister of la Province de Québec".












Irving Oil Travel GuideIrving Oil expanded across the Maritimes in the 1930's.

"This booklet is one of a series, developed by the Irving Oil Company Limited, for your information and pleasure, covering all principal cities, main routes and points of interest throughout the three Maritime Provinces. Ask for these and for the Irving Road Map of Eastern Canada at any station identified by the Irving Sign".























As the above examples illustrate, the A.N. Sands collection is a treasure trove of documents of potential interest to a wide range of researchers across many disciplines.

This post by Richard was previously published in the Toronto Reference Library Blog.

Researching Historic Buildings in Toronto

March 26, 2014 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

TO Built

Researching old buildings in Toronto can be extremely interesting but also extremely frustrating. Often people come to the library to begin their research. Here are some online sites to use before you come to the Toronto Reference Library. You will be amazed at what is available online in a digital format.

Let's start with our own website . It's not just a catalogue of books. You will find print books and journals, online magazines, pictures, digital books, directories and maps, blogs, audio-visual materials, programs and events as well as links to outside sources. Here are some quick tips:

Once on our site, you will see FIND YOUR WAY in big letters near the top of the page. Go to History and Genealogy. Then go to the Local History and Genealogy section. Don't miss it! Check each section of every page carefully so you don't miss any of the many leads to other sources.

Click on the Local History section. You will see Toronto History listed along the left side of the page.

Toronto Neighbourhoods leads to an interactive map:

Toronto Neighbourhood Map

Toronto City Directories;

Toronto Buildings and Architecture;

Toronto Geography and Maps.

Outside Sources: 

Toronto City MapDo not miss the City of Toronto site. You can find the Inventory of Heritage Properties which lists historically designated properties.

Try the City's Archives for records and photographs of buildings.


There are some terrific sites put up by individuals but beware! These could change or be removed at any time:

Put together by J. Robert Hill, try the Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada 1800-1950. This site lists the work of individual architects by address and building name and more.

E.J. LennoxHave a look at Nathan Ng's Historical Maps of Toronto which aims to improve digital access to fire insurance plans and other maps found at the Toronto Reference Library and City Archives.

And last, but not least, a wonderful site lovingly put together by Bob Krawczyk : TOBuilt. Enjoy the blue skies and sharp images of our Toronto. You'll find information on historical buildings, ordinary buildings, new and old, residential and commercial - even some demolished sites are included.

1851 Fleming maps-r-19








Digitized Toronto Newspapers: Globe and Mail and Toronto Star

February 3, 2014 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (13) Facebook Twitter More...

Getting Started

The ProQuest Historical Newspapers Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail are two databases that allow users to search for words and phrases in complete issues of these newspapers.   These databases display images of the newspapers as they were originally published, including news stories, editorials, photographs, advertisements, classifieds, and birth, marriage, and death notices.

Coverage: (usually stops at 3 years before the current year)

Globe and Mail  - starts in 1844 ; Toronto Star starts in 1894


Access to the databases from outside the library 

Note: Valid Toronto Public Library card required. (Many Ontario Public Libraries also subscribe to these two databases)

Toronto star basic search


In the ProQuest search platform, the indexing is different for the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. The Globe is more detailed than the Star. Searching by document type is only available with the Globe and the page viewing options are more limited in the Star than the Globe.  The Search Results page in the Globe is article specific and gives the title of the article. Only the page number is displayed in the Star search. Obituary/death notices searching, especially for a common name, can be difficult in both  databases, despite the search tab labelled "Obituaries". (See separate searching instructions for obituaries).

Globe advanced search screen

  • Click on "Advanced Search"
  • Enter search term(s) e.g. Hurricane Hazel or Heintzman piano
  • Enter date or date range e.g. 1954
  • For the Globe and Mail, select Document Type e.g. " Front page article" or "Display ad"

Obituary Searching

The "Obituaries" tab can be useful IF you are looking within a very narrow date range or for an uncommon name, because there is no reliable way to search for first and last names together. Enclosing within quotation marks does not work.

Since especially prominent people are more likely to have articles written about them rather than specific death notices or obituaries, it may be better to use "Advanced Search".

Death notices in the Globe can be searched by doing the following, also using "Advanced Search".

