Toronto Public Library Homepage

This page has been archived and is no longer updated.


Remembering Fort York’s Beginnings: July 30: Snapshots in History

July 30, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)




Fort York looking east

(Fort York, looking east - March 1952 - Credit: James Victor Salmon Collection, Baldwin Room, Toronto Reference Library – Accession Number S 1-829B)

Fort York barracks looking w

(Fort York, barracks, looking w[est]., 1934 – Credit: Margaret Maud (Hicks) Howard Collection, Baldwin Room, Toronto Reference Library - Accession Number E 1-10n)


Looking w. to Queen's Rangers camp, foot of Bathurst St. Elizabeth P Simcoe July 30 1793

(Looking w. to Queen's Rangers camp, foot of Bathurst St. – Credit: Elizabeth P. Simcoe, July 30, 1793. Baldwin Room, Toronto Reference Library. Accession number 934-1-1.)

Residents of the City of Toronto as well as visitors to the city may have the opportunity to visit Fort York National Historic Site in downtown Toronto. On July 30 and beyond, take a moment to remember Fort York’s beginnings on July 30, 1793 as Upper Canada’s Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe acted upon the survey conducted of the harbor area by Joseph Bouchette and made the decision to establish a military garrison (complete with arsenal), accompanied by a town named York which became the capital of Upper Canada, was captured on April 27, 1813 by American forces during the War of 1812 (after the decision of Major-General Isaac Brock in 1811 to strengthen the garrison in anticipation of war), and eventually was renamed Toronto in 1834.

The British blew up Fort York’s gunpowder magazine in April 1813, killing 250 American invaders including Brigadier-General Zebulon Pike. The Americans had occupied York for six days, looting houses, destroying provisions, and burning Government House and the Parliament Buildings. The Americans returned briefly in July 1813 to burn barracks and other buildings that they had missed in April 1813. Afterwards, the British rebuilt Fort York that was sufficiently strong to repel another attempted American invasion in August 1814. The British continued to station troops in Fort York following the War of 1812, although most troops were re-located to a new barracks one kilometre to the west of Fort York in 1841. The Dominion of Canada assumed most of the responsibility for Canadian defense in 1870, including Fort York. After the weaponry became obsolete, the Army continued to use Fort York and its facilities for administrative, storage, and training purposes up to the 1930s. A military presence continued at Fort York even during World War Two.

Fort York was opened as a historic site museum on Victoria Day 1934 and operates in a similar capacity today with support from the Friends of Fort York as well as interested community members.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:

Setting a fine table historical desserts and drinks from the officers' kitchens at Fort York  

The military does not function with discipline, strategy, tactics, and weapons alone. Soldiers need to be fed. This book includes 30 selected recipes taken from the officers’ kitchen in Fort York, from the historic, inaugural recipe to its modern equivalent. The recipes are placed into context with explanations on choice and use of local food sources.


Historic Fort York 1793-1993 

The book was published in Fort York’s bicentennial year. Carl Benn looks back at the important role that Fort York played in the 1790s, the War of 1812, the 1837 Rebellion, the defense of Canada during the American Civil War, and more recently, as a national historic site commemorating the past. 

Also available in eBook format.


Consider watching the following DVD:

Structures. Fort York, Show #7, 2006 [1 videodisc] / Structures (Television Program); Rogers Television, 2006. DVD. Documentary. 

This documentary explores the historic buildings on the Fort York National Historic Site.


If you are interested in exploring more digitized historical pictures of Fort York from Toronto Public Library collections, please click here.


Remembering Elizabeth Simcoe’s Arrival at Toronto: July 29: Snapshots in History

July 29, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)

Looking east from around foot of Bathurst St. Elizabeth P Simcoe 1793

Looking east from around foot of Bathurst St. – Elizabeth P. Simcoe, 1793?


Looking s. towards Gibralter Point, showing firing of salute Elizabeth Simcoe 1793

Looking s. towards Gibralter Point, showing firing of salute – Elizabeth P. Simcoe, 1793


Elizabeth Posthuma (Gwillim) Simcoe, 1762-1850 circa 1790

Elizabeth Posthuma (Gwillim) Simcoe, 1762-1850 (circa 1790)


On July 29 and beyond, take a moment to remember the arrival of Elizabeth Posthuma (Gwillim) Simcoe, the wife of Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe, at Toronto on July 29, 1793. (The next day, Toronto would become York only to become Toronto again in 1834.) We should be grateful to Elizabeth Simcoe for leaving to posterity her diaries documenting her travels as well as her artwork depicting various scenes around Toronto/York. Her diary entry for July 29, 1793 (accompanied by subsequent commentary and notes by eminent Toronto historian John Ross Robertson) stated the following:

The diary of Mrs John Graves Simcoe reference to arriving at Toronto on July 29 1793


Elizabeth Simcoe’s diary provide those interested in Canadian history with a snapshot of personal life experiences. Borrow a copy of Mrs. Simcoe’s diary from Toronto Public Library collections by placing a hold:


The diary of Mrs. John Graves Simcoe, wife of the first Lieutenant-Governor of the province of Upper Canada 1792-6





Or, read Elizabeth Simcoe’s diary online through .


For more detailed information on Elizabeth Simcoe, please visit Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe, 1762-1850 on the North York Central Library blog.  For more information on John Simcoe, please visit Snapshots in History: February 25: Remembering John Graves Simcoe and York on the Local History & Genealogy blog.


