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Grand Designs: The Toronto City Hall and Square Competition 1958

September 1, 2015 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Revell City Hall model-aerial view

This is the second in a series commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Toronto's "New City Hall" designed by Finnish architect, Viljo Revell. Opened in 1965, the distinctive "clam shell" design and large public square is home to the municipal government of the City of Toronto. One of our country's most recognized landmarks, some call it an icon.

Unbuilt Toronto

Revell's unique design was chosen in an international competition held in 1958 that attracted over 500 entries from 42 countries and put Toronto at the centre of a major discussion on Modernist architecture. But it took years of public discussion, debate and at times acrimonious political maneuverings, to achieve the final result. 



Land began to be assembled as far back as the late 1940s, and in 1953 the city commissioned three Toronto architectural firms to plan the new hall. Their design and the $18 million cost caused a huge controversy. Architectural proponents in particular decried the plan that was described as "a funeral home" by architecture students at the University of Toronto and "a very poor pseudo-modern design" by none other than Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus movement. Toronto voters ultimately said "no" to the proposal in a 1955 referendum. But, in a second referendum in 1956, a budget was approved.(See Unbuilt Toronto : A History of the City That Might Have Been, Chapters 11 & 12).

The Competition

In January 1957, Eric Arthur, School of Architecture, University of Toronto, was invited by City Council to be the professional advisor to the process of selecting a design. By midsummer, Council approved his recommendations to hold a competition, and an international one at that.

Conditions of Competition


The detailed Conditions of the Competition were issued later that year. By the April 18, 1958 deadline, hundreds of drawings and models had been submitted. They were assembled at the Horticultural Building, Exhibition Place, for the judges to begin their whirlwind evaluation. 



City Hall architectual models at Horticultural Building

The judges were all architects and planners. Professor Arthur, Chairman of the Jury, took the photograph shown below of his fellow jury members standing on the future site for the hall. Pictured from left to right are Sir William Holford (London, England), Gordon Stephenson (Toronto), Ned Pratt (Vancouver), Eero Saarinen (Detroit) and Ernesto Rogers (Milan). They settled on eight finalists and ultimately chose Revell's striking Modernist design. 

Five of the judges for the Toronto City Hall Competition

The Toronto Public Library and This Piece of Toronto's History

Realizing the significance of the competition, Professor Arthur arranged for many of the architectural drawings to be microfilmed. The Toronto Public Library was the fortunate recipient of the film and the Library Board then directed its staff photographer, Wallace Bonner, to photograph over 300 of the corresponding architectural models. Some years later Arthur donated additional materials to the Library.

Today this record, including microfilmed drawings, photographic models, documents and archival papers, is preserved in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department and the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre at the Toronto Reference Library. It constitutes a unique perspective on Modernist architectural thought in the mid-twentieth century, from a wide range of practitioners in many countries.

To mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the "New City Hall", the Toronto Public Library, in collaboration with Christopher Armstrong, Professor Emeritus, York University, has created this website to showcase some of those materials for study and research, to make the knowledge of the competition more widely available, and to celebrate this landmark in Toronto's history. 

In a postscript to his article on the Toronto City Hall Competition in Canadian Architect, April 1959, Swiss architect and historian Sigfried Giedion championed the publication of the results of international competitions.

He gave three reasons:

To honor the sponsor and his intention.

To honor the tremendous amount of work freely undertaken by the competitors.

To give later periods a chance of detecting important schemes overlooked at the time.

We hope this website in some part helps to achieve his vision.

In addition, the Toronto Public Library, the City of Toronto and promotional partner Heritage Toronto, are co-sponsoring a series of three lectures to be held at the Toronto City Hall.  And don't miss the exhibitions at the Paul H. Cocker Gallery at Ryerson University (September 1 to October 9), and in the Rotunda of City Hall (September 3 to 13).

TRL Program Calendar September 2015

August 31, 2015 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Click on each image to enlarge or Download The September 2015 @ TRL as a pdf file.