  • Enter Last name in the first search box
  • Choose a date range
  • Under Document Type, select Obituary

In theory, if you first select the subject box on the right "Genealogy" before entering a name, it will search both the Globe and the Star simulataneously. However, in practice the vast majority of the results are from the Globe. It's best to try the Star separately.

 Viewing the results of a search

Search results

  • Results will appear most recent article first. (To change this, go to " sort results by" on the right side of the screen)
  • Clicking on a result brings up a PDF version of the article [Globe] or the page [Star].
  • Search terms should be highlighted. If not, try Ctrl-F (Find). (not always successful)
  • From the PDF article in the Globe, there are additional options to see the entire newspaper page, "Page view PDF" or "Page view clickable". The "Page view" options allow browsing of the pages of the Globe.  The Star also has "next page/previous page" options in the upper right of the newpaper page.
  • Also at the top right of the screen are the commands to go to the Next search results, start a New Search, or go Back to results.
  • To change the size of the image use the Adobe Toolbar and Click the + or - buttons.


Printing or Saving

To print a specific article (Globe only) or the whole newspaper page to fit on one piece of paper

Adobe toolbar again


  • Click on the printer icon  Adobe Print icon in the Adobe toolbar 
  • Cick Print
  • Printout will also include the details of newspaper title, date and page number.

To save a page to a flash drive/memory stick (PDF format)

  • insert a memory stick into the computer
  • click the save Adobe Save icon or download icon in the Adobe toolbar 
  • in the "save" box select the correct drive name for the flash drive
  • give the file a meaningful name
  • click "Save"

To copy or select part of a page

  • From the Search Results, open the newspaper page  in "PDF"
  • When the page appears, click "Open in PDF Reader"
  • Save as a PDF Adobe Save icon
  • Open the saved PDF
  • Click Edit on the Adobe Toolbar
  • Scroll down and click "Take a Snapshot"

Edit menu take snapshot


  • Outline the desired article. It will be " copied to the clipboard" or "selected area has been copied"
  • Click the printer icon Adobe Print icon on the Adobe Toolbar to print

To Save the selected item 

  • Use Copy command on the Edit menu of Adobe and Paste the selection e.g. to a Word document and then
  • Save that document


Try the "search tips" available from ProQuest on the upper right of the Search Screen.


Toronto Public Library contacts:

Answerline: 416-393-7131

Canadiana Department, North York Central Library, 416-395-5623

Humanitites and Social Sciences Department, Toronto Reference Library 416-393-7175


North York History Resources

June 3, 2013 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Getting Started

The Canadiana Department at the North York Central Library houses the North York History Collection where you can find books, newspapers, photographs and maps of people, places and events in North York. Both Canadiana and the Humanities and Social Sciences Department at Toronto Reference Library house minutes, reports, planning documents etc. from the former municipality of North York

Searching the Library Website

Suggested Subjects and Keywords (to limit results, use Advanced Search and the subject field)

Suggested Titles

Using Online Resources

  • click on a neighbourhood name and follow the link for books and digitized images

Recommended Websites

Recommended Databases

In-Library Resources



    • North York History Files 
    • Contains mainly newspaper articles about North York people, places and events . (In Reading Room)


    • North York Pamphlet Files
    • Contains pamphlets and other material concerning North York people, places and events. (In Closed Reference Stacks)


    • Urban Affairs Scrapbook Collection (years 1969-1999 available on microfiche)
    • →More


Newspapers on Microfilm

  • Bayview-Mills Town Crier (1993- [almost] present)*
  • Bayview Post (1989-[almost] present)*
  • Enterprise (1926-1969) [some issues missing]
  • Mirror (various editions: 1957-[almost] present)*
  • North York News (1951-1995)
  • *More recent issues available in paper format


  • Abstract index [by lot and concession number], York Township (Reel LML 1494+)
  • Assessment Rolls, York Township, 1882-99 (Reel LML 2-105-6+)
  • Deeds, York Township,1868+ (Reel LML 1455-6+)
  • York County Surrogate Court Records Index 1940-1967 (Reels MS 869)

Additional Resources

  • Directories (list in North York History Files) and some extracts (917.1354 Y in North York History Collection)
  • Family histories
  • Maps and aerial photos (see finding aid Guide to Canadiana Maps)
  • Municipal Documents (former City of North York documents such as official plans, minutes of North York Council)
  • Photographs
  • Township Papers (Toronto and York)
  • Voters' Lists, York Township and North York (1942+)

For further assistance contact:

Canadiana Department, North York Central Library 416-395-5623

Humanities and Social Sciences Department, Toronto Reference Library 416-393-7175

Toronto Public Library helps celebrate Leaside 100

April 22, 2013 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...