Remembering Sir Frederick Banting and Insulin: July 27: Snapshots in History

July 28, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)



On July 27 and beyond, take a moment to remember Sir Frederick Grant Banting (Born: November 14, 1891 at Alliston, Ontario; Died: February 21, 1941 at Musgrave Harbour, Newfoundland from wounds and exposure to the elements following a airplane crash.) whose is best known for his life-saving and life-changing work on the discovery of insulin that improved lives for millions of diabetics all over the world. On July 27, 1921, Banting initially isolated insulin from a dog’s pancreas, working in conjunction with colleagues J.J.R. Macleod, Charles Best, and James Bertram Collip. Beginning on January 11, 1922, insulin (initially called isletin) was administered to 14-year old Leonard Thompson (who had Type 1 diabetes) at Toronto General Hospital. Thompson initially had an allergic reaction to Banting and Best’s extract; however, on January 23, 1922, Thompson reacted more positively to an extract developed by J.B. Collip. For this discovery, Dr. Banting was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1923 with Dr. John James Rickard Macleod. Macleod had provided Banting with access to laboratory facilities at the University of Toronto in 1921 along with the assistance of a medical student, Dr. Charles Herbert Best. Banting was angered at the Nobel Committee for ignoring Best’s contribution in the discovery of insulin so Banting gallantly shared his half of the Nobel Prize money with Best. In response, Macleod shared his half of the Nobel Prize money with Collip. (Best succeeded Dr. Macleod as professor of physiology at the University of Toronto in 1929.) In addition to being the youngest Nobel laureate in medicine/physiology, Banting also received the Reeve Prize in 1922 from the University of Toronto, was awarded an annual life annuity of $7,500 by the Canadian government in 1923, and was knighted by King George V in 1934 as well as becoming a Vice-President of the Diabetic Association (now Diabetes UK). Banting also became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1935.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:

Breakthrough Banting Best and the race to save millions of diabetics  

Journey back to 1919 where a frail 11-year old Elizabeth Hughes has been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes with the only accepted form of treatment being starvation. Due to the work of Banting and Best, marred somewhat by scientific jealousy and business rivalry, Elizabeth Hughes becomes one of the first diabetics to receive insulin injections while the discoverers and the Eli Lilly and Company work to mass produce insulin in order to help diabetics all over the world.

Also available as an eBook.


Frederick Banting hero healer artist  

Consider this readable biography of Banting that included his exploits in the Canadian Army Medical Corps that led to his being awarded the Military Cross in 1919 for heroism on account of treating wounded soldiers for 16 hours, while being wounded himself. Continue the story of Banting’s life by reading about his work with Charles Best and others on isolating insulin to treat diabetics around the world.

Also available as an eBook.


The discovery of insulin 3rd pbk ed 

Consider this multi-awarding winning book (including the City of Toronto Book Award) by University of Toronto Professor Emeritus of History Michael Bliss about the discovery of insulin by the Canadian research team of Banting, Best, Macleod, and James Bertram Collip. 

Click here for the 1982 edition of this title.


Banting a biography  

Read this acclaimed biography by Professor Michael Bliss of Frederick Banting’s ascent to celebrity status following the discovery of insulin and his subsequent frustrations in scientific discovery, a failed marriage to a socialite that ended in scandal, his attempt to seek solace through his work and painting, and his untimely death in a plane crash. 

Click here for the 1984 edition of this title.

Did you know that November 14th (Banting’s birthday) is also World Diabetes Day as proclaimed by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization? For more information on diabetes and resources available in Toronto Public Library collections, please visit Toronto Public Library’s Health and Wellness Blog and view the blog post Diabetes by Numbers….



Remembering William Lyon Mackenzie King: July 26: Snapshots in History

July 28, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)


Credit: Paul Joseph - Vancouver, BC, Canada


On July 26 and beyond, take a moment to remember the Right Honourable William Lyon Mackenzie King (Born: December 17, 1874 at Kitchener (previously Berlin), Ontario; Died: July 22, 1950 at Kingsmere, Québec; Buried: July 26, 1950 at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario), who was Canada’s longest-serving Prime Minister (for approximately 22 years and 5 months) from December 29, 1921 - June 28, 1926, September 25, 1926 - August 7, 1930, and October 23, 1935 - November 15, 1948.

The grandson of former Mayor of Toronto and 1837 Rebellion leader, William Lyon Mackenzie, W.L.M. King served as the Member of Parliament for York North in the early 1920s during his inaugural term as Prime Minister of Canada. In another connection to Toronto, he also influenced the outcome of the York South by-election of February 9, 1942 by declining to let a Liberal Party candidate stand as former Prime Minister and political rival Arthur Meighen (who was in favour of conscription) was seeking to return to the House of Commons as leader of the Conservative Party once again. Liberal supporters divided between supporting the winning Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) candidate Joseph W. Noseworthy (some federal Liberals supported the CCF campaign) and Arthur Meighen (Ontario Liberal premier Mitchell Hepburn, a critic of Prime Minister King, supported Meighen).

King’s governments implemented a variety of social programs including old age pensions in 1926, unemployment insurance in 1940, and family allowances in 1944. King was Prime Minister during World War Two. Canada declared war on Germany on September 10, 1939, fully one week after Great Britain and France had done so as Prime Minister King wanted a vote of war declaration from Canada’s Parliament on its own timetable as a means of asserting Canada’s independence. Canada’s role in the war is well-known through its military participation in the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 and through the disastrous Dieppe Raid of 1942 and the invasion of Hong Kong in 1941. Arguably, less known might be the important role that Canada played in the implementation of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in which some 131,500 Canadian and Allied air personnel received flying, navigational, bomb aiming, air gunning, and wireless operator training across Canada during the Second World War. Canada was also a major player in nuclear research with the establishment of the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories in Deep River, Ontario in 1944 and the subsequent operation of the NRX reactor in 1947.