For a full list of programs to browse or search, visit our Programs, Classes and Exhibits page.

September 1 September 2 September 3 September 4 September 5

To Market, to Market: How to Get Published

August 28, 2015 | Monika | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Congratulations! You've finally finished writing the Great Canadian Novel, or short story collection, or poem, or children's book. Now what? You want to see it in print, of course, with a beautifully designed jacket, displayed face out on the "New and Recommended" shelf in your local bookstore and in your local library branch!

Bookstore Interior

Photo by Mark Buckawicki, Creative Commons

Traditional publishing, as opposed to self-publishing, means finding a publisher interested enough in your book to spend the time, money and effort required to edit, design, print, package, distribute and promote it. You may not realize that you also need to put your own effort into making this happen. Writing the book is only one part of the process.

Here are a few things to consider, some of them before you start writing.

Woman writingWho is your intended audience? Teens or children or adults? Have other, similar books already been published? (Visit your local library or bookstore and browse).

Do you need an agent? How to find one?

What publishers are interested in the type of writing you are offering? Some specialize in children's books, or only non-fiction, or poetry, or romance. Some will not accept first-time writers.

How should your manuscript be formatted for submission? Should you include your own illustrations if it's a children's book?

What are the specific guidelines for magazine articles? What topics are in high demand?

 Photo: Creative Commons

So many questions! To answer them, and many more, here are some books to help you get your creation out into the world. We can't guarantee results, but you'll get a lot of excellent advice and tips.


2015 Writer's Market   2015 Novel and Short Story Writer's Market   2015 Poet's Market   2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market

Writer's Digest Magazine has been around for many years. They publish a series of books, updated annually, which offer an incredible amount of information useful not only to writers but to anyone interested in the book publishing business. No matter what you write, from greeting card verses (yes, somebody does write them!), to novels, these books will help you find a market. You can read Writer's Digest magazine in a library branch, or online. Their website is full of fascinating information and links.

 Canadian Writer's Market   Poetry Markets for Canadians   Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents   2015 Guide to Literary Agents

There are also books specifically about Canadian publishers and markets. A great online source of information is the Writers' Union of Canada. Their website offers general and Canadian-specific information and services to members and non-members.

If you're writing a children's book, check out the Canadian Children's Book Centre for seminars, tips and resources. CANSCAIP, the Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers, is another organization that offers assistance, workshops, critiquing and competitions.

Finally, don't forget that the Toronto Reference Library has a space for writers to work without distractions, and with access to these resources, and all our other materials. Find out more about the Writers' Room, drop in to the library to take a look at some of these guides, and keep writing!

Grand Designs: Toronto's City Halls

August 28, 2015 | Cynthia | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

City HalTake a look at these pictures. 

When we think of Toronto's City Hall, we are willing to gamble that most Torontonians would pick the picture on the left - still referred to as The "New City Hall". And that is our fourth City Hall.

The municipal governments of the past sat in a few locations around Toronto's downtown. What we call "Old City Hall" is actually our third City Hall.

When Toronto was incorporated as a city in 1834, the early City Council met in rented facilities at the southwest corner of King and Jarvis.


City Hall 1800sIn 1845, a permanent City Hall opened on the south side of Front Street, familiar to us as the St. Lawrence Market area.


Old City HallEdward James Lennox designed the impressive Old City Hall that acted as a City Hall and Court House. It opened September 18, 1899.


Post-war Toronto was booming in the 1950's and outgrowing its third City Hall. People were looking for change - something new, something different, something distinctive. The idea for a City Hall Design Competition was brewing.


Viljo Revell's unique and striking design for Toronto's "New City Hall" was chosen in an international competition held in 1958 that attracted over 500 entrants from 42 countries, and put Toronto at the centre of a major discussion of Modernist architecture.

City Hall Model 1958

And this September we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the "New City Hall".  