The Leaside neighbourhood is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. It was incorporated as a town by an act of the provincial legislature passed on April 23, 1913.

The centennial festivities include an archival exhibit, the Layers of Leaside, that explores the area’s cultural landscape over many years.

The exhibit will be on display at Toronto Public Library's Leaside Branch from Tuesday April 23 to Sunday April 28, 2013. (The branch will be open for regular service, 1:30 to 5, on that Sunday only.)

Jane Pitfield and Geoff Kettel will lead several historical walking tours in connection with the exhibit, including one on Sunday April 28 from 1:30 to 3:30 starting and ending at Leaside Library.

Thorncliffe Park plan

Thorncliffe Park proposed plan, 1956?

The Leaside 100 committee used some materials for its exhibit from the collections of the Toronto Public Library.  Geoff Kettel found the Toronto neighbourhoods map on the library’s website especially helpful to locate materials quickly.  “The library has the most accessible collections of all of the resources we used,” he claimed.  The neighbourood map links users to library records about Leaside and neighbouring Thorncliffe Park, which became part of the town in 1954. 

These include digital pictures and photographs of Leaside from the Special Collections Department, Toronto Reference Library. Dating back to 1900, the majority of the images were created in the 1940s and 1950s by James Victor Salmon (1911-1958), a gifted amateur photographer who lived in Leaside for part of that time. His images of buildings, streetscapes and events are an invaluable record of the town’s mature phase of development after the Second World War.

Catalogue records for books about Leaside and Thorncliffe Park also are provided on the library's website.  Most titles are available for reference in the Leaside Branch Local History Collection.  Housed in the Leaside Room, the collection also includes pictures, maps and scrapbooks that library staff has gathered from a variety of sources over the years.  

Toronto's community newspapers are an important but often overlooked source of local information. Leaside Branch has several local papers. The Leaside Advertiser, published from 1941 until about 1999, claimed to be "Leaside's home newspaper - the ONLY published and printed in the town" in 1960 when our holdings begin. Current papers in the collection include Leaside-Rosedale Town Crier, which started in 1981 as the Leaside Villager, and Leaside Life News.  Microfilm copies of some titles are available at the Toronto Reference Library. There are some gaps in the library's holdings, and we would appreciate hearing from anyone who could help us fill them.  


First Leaside Library, 1946

Not surprisingly, the history of library service in Leaside is well documented at Leaside Branch. Key resources are photographs of library services and facilities, and annual reports of the Leaside Public Library Board, which operated from 1944 to 1967 when the Town of Leaside joined with the Township of East York to form the Borough of East York.

A selection of materials from the Leaside Branch Local History Collection will be added to Toronto Public Library’s Digital Archive later this year. 





Historical Walking Tour of North York Centre, Saturday, September 15, 2012, 10:30 to noon

September 12, 2012 | Barbara Myrvold | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

You are invited to join me and other library staff, along with our partners in the North York Historical Society, the North York Community Preservation Panel and Gibson House Museum, for an historical walking tour of the North York Centre neighbourhood.

North York Central Library, 1987

Meet us at 10:30 in the first floor atrium of North York Central Library this Saturday, September 15 to start the tour.  The walk is part of the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of North York Central Library, 1987-2012, and participants will be provided with a commemorative walking tour booklet.  The booklet will also be available electronically on the Toronto Public Library website following the tour.

I have worked at North York Central Library for the past 14 years, and have come not only to rely on its extensive collections (638,893 items in 2011) and expert staff, but also to appreciate the neighbourhood where the library is located.