Prime Minister King and his government had to weather the Conscription Crisis of 1944 that followed up on a 1942 plebiscite asking Canadians to release the Canadian government from its pledge not to send any troops overseas (that was made in the 1940 Canadian general election campaign). The country was divided at that time with English-speaking Canada voting 83% in favour of sending troops overseas as needed and French-speaking Canada voting 73% against sending troops overseas with 63% of Canadians in favour overall of instituting conscription. Mr. King had a penchant for getting out of tough spots politically and rebounding from political defeats as in the elections of 1917, 1925 and 1930. The government also imposed the internment of Japanese-Canadians (and seizure of their property) in 1942 following the air attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Empire on December 7, 1941. (The government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney formally apologized for this injustice carried out against the Japanese-Canadian people in September 1988 and instituted a compensation package.) On a happier note, Canada was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945 with Prime Minister King (who also served as his own Secretary of State for External Affairs for many years) in attendance.

William Lyon Mackenzie King has served as a puzzle to many Canadians with some familiarity of Canadian history. Arguably, he is the best educated Prime Minister to date with a total of five university degrees (B.A., M.A. (University of Toronto); LL.B (Osgoode Hall Law School); M.A., Ph.D (Harvard University), and the only Prime Minister to date to have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree. On the other hand, some have learned of Mr. King’s connection with the occult and communing with spirits of dead individuals from his past, including his mother and former Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and his use of an ouija board and a crystal ball.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Prime Ministers ranking Canada's leaders

This book by historians Granatstein and Hillmer was a result of a Maclean’s magazine study that consulted 25 Canadian historians and political scientists on ranking all of Canada’s Prime Ministers up to the late 1990s but listed in chronological order of service. Despite perceived personal peculiarities, William Lyon Mackenzie King was ranked first as the best Prime Minister in the “Great” category. Kim Campbell was evaluated to be the worst Prime Minister. Brian Mulroney placed eighth in the “Average” category whilst Joe Clark finished fifteenth in the “Below Average” category.


Winston Churchill and Mackenzie King so similar so different

Winston S. Churchill and W.L. Mackenzie King were contemporaries as they were born about two weeks apart in 1874. However, each took a different path into politics, viz.: King through academics and Churchill through military adventure. In the 1930s, Churchill, an isolated backbencher, was extremely prescient about the dangers of fascism and Nazism while King tended towards appeasement of the Nazis. Nonetheless, King came around to the dangers of the fascists and gave full support to Great Britain’s war effort once Canada’s Parliament had declared war first, one week after Great Britain and France had. 

Also available in eBook format.


Consider watching the following interview with author Terry Reardon:



King William Lyon Mackenzie King a life guided by the hand of destiny

Levine offered the reader the first biographical review of Canada’s best educated (Ph.D, Harvard University) and longest-serving (and arguably the most unusual) Prime Minister in many years. On the one hand, King consulted mediums to gain contact with deceased family members and political mentors. On the other hand, he showed great political foresight in outmanoeuvring political opponents and keeping the country together. 

Also available in eBook and Talking Book (Restricted to Print Disabled Patrons) formats.


Warlords Borden Mackenzie King and Canada's World Wars  

Read historian Tim Cook’s dual biography of Canada’s two world war Prime Ministers: Robert Laird Borden and William Lyon Mackenzie King. Despite a lack of charisma, the author contended that both leaders were “warlords” in a Canadian way and had to navigate a number of similar issues: developing armed forces from a civilian base, conscription, mobilizing war finances and production, and keeping labour peace. On the issue of conscription, Borden was prepared to divide the country to achieve victory while King was very much concerned with keeping the country together. Both Prime Ministers’ governments used internment of people as an instrument during wartime: King’s government interned Japanese-Canadian people while Borden’s government interned the Ukrainian-Canadians under the pretext of being “enemy aliens”. 

Also available in eBook format. Read the review from Quill and Quire. Read the review from Digital Journal.


Consider watching this video of author Tim Cook discussing this book:



Consider borrowing the following public performance rights DVD from Toronto Public Library collections:

Mackenzie King and the conscription crisis

This documentary combined archival footage with excerpts from The King Chronicles, a dramatic series written and directed by Donald Brittain. Faced with a divided country on the conscription issue during the Second World War, W.L. Mackenzie King could only put off the decision for so long even though he was deeply concerned about the potential fracturing of the country. Some scenes included graphic language.




Remembering Sunnyside Amusement Park and Bathing Pavilion on June 28: Snapshots in History

June 28, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)

Sunnyside 1922

Sunnyside, 1922?

On June 28 and beyond, take a moment to remember Sunnyside Amusement Park of which one of its components, the Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion, designed by architect Alfred H. Chapman, was opened on June 28, 1922 by then-Toronto mayor Charles Maguire. The Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion was intended to provide clothes-changing facilities for bathers wading into Lake Ontario. The cold temperatures of the lake water prompted the building of a nearby open-air swimming pool (aka the Sunnyside Pool, nicknamed “The Tank”) that opened on July 29, 1925; in fact, the pool was the largest outdoor swimming pool in the world at the time of construction. The Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion itself underwent renovations in 1980 to update its changing facilities as well as adding a garden and a beach-side café. Previously, the Bathing Pavilion had been declared an historic site in 1974 under the Ontario Heritage Act. More recently in 2014-2015, the Bathing Pavilion had been undergoing more restorative work following a 2012 structural audit.

The Sunnyside Amusement Park, also referred to as the Sunnyside Beach Park, existed from 1922 to 1955, after which it was demolished to make way for the Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway project. The amusement park had a large roller coaster (the “Flyer”), some merry-go-rounds, and a Derby Racer steeplechase ride. Additionally, the park hosted stunt events such as flagpole sitting, boat burnings on Lake Ontario, and fireworks displays.