City Hall Lecture Poster


The Toronto Reference Library is marking the occasion with the launch of a new website (coming soon) with images of the models and plans from the 1958 competition, co-sponsoring a series of lectures in City Hall Council Chambers, participating in a special day of festivities at City Hall on Sunday, September 13th and publishing a series of blogs to honour the anniversary.

Come to the Reference Library's Toronto Collection on the second floor for more on Toronto Architecture and Toronto's City Halls. 

NOTE : The Lecture Series will be held at the New City Hall in the Council Chamber. The first lecture is on Thursday, September 3, 2015 at 7pm.

Books, Books, Books - Cheap, Cheap, Cheap: TRL Clearance Book Sale August 20-22, 2015

August 17, 2015 | Bill V. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...


Friends of Toronto Public Library, South Chapter

Clearance Book Sale



All items are 10 to 50 cents (cash only) 

Thursday, August 20,  9:30 a.m - 8 p.m

Friday, August 21, 9 a.m - 7 p.m

Saturday, August 22, 9 a.m - 4 p.m

See here for our poster of the Clearance Book Sale August 2015 (PDF)


Toronto Reference Library 

Elizabeth Beeton Auditorium (1st Floor)

 789 Yonge Street

  Friends South Chapter Toronto Public Library book sale material.

All proceeds benefit library programs.

 For more info and volunteer opportunities, call 416-397-5948 or email


If you can't make the sale, there are plenty of bargains at the two Friends' bookstores:

Did you know the Friends of Toronto Public Library have over 100 volunteers and that together, every year they dedicate over 11,500 hours of service? It is through their support and dedication that to date, the Friends of Toronto Public Library, North and South Chapters have jointly raised over $2 million in support of Toronto Public Library programs. You can buy both donated items and materials withdrawn from the library's collection. Money raised from sales is used to support library  programs and services.

For further information, visit our website to volunteer or donate material


In September there is also going to be a very exciting:

"Treasures and Good Books Sale"

Download Treasures and Good Books Sale September 17 to 19th poster (PDF).


“Bicycle Face!” Women and Cycling in the Victorian Age

August 17, 2015 | Nicole | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

Interested in learning about the heyday of cycling in Toronto? Be sure to visit our current exhibit Toronto’s Sporting Past in the TD Gallery located on the main floor of the Toronto Reference Library. Catch the exhibit before it closes on September 5! You can also check out our virtual exhibit to learn more.

Librarian Joanna Morrison, one of the curators of Toronto's Sporting Past, wanted to share this story about the all-but-forgotten condition known as "Bicycle Face." Take it away, Joanna. 

I am sure you are wondering right now… bicycle face?  What’s in the world is that?  Read on to find out… 

The 1890s in Europe and America saw an increase in the availability of bicycles and in particular the “safety” bicycle. Invented in the 1880s, the “safety” bicycle featured two wheels of equal size. As the name suggests, the new design was much easier and safer to ride than the predecessors – the boneshakers, high wheelers and penny-farthings. This safer model of bicycle brought about increased mobility and fitness. It also gave women the opportunity to travel with a greater sense of independence.  


  Cycles Brownie
Cycles Brownie, broadside by Charles Tichon (1800-1900), Thomas Manufacturing Company, Toronto, 1897 


The new bicycle craze was eagerly adopted by many women. It also brought about a dress reform movement with changes to women’s fashion including the introduction of split skirts and bloomers. These new garments and undergarments provided freedom from the restrictions of the traditional clothing of the time and allowed women to more easily engage in physical activities. 

The charming advertising blotter pictured below nicely depicts this great time period for women and cycling:


SP-013_C C M Advertising Blotter
C.C.M. advertising blotter, Canada Cycle and Motor Co., Toronto, ca. 1930 


(Advertising blotters were very popular in the 1930s and 1940s. On the reverse side of the ad, there was a layer of soft absorbent paper which was perfect for blotting excess ink from fountain pens.) 