Here can be found a cluster of Modernist buildings designed by some of the country's most prominent architectural firms: Moriyama and Teshima (North York City Centre including the North York Central Library); Adamson Associates (North York Civic Centre); Zeidler Roberts (Toronto Centre for the Arts) and Mathers & Haldenby (Toronto District School Board).

Joseph Sheppard II (Dempsey Bros.) store, 1921
Here too, amazingly, are three Georgian Revival buildings – a store and two houses – survivors from the Willowdale and Lansing farming communities of the 1850s and 1860s. The trio all were built after their first owners, David Gibson, Joseph Shepard II and Michael Shepard, returned from exile in the United States, where they had escaped following the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837.

The neighbourhood also boasts extensive public spaces – parks, a huge cemetery and an attractive square - where I often relax and sometimes exercise during lunch breaks.  

I must admit that I am a convert to the charms of the neighbourhood. When I was sent, figuratively kicking and screaming, to North York Central Library following library (and municipal) amalgamation in 1998, as far as I was concerned the city ended at Yonge and Lawrence and the idea of a North York “downtown” was ludicrous. 

My opinion of North York Public Library was slightly more favourable.  I grudgingly acknowledged that, although it was such a newbie compared to Toronto Public Library (it began in 1883) where I had worked for many years, its achievements were impressive.  In less than half a century since 1950, North York's public library had grown from having 2,740 items in a room in a community centre to housing several hundred thousand volumes in a seven-storey Central Library (officially opened on June 4, 1987), which also provided support to five regional branches, 13 community branches and various deposit collections.

In the subsequent years, my respect for North York Central Library has grown and my feelings about the local area have changed radically. Join us on Saturday, and discover, as I did, that North York Centre is one of Toronto’s most interesting and surprising neighbourhoods. 

Toronto Parks: the aspiration of the ‘Commons’

June 22, 2012 | Jonathon Hodge | Comments (5) Facebook Twitter More...

I live near Dufferin Grove Park. I take my wee lad there at least twice a week. I’ve met friends for coffee on its benches, enjoyed camp fires at its fire circles, seen live theatre and summer dance shows, watched bicycle polo(!) last summer, and most recently, witnessed the community’s outpouring of support for other people in Canada engaged in social struggle. It’s got me thinking about the place parks in Toronto enjoy in people’s lives and about their history as the ‘third’ place.

Sociologist Ray Oldenburg argues that societies need ‘third’ places – distinct from one’s home and one’s work. Such places provide a neutral ground where people can gather and interact, and “promote social equality by levelling the status of guests, provide a setting for grassroots politics, create habits of public association, and offer psychological support to individuals and communities.” (further details)

As a setting for recreation, public association and grassroots politics, Toronto parks have a long and colourful history. In the late 19th century, parks were for the moneyed classes to stroll through in their finery. They were certainly not for athletic endeavours or children’s play. Children were fined and put in jail for doing so! (Yesterday’s Toronto 1870-1910, p.85)

Diving HorseBy the early 20th century, authorities had perhaps decided that jailing ten year olds was not in the best interests of their education and sociability, and parks in Toronto had become places of sport, recreation and entertainment, including diving horses on Toronto Island (no kidding!), and horse racing at Dufferin race track across the street from my neighbourhood park. The Dufferin race track was the first track in Canada to use a starting gate, as well as the first to implement finish line cameras. The things you learn, eh?


By the 1930s, parks in Toronto would feel the weight of the world’s problems much like the rest of the city, becoming staging grounds for exactly the ‘grassroots politics’ (read: opposition) that Oldenburg envisioned decades later. The Toronto Star reports on August 16, 1933 (in this excellent database available with your library card): “Charging mounted policemen, motorcycle exhausts belching oily fumes and scores of constables on foot put a stop to speech making, but failed to disperse thousands of persons gathered in Allan Gardens last night at a meeting announced by the Worker’s ex-Service Men’s League.” The meeting – call it a demonstration – was called to “protest against treatment accorded war veterans,” and drew crowds of men, women, children, including one “young woman [who] was seen to strike a motorcycle officer across the face with a folded newspaper as she was bumped by a wheel of his machine.” Allan Gardens has since been the site of many demonstrations and political gatherings, oft focussed on problems of urban poverty and homelessness.

