Toronto Public Library Homepage

This page has been archived and is no longer updated.


Toronto 1972 — from the shelves of the Toronto Collection

December 11, 2013 | Shawn Micallef | Comments (0)


In the past, the future was always bright. Above is a small book found in the Toronto Collection at the Reference Library from January 1972 called Development of Toronto. The city had about twenty years of post-war growth by this point, with a lot more planned. It's an of-the-moment boosterish look at Toronto just before the "reform" council of Mayor David Crombie was elected that too a critical look at where the city was going.


Look at that font.


Old Toronto names, still important, and late, great department store chains connected by underground tunnels.


1972 was also the early days of modern PATH system of tunnels underneath the new financial district skyscrapers.


Commerce Court was just then going up, adding much new territory to the PATH system.


There have been many plans for the Island Airport land, this one, residential and in the modernist style, was called Harbour City.


Yonge and Eglinton has been low and high-rise for over forty years. This is looking east, along Eglinton, with the prospoed site of Canada Square over the Eglinton Subway station.


The RCMP building has become the Grand Hotel.


youryongestreet — the crowd sourced archive begins to fill up

December 3, 2013 | Shawn Micallef | Comments (1)

The Toronto Library's youryongestreet project has been up and running for just over two months now and stories and other items are beginning to fill up the empty expanses along the map. As I wrote in the Toronto Star in October of Yonge:

It’s quintessentially Toronto and representative of nearly every architectural style, shape, and size that make up this city, from shiny skyscraper to the one or two-storey “messy urbanism” that characterizes so many of our streets.

It’s also one of the few streets in Toronto that runs from downtown to the city limits, then deep into the 905 and beyond. It’s everybody’s street; a unifying symbol in a city artificially divided by politics.

The Toronto Public Library recently launched youryongestreet, a participatory online exhibit of people, places, and events where anyone can upload their stories, documents, maps, pictures and videos connected to Yonge St.

I've excerpted a bits of the opening chapter of my book Stroll: Psychogeogrphic Walking Tours of Toronto along the map. My long Yonge Street stroll, from bottom to top, is what I consider my  most important chapter for the above mentioned reasons. Most Torontonians' lives have touched the street in some way. Add what you did, or what you saw, because if you don't no one else will know.

From the stacks of the Toronto Collection, Nathan Phillips reports to the people

November 24, 2013 | Shawn Micallef | Comments (0)


Our current mayor has lost his radio show, and though his was controversial, it wasn't the first time a mayor has taken regularly to the airwaves. Deep in the reference library Toronto Collection stacks I found this neatly bound collection of transcripts from Mayor Nathan Phillips's radio addresses to Toronto.



Like Mayor Ford, Mayor Phillips listed community events during his radio addresses and was a city booster. While not calling Toronto the greatest city in the world, Phillips did note that Toronto "is a city of character, with warmth and hospitality -- it is a city where good manners and culture is the order of the day". There you have it, little has changed, right?

Browsing the city stacks for inspiration

November 7, 2013 | Shawn Micallef | Comments (1)

Photo 4 copy

Walking the city, exploring, is one way to understand this city we live in, but we can do the same in the library. The miles of aisles at the Toronto Reference Library reveal a lot about this place. The second floor, with the urban affairs collection (which was once at Metro Hall) is great for this. Without fail, randomly browsing either generates new ideas or produces some interesting old gems, like this one above.

Photo 5

You might think this is a contemporary book, but look at the city hall featured. People have been hating on Toronto since at least 1956, when this one was published. We ought not to care by now.

Photo 4

Etobicoke's more genteel history too. The collection at TRL gets quite specific to pre-amalgamation cities and even neighbourhood and street level.

Photo 3

Apart from the creative and historical books, there are shelves full of City of Toronto studies and plans. Everything you wanted to know about how the city came to be, what makes it run, and what could have been. That last part can be a bit depressing.

Photo 3 copy

Talking about transit in Scarborough and on Eglinton is not a new phenomena in Toronto. These studies are a few decades old.

Photo 3 copy 2

O'Keefe-now-Sony was just renovated, years after this first study proposed it. Did you know Earl Bales Park in North York has an outdoor theatre? One of the neatest places in Toronto, right by the ski hill.

Photo 2

For a moment I thought this said "Cool buildings in downtown Toronto". That would be a good book.

Photo 2 copy

Before there was the West Don Lands developement happening now, there was Ataratiri. Millions were spent on this mixed-use housing plan that was ultimately cancelled in the 1990s.

Photo 2 copy 2

Toronto never sounded so adventurous.

Photo 1 copy

More stories.

Photo 1 copy 2

Diving into any of this will at the very least help you procrastinate on something else, entertain, but possible get you thinking about what you might like to write about Toronto or go out and see for yourself.

We want you walking, talking, and writing Toronto this fall

October 2, 2013 | Shawn Micallef | Comments (0)

IMG_8659 1

Sometime it seems like not much is written about Toronto, that it doesn't exist in print and in our imaginations the way, say, New York does for New Yorkers or London does for Londoners. The opposite is true though, there's been an incredible amount of writing done about this city, both in fiction and non-fiction. This is, after all, a city of writers, and some of them even write about the city they live in. In Amy Lavender Harris's book, Imagining Toronto, she compiles hundreds of pages of Toronto mentions found in literature, and in this town full of smart people with a bunch of universities (particularly ones with Canadian History and Urban Planning departments), the local history and analysis shelves at the library at filled with books.

And yet we think nobody writes about Toronto.

Part of the reason is we've been trained to not get too excited about this place, but with my writer in residency I hope we get change that, a little bit, and turn more people into Toronto writers, especially ones writing about the parts of the city we don't hear too much about. Much of the Toronto writing that does exist involves the old City of Toronto, while the former cities and burroughs tend to go unexplored (though there are numours exceptions).

We've planned a bunch of walks starting from Toronto Public Library branches across the city over the next two months, and I hope both locals and people that just want to explore a new neighbourhood come out. I'm certainly not an expert on any of the neighbourhoods we'll walk through, but I do like to wander, so I hope you'll come and walk and talk about the neighbourhoods we pass through, sharing your own thoughts, memories, or ideas and asking questions. The idea is to get a little excited about the places we live.

Walking often leads to writing, being in the place gets us thinking. It's how I usually write about a place; I'll go for a long walk through it first that might seem aimless, but ideas always come. I hope participants on the walk will feel compelled to write about their neighbourhoods (either the one we walked through or another) or share their existing non-fiction writing with me. Let's chat about it, and we'll even be posting some of it here on this blog until December. We will be accepting manuscripts until the end of November.

I'll also be posting snippets of research items I gather in the stacks and other thoughts here. Perhaps some of that will inspire you to write too. Happy, sad, criticial, or celebratory, Toronto needs it all.

The more voices in the city, the better we'll know ourselves and each other.

Picture taken at Albion Road and Islington Avenue.

There are a 1000 stories in the naked city, as the saying goes, and you should be writing some of them. Writer in Residence Shawn Micallef will be encouraging people to write about their city. Follow along here on city explorations and journeys into the library stacks. Shawn will also be posting some of the city-writing that he receives from people like you.

Your comments, posts, messages and creative content are welcome, provided they encourage a respectful dialogue and comply with the Library's mission, values and policies.
Terms of Use