Other facilities within/near the Sunnyside Amusement Park included: the Sunnyside Pavilion (offering a tea garden and two restaurants) that was torn down in 1956 to make room for the new westbound lanes of Lakeshore Boulevard; the Sunnyside Stadium (for lacrosse and softball) that opened on May 19, 1925 but was bulldozed in 1956 to provide parking for the adjacent Boulevard Club; and, the still-existing Palais Royale (designed by the architectural firm of Chapman, Oxley & Bishop) that opened in 1922 with a dance hall on the upper level and with Dean’s Sunnyside Pleasure Boats on the lower level – eventually, only the dance hall function remained.




Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion – August 7, 1922


Sunnyside, swimming pool, looking east September 1925

Sunnyside, swimming pool, looking east – September 1925



Palais Royale 1930s



Sunnyside Boardwalk Toronto 1931


Sunnyside, showing demolition of pavilion October 1956

Sunnyside, showing demolition of pavilion – October 1956


Consider the following title for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


I remember Sunnyside the rise & fall of a magical era   I remember Sunnyside the rise & fall of a magical era   I remember Sunnyside the rise & fall of a magical era

Book, 1996


I remember Sunnyside the rise & fall of a magical era





Celebrating the Queen’s Plate on June 27: Snapshots in History

June 28, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)

Seagram, Joseph E., winners of King's Plate, 1891-1905, shown at Woodbine (later Greenwood) Race Track. Toronto, Ont

On June 27 and beyond, take a moment to celebrate the running of the Queen’s Plate horse race in Toronto. The Queen’s Plate is Canada’s oldest thoroughbred horse race (inaugural date: June 27, 1860 at the Carleton racetrack.) as well as the longest continuously run race in North America. The Queen’s Plate comprises the first of three races in the Canadian Triple Crown, the other two being the Prince of Wales Stakes and the Breeders’ Stakes.  Since 1957, the Queen’s Plate has had a distance of 1 14 miles (2.01 km).

The Queen’s Plate became the King’s Plate following the death of Queen Victoria and became the Queen’s Plate again following the death of King George VI and the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II onto the British throne. The reigning monarch is the patron of the event and last attended the running of the Queen’s Plate in July 2010.

The Queen’s Plate was held in different Ontario communities (such as Toronto, Guelph, St Catharines, Whitby, Kingston, Barrie, Woodstock, Picton, London, Hamilton and Ottawa) until it was held in Toronto permanently from 1883 onwards with royal permission.

Woodbine Racetrack (aka Greenwood Raceway) hosted the Queen’s Plate in 1876, 1881, and continuously from 1883 to 1955, after which the race moved to the newer Woodbine Racetrack in Etobicoke since 1956.

Avelino Gomez, Sandy Hawley, and Robin Platts tied for the jockeys with the most wins in the Queen’s Plate to date with four wins each. Harry Giddings Jr. and Roger Attfield tied for the trainers with the most wins in the Queen’s Plate to date with eight wins each.


Queen's plate trophy. Toronto Star June 18 1998


Consider the following title for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:

The Plate 150 years of royal tradition from Don Juan to Square Eddie

The Plate, 2009


The eyes have it Roger Attfield had his eyes trained on yesterday's running of the Queen's Plate His horse, Izvestia, was a runaway winner in record style.


Food for a king Trainer Roger Attfield offers a carrot to Queen's Plate hopeful Shudanz.

Celebrate the CN Tower on June 26: Snapshots in History

June 28, 2016 | John P. | Comments (2)

CN Tower

On June 26 and beyond, Torontonians and others should take a moment to celebrate the CN Tower, currently the seventh tallest freestanding structure in the world. For over thirty years from 1976 (opening to the public on June 26th of that year) to the completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and the Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China, the CN Tower held two records as the world’s tallest freestanding structure and the world’s tallest tower. (View the list of the tallest freestanding structures in the world.)

The CN Tower, built by the Canadian National Railway Company (CNR), stands at 553.33 metres (1,815 feet 5 inches), a dominant icon of the Toronto skyline. 1,537 workers were involved on the construction project over a 40-month period from February 6, 1973 onwards, working five days per week and 24 hours per day. The public opening occurred on June 26, 1976.

Workmen pouring bucket of concrete on CN Tower slip form Toronto Star August 21 1973

STEEL REINFORCING BARS and steel pipe-the backbone and arteries jut up from the rising CN Tower on the Metro waterfront Toronto Star January 2 1974


Seeing 90 Miles--or 1,500 Feet Down. The revolving restaurant in the Sky Pod of the CN Tower is 1,150 feet up, and offers a view of Niagara Falls on a clear day Toronto Star March 8 1976


Following the privatization of the CNR Company in 1995, the Government of Canada retained ownership of the CN Tower through a federal crown corporation called Canada Lands Company. Henceforth, the CN Tower could also be referred to as the Canadian National Tower or Canada’s National Tower rather than previously referring to the CNR Company itself.

In addition to serving as an entertainment and tourist destination with sightseeing opportunities and the revolving 360 restaurant, the CN Tower serves an important role as a telecommunications conduit for FM radio and television broadcasts, not to mention wireless paging and cellular telephone signals.

View the full collection of Toronto Star photographs about the CN Tower accessible through Toronto Public Library collections.

Consider the following book titles from Toronto Public Library collections:


The CN Tower by Meg Greene     CN Tower by Simon Rose   Towering giants and other tall megastructures  

The engineering book from the catapult to the Curiosity Rover 250 milestones in the history of engineering   Modern buildings identifying bilateral and rotational symmetry and transformations  


Or consider the following DVD for borrowing:


The height of excellence construction of the CN Tower

Remembering Massey Hall: June 14: Snapshots in History

June 14, 2016 | John P. | Comments (2)

Massey Hall, Shuter St., s.w. corner Victoria St.; INTERIOR by B.W. Kilburn
1894 - Massey Hall, Shuter St., s.w. corner Victoria St.; INTERIOR

On June 14 and beyond, take a moment to remember a venerable historical landmark, Massey Hall on Shuter Street, which opened on June 14, 1894 (as the first day of a three-day festival) with a performance of G.F. Händel’s Messiah by a 500-person chorus and the 70-member Grand Festival Orchestra. Massey Hall served as the home location for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (1923-1982) (and its predecessors (1906-1918)) and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (1895-1982) until 1982. Massey Hall was designated a National Historic Site on June 15, 1981.