The date of that action is significant. I was perusing the Toronto Star’s Pages of the Past to find reportage of the famous ‘Riot of Christie Pits’, another (much larger) political action that is inextricably bound up in another Toronto park.

The Riot was unplanned, unorganized, but in no ways un-political. It was also the largest such action in Toronto’s history before or since. Reflecting the tensions of the depression and the xenophobic prejudice that was dominating European politics, the riot brought the politics of the old world to the new, and in so doing, galvanized the immigrant communities in the city and paved the way for the multi-culturalism we take for granted today.

RiotChristiePitsA baseball game between teams that were primarily Anglo-Protestant on one side and Jewish on the other spilled into a punch-up when young Anglo-Saxon fans unfurled a large white banner of a Swastika in the stands. The fight ranged across the park for possession of the banner, and left at least one Jewish youth with substantial injuries. Boys on bicycles then zipped to the immigrant neighbourhoods south of Bloor with the story that a Jew had been killed. Thousands of young men (mostly) responded and a post-game dust-up morphed into a full-scale street fight.  It was the ‘culmination of a summer of conflict, and remains a disturbing, even legendary, part of the city’s history.’ You can read all the details in Levitt and Shaffir’s The Riot at Christie Pits. Or, for the Youtube generation, watch this:

You will note the showcasing of a Toronto library. ;)

With so much of any city’s space occupied by private property – whether for residence, commerce, finance, education, or governance, public space becomes more and more important to the vibrancy (even the existence) of civic life. Toronto parks have a long and proud tradition of stepping into that role; a tradition built on circumstance and perhaps chance, but also on people’s willingness to fight for it. Dufferin Grove comes by its community feistiness honestly.

GreatGoodPlace                   Yesterday'sToronto                    OldToronto



The Great Good Place: cafés, coffee shops, community centers, beauty parlors, general stores, bars, hangouts, and how they get you through the day. (Oldenburg, Ray, 1989)
307.0973 O47  - Humanities and Social Sciences, 2nd Fl., Toronto Reference Library

Old Toronto: a selection of excerpts from Landmarks of Toronto, by John Ross Robertson (Robertson, J. Ross, 1954)
971.3541 R - Canadiana, 6th Fl., North York Central Library

Riot at Christie Pits. (Levitt, Cyril et. al., 1987)
971.3541 L - Canadiana, 6th Fl., North York Central Library

Toronto Star's Pages of the Past - online archive includes over 30,000 complete issues. The digitized full-image version of the complete contents of the Toronto Star newspaper since 1894. Available at any Toronto Public Library branch (with valid library card)

Yesterday's Toronto 1870 - 1910. (Shapiro, Linda, 1997)
971.3541 SHA - Canadiana, 6th Fl., North York Central Library




Fire Insurance Plans for Toronto

May 7, 2012 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

This guide was revised to include recent online Additional Sources which help in navigating the atlases.

Getting Started

Toronto Public Library has fire insurance plans for the City of Toronto dating from 1858 to 1973. Digitized versions of many of these maps up to 1910 are available on our website. 

Sometimes called Goad's atlases, after Charles E. Goad who initiated fire insurance mapping in Canada in 1875, fire insurance plans are large scale aerial drawings of municipalities. They often show not only the locations of current buildings, but their size, shape and construction materials, as that was important information for insurers.

Fire Insurance Plans: why are they useful?

Today, researchers find fire insurance plans an invaluable information source, using them for a variety of purposes, including to:

  • narrow the date when a building was constructed.
  • determine earlier street numbers of individual buildings and previous names of streets which may have changed.
  • locate a building on the street and in relation to other buildings on the block. This is useful in resolving confusion that sometimes happens in directory research. Sometimes a directory will indicate that a building, which is now located in mid-block, as being at the corner if no closer buildings to the corner have yet been built.
  • determine the lot number, block number (if there is one), and the registered plan number of a property. These can be useful with assessment and title searches.
  • indicate buildings that may have been demolished or recently constructed.
  • track how buildings have been used and altered over time.
  • indicate a building in relationship to its neighbourhood, such as schools, churches, industries.
  • show how a neighbourhood has changed over the years.
  • indicate sites where soil may be contaminated from former noxious uses.

