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

September 12, 2012 | Barbara Myrvold

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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.