Known as Massey Music Hall up to 1933, Massey Hall was built at the behest of industrialist Hart Massey (of Massey-Harris, later Massey-Ferguson fame) as a gift to the City of Toronto in memory of his late son Charles Albert Massey to promote interests in music, education, good citizenship, philanthropy, patriotism and the like. Architect Sidney Badgley designed Massey Hall and it was constructed at a cost of $152,390.75 with an exterior of Palladian architecture coupled with an interior of Moorish Revival architecture.

Until the 1920s when concert halls were built elsewhere, Massey Hall was the sole facility in Canada designed solely for musical performances. Renovations in 1933 resulted in an added balcony lounge and reduced seating to the present 2,765. A further 1948 renovation lowered the stage and replaced wooden floors in Massey Hall with reinforced concrete. Following falling plaster from the ceiling in 1955, the ceiling was completely re-plastered accompanied with a strong wire mesh. In the 1980s, the interior was completely redone and air-conditioning was added in 1989 prior to the run of the musical Cats. In 1994, to celebrate the centenary of Massey Hall, the basement was renovated to include a bar called Centuries (prior to this, alcohol had not been permitted in Massey Hall) which included photographs of previous performers in the facility.

In celebration of Massey Hall, please consider some of the resources and treasures available in Toronto Public Library collections:


Massey Music Hall, Toronto, Can
1910 – Massey Music Hall, Toronto, Can[ada]


Intimate grandeur one hundred years at Massey Hall
1993 - Book by William Kilbourn



Toronto Garrison Church Parade
1911 - Toronto Garrison Church Parade


Paderewski, Massey Music Hall, Toronto. Wednesday, March 5th
1902 - Paderewski, Massey Music Hall, Toronto. Wednesday, March 5th


Toronto Symphony, with conductor Luigi von Kunits, in Massey Hall, Toronto
1926 - Toronto Symphony, with conductor Luigi von Kunits, in Massey Hall, Toronto


For more information about some of the musical performances over the years at Massey Hall, please visit Celebrating Massey Hall and Toronto Music: June 14: Snapshots in History on the Arts & Culture Blog.


Research Guide to Reggae Lane: Toronto's Jamaican Music Scene, 1960s to the Present

June 2, 2016 | Barbara | Comments (0)

Getting Started

Reggae Lane signage

“Reggae Lane" is a the name of a laneway located behind the storefronts south of Eglinton Avenue West and east of Oakwood Avenue.  It was given this title in 2015 by Toronto Councillor Josh Colle to honour the rich music tradition of this area. The York-Eglinton BIA and the Laneway Project joined to help with planning related initiatives. 

The history of reggae in Toronto dates back to the 1960s when many Jamaican musicians settled in the city where they performed jazz, calypso, soul, R & B, and other popular genres. Around the same time, musicians in Jamaica had started a new sound - reggae - which soon was adopted by Jamaican-Canadian musicians. Before long, record shops, music studios, and performance venues lined Eglinton Avenue West between Marlee and Dufferin streets. The strip was also home to many West Indian clothing shops, beauty and barber shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses, and became known as “Little Jamaica”.  

Find research materials on reggae in Toronto in the Rita Cox Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection and at the Toronto Reference Library Arts Department

Searching the Library Website

Recommended Subjects and Keywords


Reggae Toronto

Reggae music

Recommended CDs

Jamaica to Toronto Series. Listed below are six CDs featuring reissued soul and reggae albums and singles that were compiled by DJ/Canadian music historian Sipreano with Light In The Attic Records of Seattle, Washington.

Innocent youths 

Innocent Youths, by Earth, Roots & Water. 2008; originally released 1977.







 Jamaica to Toronto Soul, Funk & Reggae 1967-1974. 2006.

Liner notes - front (PDF)

Liner notes - back (PDF)




  Noel Ellis. 2006; originally released, 1983.

    Liner notes (PDF)





 Summer Records Anthology 1974-1988. 2007

Liner notes - front (PDF) 

Liner notes - back (PDF)


 Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy. 2004; originally released 1970.

    Liner notes (PDF)




 JACKIE MITTOO wishbone - cd

 Wishbone, by Jackie Mittoo. 2006; originally released 1971.

Liner notes (PDF)




Recommended Books

Dubwise book cover

Dubwise: Reasoning from the Reggae Underground, by Klive Walker. 2005

Series of essays that delve into the Jamaican diaspora and its musical influence. See "One-Drop Dubs the Maple Leaf: The Story of Reggae in Canada," pages 155-176.





Global Reggae
Global Reggae, edited by Carolyn Cooper. 2012

Plenary lectures from the 'Global Reggae' conference convened at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica in 2008. Chapter 9 discusses "The Journey of Reggae in Canada". 






Jamaican Canadian music in Toronto in the 1970s and 1980s : a preliminary history, by Keith McCuaig. 2012.

Master's thesis on the musical community of Jamaican musicians in Toronto in the 70s and 80s.

Read it online (pdf) 




Jamaican Popular Music

Jamaican Popular Music: From Mento to Dancehall Reggae: A Full Bibliographic Guide, by John Gray. 2011.

Bibliographic references to books, articles, reviews, dictionaries, newspapers, electronics sources, videos, and dissertations on popular Jamaican music and the music abroad. Materials about Jamaican music in Canada are detailed on pages 88 to 89.