Atlas-r-195_smallDetail of Atlas of the city of Toronto and vicinity. (Goad) 2nd ed. 1893 Plate No. 47

For a guide to the symbols and colours used on the fire insurance maps, see the detail below from the   Insurance plan of the city of Toronto, Ontario. (Goad) 1880 edition revised to 1889.  Plate No. 3.

    Goad's key 1889crop2

Searching the Library Website for Digitized Toronto Fire Insurance Maps

Suggested keywords and subjects:

Sorting the results by date will make them easier to use.  If you know the Plate Number, enter the year of the atlas and the Plate Number preceded by two zeros  e.g.

Note: for 1910, zeros on Plate Numbers are not required.

What's my Toronto neighbourhood called?

Toronto fire insurance maps must be searched on the website by neighbourhood, not street.  To find out what the area you want is called, check out the neighbourhood map. Fire insurance plans focused on built up areas, so that the digitized plans available on this website are primarily for the old city of Toronto, or former municipalities, Weston for example. This neighbourhood map link also allows you to retrieve other digitized items such as photographs, as well as information on the local history books the library owns. To limit your search to maps for your neighbourhood, click " microforms, maps and computer disks" on the left of the screen , under "Type".


Where to Find Toronto Fire Insurance Plans from Toronto Public Library

Location code: TRL SC: Toronto Reference Library, Special Collections 

                       TRL HSS: Toronto Reference Library, Humanities & Social Sciences

                       NYCL CA: North York Central Library , Canadiana Department

  • 1858 Boulton Atlas of Toronto. (W. S. and H. C. Boulton)  
    TRL SC

      1858 Boulton digitized maps  

  • 1880 Insurance plan of the city of Toronto, Ontario. (Chas.E. Goad) 1st ed. 
    TRL SC 

                Not digitized

  •  1884 Atlas of the city of Toronto and suburbs from special survey and registered plans showing all buildings and lot numbers. (Goad) 1st edition   

         1884 Goad digitized maps

  • 1889 Insurance plan of the city of Toronto, Ontario. (Goad) 1880 edition revised to 1889  
    TRL SC

        1889 Goad digitized maps  Note: mislabelled as 1892

  • 1890 Atlas of the city of Toronto and vicinity from special survey... (Goad) 2nd ed.  
    TRL SC

        1890 Goad digitized maps 

  •  1893 Atlas of the city of Toronto and vicinity.(Goad) 1st revision of 2nd edition.  
    TRL SC

         1893 Goad digitized maps 

  • 1894 Atlas of the city of Toronto and vicinity.(Goad). 2nd revision of 2nd edition. 
    TRL HSS (microfilm only)

                  Not digitized

  • 1899 Atlas of the city of Toronto and vicinity...(Goad) 3rd revision of 2nd edition.  
    TRL SC

        1899 Goad digitized maps

  • 1903 Atlas of the city of Toronto and vicinity...(Goad) 4th (last) revision of 2nd (1890) edition. 
    TRL HSS (microfilm)  TRL SC (photostat)   NYCL CA (catalogued as 1890 edition)

                  Not digitized

  •  1904 Area of fire, wholesale district, Toronto, Canada April 19, 20. (Goad)
    TRL SC (T1904/4Msm) and NYCL CA

         1904 digitized map Great Fire Toronto

  • 1903 - 1918 Insurance Plans for the city of Toronto (Goad)  
    TRL SC (912.71354 G573.6 microfilm only)

                  Not digitized

  • 1910 Atlas of the city of Toronto and suburbs. (3 vols). (Goad) 
    TRL SC

               1910 Goad digitized maps 

  • 1912 Atlas of the City of Toronto and suburbs (3 vols)  3rd edition (1910) revised to May 1912. (Goad) 
    TRL HSS (microfilm)   NYCL CA  (1912 not indicated in date)

                  Not digitized

  •  1914 - 1918 Insurance plan of the city of Toronto [including Toronto Juntion]. (Goad) 
    TRL SC (microfilm only)

                  Not digitized

  • 1923 Atlas of the city of Toronto and suburbs  (3 volumes) (Goad) 2nd revision of 3rd edition (1910). 
    TRL HSS  (microfilm only)