The bicycle brought about many wonderful opportunities for women but it was also met with criticism from those who felt that cycling and the attire worn while cycling was not appropriate for women.  Those who opposed this new found freedom for women found various ways to discourage them from riding bicycles. One truly preposterous method that was employed was the fabrication of a medical condition that was referred to as “Bicycle Face.”  Women were scared into believing that riding a bicycle would cause unsightly changes to their faces. 

The phrase “Bicycle Face” was most likely coined in the early- to mid-1890s by British physician Dr. A. Shadwell. In 1897, Dr. Shadwell wrote an article that appeared in London’s National Review entitled “The Hidden Dangers of Cycling.” In this article he described what could happen to women as a result of too much bicycle riding. He advises women against “attempting a novel and peculiar experiment with their precious persons,” – the experiment referring to bicycle riding. 

An article in the Literary Digest of 1895, made reference to another article that appeared in the Springfield Republican which described in detail the symptoms that could result from too much bicycle riding: "usually flushed, but sometimes pale, often with lips more or less drawn, and the beginning of dark shadows under the eyes, and always with an expression of weariness" as well as a “hard, clenched jaw and bulging eyes." The condition apparently came about due to the strain involved in attempting to keep the bicycle balanced, thus resulting in a “weary and exhausted bicycle face.” In addition to the “horrors” caused to the face, too much bicycle riding was also said to cause other medical disorder such as internal inflammation, exhaustion, appendicitis, dysentery and nervous attacks.

Thankfully, not all doctors agreed with Shadwell and others who were like-minded, and many people thought it to be absurd.  Wheelwomen and many wheelmen of the day strongly and indignantly denied that such a medical condition existed. The notion that riding bicycles could cause such a multitude of medical problems was short-lived, and women continued to ride the bicycle with great gusto!

As you can see… this woman cyclist is clearly not suffering from “bicycle face!”


SP-132 pictures-r-3041
Cyclist in the Swansea Area, 1900 


To end with, here is an inspirational quote from Susan B. Anthony who was an American social reformer and feminist and played a vital role in the women's suffrage movement.

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives her a feeling of freedom, self-reliance and independence. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can’t get into harm while she is on her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood...” - Susan B. Anthony, 1896

If you are interested in learning more, the journal articles mentioned above are available at the Toronto Reference Library:

"The 'Bicycle Face'". The Literary Digest Volume 11 (548). 7 September 1895.

Shadwell, A. (1 February 1897). "The hidden dangers of cycling". National Review (London).

Toronto Parapan Am Games : Athletes with Abilities

August 7, 2015 | Cynthia | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

This is our closing piece on the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Parapan Am Games. To highlight our sports collection at the Toronto Reference Library, we looked at athletic facilities, various aspects of sport, special materials collected on the Pan American Games and, last but not least, we’ll look at competitive sports and the disabled.

Sport for athletes with disabilities has existed for more than 100 years. Sports was first used as a route to rehabilitation for injured war victims. In time, rehabilitation sport evolved to recreational sport and then to competitive sport. The first Paralympic Games took place in 1960 in Rome, Italy and featured 400 athletes from 23 countries competing in 8 sports. Since then, the Paralympic Games have taken place every four years.

                                   Paralympics explained

Toronto is host to the fifth edition of the Parapan Am Games and will feature 1,500 athletes from 28 countries competing in 15 sports. All sports will be Paralympic qualifiers for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

We are thrilled to shine a spotlight on some outstanding athletes and the various competitions available to these talented para-athletes. Prepared to be amazed.

The athletes who participate are not necessarily born with a disability. More often than not, they have been disabled through a life-threatening accident. If they were active, athletic and courageous before, the challenge of recovery and going on with life seems to bring out incredible strength and perseverance.

Let’s start with some Canadian biographies:

Through interviews with key figures, Irresistible force : disability sport in Canada gives both the history of disability sports and the personal stories of gifted athletes who gave, and continue to give disability sports their irresistible momentum.