Jam in Canada when ackee meets codfish-3
Jamaicans in Canada : When Ackee Meets Codfish, by Kamala-Jean Gopie. 2012.

Profiles of 250 Jamaican-Canadians from across Canada. Jay Douglas is featured on page 62.





King Alpha's Song in a Strange Land : Jamaican Migrant and Canadian Host in Toronto's Transnational Reggae Music Scene, 1973-1990, by John Jason Collins Wilson. 2013.

Doctoral thesis on the migration of people and music from Jamaica as seen through the eyes of the immigrants themselves and locals.

Read it online (pdf)




Settling in Canada

Settling in Canada: Jamaicans Have a Story to Tell, by Billroy Powell, 2014.

Through interviews, this book provides accounts of the Jamaican experience settling in Canada over five decades from the 1950s to the 2000s. There are references to the Eglinton Avenue West neighbourhood on pages 181 and 267. Music and culture are described throughout.





Jackie Mittoo at Home and Abroad: The Cultural and Musical Negotiations of a Jamaican Canadian, by Karen Anita Eloise Cyrus. 2015.

Doctoral thesis on the career of Jackie Mittoo and an analysis of his body of work.

Read it online (pdf)





Using Online Resources

Recommended Articles (newest to oldest)

Video: A home for reggae in Toronto, by Adrian Mendes. The Laneway Project. January 8, 2016.

Video footage and interviews taken during the unveiling of the Reggae Lane plaque on September 19, 2015.

Reggae Lane mural unveiled in Toronto, by Amy Grief. BlogTO. September 21, 2015.

The Eglinton West neighbourhood got a new 1,200 square foot mural that throws a spotlight on Toronto's rich history of reggae music and culture.


Reggae Lane Mural and Plaque Unveiling, by McKie Rich, September 19, 2015.

Video of Jamaican and Toronto reggae artists perform and receive awards. 28 min.

Toronto’s reggae roots to be celebrated in Eglinton-Oakwood laneway celebration: Party for ‘Reggae Lane’ takes place Sept. 19, by Dominik Kurek. York Guardian. September 15, 2015.

Councillor Josh Colle is hosting the unveiling ceremony for Reggae Lane.

Eglinton Avenue laneway renamed to celebrate Toronto's reggae history: Coun. Josh Colle hopes Reggae Lane can be a successful model for revitalizing Toronto's side streets and alleyways, by Luke Simcoe. MetroNews. September 14, 2015.

Contains images of the mural and plaque dedicated to the musical history of the area.

Toronto Reggae Hall of Fame Launched, by Kerry Doole Mon, FYI Music News, August 31, 2015.

First inductees into the Toronto Reggae Hall of Fame are Jay Douglas, Leroy Sibbles, Everton 'Pablo' Paul and Bernie Pitters.

Toronto Laneway to Become Reggae Hot Spot (Once Again), by Ryan Ayukawa. Blog TO. April 18, 2015.

The clean-up project of Reggae Lane led by Dewitt Lee and JuLion King.

A Brief History of Reggae in Toronto, by David Dacks. Blog TO. December 24, 2014.

Chronicles the reggae music scene by collating the venues, musicians, promotors, and record stores which comprised the genre's infrastructure in Toronto.

Eglinton West's Music History Gives Beat to Street Name. The York Guardian. August 14, 2014. (Access through Canadian Newsstand Torstar - Toronto Public Library card login required)

Eglinton Avenue West's rich music history to be remembered in the naming of Reggae Lane. 

Historicist: Sounds of Home II: After-hours clubs and the West Indian music scene of the 1960's, by Kevin Plummer. Torontoist. Dec 28, 2013

Details the West Indian after-hours nightclub scene in Toronto going back to the 1950s.

Wisdom’s Barber Shop and Hair Salon: A community hub in Little Jamaica, by Nancy J. White. The Toronto Star. July 13, 2012.

Jimmy Wisdom is a legendary singer from Jamaica who has been barbering on the Eglinton West strip for over three decades.

Toronto's Lost Soul & Reggae Stars Revisited, by Kevin Plummer. Torontoist. December 12, 2007.

Tells the story of the "Jamaica to Toronto" series and the reissue of classic Canadian soul and reggae albums by Seattle-based Light in the Attic Records. Includes an interview with Jay Douglas and his experiences with his band The Cougars.

Race, Rock and Soul: Jamaica to Toronto raises questions about Canada's pop past, by Matt Brennan. The Dominion. September 6, 2006.

Discusses the background of the CD series Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk and Reggae 1967-1974.

The soul survivors, by Murray White. The Toronto Star. July 15, 2006. (Access through Canadian Newsstand Torstar - Toronto Public Library card login required)

Chronicles the process behind Light in the Attic Records' launch of the "Jamaica to Toronto" CD and the reunion of contributing artists such as Jay Douglas, Everton "Pablo" Paul, Terry Lewis, Jimmy Wisdom and Bob Williams.

Jamaica to Toronto: Lost stars of the city's vibrant 60s R&B scene finally get their chance to shine, by Tim Perlich. NOW Magazine. July 13, 2006.

The Mighty Pope and Jay Douglas discuss their thoughts on the new CD release of their music from the 60s.

Maple Leaf Soul Compiliation, by David Dacks. June 30, 2006.

Announces the release of the From Jamaica to Toronto CD by Light in the Attic Records.

A Soul Man Lost...And Found, by Guy Dixon. The Globe and Mail. July 31, 2004.

Jay Douglas recalls finding his old friend Wayne Mcghie and reminisces about the Toronto music scene in the 1960s and 1970s.

Reggae Roots Run Deep, by Nick McCabe-Lokos. The Toronto Star. July 27, 2003. (Access through Canadian Newsstand Torstar - Toronto Public Library card login required)

Highlights the immigration experience of artists from Jamaica to Canada within the context of Canadian immigration during that time.