                  Not digitized

  • 1924 Atlas of the city of Toronto and suburbs  (3 volumes) (Goad) 2nd revision of 3rd edition (1910). 
    TRL SC  NYCL CA (Ontario Genealogical Society collection)

                  Not digitized

  •  1904- 1951 Insurance Plans of the City of Toronto 
    TRL SC (microfiche in 9 vols., various years)

                  Not digitized

  •  1952 - 1973 Insurance Plan of the City of Toronto. (Underwriters' Survey Bureau)  
    TRL SC   NYCL CA  (1952-1969 only)

                  Not digitized


Additional Sources:

City of Toronto Archives has digitized selected plates from fire insurance plans, 1880 to 1924

Access by Plate Number is provided on  Nathan Ng's blog "Recursion"

Library and Archives Canada has digitized the following editions:

Detailed information on all Toronto and Canadian fire insurance plans is available in:

Catalogue of Canadian fire insurance plans 1875-1975


For further assistance contact:

Special Collections Department, Toronto Reference Library, 416-393-7156

Humanities and Social Sciences Department, Toronto Reference Library, 416-393-7175

Canadiana Department, North York Central Library, 416-395-5623


War of 1812: Bicentennial Talks

May 2, 2012 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

From 2012 to 2014, Canadians and Americans will commemorate the War of 1812 – a seminal event in our shared histories. This spring, a unique series of lectures, debates and conversations will be presented by the Toronto Public Library in partnership with Heritage Toronto, the Royal Ontario Museum, Luminato and several community heritage organizations.


1812: The Big PictureBook cover Benn
Dr. Carl Benn, author of The War of 1812
Tues. May 8, 7 pm
Royal Ontario Museum, Theatre
100 Queens Park
A ROM/Heritage Toronto presentation
Free. RSVP e-mail: or call 416-586-5797

ROM History Wars Debate: The U.S. has Coveted Canada since the War of 1812ROM_bicentennial_1812
Jack Granatstein vs. Stephen Clarkson. Moderated by Michael Bliss.
Fri. June 8, 6:30 pm
Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W.
A Luminato/ROM presentation.
Tickets: $30 Purchase online or call 416.368.4849


The Struggle for North America Book cover Taylor
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Alan Taylor, author of The Civil War of 1812, in conversation with TVO’s Steve Paikin.
Wed. June 13, 7 pm
Toronto Reference Library, Appel Salon
Book free tickets starting May 16

Tecumseh and Brock
James Laxer on the two greatest heroes of the war. Luminato_logo
Sun. June 17, 2 pm
Bloor/Gladstone Branch


Discover How the War Affected Where You Live

Etobicoke and 1812
Denise Harris, President, Etobicoke Historical Society.Heritage_toronto_logo
Wed. May 16, 7 pm
Mimico Centennial Branch

York Township and 1812
Janice Nickerson, genealogist and author of York’s Sacrifice, Militia Casualties of the War of 1812.
Wed. May 23, 7 pm
North York Central Library, ConcourseJanice Nickerson image

Scarborough and 1812
Richard Schofield, Archivist, Scarborough Archives.
Wed. May 30, 7 pm
Bendale Branch


Bicentennial of the War of 1812
The Aboriginal point of view presented by the Native Canadian Centre
Thu May 31, 1:30 pm
North York Central Library, Concourse

Why the War of 1812 Still Matters
Wayne Reeves, Chief Curator for City of Toronto Museum Services, tackles this question.
Tue. June 12, 1:00 pm1812 logo_Toronto
Toronto Reference Library, Beeton




James Esson, Photographer – 1853 -1933

October 12, 2011 | Kathryn | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

  James Esson was one of a small number of Canadian photographers to produce stereoscopic views, a popular format for photographs in the late 19th century.  Here are some of his architectural stereo views of Toronto, currently on display in Special Collections.






Can you guess where the following pictures were taken?  You'll find the answers by viewing the exhibit on the 4th floor of the Toronto Reference Library.                   .





 The James Esson exhibit of photographs will be on display until the end of October, 2011.




Discover the history of your family, your Toronto neighbourhood, or places in Ontario and across Canada.

Research online or at Toronto Reference Library and North York Central Library.

Learn about exciting programs and events.