                                  Irresistible force

Parapan athletes Rick Hansen

Familiar to many is Rick Hansen : man in motion and Going the distance : seven steps to personal change. In 1973, Rick Hansen was a carefree teenager who lived and breathed sports. But after the truck he was riding in went out of control and crashed, Hansen was left a paraplegic. For some people that could have been the end. For Rick it was the beginning of a story that is at once sad and funny, heartbreaking and inspirational.



Parapan Victoria NolanBeyond vision : the story of a blind rower is the story of Victoria Nolan, one of Canada's Paralympic Super Athletes. As a teenager, she found out that she was going blind from an eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa. Having a family would result in further vision loss. Not deterred, Victoria had two children and lost most of her vision. She did not want her children to see their mother as someone who "couldn't" so she sought opportunities to prove herself. That's when she started rowing.

Discovering her competitive fire, Victoria made the Canadian National Adaptive Rowing Team in 2007. In this collection, Victoria Nolan travels the world winning medals and breaking records. This personal story of triumph will inspire as she describes her frustration, her hard work, and her growing sense of accomplishment.

And more stories. Such a tribute to the human spirit!

Hoop Dream on Wheels So Get On With It Wheelchair Sports Guts! 27 Courageous People 100 Greatest Olympians




The Toronto Reference Library also has some magazines on sports and disabilities as well as videos and DVDs.

Abilities Summer 2015 Palaestra 2015 Sports 'n' Spokes July 2015








Murderball will leave you breathless!

Come to the Toronto Reference Library to  learn more about these amazing athletes and competitive sport.






Summer Afternoons at the Movies

August 3, 2015 | Winona | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Do you love award-winning movies? Do you love watching them, for free, on the big screen?

If your answer is "YES!" then please join us for our Summer Afternoons at the Movies series at the Toronto Reference Library. We are screening an Academy Award-winning film Tuesdays at 2 p.m. until September 1st. For free!

All films are shown on the big screen, with closed captioning, in our air-conditioned Beeton Auditorium. No ticket is required.

Here is a list of upcoming films:


August 4


Alice Howland, a renowned linguistics professor, begins to forget words. Her family’s world is turned upside down when she receives a devastating diagnosis. Julianne Moore won the 2015 Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in this film. Rated PG. 99 minutes. Adapted from Still Alice: A Novel by Lisa Genova.

Still Alice movie poster   Still Alice by Lisa Genova


August 11


Sandra discovers that her colleagues at work have decided to accept a pay bonus at the expense of her job. She will be allowed to keep her job if, over the course of a weekend, she can convince her colleagues to let her keep her job knowing that they will lose their bonuses if they do. Marion Coutillard was nominated for a 2015 Best Actress Academy Award for her work in this film. Rated PG. 95 min. French with English subtitles. Loosely based on a sociological case study in The Weight of the World.


Two Days One Night movie poster   The Weight of the World by Pierre Bourdieu et al

August 18


Based on the real-life story of Alan Turing, portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, who led a team of code-breakers at Bletchley Park during World War II. This film won the 2015 Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award. Rated PG. 114 minutes. Adapted from the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.


The Imitation Game movie poster   Alan Turing by Andrew Hodges

August 25


Michael Keaton stars as an actor known for portraying an iconic superhero. He tries to mount a Broadway play as a comeback, but he must face up to his ego and make amends with his family before opening night. Alejandro González Iñárritu won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Director, and the film also won the 2015 Best Picture Academy Award. Rated 14A. 119 minutes. Inspired by the short story "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" from the short story collection of the same name by Raymond Carver.


Birdman movie poster  What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

September 1


The story of cosmologist Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane, and their life together as Hawking pursues his study of time and Jane supports him through his life with ALS. Eddie Redmayne won the 2015 Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as Stephen Hawking. PG. 123 minutes. Adapted from the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking.