Jamaica Beckons and Sibbles is Listening, by Peter Howell. The Toronto Star. April 26, 1991 (Access through Canadian Newsstand Torstar - Toronto Public Library card login required)

Leroy Sibbles, a reggae pioneer who moved from Jamaica to Toronto, describes his immigration.

Randy's take out shop
Randy's Patties at 1569 Eglinton Ave. West


Recommended Websites

The Canadian Encyclopedia

An encyclopedia article on the history of reggae in Canada written by Daniel Caudeiron.

Canadian Reggae World 

A blog by JuLion King that promotes and showcases Canadian reggae artists and events.

Reggae Lane Project  

Information about the laneway improvement project presented by The Laneway Project and the York Eglinton Business Improvement Area.

Reggae Toronto

Lists influential artists, and provides an interactive Google map of the venues, shops, recording studios, record labels and more.

See also this related Twitter account that features a historic Toronto reggae event or news item on each day. @ReggaeToronto

The STEPS Initiative

The public arts organization involved in designing the mural to be placed in near Reggae Lane.


Jay Douglas and Everton "Pablo" Paul paid a visit to Maria A. Shchuka Library on June 16, 2015 to talk about what the Reggae Lane project means to them and their memories about their early days on the Toronto music scene. Jay and Pablo

  1. What does Reggae Lane mean to you?
  2. What can you tell us about the music scene in the Eglinton West area during the 70s and 80s?
  3. What infrastructure on Eglinton West supported local musicians?
  4. Some people refer to this area as "Little Jamaica." What did you call the Eglinton West neighbourhood?
  5. Hopes for the neighbourhood: studios, galleries, museum.
  6. Traveling around Quebec as the Cougars.
  7. What kept you coming back to Toronto?
  8. Memories of Yonge Street in the old days.
  9. Thoughts on Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk & Reggae 1967-1974 CD
  10. What were the barriers to breaking into the Canadian music scene?
  11. Why were you called The Cougars?
  12. How did Jay Douglas join The Cougars?
  13. Do you have any regrets immigrating to Canada before the music industry boomed in Jamaica?





Jimmy's Barber Shop
Wisdom's Barber Shop at 1754 Eglinton Ave. West

The Fabulous Cougars: Reggae in Toronto Jay Douglas and Everton "Pablo" Paul, with Karsten Frehe, 2010. This interview is on a German online magazine called Irie Ites, which features information, interviews, recordings, and live streaming on dub, reggae, dancehall and ska. 

Learning Portrait - Jimmy Wisdom TV Ontario, 2016. From TVO''s series about how learning has changed people's lives. Jimmy discusses his life. This video also features Everton "Pablo" Paul.

Everyday Ambassadors: Jimmy Wisdom. Toronto 2015: Panamania. This video (3:22) tells the story of Ronald "Jimmy" Wisdom who came to Canada in 1968 from Montego Bay, Jamaica and now owns Wisdom's Barber Shop and Beauty Salon on Eglinton West in Toronto.


Organik Sound System featuring RAS Simeon plays a set during the Reggae Lane Heritage: Explore Eglinton Ave. West Jane's Walk. May 7, 2016.

Bonus feature: Listen to Jay Douglas sing his original song called Reggae Lane, written for the occasion of the lane naming.

This research guide was developed by Barbara Baillargeon, Librarian, Maria A. Shchuka, Toronto Public Library and Tania Gamage, Graduate Student, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto.

Last edited on July 14, 2016.



Research Guide to York - Township, Borough and City - 1793-1997

April 15, 2016 | Barbara | Comments (0)

Getting Started

This research guide focuses on Toronto Public Library's resources on the former City of York, a municipality that was located northwest of the old city of Toronto, southwest of the former city of North York and east of the Humber River and the former city of Etobicoke. It was one of seven municipalities that were amalgamated in 1998 to form the current City of Toronto.

York logo

City of York coat of arms.

Background History

The history of the former City of York dates back to 1791 when Upper Canada (Ontario) was first surveyed and divided into townships. Originally known as Dublin, York Township was a large area surrounding Toronto, designated as the provincial capital and renamed York in 1793. The name Toronto was resumed when the Town of York became a city in 1834.

On January 1, 1850, the Township of York was incorporated within the large County of York. Between 1853 and 1926, about a dozen areas separated from York Township and became incorporated as individual municipalities, considerably reducing the size of the township. From 1883 to 1912, several of these municipalities, including Yorkville, Brockton, Parkdale, East Toronto, West Toronto and North Toronto, were annexed to the city of Toronto. East York, Forest Hill, Leaside, North York, Swansea and Weston were other break-away municipalities from York Township.

On April 15, 1953, York became one of thirteen municipalities in the new Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. York and the neighbouring Town of Weston amalgamated on January 1, 1967 and were incorporated as the Borough of York. In turn, it was incorporated as a city on June 10, 1983.  York ceased to be an individual municipality on January 1, 1998, and became part of the amalgamated City of Toronto.


City of York time capsule.

Searching the Library Website

Subject headings 

York (Ont. : Township)

York (Ont. : Borough)--History.

York (Ont. : Borough)

York (Toronto, Ont.)

Toronto (Ont.)--History.


“Borough of York” Ont*

“City of York” Ont*

Old Catalogue

For more refined searching, follow these steps:

1. Go to the Library's homepage

2. Click on "Old Catalogue" to the right of the search button

3. In the "Exact Search" field, select "Subject Heading"

4. In the search bar, type:

York (Toronto, Ont.)

York (Ont. : Township)

York (Ont. : Borough)

Digital Archive

York (Ont. : Township)--Maps

County of York

York (Ont. : Township). Municipal Council--Periodicals

 Map of Toronto Neighbourhood Historical Resources

Bloor West Village (includes Baby Point)

Books, Pictures & Maps: Bloor West Village

Websites: Bloor West Village


Books, Pictures & Maps: Cedarvale

Websites: Cedarvale


Books, Pictures & Maps: Fairbank

Websites: Fairbank


Books, Pictures & Maps: Lambton

Websites: Lambton

Mount Dennis

Books, Pictures & Maps: Mount Dennis

Websites: Mount Dennis


Books, Pictures & Maps: Oakwood-Vaughan

Websites: Oakwood-Vaughan


Books, Pictures & Maps: Silverthorn

Websites: Silverthorn


Books, Pictures & Maps: Weston

Websites: Weston


Recommended Reading

Books at Maria A. Shchuka Branch Local History Collection (in chronological order)

This reference collection is housed on the second floor of the library. Circulating copies of some titles may be available at Toronto Public Library.

History of Toronto and County of York, Ontario. 1885.

Outline of the history of the Dominion of Canada and a history of the City of Toronto and the County of York. See "The Township of York," volume I, pages 77-96. Read both volumes online at Internet Archive (Volume IVolume II).

History of Weston, by Fredrick D. Cruickshank. 1937.

Pioneer Life in the County of York, by Edwin C. Guillet. 1946.

Volume 1 of the County History Series.

The Settlement of York County, by John Mitchell. 1952.

York Township: An Historical Summary, by J. C. Boylen. 1954.

Heritage of York: a Bibliographical Study Related to the History of the Township of York, 1793-1840. 1973.

A Local Immigration Partnership (LIP)-funded research project, sponsored by the Borough of York. Note that Volume II has the title: Township of York: Historical Sources.

Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto, by John Ross Robertson. 1974.

St. Phillip's Church: 150 Years Beside the Humber, 1828-1978. 1978.

Stories of York, edited by Bill Bailey. 1980.

York, Upper Canada Minutes of Town Meetings and Lists of Inhabitants, 1797-1823, edited by Christine Mosser. 1984.

City of York: A Local History, by Gene Miller. 1987.

Mount Dennis Redevelopment Study: Phase I Report; Background Research & Analysis for: City of York, by Macaulay Shiomi Howson. 1990.

Child, Youth and Family Services Directory: for the City of York, by City of York Community and Agency Social Planning Council. 1992.

Community Profile of the City of York: a Social Report of the Metro, by the York Community and Agency Social Planning Council. 1992.

The Legacy of York: (a Survey of the Early Development of the Communities of York), by Wilbert G. Thomas. 1992.

City of York Municipal Code, by Michael J. Smither and Nicholas R. Smither. 1994.

York Memorial Presbyterian Church: a Brief History, edited by Jean Ann Lowry. 1994.

Lights... Camera... York!: In the City of Toronto. 1998.

A History of Toronto Fire Services, 1874-2002, by Jon Lasiuk. 2002.

History of the County of York, Ontario: Index. 2005.

St. Clair West in Pictures: a History of the Communities of Carlton, Davenport, Earlscourt and Oakwood, by Nancy Byers and Barbara Myrvold. 2008.


Books available at other Toronto Public Library branches (in chronological order)

Commemorative Biographical Record of the County of York, Ontario: Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens and Many of the Early Settled Families, by J. H. Beers & Co. 1907

William Tyrrell of Weston, by Edith Lennox Morrison. 1937

I Was There: A Book of Reminiscences, by Mary Edith Carey Tyrrell. 1938

Old Toronto: A Selection of Excerpts from Landmarks of Toronto, John Ross Robertson. 1954

One Hundred Years: A Retrospect, 1857-1957: Weston Grammar School to Weston Collegiate and Vocational School. For the Centenary Celebration, October 18 to 20, 1957, by Dora E. Wattie. 1957

The Trail of the Black Walnut, by George Elmore Reaman. 1957

Toronto During the French Régime: A History of the Toronto Region form Brûlé to Simcoe, 1615-1793, by Percy James Robinson. 1965

A Thread in the Gardhouse Family Tapestry, by Wilbert W. Gardhouse. 1969

Life in Ontario: A Social History, by Adrian Dingle. 1968

Pioneering in North York: A History of the Borough, by Patricia W. Hart. 1968

Illustrated Historical Atlas of the County of York, by Miles & Co. 1969

Originally published in 1878, this was one of approximately forty county atlases published in Canada between 1874 and 1881. Consists of a historical text, township and town maps, portraits, views, and patron directory / business cards. In addition, names of residents are marked on lots of the township maps.

From Methodist Episcopal and Wesleyan Methodist to Central United: The History of Central United Church, Weston, Ontario, by Stanley V. Musselwhite. 1970

The Story of Etobicoke, by Robert A. Given. 1973

A Picture History of Ontario, by Roger Hall. 1978

Heritage: A History of Riverside Mission, Riverside Church, Weston, Ont., Riverside-Emry Church, Weston, Ont., with History of Claremont Methodist Church (the old Emery Church) also the new Emery Church, by C. J. Ware. 1978

Ontario Since 1867, by Joseph Schull. 1978

A Pictorial History of Weston, by Weston Historical Society. 1981

Lost Toronto: Images of the City's Past, by William Dendy. 1993


Resources at City of Toronto Archives

York Records

A finding aid to the City of Toronto's "records, created by municipal governments as well as private groups and individuals, about York, including personal papers; published books and reports; and visual material, including maps and photographs."


This research guide was developed by Toronto Public Library staff: Barbara Baillargeon, Librarian, Maria A. Shchuka Branch and Barbara Myrvold, Senior Services Specialist, Local History. They were assisted by Abby Sharon, Graduate Student, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto.

Updated May 6, 2016

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.