The Theory of Everything movie poster   Travelling to Infinity by Jane Hawking

You may also enjoy these free film screenings at the library:

Related blog posts:

Read, Watch and Listen : More on the Pan Am Games

July 31, 2015 | Cynthia | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am

The Pan American Games are an Olympic-style competition for athletes from all nations of the Americas held every four years, always one year before the Olympic Games. Until this summer, many of us did not know much about the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games. The exposure to such a variety of athletes and sporting events has generated a lot of interest.

First edition of the Pan American Games held in 1951 in Buenos Aires

The first edition of the Pan American Games was held in 1951 in Buenos Aires. The Parapan American Games started in November 1999 in Mexico City. Similarly, the Parapan American Games became a qualifying event for the Paralympic Games. Over the years, the Library has kept a record of the games through clipping files, books, reports, magazines, music and video. 





The Pan American Games This bilingual (English/Spanish) book lists by sport the results of the Games from 1951 to 1999. Listings include a chronology of the sport in the context of the Pan American Games and the gold, silver, and bronze winners for each year.

Charts show how many medals each country won for that sport in each set of games. Also included are lists of medals by country, medals by sport, sports by years contested, countries of the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO), presidents of PASO, and a chronology of the Games. 




Tracing the history of Canada's participation in the Games? See the Official report of Canada's participation in the Pan American Games, by the Pan American Games Committee of Canada beginning with Canada's first year of participation in 1955 up to 1971. 

If you are really keen, you can read the 344-page Pan American Games Canadian team handbook 1979 : San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 1-15 = Jeux panaméricains equipe canadienne bottin 1979 : San Juan, porto Rico, 1-15 juillet.

Pan Am Games  Canadian Team at the Panamerican Games 1979

Cities often prepare years in advance to bid and host major events like this. We have the 1992 report called A festival of sport for the Americas : the 1999 Pan American Games in Metropolitan Toronto : presentation to the Canadian Olympic Pan American Games  by the 1999 Pan American Games Bid Committee of Toronto. It took years before we got the games. And years to plan and construct some of the venues. 

This 2011 report North side of Ellesmere Road, east and west sides of Military Trail, east of Morningside Avenue, Pan Am Games Aquatic Centre official plan and rezoning applications : final report preceded our new "Olympic-ready" state-of-the-art aquatic centre.

And if you wondering if anyone pays attention to money, check out the Toronto Pan/Parapan Am Games host city showcase : program & major special event reserve fund. 

Researching the history of sporting events? Ask at the Humanities and Social Sciences information desk for books, reports and our files on the Pan Am games. You will find newspaper clippings, programs, pamphlets and more. Search for articles on our databases; come to us for the print copies.

Pan Am Newspaper Collage

Opening & Closing Ceremonies Music of Pan American Games


Did you know that we even have videos, CDs and sheet music? Ode to the athletes : music from the 1999 Pan American Games : music and lyrics, for 2 sopranos, chorus and orchestra is one of a number of pieces by Victor Davies written for the 1999 games in Winnipeg. And The spirit of the games is a CBC video on the Winnipeg Games. These are found in the Arts Department, 5th floor.







Pan Am Games Schedule of Events and Locations 1967

Although books make up a large part of our sports collection, we have all kinds of special things to delight and surprise you. Be a good sport. Walk, ride or race to the Toronto Reference Library and see what you can discover.

  Pan Am Schedule of events 1967









TRL Program Calendar August 2015

July 30, 2015 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

August starts huge with two days of Maker FestivalToronto's Sporting Past continues at the TD Gallery, and don't miss the Sports on Film series.

Click on any image to enlarge or Download The August 2015 @ TRL as a pdf file.

For a full list of programs to browse or search visit our Programs, Classes and Exhibits page.

August 1 August 2 August 3 August 4

Welcome! Discover the rich and diverse world of the Toronto Reference Library through the eyes of its expert staff. Join us to see the many ways we are connecting with the city - through special events and exhibits, new books, digital information and innovative library services.

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